Custom-made guitar sets new record sales price among Van Halen’s famed Frankenstrats
The iconic “Frankenstrat” guitar that Eddie Van Halen played both onstage and in the classic video for Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” sold at auction this week for a whopping $3.9 million.
The Sotheby’s auction also included other ephemera from the famed 1984 video — including the straitjacket and white gloves worn by EVH in the visual — but the main draw was the custom-made Strat with its Van Halen’s trademark De Stilj-inspired paint job. The guitar blew past the pre-auction estimate of between $2 and 3 million.
The item also came with a letter of provenance from Kramer Guitars’ Paul “Unk” Unkert, who custom-made this guitar to Van Halen’s demanding specifications in late 1982. “The ‘Hot For Teacher’ Van Halen [guitar] was built by me at the Kramer Green Grove Road Plant in Neptune, NJ around 1982-1985/ #CO176. Look for ‘Unk’ stamps on Neck and Body. It was my last project for Ed and Kramer,” Unkert writes in the note.
After serving as Eddie Van Halen’s main ax for a few years, the guitar was gifted to the band’s retiring drum tech in 1990, who in turn gave it to their nephew, who sold it to Huntington Beach, California shop Neal’s Music, who auctioned it via Sotheby’s to a still-unknown winning bidder.
While the sale set a record for the most expensive Frankenstrat sold at auction — the late guitarist had an arsenal of the beloved model in his collection, some of which have already been sold — the sale fell short of the auction history-making guitars owned by Kurt Cobain, whose MTV Unplugged acoustic sold for $6 million and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” guitar sold for $4.5 million.