NEW YORK (Reuters) - A one-of-a-kind guitar that became a trademark of sorts for Grateful Dead leader Jerry Garcia could fetch more than $1 million when it goes on the selling block at Guernsey's in New York City later this month.
Dubbed "Wolf," the instrument was purchased by the musician in 1973 for $1,500 and played for nearly two decades. It sold in 2002 - seven years after Garcia's death - for more than $700,000. That price far surpassed the then-record $497,500, set in 1999 by Eric Clapton's Fender Stratocaster "Brownie."
Named for its distinctive inlay of a wolf on the lower body, the instrument is one of five that was designed for Garcia by luthier Doug Irwin. The other guitars were dubbed "Eagle," "Tiger," "Wolf Jr.," and "Rosebud."
Garcia sang and played guitar for the rock band from its formation in 1965 until his death from a heart attack at 53.
Arlan Ettinger, president of Guernsey's auction house, said in an interview he is curious to see how much it goes for once it is put up for auction again on May 31.
"The world record for any guitar ever sold, which had been this and its mate 'Tiger' ($957,500) at a million dollars, has since been eclipsed over the last 15 years," he said. "Now it's slightly above $2 million, but we'll see where this goes."
A Fender Stratocaster signed by some of the world's greatest rock stars including Clapton, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards brought in a record $2.7 million at auction in November 2005.
Wolf's current owner Daniel Pritzker, a longtime Deadhead, was reluctant to part with the instrument but he felt it was the right thing to do since he intends to donate the proceeds to an organization that works for social justice, Ettinger said.
"Dan called and said that with the divisiveness going on in our country today he wanted to do something meaningful with Wolf. He ... gave it back to us with instructions to resell it and give all the money - he didn't want a penny of it - to the Southern Poverty Law Centre, which for nearly 50 years has been fighting racism, poverty."
Founded in 1971, the Alabama-based nonprofit organization serves to "combat hate, intolerance and discrimination through education and litigation."
The live sale will take place at Brooklyn Bowl in New York on May 31 with a performance by a Grateful Dead tribute band.
Reporting by Alicia Powell in New York; Editing by Melissa Fares and Matthew Lewis