Steve Vai to auction off electric guitars and gear from across his career

Steve Vai auction electric guitar
(Image credit: Julien's Auctions)

We’ve seen our fair share of auctions over the past few years, but this one is bound to pique the interests of guitar fans above all others: Steve Vai has announced he’ll be auctioning off a huge range of gear he’s collected and used throughout his career.

Hosted by Julien’s Auctions, the mammoth event has been dubbed “Property from the archives of Steve Vai”, with the auction set to take place on November 12 in New York and online.

A portion of the proceeds will go towards supporting Kicking the Stigma – a charity that works to raise awareness about mental health disorders and remove the stigma surrounding such illnesses.

Where to start? The Steve Vai auction is absolutely loaded with goodies that will make most guitar fans froth at the mouth, with the collection comprising stage-used electric guitars, acoustic guitars, guitar amps, effects pedals, handwritten music and much more. In total, more than 300 items from Vai’s archive will be sold at the auction.

The guitar department is headed up by over 40 individual instruments, with some six-strings carrying more illustrious stories than others. Leading the way is Vai’s stage-played “Sofia” Ibanez JEM77 from 2011, which he used during the Experience Hendrix tour that same year.

Sporting striking aesthetics that were created as a result of a design contest held by Vai and Ibanez, only two Sofia models were made – one for Vai and one for the designer, Alessandro Serrago. Vai took it to the stage for the Experience Hendrix tour shows, and used it for a handful of other gigs around that time.

It’s joined by numerous other JEM models, with the 2005 “Ode” model acting as a standout example. The mirror-fronted guitar was part of the first batch of such six-strings delivered to Vai for use on the Real Illusions tour. Said to be the “cleanest and most pristine” model from that time, the axe saw plenty of stage action through ‘05.

Another standout JEM – of which there are many in the auction catalog – is a Vai-signed JEM 7VP "Paulie" prototype, which has been hand-labeled “First Prototype” and dated on the rear of the headstock by Vai himself.

There are some more eye-catching additions to the list, too, including the Lonklin custom Cobra seven-string that was gifted to Vai by Bill Conklin around the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, as well as the double-neck Ibanez STW from 1999 – a rare piece that never made it into the Ibanez catalog.

Other honorable mentions must go to the 2012 Evo IV backup model – which was used extensively for rehearsals as an understudy to the Evo model – and Vai’s 1992 Ibanez Nomad acoustic electric guitar, which he used during his 2002 Grammy performances after his guitar amp failed him on the night.

The Property from the Archives of Steve Vai also has a handful of effects pedals in its ranks, chief among which is a signed Ibanez JEMINI distortion pedal. Only six prototypes were made, and all of them can be found in the auction lot.

As for amps and other effects, a "Mothership" Carvin Vai Legacy half-stack – used extensively in The Mothership studio – can be found on the catalog, as can one of Vai’s old Fractal Audio Axe-Fx processors and foot controllers.

Elsewhere, the catalog also includes stage-worn outfits, handwritten sheets of music, transcription notes and even Vai’s own “Vai Mobile” motorcycle.

The auction is set to take place on November 14.

To find out more, and to peruse the whole lot, head over to Julien’s Auctions.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.