Jerry Garcia's Alligator guitar could sell for $400,000 at L.A. auction

By Austin Hendrix

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A battered Fender Stratocaster played by the late Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia could fetch up to $400,000 at an auction in Los Angeles next week.

The guitar, nicknamed Alligator because of the distinctive green alligator sticker on the front, was played by Garcia on the Grateful Dead's 1972 European tour and other live performances between 1971-1973, auctioneers Bonhams said on Thursday.

"It is very special because it was the first guitar that (he) ever named. He had a reputation for naming his guitars," Giles Moon, director of music memorabilia at Bonhams, told Reuters.

The guitar, made in 1955, is believed to have been given to Garcia by British musician Graham Nash.

"Jerry played guitar on one of his albums and as a thank- you present Graham bought the guitar. Supposedly, he found it in a pawn shop in Texas and gifted it to Jerry in 1970 and then it was Jerry's favorite guitar for about 3 years," Moon said.

Moon said the $250,000-$400,000 estimate was on the conservative side and that the guitar could sell for much higher given Garcia's skills as a guitar player and the fervent Deadhead fan base.

The musician's custom-made Wolf guitar, which he played for more than two decades, sold for $1.9 million at a charity auction in 2017.

The Alligator guitar is one of 70 lots up for sale on Dec. 10 from the personal collection of Garcia, the founder and driving force of the California counter culture band who died of a heart attack in 1995 at age 53.

Garcia's Martin D-28 acoustic guitar, played while the band toured Canada in 1970, carries a pre-sale estimate of $30,000-$50,000, while a watercolor of an alligator painted and signed by Garcia in 1992 has a high estimate of $6,000.

Garcia's collection of EC Comics Crime SuspenStories from the 1950s are also being auctioned.

Rock guitars are among some of the most-coveted and collectible items at auction. A black Fender Stratocaster owned by Pink Floyd's David Gilmour set a world record of $3.9 million at auction in New York in June 2019.

(This story corrects spelling to Jerry in headline)

(Writing by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Dan Grebler)