What the auction house describes as “the most historically important guitar associated with the Beatles,” an original 1962 J-160E Gibson Acoustic guitar owned by John Lennon, will be sold this November, Julien’s Auctions announced June 5. The auction house said the sale will take place during its Icons & Idols Rock n’ Roll Auction event to take place Nov. 6 and 7 in Beverly Hills.
The guitar is John Lennon’s 1962 J-160E Gibson Acoustic guitar, which, according to the auction house, was purchased in September, 1962. At the time, both Lennon and George Harrison bought jumbo J-160E Gibson acoustic guitars from Rushworth’s Music House in Liverpool for £161. According to the auction house, the two guitars, which were identical apart from their serial numbers, were the only ones of their type in the country and were said to have been flown to England by jet from America after being specially ordered.
The guitar reportedly went missing in December 1963 during The Beatles’ Finsbury Park Christmas Show. Lennon later replaced it with a 1964 model and the ’62 model remained lost for over 50 years. The ’62 guitar was reportedly a favorite of Lennon’s and figured in many special moments in Beatles history. He is said to have used this guitar in the making of many Beatles’ recordings in 1962 and 1963 and was heard on many Beatles albums and Eps. It was also instrumental in the writing of many early songs with Paul McCartney, including “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Please Please Me,” “All My Loving,” “From Me to You” and “This Boy.” It can also be seen in 1963 videos of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “This Boy.”
According to the auction house, the guitar was re-discovered by Andy Babiuk, author of “Beatles Gear – All The Fab Four’s Instruments From Stage To Studio.” “I get calls and email all the time with people telling me that they think they have an instrument owned by The Beatles and 99% of the time it’s nothing, but there was something about McCaw’s story that was intriguing.”
According to McCaw, “In April 2014, I was leaving my guitar group’s weekly jam and noticed a magazine from May 2012 in the studio’s bookcase which featured a cover story titled the ‘George Harrison Collection.’ There was a photo and bio of the J-160E which bore many similarities to mine. I saw identical marks in the same location on each guitar. Reading on, the story noted that the two Beatles swapped guitars in 1963 for reasons unknown. This is when my heart skipped a beat and the journey began. We searched for the person who could help us confirm the identity of my guitar. This led us straight to Andy Babiuk, the world’s leading expert on all Beatles gear.”
After Babiuk examined the guitar, he was able to match the wood grain in the spruce top to photos of Lennon playing the guitar with The Beatles in the early 60’s. “Wood grain is like a fingerprint, no two are the same, and without a doubt it is a match,” said Babiuk. “It is one of the most important of all Lennon’s Beatles guitars, as he used this J-160E to write some of The Beatles’ biggest hits, and played the guitar on countless live performances and on many Beatle recordings. It is without a doubt one of the most historically important guitars to ever come up for auction,” he said. The Lennon Gibson J-160E is to be featured on the cover of the new edition of Babiuk’s book, “Beatles Gear — The Ultimate Edition,” which will be released Oct. 27.
The auction house says the guitar has never been modified or refinished and has had no hardware or electronic changes. Julien’s says a percentage of proceeds from the sale of the guitar will go to Spirit Foundations, Inc., the non-profit organization founded by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
The Lennon J-160E will go on display prior to the auction at The LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas from June 13 to 29 for the opening of The GRAMMY Museum and Fab Four Exhibits “Ladies & Gentlemen…The Beatles Exhibition!” It will then be displayed at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles from July 2 to Sept. 7 and at Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills from Nov. 2 to 6. Registration is required to bid in this auction and can be done in person at the exhibition and auction, online before the sale at the JuliensAuctions Registration page or by calling (310) 836-1818.