The long lost John Lennon Gibson Acoustic Jumbo guitar is easily one of the most enigmatic artifacts of rock history. It’s been used to compose some of rock’s greatest hits, and it’s also been lost, found, sold, bought, and auctioned off.
It seems to tour almost as much as the Beatles did. Check out these tidbits about the legendary Gibson J-160E that John Lennon strummed (for a time).
1.) This John Lennon Guitar is the Most Expensive Guitar Ever Sold
In 1962, when it was purchased, the John Lennon Gibson Jumbo sold for £160, equivalent to about $4,500 dollars in today’s money. After being lost for fifty years, found, and sold at “Julien’s Auctions,” the guitar fetched a whopping 2.41 million dollars from an anonymous collector.
Part of the sale went to Spirit Foundations Inc, which is a charity organization founded by Yoko Ono and John Lennon to help battle cervical cancer.
2.) John Lennon Composed Some of the Greats on the Gibson Jumbo
This legendary guitar mid-wifed the birth of such legendary Beatles songs as “She Loves You,” “All My Loving,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and “Love Me Do.”
Though only owned for such a short amount of time, you can see how intrinsically bound the guitar was with the earliest period of the Beatles rock era.
Perhaps it’s fate (or perhaps just poetic license), then, that their sound changed after the guitar was lost. The first album recorded without it, The Beatles Second Album, had a more blues and rock riff than their previous more poppy numbers.
3.) The Guitar Had Gone Missing for 50 Years
That’s right! This legendary John Lennon Gibson acoustic guitar basically starred in its own version of “Homeward Bound,” just without the sassy talking cat.
The guitar was lost in 1963, just a year after Lennon received it from Brian Epstein, the Beatles manager at the time. It was misplaced by a roadie right after a Christmas concert in London at the Finsbury Park Astoria Theater.
It later turned up almost ten years later and was purchased by John McCaw for a paltry sum – he and the seller had no idea what they were holding. John McCaw eventually started to suspect he owned something truly spectacular after seeing a picture of Lennon’s famous guitar in a book about rock memorabilia.
The verification took some time – they had experts examine and match the woodgrain, catalogue the scratches and dings, and check for any modifications. When the process was done, they concluded resoundingly that McCaw’s lucky buy was indeed John Lennon’s vanished Gibson Jumbo.
4.) Gibson Created a 70th Anniversary Edition for John Lennon’s Birthday
On October 9th, 2010, Gibson released a limited run of anniversary editions of Lennon’s famous Gibson Jumbo – the day that would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday.
They created three different models, each designed to represent a different era of John Lennon’s career.
The “Vintage Sunburst” is essentially a replica of the Gibson Jumbo that Lennon actually used at the time he used it in 1962 and 1963.
The second model is called “Imagine,” and has a white finish and is meant to represent the enlightened, spiritual John Lennon at the time of recording the “Imagine” album.
The final version is similar to the Sunburst and is called the “Museum” edition because it’s designed to replicate how the original Gibson Jumbo looks now, including the John and Yoko caricatures inscribed on the body.
5.) It’s Technically George Harrison’s Guitar
Beatles manager Brian Epstein actually gave the band two identical Gibson J160-E guitars – one for Lennon, and one for George Harrison.
The guitar registered to Harrison had the serial number 73157, while the guitar registered to Lennon was 73161. At some point, the guitars were switched, but no one knows exactly when. Because the guitars were identical in appearance, it could have even been an accident at some point. Or possibly, the guitars were simply interchangeable to the bandmates, and Harrison and Lennon didn’t particularly care who had which guitar.
At any rate, the guitar used most by Lennon and eventually resold as the “John Lennon Gibson Guitar” was technically the “George Harrison Gibson Guitar.”
Not that it affected the sale price any.
A Legendary Guitar Needs a Good Backstory
John Lennon had a whole boatload of guitars over his legendary run – so why is this guitar so talked about?
Simple – it has a story.
Sure, any guitar John Lennon strummed for a decent amount of time is going to be worth some ducats, but it takes a truly epic story to get a truly epic price tag like $2,000,000.