Guitar Aficionado

Rare Pete Townshend Gibson SG Special Heads to Auction Block

Beatles and Nirvana memorabilia are also featured in the June 25 event.
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By Christopher Scapelliti

One of Pete Townshend’s cherry-red Gibson SG Specials will go on the auction block this June 25 at Bonhams’ Entertainment Memorabilia auction. The guitar has a presale estimate of £30,000–40,000 — about $50,000–67,000.

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The auction, held at Bonhams’ house in Knightsbridge, London, will showcase more than 300 items of iconic rock, pop, and film history, including guitars, stage costumes, personal items, letters, props, and behind-the-scenes photographs of various performers from the Fifties to the present day.

A portion of the event will be devoted to Beatles memorabilia in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the premiere of A Hard Day’s Night, the group’s first feature length film, which opened in London on July 6, 1964.

Pete Townshend's SG Special is the most valuable lot in the Entertainment Memorabilia sale. The guitar is of circa-1967 vintage and has a deep cherry-red finish. The Who guitarist preferred SGs for performance from the late Sixties through the early Seventies, and he destroyed many of them in his set-bashing concert finales. The fact that so few of his SGs survived his onslaught makes this example all the more rare. In a letter accompanying the guitar, Townshend writes, “ must be one of the few passing through my hands, which has survived without getting smashed.”

Another rare item in the sale is a Nirvana set list written in black marker by drummer Dave Grohl. The list is from the group's November 30, 1991, performance at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and was taped to the stage near guitarist Kurt Cobain’s mic stand. The owner attended the concert and asked a member of security for the set list at the end of the show. It has a presale estimate of $3,300–5,000.

Beatles-related items include one of John Lennon's tailored suits made for A Hard Day’s Night by London tailor Millings & Son. The trousers are inscribed in black ballpoint pen “John Lennon ‘Hard Days Night.’” According to Millings, the suit was returned for alteration and subsequently given to them by John Lennon. It comes with a letter of provenance from the tailors and is estimated to sell for $33,500–50,000.

Also up for auction is a group of behind-the-scenes photographs of the Beatles taken during the making of the film by British photographer David Hurn. The black-and-white prints capture intimate, candid snapshots of the band both on the set and at other locations, including Abbey Road Studios. The photos carry a presale estimate of $1,600–5,000.

For more information on the auction, visit

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