Today in History... the 'World's greatest metal guitarist' is born

Today in 1948, Frank Anthony "Tony" Iommi, best known as the guitarist for Black Sabbath, was born to Italian immigrant parents in Aston, Birmingham, UK.

As he turns 62 today, Iommi can look back on a career that even in recent years has seen him perform for audiences of 50,000 people around the world.

Iommi's legacy in the pantheon of rock guitarists is already assured. He is "one of only two guitarists that can take full credit for pioneering the mammoth riffs of heavy metal," according to the leading online music source Allmusic.

The other guitarist is, of course, Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page.

Being the only guitarist deemed worthy to share Page's podium and being voted #1 Greatest Metal Guitarist of All Time (according to Guitar World magazine) undoubtedly has its perks.

But guitar worship also offers numerous benefits to memorabilia collectors...

Old guitars are among the most investible rock memorabilia items. For instance, a late 1960s Strat' worth a couple of hundred dollars in its heyday can today sell for as much as $30,000.

Other vintage axes, like a 1960s Gibson Les Paul Jr, have in the past shown an incredible appreciation of 500% after six months of ownership.

Aside from being in mint condition (with original parts, electronics and paint), a guitar's collectability is massively boosted if it is tied to a famous musician, or even a famous event like Woodstock 1969.

For example, a rare Fender Stratocaster guitar was the star lot at Cordier Antiques & Auctions' recent Two Day Fall Antiques & Fine Art Auction in Pennsylvania, US.

Bo Diddley's last-ever guitar rocked a
Julien's auction at $60k

Purchased in 1954 and consigned by an 84-year-old Carlisle native, John Hippensteel, the guitar aroused much interest in the weeks leading up to the sale.

That Hippensteel was the former lead singer of the Blue Ridge Boys, a popular Pennsylvania-based hillbilly and Western swing band in the 1950s, probably didn't hurt its chances either.

Eventually, strong bidding saw the hammer go down at $22,000, sold to a collector over the phone in Ohio. Mr Hippensteel originally bought the guitar for $225.

Elsewhere, in December last year, Christie's first-ever Country Music sale was headlined by a CF Martin and company Style D-18 guitar.

Once owned by the country legend Hank Williams, the 1974 acoustic left the auction block just shy of its upper estimate, selling for $134,500.

Meanwhile, at Julien's massive rock memorabilia sale, a highest grossing item - aside from the wealth of headline-grabbing Michael Jackson ephemera for sale - was a rock guitar with impeccable provenance.

A collector was Grateful for Jerry
Garcia's guitar, paying $312k

Rock 'n' roll pioneer Bo Diddley's (1928-2008) last-ever stage used guitar and case brought an incredible $60,000, last year.

Unsurprisingly, the guitars of music veterans whose influence is established are generally those which command the highest sums.

Alongside Bo Diddley's axe, country legend Johnny Cash's Wilkanowski and Sons Airway "Fiddle Guitar" brought an incredible $37,500.

Each of these sales was dwarfed, however, by the auctioning of a 1975 cream coloured Travis Bean guitar played by The Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia.

It sold for a remarkable $312,000.

As if this wasn't enough, a leather guitar strap worn by Garcia onstage around 1973 brought $20,400 - four times its estimate.

The above sales are testament to the power established guitar gods can have on the auction block - and the guitars of the greatest musicians remain a great place for collectors and investors to put their money.


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