John Lennon's Long-Lost Guitar To Fetch Over $800,000 In Auction

John Lennon used the guitar—which disappeared for more than 50 years—to create many of The Beatles’ seminal hits from the 1960s, including the recording of their ‘Help!’ album and film. 

One of the most valuable pieces of The Beatles’ music history will be going under the hammer in Julien’s Auctions’ upcoming Music Icons auction on May 29 to May 30, 2024 at Hard Rock Cafe in New York and online. The piece in question, an acoustic guitar owned by one of the band’s main vocalists and guitar players John Lennon, disappeared for more than five decades, forgotten in an attic in the rural British countryside before its homeowners contacted the auction house to identify it.

John Lennon's Framus Hootenanny 12-string acoustic guitar
John Lennon’s Framus Hootenanny 12-string acoustic guitar

Julien’s Auctions executive directors and founders, Darren Julien and Martin Nolan, traveled to the UK and confirmed that it was indeed the storied Framus Hootenanny 12-string acoustic guitar that played some of the band’s greatest hits. The guitar will be heading to the auction block and may fetch more than its estimated $600,000 to $800,000, setting a new world record for the highest-selling Beatles guitar. 

The Framus inside its original Maton case
The Framus inside its original Maton case

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While His Guitar Gently Weeps

Films and photographs of the band during the 1960s show Lennon using the guitar in recording sessions and performances of their 1965 album Help!. This includes songs like the namesake “Help!,” “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away,” “It’s Only Love,” and “I’ve Just Seen A Face.” The guitar is also present in the Rubber Soul recording sessions of “Girl” and the rhythm track for “Norwegian Wood” (played by George Harrison). 

In the mid to late 1960s, the guitar was in the possession of Gordon Waller of the pop duo Peter and Gordon, who later gave it to their road managers. Its whereabouts after this period and before it wound up in the rural attic remain a mystery. The guitar still “looks and plays like a dream,” describes co-founder Julien in a press statement. 

The Framus' original Maton case
The Framus’ original Maton case

During their visit, Julien and Nolan also found Framus’ original guitar case—a Maton Australian-made one that one can see in 1965 photos of The Beatles—in the trash, rescuing it to accompany the guitar in its sale (together with The Beatles: Photographs from the Set of ‘Help!’ book by Emilio Lari).

The Beatles in the studio
The Beatles in the studio

Record-Breaking Instruments

Julien’s Auctions has previously sold a number of Beatles memorabilia that have similarly sold for high prices. These include another John Lennon acoustic guitar that sold for $2.4 million, Ringo Starr’s Ludwig drum kit which fetched a record $2.2 million, and The Ludwig Beatles Ed Sullivan Show drumhead that sold for $2.1 million. 

The recently discovered guitar is a new addition to the growing list of legendary instruments from the Fab Four that have helped shape an entire era of music. 

“The discovery of John Lennon’s Help! guitar […] is considered the greatest find of a Beatles guitar since Paul McCartney’s lost 1961 Höfner bass,” Julien expressed in an official statement. “To awaken this sleeping beauty is a sacred honor and is a great moment for music, Julien’s, Beatles, and auction history.”

Ringo Starr, one of the only two surviving members of the band (along with McCartney), was also greatly pleased to see his late friend and former bandmate’s instrument once more. “After so many years, I’m happy to see this guitar again. Thanks to a little ‘help’ from my friends at Julien’s,” he shared. 

Photos courtesy of Julien’s Auctions.

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