“Today’s unprecedented sale is a testament to the timeless appeal and reverence of the Beatles' music and John Lennon”: John Lennon’s rediscovered Framus 12-string becomes one of the most expensive guitars to ever sell at auction

John Lennon holds his Framus 12-string guitar (left), the Framus 12-string guitar sits on a stand
(Image credit: Julien's Auctions/Future)

John Lennon’s 12-string Framus Hootenany acoustic guitar has become one of the most expensive guitars to sell at auction, fetching an eye-watering $2,857,000. 

The instrument, which hadn’t been seen or played in 50 years, featured heavily on The Beatles’ album and film, Help!, and was recently rediscovered in the attic of a house in the rural British countryside. 

A 5/024/12 flattop Hootenanny model, it features a mahogany neck, a rosewood bridge and fingerboard, and a Trapeze tailpiece.

At its unveiling ahead of a two-day auction event, Julien’s estimated the guitar could surpass the $6m Kurt Cobain’s Martin D-18e sold for in 2020. 

“This guitar happens to be one of the most important Beatles guitars and instruments ever to come to the auction block,” said Darren Julien at the unveiling. “It’s so important, so historic. We thought this guitar was gone – we thought it was lost forever.”

John Lennon's Framus 12-string guitar sits in its case

(Image credit: Julien's Auctions)

While it ultimately fell short of record-breaking estimations, it has become the fifth most expensive guitar to have sold at auction, with 20 bids taking it past the $2.7m figure the ‘Reach Out to Asia’ Stratocaster raised two decades ago, with proceeds from that guitar having gone to victims of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami in Indonesia. 

It also makes it the most expensive Beatles guitar to sell at auction, usurping the $2.4m that Lennon’s Gibson J-160E went for in 2015. 

Aside from its prominence across Help!’s multimedia experience, the guitar is also believed to have been used on Girl and the rhythm parts of Norwegian Wood.

It also passed hands through the band, with Lennon and George Harrison having both been pictured playing the instrument. Ringo Starr also held it when Julien’s reintroduced the guitar to the public after half a century in the dark. 

It’s believed that Lennon gifted the 12-string to Gordon Waller of Peter & Gordon, with its pre-auction owners receiving it from him, then stumbling across the guitar during a house move. 

The Framus, discovered with its original Maton case, was in top condition. However, The case had to be rescued from a skip during a “cold, dark, wet March evening,” after it was originally thrown out, having been presumed worthless. 

This guitar is not only a piece of music history, but a symbol of John Lennon’s enduring legacy

David Goodman

Of the guitar’s auction, David Goodman, the chief executive of Julien’s, told The Guardian UK: “We are absolutely thrilled and honored to have set a new [Beatles] world record with the sale of John Lennon’s lost Hootenanny guitar.

“This guitar is not only a piece of music history, but a symbol of John Lennon’s enduring legacy.

“Today’s unprecedented sale is a testament to the timeless appeal and reverence of the Beatles’ music and John Lennon.”

The auction returns for a second day today (May 30) with Prince’s Cloud 3 guitar, expected to sell for $600,000 – more than double the figure another Cloud model sold for in 2021

Head to Julien’s to find out more.

Phil Weller

A freelance writer with a penchant for music that gets weird, Phil is a regular contributor to ProgGuitar World, and Total Guitar magazines and is especially keen on shining a light on unknown artists. Outside of the journalism realm, you can find him writing angular riffs in progressive metal band, Prognosis, in which he slings an 8-string Strandberg Boden Original, churning that low string through a variety of tunings. He's also a published author and is currently penning his debut novel which chucks fantasy, mythology and humanity into a great big melting pot.