“Like finding a lost Rembrandt or Picasso... It still looks and plays like a dream”: Lennon’s Framus acoustic is sold for $2.9 million

John Lennon's guitar goes under the hammer
(Image credit: Getty Images/SELCUK ACAR/ANADOLU)

John Lennon’s Framus 12-string acoustic guitar has been sold for almost $2.9 million in a recording-breaking auction.

The early '60s 'Hootenanny' guitar, which Lennon played during the recording and filming of Help!, can be heard on tracks like You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away, I’ve Just Seen A Face, It’s Only Love, Girl and Norwegian Wood. 

Its price surpasses the $2.4 million that Lennon’s Gibson J160E went for at auction in 2015, making it the most expensive piece of Beatles guitar memorabilia. Auctioneers Julien’s had set an upper estimate at a relatively low £800,000.

The guitar had been missing, presumed lost for years. The story goes that Lennon gifted it to Gordon Waller, one half of the '60s pop duo Peter and Gordon. He then passed it on to one of their road managers, whose attic it remained in for decades until a family who owned the property were looking to move house and discovered it. They phoned Julien’s who put two and two together and identified it as the lost Help! Guitar.

Having already been thrown on a skip, its Maton case wasn’t in great shape, but the guitar itself was still in tip-top condition. It’s a 5/024/12 flat top Hootenanny model, with a mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard, as well as a Trapeze tailpiece and rosewood bridge.

“Finding this remarkable instrument is like finding a lost Rembrandt or Picasso,” said Darren Julien, co-founder of the auction house. 

“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.”

He described it as “the greatest find of a Beatles guitar since Paul McCartney’s lost 1961 Höfner bass guitar.”

The Lennon Framus isn’t the most expensive guitar to sell at auction though – that honour still resides with the old Martin D-18e that Kurt Cobain played in the MTV Unplugged session, which went for $6 million in 2020. 

Cobain’s Mustang which he used in the Smells Like Teen Spirit promo was also auctioned for $4.5 million and last year a custom-built Kramer that Eddie Van Halen played in the Hot For Teacher video sold for almost $4 million at auction.

Julien’s is currently on the final day of its Music Icons series of auctions, with today’s top attraction being a Cloud 3 guitar which once belonged to Prince. That beauty is expected to fetch over $600,000.

Will Simpson
News and features writer

Will Simpson is a freelance music expert whose work has appeared in Classic Rock, Classic Pop, Guitarist and Total Guitar magazine. He is the author of 'Freedom Through Football: Inside Britain's Most Intrepid Sports Club' and his second book 'An American Cricket Odyssey' is due out in 2025