Mark Knopfler to auction 120 guitars –including his Dire Straits Brothers In Arms Les Paul and a '59 Burst

(Image credit: Christie's)

Mark Knopfler has opened the treasure trove of his guitar and amp collection for a forthcoming Christie's auction, including a '59 Burst and the 1983 Les Paul he used on Dire Straits' world-conquering Brothers In Arms album.

In total, 120 guitars will be open to bidding, with some of his prime Dire Straits workhorse electric guitars featuring amongst them. "I'm looking now at about 20 guitars that I use to make records and there are at least 100 other ones that aren't going to get played," Knopfler told the BBC

"We've had great times together, so I am sad to see some of them go - but I've got enough left to play. More than enough."

The collection will go on display in New York and London before the auction on 31 January, 2024. A quarter of the proceeds from the final hammer price will benefit organisations including Red Cross, the wildlife conservationists Tusk and the children's charity Brave Hearts Of The North East.

Photo of Mark KNOPFLER and DIRE STRAITS and LIVE AID and Jack SONNI, Mark Knopfler (playing Gibson Les Paul guitar) and Jack Sonni performing live onstage at Live Aid

Knopfler onstage at Live Aid in 1985 with the 1983 Les Paul Standard '59 reissue  (Image credit: Pete Still/Redferns/Getty Images)

"Comprising more than 120 guitars and amps, the collection spans the 50-year career of one of the world’s most influential musicians and chronicles the diverse array of guitars Knopfler has used to write, record and perform an extensive catalogue of compositions for Dire Straits, as well as numerous successful solo albums and film soundtracks," says Christie's.

"Renowned for his distinct and virtuoso finger-picking style, Mark chose each instrument for its individual sound and tone, assembling a wide-ranging archive that includes iconic and world-famous names such as Gibson, Fender and Martin alongside custom-built models by Rudy Pensa and John Suhr, and bespoke examples crafted by luthiers from across the globe."

Knopfler's '59 'Burst has an estimated value of £300k - £500k but we'd say his 1983 '59 reissue Les Paul Standard used for the Brothers In Arms album as well as the 1985 Live Aid show will smash its £10,000-£15,000 estimate with such providence.

It was used to record the album's title track as well as Money For Nothing. "I was on the hunt for a Les Paul for years," reflected Knopfler in the Christie's video above. "First of all, I could never afford one for a long time. The one that Rudy [Pensa] sold to me, that got onto the Brothers In Arms album and it was my first time that I really came to grips with a Les Paul. I'd been listening to Peter Green and Eric and all those guys, so it was an ambition to be able to pick up a guitar like that."


Knopfler's original '59 Les Paul  (Image credit: Christie's)

Knopfler's blonde 1958 ES-335 has an estimate of £60,000-£90,000 but should push far beyond as it's a rare example of a blonde finish with an unbound fingerboard and believed to be one of only 50 in that first year of production. 


1958 ES-335 (Image credit: Christie's)

Other highlights include the John Suhr-built 1984 Rudy Pensa model and 'Caramel' 1985 MK1 Pensa-Suhr. The latter features EMG pickups and a Floyd Rose and will be familiar to Knopfler fans. It was the instrument that helped him cover the ground of his Strat and Les Paul for Dire Straits' live sets, allowing him to stick with one guitar for longer in the set. But it was the 1984 Suhr guitar that was his first.

"I plugged it in on the Brothers In Arms record," Knopfler explained in the Christie's video. The guitar ended up being used on the album-opener So Far Away. "What a builder John was," added Knopfler. "You kind of know the quality of this, it ain't going anywhere."

Knopfler's taste for the untraditional amongst the classics is reflected in a 1985 Steinberger GL2T , but collectors will make a beeline for the 1953 Gibson Super 400 archtop – a rare guitar in its own right.

Christie's Mark Knopfler guitar auction

1953 Gibson Super 400 (estimate £12,000-£18,000)  (Image credit: Christie's)

Knopfler used the Super 400 to record the title track to Dire Straits' 1991 album On Every Street, as well as the song Fade To Black.

Other Gibson treasures include a 1963 J-180 Everly Brothers signature acoustic with double scratchplate. 


Christie's Mark Knopfler guitar auction

Gibson J-180 (estimate £7,000-£10,000) (Image credit: Christie's)

Knopfler purchased his Red Schecter Telecaster (estimate £4,000 to £6,000) and used it on the song Walk Of Life from Brothers In Arms, as well as the song's video. He continued to use it on the album's '85'86 world tour and as recently as his solo 2008 Kill To Kill To Get Crimson tour. 

"It was just asking to be played," noted Knopfler in the Christie's video. "A very punchy guitar – plenty of power, plenty of sound, and so it was great for Walk Of Life because with just my fingers, the guitar was speaking nice and loud."


(Image credit: Christie's)

The guitarist's Hot Rod Red prototype for his 2003 Fender Strat (estimate £4,000-£6,00) is also sure to stir interest too. It features a '62 reissue neck that was made in 2002 and a 1997 body. Used on his 2013 Privateering tour in 2013, it was the only prototype made. 


(Image credit: Christie's)

With famous guitars from his history lining up alongside rarities, it's frankly a suprise to see Knopfler being willing to let go of some of these guitars. But in true guitarist form, he's not ruling out future purchases after this clearout.

 "There's every danger of that," he told the BBC. "I guess I'm not impervious to temptation. It's quite possible I can have my head turned."

But he's at peace with his decision to pass on guitars that have marked landmarks in his career.

"It's exciting having those guitars that featured so big on [Brothers In Arms] be in the sale," he told Christie's. "Each one brings back loads of memories. If you'd asked me 20 years years ago I'd have thought, no way, but I'm happy now that they're going now to different homes." 

More info at Christie's 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.