John Lennon's 1962 J-160E Gibson Sells for $2.41 million

John Lennon's original 1962 J-160E Gibson acoustic guitar sold for $2.41 million. The guitar had been missing for more than 50 years and was a significant guitar to John Lennon's history, according to Julien's Auctions, which handled the sale on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015. The name of the buyer was not disclosed. A Beatles drum head, used during the band’s historic appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show sold for $2.1 million to Jim Irsay, owner of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, according to the IndyStar newspaper.

Lennon and Beatles’ guitarist George Harrison both purchased jumbo J-160E Gibson acoustics from Rushworth's Music House in Liverpool for £161, Julien’s said. At the time, the guitars were the only ones of their type in the UK and were said to have been flown to England by jet from America after being specially ordered. The guitars were identical except for the serial numbers. Lennon's guitar went missing during The Beatles' Finsbury Park Christmas Show in December 1963, and he later replaced it with a ‘64 model.

A day after receiving the guitars, The Beatles traveled from Liverpool to London’s EMI Studios on September 11, 1962 and recorded “P.S. I Love You,” and “Love Me Do.” Lennon used the guitar on many of the recordings they did in 1962 and 1963 that required an acoustic guitar, Julien’s said. Beatles songs including “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Please, Please, Me,” “All My Loving,” “From Me to You,” “This Boy” “Please Please Me/Ask Me Why” and “From Me to You/Thank You Girl,” were written on this guitar.

The guitar was discovered recently by Andy Babiuk, author of “Beatles Gear — All The Fab Four’s Instruments From Stage To Studio,” after being contacted by Marc Intravaia, guitar instructor to John McCaw who had possessed the guitar since the 1960s.

“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.”

John McCaw, described as a novice musician, acquired the guitar in the ‘60s and was unaware of its connection to The Beatles until seeing a magazine featuring George Harrison’s guitar collection. “There was a photo and bio of the J-160E which bore many similarities to mine,” McCaw said. “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.”

Babiuk examined the guitar and matched the wood grain in the guitar’s spruce top to photos of Lennon playing the guitar with The Beatles in the early ‘60s.

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“Wood grain is like a fingerprint, no two are the same, and without a doubt it is a match,” Babiuk said. “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.”

The guitar was never refinished and had no hardware or electronic changes, Julien’s said. A percentage of proceeds from the sale of the guitar will go to Spirit Foundations Inc., a non-profit organization founded by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Lennon died on December 8, 1980 at the age of 40.

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