Dire Straits star Mark Knopfler's guitars sell for more than £8m at auction

Mark Knopfler
Mark Knopfler was named one of the most influential rock guitarists of all time by Rolling Stone magazine

Guitars and amplifiers belonging to Dire Straits star Mark Knopfler have sold for more than £8m at auction - much higher than had been estimated.

Knopfler sold more than more than 120 of his guitars and amps, with 25% of the proceeds going to charity.

The sale was led by Knopfler's 1959 Vintage Gibson Les Paul Standard, which sold for £693,000, setting a new world auction record for the model.

The musician said the auction had been "an incredible journey"

"I am so pleased that these much-loved instruments will find new players and new songs as well as raising money for charities that mean a lot to me," he continued.

"It has been heart-warming to witness how much these guitars mean to so many people and I am also pleased that they will continue to give joy to many through the songs recorded over the years with me.

"To you fellow players, enthusiasts and collectors, I wish you all good things."

The London auction saw registered bidders and buyers from 61 countries, with a final total including buyer's premium, confirmed at £8,840,160.

A Gibson Les Paul Standard electric guitar is held by a gallery worker during a photo-call for the Mark Knopfler Guitar Collection at Christie's Auction House in London, Britain, 18 January 2024.
A Gibson Les Paul Standard electric guitar, held by a gallery worker, sold for £592,000 despite an estimate of £15,000

Knopfler's 1988 Pensa-Suhr MK-1, which he played at Nelson Mandela's 70th birthday tribute concert at Wembley Stadium, sold for £504,000 despite having an estimate of just £8,000.

Elsewhere, the Red Schecter Telecaster, which Knopfler purchased in 1984 to record hit Dire Straits song Walk Of Life, went under the hammer for £415,800, well above its £6,000 estimate.

Dire Straits became superstars in the mid-80s with their hit single Money for Nothing, a satire on rock excess in the MTV era.

Knopfler's collection, which was auctioned at Christie's in London on Wednesday, spans the entirety of his 50-year career.

Speaking to BBC News about the guitars in November, Knopfler said: "I hope they all get played, I don't think they do too well living in a case all their lives."

The guitar Knopfler played to record and perform Solid Rock had an estimate of £6,000 but sold for £277,000.

The sale also included the 1983 Les Paul that Knopfler used to record Money For Nothing and Brothers In Arms, and which he played on stage at Live Aid in 1985. It had an estimated price of £10,000-£15,000 but sold for £592,000.

And the first electric-acoustic guitar Knopfler owned had an estimate of £5,000 but sold for £126,000.

An auction worker holds a Schecter solid body electric guitar during a photo-call for the Mark Knopfler Guitar Collection at Christie's Auction House in London, Britain, 18 January 2024. More than 120 guitars and amps owned by British musician Mark Knopfler will be auctioned on 31 January 2024.
A Schecter solid body electric guitar, being held up by a gallery worker, sold for £415,000 despite a £6,000 estimate

The Pensa-Suhr that Knopfler used at the Nelson Mandela 70th birthday tribute concert in June 1988 was also among the lots.

It had an estimate price of £6,000-£8,000, but ended up fetching more than £500,000.

At least a quarter of the proceeds from the auction will be divided equally and donated to the British Red Cross, Tusk, and Brave Hearts of the North East.

Meanwhile, the Teenage Cancer Trust will receive all of the £403,200 raised from Knopfler's 2021 Gibson Les Paul "gold top" guitar - signed by 33 stars including the late Jeff Beck, Ronnie Wood, Sir Brian May, Sting, Sir Ringo Starr and Bruce Springsteen.

Auction house Christie's will also donate £50,000 to each of the four charities, it said.

Knopfler formed Dire Straits in 1977 with his younger brother David, bassist John Illsley, and drummer Pick Withers.

Their laid-back, blues-tinged rock was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, with hit albums including Communiqué, Love Over Gold and Making Movies - often considered their finest moment.

They shot to fame with 1985's multi million-selling Brothers in Arms, which spawned several hit singles including Walk Of Life and Money For Nothing.

Knopfler has been called one of the greatest guitar virtuosos of all time, known for the fluid and cinematic solos of songs like Sultans of Swing and Telegraph Road.

Born in Scotland but raised in England, he never took a lesson and ultimately developed a pick-free playing style of his own.

"Playing with your fingers," he has said, "has something to do with immediacy and soul."