Guitar brand Gibson wants some long-lost documents back, and it’s willing to pay some serious cash for them.
The missing paperwork in question — shipping ledgers on rare Gibson guitars from the late 1950s — may not sound valuable, but they contain authenticity-verifying information on some of the most iconic instruments in the history of modern music, Gibson said in an announcement on Tuesday morning. That, alone, made the company value the ledgers’ return at $59,000.
Among the instruments listed in the ledgers are 1959 and 1960 Les Pauls. The 1959 Les Paul in particular, with its iconic sunburst finish and distinctly fat, baseball bat-style neck, has long been considered the holy grail of electric guitars. It’s the model Joe Walsh sold to Jimmy Page, who played it both live and on most of Zeppelin’s records from Led Zeppelin II onward. It helped define Duane Allman’s thick slide tone that became the signature sound of southern rock, and while Keith Richards is more often associated with a fender Telecaster, he was a Les Paul player too in the Stones’ early days before selling the guitar to future bandmate Mick Taylor.
The ’59 model Les Paul was poorly received 60 years ago, and low demand meant Gibson only ended up making 643 of them that year. But rock stars greatly upped their value over the following decade, and now prospective buyers won’t find one for less than six figures — a ’59 in the right condition can sell for at least $500,000. While a ’59 Les Paul is the most valuable, models from 1958 and 1960 are highly sought after as well, with those models also fetching six figures on the market.
Gibson believes the ledgers for these instruments went missing when the company left Kalamazoo, Michigan to relocate to Nashville in the 1980s, and it will give the five-figure reward to whoever has the books, no questions asked, it said in the announcement. The company is also offering a suite of rewards such as cash, gift cards, and instruments for other corporate pre-1970 historical documents. Ledger holders should email the company with descriptions of the ledgers, photographs and contact information, it said.
“I hope we can recover these ledgers as they contain important information about the pinnacle of our Golden Era,” Gibson chief merchant officer Cesar Gueikian said in a statement. “While they’re dusty old books to anyone else, these ledgers are part of our history, DNA, and our iconic past.”
In recent years, Gibson has struggled to lure in a younger, not-so-rock-obsessed audience. Facing financial hardship, Gibson filed for bankruptcy in 2018 and sold off some of its non-core investments, like audio company Phillips, which took off some of the company’s debt. Former Levi’s executive James Curleigh took the reigns as CEO soon after and told the Tennessean in January that Gibson would reclaim its core mission of instrument sales and “stay true to historic roots.”