Good vibrations... Les Paul guitar exceeds all expectations in antique music sale

The October auction of Fine Musical Instruments at Skinner concluded last weekend, with an impressive range of fine music-making collectibles going under the hammer in Massachusetts.

The sale featured fine Italian violins by Gagliano, Sannino, Cavani, Marchetti, Pollastri, Carcassi and Pedrazzini, fine bows by Voirin, Henry, Hill, Tubbs, Nurnberger and Fetique, and vintage guitars by Gibson, Martin, Fender, and Rickenbacker. 

Over 150 lots of select raw maple, spruce, ebony and pernambuco, circa 1920-1950 were also on the block, along with over 100 lots of signed and unsigned photos and cabinet cards from string players c. 1860-1980.

Skinner has hosted specialty auctions in this speciality collecting category since 1987, some of the more recent ones covered on this site.

antique violin

The expected top lot was an Italian violin: a 1760 piece from Gennaro Gagliano of Naples. Still bearing the maker's original label which reads JANUARIUS GAGLIANO FILIUS, ALEXANDRI FECIT NEAP 1760, the fine antique was sold on target at $77,000.

There was a reminder in the news this week about the value of antique violins and the importance of looking after them. British musician and restorer Peter Oxley fell asleep on a train to find that his case of antiques had been stolen.

The case contained violin bows - not the violins but the bows alone - and is valued at £110,000. The oldest was a nickel-mounted bow made by Etienne Pajeot in 1820 and the most valuable a £35,000 piece created by Pierre Simon in 1870.

Oxley, who lost the bows on a journey from London to Norwich is offering a £5,000 reward for their safe return.

Gold Les Paul Guitar
Gold Les Paul Guitar
(Click to enlarge)

Nevertheless at Skinner's auction it was a more modern instrument which won the day: an American Electric Guitar, (Gibson Incorporated, Kalamazoo, 1957, Model Les Paul).

Very clean, with no greening of gold paint, the instrument came with its original case, and was expected to fetch $60,000-80,000, but one collectors and investor bidding turned it up to 11 with an offer of $94,000.

A strong investment, provided they resist the urge to play it Hendrix-style with their teeth.


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