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John Lennon’s ‘Help!’ guitar sells for nearly $2.9 million at record-breaking auction

The 12-string instrument was recently discovered after being lost for 50 years

By Emily Zemler

The Help guitar

A guitar used by John Lennon has sold for $2,857,500 (£2.248 million), setting a new record for the highest-selling guitar at auction in the Beatles‘ history.

The Framus 12-string Hootenanny acoustic guitar, used in the recording of the Beatles’ 1965 Help! album and film, was bought through a telephone bid as part of a two-day music icons sale by Julien’s Auctions. The guitar had an estimated price of $600,000 to $800,000, but was expected to fetch far more. It surpassed the $2.4 million price tag of Lennon’s Gibson J160E, which sold in 2015.

“We are absolutely thrilled and honoured to have set a new world record with the sale of John Lennon’s lost Hootenanny guitar,” David Goodman, the chief executive at Julien’s Auctions, said in a statement. “This guitar is not only a piece of music history but a symbol of John Lennon’s enduring legacy. Today’s unprecedented sale is a testament to the timeless appeal and reverence of the Beatles’ music and John Lennon.”

Both Lennon and George Harrison played the Framus 12-string Hootenanny acoustic guitar while making Help!, as well as Rubber Soul. Lennon can be seen strumming it in the performance of ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’ in the Help! movie, while it’s distinct 12-string shimmer also graced songs like ‘Help!‘, ‘It’s Only Love,’ ‘I’ve Just Seen a Face,’ ‘Girl,’ and ‘Norwegian Wood.’

The guitar later ended up with Gordon Waller, the Scottish singer-songwriter who was one-half of the duo Peter and Gordon (with Peter Asher), and then Waller passed it along to one of Peter and Gordon’s road managers. Fifty years later, it was discovered in an attic in the British countryside, while the original guitar case (made by the Australian company Maton) was found in the trash and rescued. 

Darren Julien, co-founder and executive director of Julien’s Auctions, called the discovery the Help! guitar “the greatest find of a Beatles guitar since Paul McCartney’s lost 1961 Höfner bass guitar.” He added, “Finding this remarkable instrument is like finding a lost Rembrandt or Picasso, and it still looks and plays like a dream after having been preserved in an attic for more than 50 years. To awaken this sleeping beauty is a sacred honour.”

The auction house celebrate the sale, which took place at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square, by noting, “Its new owner now the custodian of a piece of Lennon’s soul, a tangible link to the creative energy that flowed through him and touched the lives of millions.”

It added, “For the rest of us, the sale of Lennon’s Framus Hootenanny serves as a poignant reminder of the enduring legacy of the Beatles and the indelible mark they left on the world. It is a testament to the power of music to transcend time and connect people across generations. The guitar may have found a new home, but its melody will continue to echo in the hearts and minds of music lovers everywhere.”

From Rolling Stone.