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How High The Moon
June 10, 2012 10:57 AM   Subscribe

The Les Paul Estate is up for auction Browse through the Les Paul Estate auction catalog and see the historic collection of guitars, recording equipment, and personal memorabilia owned by Les Paul. Sorry, you cannot bid on these items, the auction finished yesterday. News of the auction results are just coming in now. The auction brought in a total of $5 Million, with the proceeds going to the Les Paul Foundation in support of music education and medical research.

In 2009, PBS produced a biography of Les Paul for their American Masters series. Les takes you on a tour of his home and workshop so you can see many of the items in this auction, in the environment he used them.

There are some truly unique, legendary guitars in this catalog. Some highlights:

A matched pair of 1960s prototypes for the Les Paul Recording guitar and bass
1969 Les Paul Recording serial number 001, with a Paulverizer attached.
Something you can afford, a Sears Silvertone acoustic guitar, forty bucks.
Dan Armstrong electric sitar.
1952 Les Paul Standard Gold Top.
Late 1950s Les Paul Custom built to his specifications
1968 Gibson MM12 Melody Maker 12 string electric
1927 Gibson L5 acoustic
1961 Les Paul Custom, SG body shape
1951 Gibson L5 electric hollowbody
~1940 Epiphone Zephyr
1951 Fender "Nocaster" signed by Leo Fender

There is an almost endless supply of recording gear, amplifiers, machine tools, tubes, electronic test instrumentation, miscellaneous instruments like a Steinway Grand Piano, banjos, ukeleles, a clarinet, an accordion, blueprints and schematics of his guitar designs. There's a Stradivarius violin, no not a real one, the modern "brand name" Strad, it's only worth a hundred bucks. You can even buy his furniture, I want his coffee table. What I really want is his set of oscilloscopes and Hewlett-Packard military grade test equipment. The majority of the guitars in this catalog are undistinguished 1990s through 2000s Les Paul models, they were obviously given to him by Gibson for evaluation. Some are ridiculously ostentatious presentation guitars. Others are cheap Les Paul models with scribbled signatures by guitarists like Slash.

One item I recall Les displaying in the documentary was an acoustic guitar owned by Django Reinhardt, but I could not find it in this auction catalog. I wonder where it went.


Auction highlights:

The items most coveted by rock musicians, museum curators, and collectors included a 1951 Fender No-Caster, which sold for $216,000, a 1982 Gibson Les Paul that went for $180,000 and a 1940s Epiphone Zephyr that fetched $144,000.

(yes this is my very first FPP)
posted by charlie don't surf (40 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Special thanks to flapjax at midnight for bringing this catalog to my attention. My apologies for the presentation of the catalog in a ridiculous Flash page-flipping format.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:04 AM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Late 1950s Les Paul Custom built to his specifications

That is one weird and charming instrument. It looks like a guitar from an alternate history.
posted by fleetmouse at 11:08 AM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The HP test equipment is easy to find on EBay. But if you want to make music with oscillators, you are better off just buying oscillators in one of the popular modular formats.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:09 AM on June 10, 2012


Thanks for posting this... One of the Milwaukee museums used to have a display of Les Paul's crystal radio sets and a guitar he made of a railroad tie. It was one of the coolest and (as someone who dabbles in music-electronics) most inspiring things I've ever seen.
posted by drezdn at 11:18 AM on June 10, 2012


1969 Les Paul Recording serial number 001

I've got EB-0 serial number 000331. Inside the pot well, someone scrawled "#334" with a marker. I guess there were 3 prototypes. I really should get that thing fixed up.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:45 AM on June 10, 2012


Les Paul built some pretty cool things. Some of 'em are still on display at the Mahwah Museum through the end of this month—it's definitely a cool little exhibit!
posted by limeonaire at 12:06 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I believe I located the Django Reihnart guitar displayed in the documentary, it's on page 89. It appears that Les might have been stretching the truth a bit, since this is a 1970s guitar, produced long after Django died.

