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Legendary Les Paul Black Beauty Sold for £218,000

Published: Fri February 20, 2015  News Feed
The legendary Gibson Les Paul Black Beauty prototype, which used to belong to Les Paul himself, was sold at an auction in New York last night, Thursday 19th February, for far less than it was expected to fetch. The guitar was sold for just $335,500 (about £218,000), but, previoulsy, it was speculated this Black Beauty would sell for over 2 million dollars! It seems the auction winner did grab a real bargain...

Gibson Les Paul Black Beauty  #2 prototype

The announcement that Les Paul's original Black Beauty guitar would be up for auction was hyped all over the place last month, with feverish speculations that the legendary instrument would be sold for over $2 million, making it the most expensive guitar ever.

In truth, the marketing surrounding the auction drew negative reactions from some guitar experts, and the guitar wasn't exactly all that what it was supposed to be. One of the  biggest Les Paul collectors in the world, Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen (who owns more than 100 Les Paul guitars) was one of such critics, who said the guitar wasn't even worth the final sale price of £218,000:

“That’s way more than it’s worth. But it’s been on the cover of a bunch of stuff and it’s got the provenance of Les Paul having it at one point. I’m so happy it didn’t go for $2.1 million.”


Guitar Player Les Paul cover

Guitar Player magazine, by coincidence or not, stamped this Les Paul on their cover last month, stating it was the "holy grail" of Les Paul guitars. According to the cover, it was "The original 1954 Black Beauty - the genesis of all Les Paul guitars to come". That was pretty much the tone surrounding the auction, but in truth this guitar wasn't quite all that.

The first Les Paul guitar was in fact the 1952 Goldtop. It was this model which gave origin to all subsequent Les Paul guitars, including the Standard model, which came to be associated with some of the best guitarists ever, including Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page.

The Black Beauty then, was not the "original" Les Paul. And, on top of that, the model that was sold last night wasn't even the original Black Beauty, but the second prototype!


The two original Black Beauty Les Paul guitars

This picture shows the original Black Beauty #1 (left) and the one that was auctioned last night, right. Despite the fact it wasn't the first ever Black Beauty, never mind the "original" Les Paul, it doesn't mean the guitar wasn't important. Far from it! After all, Les Paul himself played it and tinkered with it - it is, therefore, a historically important guitar, and it did help in the development of future guitars.

But this is how it goes: any instrument - or artwork - is, in the end, only worth what people think it's worth. And typically for a Les Paul guitar, the actual value of this "Original" Les Paul Black Beauty caused controversy! Even new models will find critics, with as many people thinking a Les Paul 2015 is too expensive as those thinking it's worth every penny. To each their own! And, true to this, auction winner Jim Irsay said he was very happy about winning the bid.

Irsay owns an American Football team, the Indianapolis Colts, and is a guitar collector. On an interview yesterday, he was quoted as saying:

“I know there was a lot of negative talk from a few guys who were well respected but look, it’s an important guitar and I’m happy to have it as part of my collection...I don’t believe it’s the “Holy Grail,” I don’t think there is a Holy Grail, frankly. But it really enhances my collection significantly. And I’m really happy to have it.”

And this is the lesson to be learned - a Gibson guitar (not just a rare model like this Black Beauty) may have whatever price tag which some people will think is worth it or not, but for those who actually own a Gibson, it'll always be a special instrument, with a value that can't simply be measured in terms of money!

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