Eddie Van Halen’s Hot For Teacher Kramer sells at auction for just under $4 million

Eddie Van Halen's Kramer that he used in the Hot For Teacher video was sold at auction for just under $4 million
(Image credit: Sotheby's)

The custom-built Kramer electric guitar that Eddie Van Halen used in the Hot For Teacher and onstage as the VH rock juggernaut conquered the world in 1984 has gone the way of David Gilmour’s Black Strat having now been sold at auction for just over $3.9 million.

Listed by Sotheby’s and sold on 18 April, Eddie’s red-black-and-white stripped Kramer fetched a whopping $3,932,000, making it one of the most expensive guitars in the world – though just shy of Gilmour’s most-famous Fender Stratocaster, which sold for $3,975,000 in 2019, then a world record. 

Both cost considerably less than the 1959 Martin D-18E acoustic Kurt Cobain played on Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged session, which set a new world record when it sold for $6,010,000 in 2020. But can you play a super-charged high-legato lead on a vintage Martin acoustic guitar? You sure can on this Kramer.

Built by master luthier Paul Unkert, this took the high-performance S-style to the next level. This being the ‘80s, of course it has a hockey stick headstock, a Kramer decal logo stuck to it. This being an Eddie Van Halen guitar, it was built for radical styles. 

The back of the guitar bears some surgery scars for its flip-up rest for horizontal stunt guitar playing. of course there is a double-locking Floyd Rose vibrato, and no back plate on the tremolo springs as to facilitate quick set-up adjustments. A single Seymour Duncan humbucker occupies the bridge position, with a single volume knob on hand for swells and rolling it back to clean up the tone.

And yet there is lots of classic DNA in the build. Comprised of solid poplar body, it has a bolt-on neck of unvarnished maple, a maple fingerboard with 22 frets, but no sculpting on the neck heel, no aggressive contouring of the double-cutaway. 

Note the oversized industrial loops for the guitar strap. Note the wear and tear. With no lacquer on the body there would always be some serious weathering but this has been through the wars and come out the other side. The striped finish still looks the part.

Eddie Van Halen's Kramer that he used in the Hot For Teacher video was sold at auction for just under $4 million

(Image credit: Sotheby's)

The Kramer was sold with a letter of authenticity from Unkert saying it was his final project for Eddie and Kramer. Bearing the serial number #CO176, with Unkert’s signature ‘Unk’ stamps on the neck plate. and body, it was put together at the Kramer Green Grove Road Plant in Neptune, New Jersey.

The Kramer shipped in its original case with Warner Bros tags, and, best of all, the straight jacket and white gloves worn by Eddie in the Hot For Teacher video were included. 

The Hot For Teacher video was directed by long-time Van Halen collaborator Pete Angelus and David Lee Roth, and was exactly the sort of thing that fully justifies Sotheby’s listing this Kramer as “one of the most iconic guitars of the MTV era”. No argument here. You can check out more pics and info at Sotheby’s.

And this being Friday, well, what better way to inaugurate the weekend than watching the Hot For Teacher video.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.