Vintage Les Paul guitar prototype brings $180,000

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – On the day of which would have been the late, great Les Paul’s 97th birthday, worldwide records were set during a white glove auction of property from the Estate of Les Paul auction at Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills.

Les Paul electric guitar prototypeThis 1968 Les Paul Prototype Custom Recording Model sold for $180,000. Photo courtesy Julien’s Auctions.

The two-day historical auction gave collectors a rare opportunity to own musical instruments or personal effects from the father of the electric guitar and inventor of multi-track recording.

Rock musicians, museum curators, collectors and fans all packed the auction floor in frenzied sessions of bidding on site, on the phone and on line. The auction benefitted the Les Paul Foundation, the charitable organization founded by Les Paul before his death and dedicated to music education, engineering, innovation and medical research.

Highlights of the auction which raised nearly $5 million include:

  • a 1927 Gibson L5 sunburst guitar which sold for $87,500,
  • a Les Paul Touring Rig which sold for $81,250,
  • the 1982 Gibson Les Paul prototype recording model which sold for $180,000,
  • a collection of Les Paul research notes which sold for $28,125,
  • a Gibson Les Paul Custom 80th birthday guitar which sold for $75,000,
  • the Les Paul Recording console which sold for $106,250,
  • a 1950s white Gibson Les Paul flat top with extensive technical notations sold for $75,000,
  • a custom vintage Les Paul NY license plate sold for $10,000,
  • the Les Paul Iridium Club Sign sold for $40,625
  • and various Les Paul guitar schematics sold for as much as 22,500 to $40,625.

Other highlights setting musical instrument industry new standards include:

  • a 1950s Elam 251 Telfunken microphone belonging to Les Paul sold for $28,125,
  • a Gibson Les Paul recording model sold for $56,250,
  • Les Paul Gold record awards sold for $10,625,
  • a Les paul sound panel sold for $11,875
  • and the Les Paul “paulverizer,” a custom switching device created by Paul in 1956 sold for $22,500.

As expected and in addition to the 1982 Gibson Les Paul guitar which sold for $180,000 other highly anticipated guitars including the 1940s Epiphone Zephyr known as “Klunker #3” sold for $144,000 and the 1951 Fender No-Caster sold for $216,000.

Les Paul, born Lester Polsfuss in Waukesha, Wisconsin in 1915, was on his way to making his mark on the history of 20th Century music at an early age.  He was born with an inquisitive streak that he described as, “…curiosity and I got a double dose of it.  I’ve never stopped trying to figure out what makes things work or how to make things work better.”  It was this curiosity that spurred his lifelong quest to find the perfect sound in his instruments, recordings and performances.

Read More: Collectors and investors spend big bucks to own a piece of Les Paul’s legacy.

His efforts produced one of the first solid-body electric guitars, which went on to become one of the most widely played and recognized guitars in the world, the Gibson Les Paul.  Paul not only revolutionized the sound of the electric guitar, but also the technology behind modern day sound recording.

Les Paul pioneered innovative techniques with sound-on-sound recording and commissioned the first 8-track tape recorder, which would become the core technology behind multi-track recording still used today.

For more details on the auction and how it benefited the Les Paul Foundation, visit Julien’s Auctions.

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