I'm not going to rewatch the whole documentary just to figure this out, so if anyone watches it and sees the scene where Les goes into his bedroom and pulls this guitar out of a row of cases lined up along the wall, let me know what timecode it appears.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:22 PM on June 10, 2012


Are the prices listed opening bids? Because if that is the estimated price they'll fetch, many of (if not all of) these items are seriously undervalued. I'm hoping that most went for for more than the price in the catalog. If not, I'm going to cry myself to sleep for the rest of my life knowing that I could have snatched up a vintage Ampeg tube amp or Fender Rhodes electric piano OWNED BY LES PAUL for $300-$500.
posted by bionic.junkie at 12:28 PM on June 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Holy cow, I've never seen the Les Paulverizer. I assume it's analog tape loops as it doen't give a date on the video for that performance. To think that he made one of (if not the) first portable loop machines is one more reason to respect the man. Neat stuff.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:32 PM on June 10, 2012


and medical research.

who conned him into that?
posted by telstar at 1:31 PM on June 10, 2012


Here is a youtube version of the documentary
posted by wheelieman at 1:47 PM on June 10, 2012


And here's some of the results.

The items most coveted by rock musicians, museum curators and collectors included a 1951 Fender No-Caster, which sold for $216,000, a 1982 Gibson Les Paul that went for $180,000 and a 1940s Epiphone Zephyr that fetched $144,000.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:54 PM on June 10, 2012


I have two letters from les paul. They were to my uncle in the 50's and Mary sighed one. Back then getting DJs to spin your stuff was tough and required "reaching out' It was like the DJs were as or more important then the artist but that was a brief window in time. (1947-1952)

What a chap he was.
posted by clavdivs at 2:17 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine bought the 1987 Les Paul Junior. Not cheap, but he's very happy with it!
posted by blaneyphoto at 2:26 PM on June 10, 2012


(yes this is my very first FPP) ... and a fine one it is, cds - thanks.
posted by madamjujujive at 2:33 PM on June 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Flipping through this was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. Thanks!
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 3:03 PM on June 10, 2012


mme. jjj, the credit should go to flapjax for drawing my attention to this amazing document.

A friend of mine bought the 1987 Les Paul Junior. Not cheap, but he's very happy with it!

I assume it was #3 on this set of 5 guitars. The estimate was $800-1200 was really low, MSRP on a brand new Jr. is $1200, and it doesn't have the upgrade to Grover tuners (which are much better than the crappy tuners that come on most Gibsons). I wonder what he actually paid for it.

But it could be cheap at any price. I wondered if Gibson gave him guitars they built with special care, or special upgrades (like those Grover tuners). Also I wonder if some of them were fixed up by Les Paul. Some of the pricier guitars have notes attached with his evaluation and surely he did some modifications, even on the relatively plain models.

So I would really love to hear from your friend, what he thinks of the guitar, if there are any signs that Les Paul tinkered with it. And I am keenly interested, many times on MeFi I have lamented my long lost love, my old '61 Les Paul Jr. that I had to sell to pay the rent.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:08 PM on June 10, 2012


I started paging through the catalog until I noticed it was 410 pages long. What an amazing collection and what an amazing man.
posted by tommasz at 3:30 PM on June 10, 2012


I assume it was #3 on this set of 5 guitars. The estimate was $800-1200 was really low, MSRP on a brand new Jr. is $1200, and it doesn't have the upgrade to Grover tuners (which are much better than the crappy tuners that come on most Gibsons). I wonder what he actually paid for it.


Yeah, that's it - #359. He bought it to have a "piece of history" or something, I think. He paid a bit over $4000. I'll see what he says about any custom work done on it, etc.
posted by blaneyphoto at 3:35 PM on June 10, 2012


I'm waiting for the collections of Ron Wood or Jimmy Page to go up for sale. Supposedly they beggar anyone's collection. Not that I'll be able to afford 'em though.
posted by Ber at 4:24 PM on June 10, 2012


I'd bet Paul got really tired of receiving signed guitars for birthday presents: "Just for once I'd love to get a goddamn tie!"
posted by item at 4:56 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


charlie don't surf: "mme. jjj, the credit should go to flapjax for drawing my attention to this amazing document.
A friend of mine bought the 1987 Les Paul Junior. Not cheap, but he's very happy with it!

