Mark Knopfler, the Glasgow-born lead singer and guitarist with Dire Straits, is to auction more than a hundred of his guitars and amplifiers, with a quarter of the proceeds going to charity.

The band, which was formed in 1977, is estimated to have sold more than 100 million records worldwide. Their best-known international hit singles include Romeo and Juliet, Money for Nothing, Brothers in Arms and Sultans of Swing. He also wrote the evocative soundtrack to Bill Forsyth's classic film, Local Hero.

Among the instruments which are to be auctioned at Christie's in January are the guitars Knopfler played on such hits as Sultans of Swing and Money for Nothing. The prices are said to range from £300 to £500,000.

Mark Knopfler, Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow

Knopfler is following in the footsteps of other great guitarists who have auctioned off their instruments. A collection belonging to Pink Floyd's Dave Gilmour sold for more than $21 million at Christie’s in New York in June 2019, with all proceeds going towards charitable causes.

And this week a guitar first played by Eric Clapton in 1964 when he was touring the US with the rock trio, Cream, sold for $1.27 million at an auction in Nashville, Tennessee.

Interviewed today (Tuesday) on Radio 4's The World at One, Knopfler was asked why he had now decided to let his guitars go.

"Well, I think it's just age", he told the BBC's music correspondent, Mark Savage. "and I'm looking now at about 20 guitars that are pretty much used to make records with, and at least a hundred other ones that weren't going to get played. So, it's time.

Money for something: Knopfler's first guitar set to sell for £3000 at auction

"I don't think they do too well, living in a case all their lives", he added.

He said he would prefer that the guitars were played by their new owners rather than being displayed in glass cases. "I want people to be really happy that they have got them".

Knopfler's political portraits in music

Knopfler was born in Glasgow in 1949 and moved to Newcastle when he was eight. He later spent six years in Leeds, working at the Yorkshire Evening Post and studying at Leeds University, before finally moving to London in 1973 to pursue a career in music.

The Herald: Mark Knopfler photographed with a vintage 1930's Martin D-18 acoustic guitar at his studio in London, on February 6, 2015Mark Knopfler photographed with a vintage 1930's Martin D-18 acoustic guitar at his studio in London, on February 6, 2015 (Image: Joby Sessions/Guitarist Magazine/Future via Getty Images)In 2007 it was reported that his first guitar, a twin-pickup Hofner Super Solid, was expected to raise £3,000 when it is sold at Christie's in London. The instrument was a 14th birthday present from his father, a Jewish architect from Hungary who moved to Scotland.

He retains a clear affection for Glasgow. "It's amazing what Glasgow has become," he said in a Herald interview in 2015. "It's a fascinating city in so many ways. It's a talking town. If you ask someone for directions in Glasgow, you're very conscious of the engagement and the friendliness. In general, there's a massive connection and sense of sympathy between the Geordies and the Scots. It's a work thing."

Why Knopfler is delighted to be called a dinosaur

In the World at One interview, he was asked for his memories of the first time he visited a guitar shop, and said they were "very much like they were yesterday.

"Yesterday I was in Newcastle, and I was in [J.G.] Windows, in [Central] Arcade, which was the big music shop. Nothing's changed. It's a love affair. So I'm still basically crossing the street to look at the guitars in the windows of music shops.

Asked what was the allure of guitars as opposed to the drums or piano, he responded: "Who knows? Who knows that thing?

"It was just a fascination since I was a small boy, hearing Elvis Presley and wanting to be part of it all. It just came with so much sense of adventure and fun and freedom".

Even when Dire Straits were recording their bestselling 1985 album, Brothers in Arms, money was tight, and he had to use a modern replica of a classic 1959 Gibson Les Paul.

"It was a 1983 guitar, I think, and it was fantastic. I thought it was the real business, and I used that for Brothers in Arms, and Money for Nothing. I thought it was great, and that was long before I had the chance to try a '58 or a '59 [Gibson].

"So I didn't really know what the real collectors' pieces were like, at all".

Knopfler's lament for Dunblane

Savage asked: "So this is what I wonder. Is the danger with selling these guitars that you will use the money that you make from the sale to buy more?"

Knopfler, laughing ruefully, replied: "Yeah, there's every danger. In other words, what have I learned? Not a lot".