Someone just bought an acoustic guitar for $2.4 million. Yes, it’s a lot of money for a stringed instrument, indeed it’s a lot of money for any instrument, but this one has some history.
Used by John Lennon to record some of The Beatles’ earliest hits including Love Me Do and Please Please Me, the guitar, a 1962 Gibson J-160E, fetched the huge amount at an auction in Beverley Hills on Saturday.
Its journey to auction has been an unusual one. Apparently stolen at a Christmas concert in 1963 after being used by The Beatles in around 200 live performances, the guitar turned up in a San Diego music store in the mid 1960s where it was bought for $170, with both the store and the new owner unaware of the instrument’s connection to the famous band. A short while later, the owner sold it to amateur musician John McCaw for $225, with whom it remained till now.
Flicking through a magazine in 2008, McCaw came across an old photo of The Beatles with a guitar that looked remarkably similar to his, right down to identifiable marks and scratches. After expert analysis, the guitar was shown to be Lennon’s.
Commenting on the instrument’s significance, Beatles gear specialist Andy Babiuk said prior to the auction, “There is no doubt that this guitar was Lennon’s most important guitar in the early days of The Beatles … I can tell you, there has never been another guitar like this offered up for auction.”
It was expected to fetch $800,000, but several keen millionaire and billionaire bidders from around the world pushed the final price to three times that. The new owner has asked to remain anonymous.
To overcome potential ownership issues related to the guitar’s disappearance in 1963, the Lennon Estate agreed to the sale so long as a portion of the proceeds went to the Spirit Foundation, a non-profit founded by Lennon and Ono.
The sale is one of the biggest ever for a piece of rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia. It follows the auction last year of another Lennon guitar, used on The Beatles’ 1966 single Paperback Writer, which Indianapolis Colts owner and guitar collector Jim Irsay picked up for $530,000, according to Rolling Stone magazine.
Fetching even more than Lennon’s Gibson guitar was a Fender Stratocaster that went under the hammer for $2.7 million at a charity auction in 2007, though that one was signed by rock legends Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page, among others.