The guitar, the earliest approved production model of the famed ax, which dates circa 1951-52, is estimated to start bidding between $100,000 and $150,000, according to Christie’s. (David Gilmour’s 1969 Fender Stratocaster started at the same estimate and sold for $3.9 million in 2019.) The guitar, known as Les Paul’s “Number One,” is being put up for sale by the inventor’s son, Gene Paul, and Tom Doyle, Paul’s long-time guitar builder, engineer, and producer.
“This was the most historically significant, valuable, pivotal, and important guitar to my father, his crowning achievement,” Gene said in a statement. “Les brought his idea to Gibson and they initially dismissed it outright, but Les was dogged,” Doyle added. “He held strong to his ideas and his beliefs, knowing that someday they would see the light. Les kept tinkering and inventing and making his concept better and better. Then finally after about 10 years, and after lots of trial and error, the good folks at Gibson presented this very guitar to Les. He was smitten, and he was overjoyed… and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Since its invention in the early Fifties, the Gibson Les Paul has become one of the most iconic electric guitars. It’s famously been played by Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend, Jeff Beck, and Duane Allman, among others.
“In any creation narrative there are always multiple protagonists, but the name Les Paul ranks at the pinnacle when discussing the electric guitar,” Kerry Keane, Christie’s consultant and musical instruments specialist, said in a release. “His development of multi-track recording, and audio effects like delay, echo, and reverb all profoundly influenced how music is reproduced and heard. Yet his lifelong search and development in perfecting the electric guitar would forever change the instrument. That transformation is responsible for the successful careers of generations of guitarists that performed on the Les Paul guitar. This guitar physically embodies his endless passion that produced the most iconic musical instrument in popular culture.”