Jerry Garcia’s “Budman” Amp Sold for $378,000 at Auction

That was a bit more than Sotheby's expected

Jerry Garcia
Jerry Garcia performing with the Grateful Dead at the Greek Theater in Berkeley on May 22, 1982.
Clayton Call/Redferns

At what point does a musical instrument go from being a functional device to a piece of history? In recent years, there’s been a growing array of high-profile musical gear sold at auction for prices that evoke contemporary art or classic cars — David Gilmour’s guitar auction being one prominent example. And it’s provided the opportunity for fans of certain iconic groups to own a piece of those bands’ history — sometimes with unexpected results.

The latest variation on this theme comes via a recent auction of Grateful Dead memorabilia. Among the items sold as part of Sotheby’s “From the Vault: Property from the Grateful Dead and Friends” auction was guitarist Jerry Garcia’s amp, known as “Budman.”

Before the auction began, Sotheby’s estimated that it would sell for between $5,000 and $7,000. It turns out those estimates were a bit low — Budman’s new owner paid $378,000 for it.

As “Big” Steve Parish explained, Garcia and the band were fans of McIntosh amps. “When the 2300 power amp came out we bought 70 of them, and put them throughout the system, but this is the one that Jerry liked the best and he played through it for years,” he recalled. “It really made that Twin sound huge and became part of his signature tone at the time. At some point, Ram Rod stuck that Budweiser Budman sticker on it one day and it’s instantly recognizable as Jerry’s.”

It’s an essential piece of Grateful Dead history — and now, it’s heading off to a new destination.

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