John Lennon’s Recently Rediscovered Guitar Is Poised to Smash Records at Auction

Julien's Auctions believes the historic instrument could possibly become the most valuable guitar ever sold at auction.

Black and white photo of two men sitting in chairs and playing guitar
George Harrison playing John Lennon’s Framus 12-string Hootenanny acoustic guitar. Julien's Auctions/ Beatles Photo Library

In the 1960s, a 12-string acoustic guitar was the instrument of choice for John Lennon as he recorded and performed hits like Help! Despite its historic importance, the guitar was missing for decades until it was recently discovered in an attic in the rural British countryside. Now Lennon’s 1965 Fenton Hootenanny is expected to set a record for the most valuable Beatles guitar when it is sold next month with the Los Angeles-based Julien's Auctions.

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In addition to being used by Lennon on the recording of the Beatles’ 1965 Help! album and film, the acoustic guitar can be heard on tracks like It’s Only Love and I’ve Just Seen a Face and was even played by George Harrison on Norwegian Wood. “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 for more than 50 years,” said Darren Julien, co-founder and executive founder of Julien’s Auctions, in a statement.

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The guitar is being offered with a conservative estimate of between $600,000 and $800,000. But Julien’s Auctions expects it to surpass the Beatles guitar auction record established in 2015 with the $2.41 million sale of Lennon’s J-160E Gibson. It could even become the most valuable guitar ever sold at auction; a title currently bestowed upon a Martin D-18E owned by Kurt Cobain that sold for more than $6 million at Julien’s Auctions in 2020. “If there’s a guitar that will ever rival that, it’s this guitar,” said Julien during a press event for the upcoming auction. “This guitar could be the guitar that sets a new world record—it’s so important, so historic,” added fellow founder and director Martin Nolan.

Acoustic guitar pictured lying in open case
The historic instrument is expected to become the most valuable Beatles guitar. Julien's Auctions

Rediscovering a piece of music history

By the late 1960s, Lennon had gifted the Hootenanny to Gordon Waller of the pop duo Gordon & Waller, who subsequently gave the instrument to their road manager. The current owners, however, long believed it to have been misplaced—until they discovered the guitar in their attic while preparing for a move and contacted Julien’s Auctions. After confirming its authenticity, Julien and Nolan also rescued its tattered Australian-made Maton guitar case from a trash bin used by the homeowners.

A man wearing sunglasses holds an acoustic guitar
‘After so many years I’m happy to see this guitar again, thanks to a little ‘Help’ from my friends at Julien’s,’ Ringo Starr commented. Courtesy Julien's Auctions

“To awaken this sleeping beauty is a sacred honor,” said Julien, adding that the find is the greatest recovery of a Beatles guitar since the return of Paul McCartney’s 1961 Höfner bass, which was stolen from the musician in 1971. Julien’s Auctions has a storied history of selling Beatles memorabilia, having previously auctioned off record-breaking lots like Ringo Starr’s $2.2 million Ludwig drum kit and the $2.1 million drumhead used by the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Its upcoming auction also comes on the heels of several major musician-related sales. Christie's earlier this year sold 900 lots of artwork, clothing and jewelry from the collection of Elton John for a total of $20.5 million, while Sotheby's in September auctioned off the personal possessions of Freddie Mercury for a staggering $50.4 million.

Lennon’s rediscovered guitar is set to headline the auctioneer’s Music Icons sale, which will offer more than 1,000 pieces of music memorabilia ranging from a Fender bass guitar used by Adam Clayton of U2 and a 1984 “Billie Jean” jacket donned by Michael Jackson on tour. Auction highlights will be exhibited in London and New York ahead of sales on May 29 and May 30.

John Lennon’s Recently Rediscovered Guitar Is Poised to Smash Records at Auction