I assume it was #3 on this set of 5 guitars.
"

Mine was #2 on that list. I pawned it when I got to Chicago in 1987 for $80.

item - I'd welcome a signed gold top over a "World's Greatest Uncle" any time.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 5:56 PM on June 10, 2012


i second that some of the prices are seemingly amazingly low - you'd think a 1952 goldtop owned by les paul would go for a lot more than $14-16k. the same with the recording prototype guitar and bass - two one of a kind guitars, owned by a legend, and they're only expecting $6-8k? that's about the price of two non-historic, brand new higher end les pauls. i hope all these went for a lot more (no i am not going to bother clicking on the final bid results)
posted by camdan at 6:22 PM on June 10, 2012


That PDF is easily one of the most important historical documents about music technology I've ever seen, simply stunning, and pure porn for any electric guitar fanatic. Thanks!
posted by dbiedny at 6:23 PM on June 10, 2012


Also cool: NPR's interview with Les Paul from 1992. My husband and I listened to the whole thing on a road trip to Iowa a few years ago, when they replayed it, and it was a lot of fun!
posted by limeonaire at 6:38 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


i second that some of the prices are seemingly amazingly low - you'd think a 1952 goldtop owned by les paul would go for a lot more than $14-16k.
posted by camdan


I don't know anything about how this sort of auction actually works, but I'd guess those prices are anticipated opening bids, not what they think the instrument is actually worth or will sell for. As my friend's purchase indicates, even a relatively recent and rather common piece went for far more than the listed price so I'm sure the truly unique and historic pieces went for big bucks - they did raise 5 million dollars, after all!
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:46 PM on June 10, 2012


apropos of nothing, but I walked into my local music store once and one of the sales guys I knew told me that Les Paul was in the store and asked if I'd like to meet him. No idea why he was hanging around in a music store in Alabama - no particular event or anything; he'd just come by to visit with the store owner. We chatted a few minutes. Very nice man; very easy to talk to. I wasn't really a guitarist then (I am now), so unfortunately, while I knew who he was and knew what Les Paul guitars were, I was not in a position to ask him arcane questions about pickups. But maybe that was for the best. :-)

I would love to know why he had a clarinet. THAT would have been something we could have talked about (probably belonged to one of his kids).
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:39 PM on June 10, 2012


The Django part in the documentary starts at 25:06. Text over the image of Les' guitar says "Django's Selmer/Maccaferri, ca 1940."
posted by dmo at 7:57 PM on June 10, 2012


The Django part in the documentary starts at 25:06. Text over the image of Les' guitar says "Django's Selmer/Maccaferri, ca 1940."

Hey thanks a lot, dmo. I remember seeing that old guitar with the crackled finish, and thinking, "OMG Les, this is your bedroom jammed full of priceless guitars, do you have environmental controls? A fire suppression system?

I got both guitars on screen at the same time and I even found a screen cap online. That is definitely not the same guitar as the ones in the catalog. It has a totally different shape to the fretboard, where it meets the sound hole.

Now I must know, where is Django's guitar?
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:43 PM on June 10, 2012


Sorry, you cannot bid on these items, the auction finished yesterday.

You may have been a day late, but I would have been a dollar short anyway. Thanks for the post!
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:06 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


thumbing through the catalog and seeing the dozens (hundreds?) of les pauls he owns makes me think of the irony if it turned out he didn't own one, and his collection was full of ibanez 7 strings and baritone ESPs signed by the Jonas Brothers
posted by camdan at 8:22 AM on June 11, 2012


Sorry, you cannot bid on these items, the auction finished yesterday.

