John Lennon’s Beatles Guitar Missing For 50 Years Sells For Record-Breaking $2.8 Million

A guitar that once belonged to John Lennon and was thought missing for 50 years before being discovered in a family’s attic has set an all-time record. Lennon’s Framus Hootenanny 12-string acoustic guitar during his time with The Beatles has fetched $2,857,500 at Julien’s Auctions on Wednesday. The famous guitar reached 20 bids before the auction ended.

Lennon’s guitar shattered expectations as Julien’s estimated it would sell between $600,000 to $800,000. It is now the most expensive Beatles guitar ever sold. The previous record was Lennon’s Gibson J-160E, which went for $2.41 million at Julien’s in 2015.

John Lennon's Framus “Hootenanny” 5/024 12 guitar
John Lennon’s Framus “Hootenanny” 5/024 12 guitar. (credit: Julien’s Auctions)

“It could be argued that it’s more historically significant than the other Lennon guitar that we sold for $2.4 million in 2015,” Darren Julien, executive director and co-founder of Julien’s Auctions.

In 1964, Lennon acquired the Framus Hootenanny, a 12-string acoustic guitar made in Bavaria, Germany. The instrument featured a spruce top, mahogany back and sides, a set mahogany neck, and a 19-fret rosewood fretboard. Its unique trapeze tailpiece and floating bridge contributed to its warm, loud, and distinctive sound.

The Framus Hootenanny made its recording debut during the 1965 “Help!” sessions, where it was photographed in the hands of both Lennon and George Harrison. Producer George Martin’s handwritten notes confirm that the guitar was used by the two Beatles on the track “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.” The instrument can also be heard in outtakes of “Help!” and on other iconic songs such as “Girl” from “Rubber Soul” and Harrison’s parts on “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown).”

“Lennon used it to record,” notes Julien. “It was also used on some stage performances and also used throughout the ‘Help’ video, so you can see Lennon with the 12-string. It’s prominent in that  video.”

Beatles expert Andy Babiuk worked closely with the guitar’s previous owner to confirm its authenticity. Babiuk identified distinctive markings on the instrument, including the pattern of the rosette, wood grain, and the swirl of the tortoise shell pickguard, which matched studio session photos and scenes from the movie “Help!”

At the end of 1965, Lennon gifted the guitar to Gordon Waller of the duo Peter & Gordon, for whom Lennon and Paul McCartney had been writing songs. Waller later passed the guitar on to his manager, who stored it in an attic for decades, unaware of its incredible history.

“The son told us that he’d always heard his dad talk about this guitar, but he’d believed that it was lost,” explains Martin Nolan, executive director and co-founder of Julien’s Auctions.

When the guitar resurfaced, it was in dire need of restoration due to the less-than-ideal storage conditions. Guitars prefer stable environments with humidity between 40 and 45 percent and moderate temperatures. The attic’s fluctuating conditions had taken their toll on the Framus, causing corrosion, checking, and structural issues.

Recognizing the importance of this piece of music history, the Waller family enlisted the help of Ryan Schuermann, a highly skilled luthier from LA Guitar Repair.

Over the course of four weeks, Schuermann worked tirelessly to repair the guitar, performing a nearly undetectable neck reset, repairing the top, and stabilizing the bridge. His goal was not only to make the instrument playable but to ensure it would remain so for decades to come.

The historic Lennon guitar was part of Julien’s Auctions’ “Music Icons” two-day auction from May 29-30 at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City.

HobbyListings editor Matt Higgins contributed to this report.

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