Jerry Garcia's guitars up for auction

After a long strange trip, two guitars once owned by the late Grateful Dead lead singer are put up for auction.

After a long strange trip, two guitars once owned by Grateful Dead lead singer Jerry Garcia will be put up for auction Wednesday.

The auction will be held live at Studio 54 in New York City, but Internet users can participate via eBay. In addition to Garcia's guitars, nicknamed "Wolf" and "Tiger," Dead fans can bid on an assortment of items related to the band, including unpublished photos of the band, concert posters and some of Garcia's artwork.

But the guitars are the highlight of the auction. The work of Doug Irwin, a craftsman guitar maker, the one-of-a-kind guitars were part of a small collection of instruments that Garcia played throughout his career.

Three years ago, the guitar that Eric Clapton used to record "Layla" sold for about $450,000 at auction. But that price could pale in comparison to what the Garcia guitars will fetch.

"Rumors are suggesting that these guitars will far exceed that," said Arlan Ettinger, president of Guernsey's auction house, which is managing the auction of the Grateful Dead material. "I don't know if that's the case, but I hope that's the case."

The guitars were handmade for Garcia from rare woods and are embellished with mother of pearl and ivory inlays. Irwin reportedly took six years to make Tiger.

The guitars were the subject of a legal dispute between Irwin and the surviving members of the Grateful Dead after Garcia died in 1995. Although Garcia bequeathed his guitar collection to Irwin in his will, the members of the Dead considered them to be part of the band's property. As part of a January settlement, Irwin received Wolf and Tiger.

Irwin, left destitute by a 1998 traffic accident, decided to sell the guitars to re-establish a guitar workshop, Ettinger said.

Guernsey's is pre-screening potential bidders on the guitar auction, Ettinger said. Not only will potential bidders have to register on either eBay or Guernsey's Web site, they will have to establish their credit with Guernsey's through a letter of guarantee from a bank or a similar method, he said.

Those interested in bidding on the other Grateful Dead items simply need to pre-register, he said.

The auction is the latest high-profile auction available to eBay members. Last month a round of golf with Tiger Woods sold for $425,000 on the online auction site.

eBay representatives did not return calls seeking comment.

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