After Eric Clapton's 1965 Fender Stratocaster "Brownie" was sold to an anonymous bidder for a record-breaking half a million dollars at a special Christies' auction in June, the vintage rock guitar market was due for a comedown. The fall came this morning at an auction at Bonhams in London, when a 1969 rosewood Fender Telecaster once owned by George Harrison failed to reach its reserve price and was taken off the block when bids topped out at 100,000 pounds ($154,000). The guitar, which Harrison used in the Beatles' famous January 30, 1969 rooftop performance at Apple Headquarters and later given to Delaney Bramlett of Delaney & Bonney fame, was expected by some to sell for 200,000 pounds (roughly $310,000).
Part of the reason the guitar failed to fetch its asking price, theorizes Matt Brewster, owner of 30th Street Guitars in Manhattan, is that -- unlike Clapton -- Harrison was not known as a Fender guy. Instead, the Quiet Beatle is more widely associated with Gretsch models like the Country Gentleman and Duo-Jet. Brewster said a rosewood Fender Telecaster like Harrison's, minus the historical significance, has a book price $4-$5,000.
"The sale of the Clapton guitar was a big peak in guitar buying," said Brewster. "Those were crazy prices. It's going to take something really special for anything like that to happen again."
A second non-Gretsch Harrison axe, this one a 1962 Rickenbacker 465 which he bought in America 1963, goes on sale at Christie's House Kensington in London on Sept. 30. Like the Fender, the Rickenbacker is being sold by a fellow musician Harrison gave it to, though a Christie's spokesperson said the owner's name -- and reserve price -- are confidential. She did say that the guitar is estimated to fetch between 50,000 to 70,000 pounds ($77,000 - $108,000). Also up for sale the same day -- and expected to sale in the same price range as the Harrison guitar -- is a prototype of the Gibson Explorer, known as the Futura, produced in 1957. Only three of the prototypes are known to exist.
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