Auction Results

Lennon’s Help! guitar sets record for Beatles, is 5th most valuable ever


John Lennon Framus Hootenanny guitar

A guitar played on film by John Lennon in the Beatles’ Help! has sold for $2.8 million at auction in New York. It is most valuable Beatles instrument ever sold and the fifth highest price for a guitar.

Kurt Cobain’s Nirvana Unplugged guitar sold for $6 million in 2020. John Lennon’s “lost” Gibson J-160E acoustic sold for $2.4 million in 2014.

The guitar that sold yesterday to an unnamed buyer at Julien’s Auctions in New York was also out of circulation for many years. It was found in the attic of a Scottish house by new home owners.

In a statement Julien’s said: “The atmosphere at the Hard Rock Cafe was electric, charged with the anticipation of collectors, fans, and music aficionados who had gathered from around the world to witness this historic event.

“As the auctioneer’s gavel fell, the room held its breath, and the final bid of $2,857,500 echoed through the space, solidifying the Framus Hootenanny’s place as the fifth most-expensive guitar ever sold.”

For fans of the band it is as famous and visible (and audible) as the previous record-holding Gibson.

The 1964-made Framus Hootenanny 5/024 12-string acoustic guitar in natural finish played a central role in the Beatles’ mid-period albums.

The German-made Framus was used by Lennon and George Harrison on multiple Beatles tracks. Image courtesy Julien’s Auctions.

Beatles fans will quickly spot it as the instrument on which Lennon (violently) strummed You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away in one of the most memorable sequences in Help!.

As well as its miming role on film it was regularly used in studio sessions, including for the Help! and Rubber Soul albums on which the Fab Four made extensive use of acoustic guitars. Juliens said the sound of the instrument was key to identifying it as Lennon’s.

The Framus is recorded on You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away, It’s Only Love, I’ve Just Seen a Face, Help!, Girl and on Norwegian Wood, when George Harrison played it.

Lennon gifted the guitar to Gordon Waller of Peter & Gordon. Peter was Peter Asher, brother of Jane Asher, Paul McCartney’s girlfriend. From Waller, the guitar went to a manager, who left it in an attic for decades.

After its discovery, expert photo-matching proved the guitar, serial number 51083, was Lennon’s.

Going into this auction with an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000, the guitar had already attracted a bid of $1.25 million in the morning before the live sale in New York.

Guitars are proving to be the most valuable rock ‘n’ roll collectibles, especially if they can be matched to an important song, performance or moment in the career of a great artist.

In this sale alone, a Fender Bob Dylan was playing at the “Judas” concert in 1965 realised $650,000. A yellow “cloud” guitar played by Prince is one of the star lots of the second day of the sale and is currently under offer for $450,000.

There seems no end to the appetite for Beatles instruments just yet, and this price could easily be matched or bettered if similarly well-known pieces come to auction.

Just Collecting