DALLAS – Like Journey's song, "Don't Stop Believin'," says, "Everybody wants a thrill," and the auction of guitars from the Neal Schon Collection provided more than a few.
Saturday’s event at Heritage Auctions, held only hours before Schon and Journey headlined Lollapalooza in Chicago (to rave reviews), proved that the market for vintage guitars remains strong, after the collection of one of rock's most well-respected guitarists brought in more than $4.2 million.
The sale saw two Holy Grail guitars become the most expensive vintage instruments sold in Heritage Auctions’ history: a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard Sunburst that sold for $350,000, and another of the six-string Ferraris, also a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard Sunburst favored by arena-rock gods that sold for $300,000.
Nearly 500 bidders from around the world took part in the sale, including NFL owner Jim Irsay, who added one of Schon’s most famous instruments to his own world-renowned collection: the 1977 black Gibson Les Paul played on 1981's chart-topping 10-million-selling Escape.
Journey's co-founder and songwriter used the Les Paul on “Don’t Stop Believin,’” one of the most performed, covered, downloaded and streamed songs in history, well before its inclusion in The Sopranos’ finale in June 2007. Irsay’s latest rock-and-roll acquisition was made only two weeks after the Indianapolis Colts owner and CEO bought Elton John’s longtime touring Steinway, also from Heritage.
Irsay says he wanted to include Schon’s Les Paul in his acclaimed collection of historic and culturally significant artifacts assembled over several decades. Among the items in that collection: President Abraham Lincoln’s walking cane, a Jackie Robinson bat from 1953 (the year of the Colts’ founding) and instruments used by Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Prince, Jim Morrison and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour.
“Rock music is a uniquely American art form, and the instruments and artifacts that created its rich history should be protected and preserved,” says Irsay, who regularly tours his artifacts and one day hopes to open a museum in which to display them. “I look forward to sharing this and other pieces of the collection in the hopes that they may educate and inspire others to do great, meaningful things.”
More than 90 instruments from Schon's historic assemblage were sold, with seven of the guitars ranking among the Top 20 in the auction house’s hall of fame for vintage guitars and musical instruments.
Ten of Schon’s guitars, including the Escape Les Paul, sold for six figures, among them a 1959 Gibson ES-335 Natural Semi-Hollow Body that sold for $137,500, a 1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop Solid Body that realized $131,250 and a 1958 Gibson Les Paul Standard Goldtop Solid Body that fetched $125,000.
“The vintage market remains strong,” says Aaron Piscopo, Heritage Auctions’ Director of Vintage Guitars & Musical Instruments. “Neal pretty much covered all aspects of electric-guitar collecting, and the condition of these rare instruments is just extraordinary. The variety of finishes, vintages and details within his collection was just breathtaking. As a result, we had many new bidders, as this collection caught the eye of some of the most prestigious collectors in the world. I am sure they’re grateful that Neal made them available, and working with him and his collection was an honor and a pleasure.”