By Christopher Scapelliti
John Lennon’s 1962 Gibson J-160E jumbo acoustic-electric flattop smashed world records when it sold for $2.4 million at Julien’s Auctions Icons & Idols: Rock n’ Roll auction on November 7. In doing so, it became the most valuable artist-owned guitar ever sold at auction, dislodging Bob Dylan’s 1964 Fender Stratocaster, which he played at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.
Left behind at a 1963 gig and considered lost forever, Lennon’s guitar turned up in 2014. It had been expected to fetch about $800,000, though pretty much everyone thought it would reach the $1 million mark, given its importance and history. What probably no one anticipated was that it would shatter expectations by taking in three times its estimated value.
With the word “sold,” Lennon’s J-160E joined the pantheon of the most valuable guitars ever sold at auction. Here are the six instruments that currently occupy that esteemed position.
1. “Reach Out to Asia” Fender Stratocaster: $2.7 million (2005)
This one-of-a-kind Fender Strat sold for $2.7 million on November 16, 2005, making it the current record holder for most valuable guitar ever sold at auction. What makes the guitar so unique are the signatures of many rock stars all over its body, including those of Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian May, Jimmy Page, David Gilmour, Jeff Beck, Pete Townsend, Mark Knopfler, Ray Davis, Liam Gallagher, Ronnie Wood, Tony Iommi, Angus and Malcolm Young, Paul McCartney, Sting, Ritchie Blackmore, Def Leppard, and Bryan Adams.
Funds from the guitar were used to provide aid for the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. The earthquake and its subsequent tsunami killed an estimated 230,000 people in 14 countries bordering the Indian Ocean, inundating shorelines with waves up to 100 feet high.
The guitar was auctioned by Sotheby’s. Henry Wyndham, chairman of Sotheby’s Europe and one of the most experienced auctioneers in the art market today, said of the event, “I have auctioned many items for charity in my life, but never have I witnessed the levels we achieved tonight. This will stay in my memory for a very long time indeed.”