I'm looking through it and seeing all this amazing stuff that I couldn't possibly afford and that I would just keep in a glass case and only pull out to play on every once in a while. And then I hit the page with the set of three Meyer Sound HD-1 monitors and I'm kicking myself for not finding out about the auction sooner. Those might be my favorite speakers ever. Curses.
posted by The World Famous at 1:38 PM on June 11, 2012


thumbing through the catalog and seeing the dozens (hundreds?) of les pauls he owns makes me think of the irony if it turned out he didn't own one, and his collection was full of ibanez 7 strings and baritone ESPs signed by the Jonas Brothers

Well, there was an '80s Kramer with a single humbucker, a Floyd and no tone control... close enough?
posted by arto at 2:06 PM on June 11, 2012


Well, there was an '80s Kramer with a single humbucker, a Floyd and no tone control... close enough?

That generation of Kramer Baretta was, honestly, one of the greatest electric guitars ever made. There was a very short window of time when the Kramer Baretta was easily the best electric guitar on the market, with Fender and Gibson both having completely lost their mojo and the elements coming together just perfectly with the Baretta. The Baretta didn't have a separate tone control, but it did have an extra capacitor in the volume pot that rolled off frequencies as you turned it down and acted as a tone control. They had the original German hardened steel Floyd Rose tremolo unit that never, ever went out of tune, a Duncan JB humbucker, which is just amazing, and the best necks.

Then Kramer went off the rails and completely lost it.

But I still have never played a guitar with a neck as good as my old Baretta - quartersawn maple with a maple board, no finish at all, straight from the factory - perfect.
posted by The World Famous at 2:19 PM on June 11, 2012


Les Paul auction report.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:33 PM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


is it just me, or is the signature on the back of the nocaster that went for $180k an amalgamation of leo fender and les paul?
posted by camdan at 10:51 PM on June 14, 2012


ah-ha! the auction catalog says it's signed by leo fender, but the auction results say it's signed by les paul. something is rotten in the state of solid bodied guitars
posted by camdan at 10:59 PM on June 14, 2012


ah-ha! the auction catalog says it's signed by leo fender, but the auction results say it's signed by les paul. something is rotten in the state of solid bodied guitars

To sweeten the deal, it comes with a photograph of Sean Connery autographed by Roger Moore.
posted by The World Famous at 10:15 AM on June 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Thanks flapjax, that was just what I was waiting for. Let me make a quick list of the highlights I posted. I picked a few outstanding guitars and I skipped over some interesting ones that people paid insane money for.


1960s Les Paul Recording guitar and bass - $40,625
1969 Les Paul Recording serial number 001 w/Paulverizer - $180,000
Sears Silvertone Acoustic - $1,250

I did a little research on the Silvertone. It appears to be a Silvertone Model 600. Retail price in 1971, $42.95. But this one has a custom pickup installed by Les Paul. Could be as old as 1948, when this model was first sold.

Dan Armstrong electric sitar. $6,250
1952 Les Paul Standard Gold Top $62,500

That's right in the expected price range. For comparison, here is the same guitar being appraised on the Antiques Roadshow for only $20,000 (what an idiot).

Late 1950s Les Paul Custom built to his specifications - $75,000
1968 Gibson MM12 Melody Maker 12 string electric - $4,062.50
1927 Gibson L5 acoustic - $87,500
1961 Les Paul Custom, SG body shape - $43,750
1951 Gibson L5 electric hollowbody - $20,000
~1940 Epiphone Zephyr - $144,000
1951 Fender "Nocaster" signed by Leo Fender - $216,000

Some other items people wanted:

Les Paul coffee table $3437.50 dammit I wanted that. But it cost more than my car.
Fender Rhodes electric piano - $2,176. You totally could have afforded that.
3 Meyer Sound HD-1 monitors - $3,437.50 Hmm.. I see a used pair on eBay for $4k (no bids) and people saying they bought a pair new for $4200 to $5500. This might have been a bargain, you tell me.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:59 PM on June 15, 2012


Yeah, the HD-1 set was a bargain, since there were three of them. Damn.
posted by The World Famous at 6:09 PM on June 15, 2012


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