In 1962, John Lennon and George Harrison ordered a pair of Gibson J-160E guitars from a Liverpool store for 161 pounds. It was the year Ringo joined the Beatles and a year before the release of Please Please Me, so that guitar was used to compose and record the band’s first hits: She Loves You, I Want To Hold Your Hand, All My Loving…
John Lennon toured with that guitar during the early days of the band, at the beginning of their rise to the top of the charts and international stardom. But in December 1963, Lennon’s Gibson J-160E disappeared.
In 1969, John McCaw, a guitarist from San Diego, California, bought a second-hand Gibson J-160E acoustic guitar from his childhood friend, Tommy Pressley, who in turn had bought it 2 years earlier at a San Diego music store for 175 dollars. McCaw had the guitar at his home, using it to play primarily bluegrass for many years of his life.
As we all know, John Lennon was tragically murdered, but 45 years after his guitar was stolen, an NBC affiliate in San Diego saw McCaw’s guitar and a photo of a guitar of George Harrison, another Gibson J-160E that looked identical to McCaw’s. After checking the serial numbers’ proximity, making inquiries, and investigating, McCaw’s guitar was authenticated as the guitar stolen from John Lennon in 1969. The guitar was identified and temporarily displayed at the Grammy Museum, where it was exhibited alongside many other stolen works of art.
Eventually, the guitar was auctioned in November 2015 at Julien’s Auctions, and it was sold to an anonymous buyer for 2.41 million dollars, becoming the second most expensive guitar in history behind the Stratocaster signed by Bryan Adams, Keith Richards, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page, Brian May, Eric Clapton, and Mick Jagger, which had previously been auctioned for charity for 2.7 million dollars.