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Why Somebody Paid $30,000 for a Replica of Eric Clapton’s Guitar

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This week, Eric Clapton raised $2.15 million for his Crossroads rehab facility in Antigua by auctioning off 75 guitars and 55 amplifiers in New York, including a '48 Gibson hollow body that went for nearly $83,000 alone. The sale didn't include Clapton's famous black Fender Stratocaster, Blackie, because that bruised and battered ax already fetched a massive $959,500 in 2004. But it did feature a Blackie replica that precisely duplicated all of the guitar's signs of wear, from the etching on its back where Clapton's belt buckle gnawed into the wood to the burn mark left by a wayward cigarette. And this fake Blackie -- never played by Clapton -- sold for $30,000.

Now, why would anyone pay 30 grand for a guitar we'll dub Fakie? According to the New York Times, social scientists have the answer. A researcher at Yale likened a replica guitar to a voodoo doll and explained a concept called "imitative magic": "Things that resemble each other have similar powers. ... An identical Clapton guitar replica with all of the dents and scratches may serve as such a close proxy to Clapton's original guitar that it is in some way confused for the real thing." Likewise, people shell out big bucks for the real artifacts because of "celebrity contagion," which is less disease-y than it sounds: Fans believe being in close proximity to objects touched by their idols gives them special powers. "One of them told the researchers how he had improved his own guitar-playing by using old guitar strings that had been discarded by Duane Allman." Ah, the power of positive thinking.

[Photo: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images]

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