Auction of Historic Gear from Les Paul Collection Raises Nearly $5M for Foundation

Photo by Stephen K. Peeples

The Les Paul Estate and the Les Paul Foundation tied in with Julien’s Auctions in downtown Beverly Hills Friday and Saturday, June 8-9, 2012 to raise nearly $5 million from a marathon auction of guitars, amps, recording gear, memorabilia and lots more from the electric guitar and multi-tracking pioneer’s personal collection.

According to Julien’s, the auction was a record-breaker.

Big-ticket items included a 1927 Gibson L5 sunburst guitar which sold for $87,500; a Les Paul Touring Rig ($81,250), the 1982 Gibson Les Paul prototype recording model ($180,000), a collection of Les Paul research notes($28,125), a Gibson Les Paul Custom 80thbirthday guitar ($75,000), the Les Paul Recording console ($106,250), a 1950s white Gibson Les Paul flat top with extensive technical notations ($75,000), a custom vintage Les Paul NY license plate ($10,000), the Les Paul Iridium Club sign ($40,625) and various Les Paul guitar schematics ($40,625 – $22,500).

Other highlights included a 1950s Elam 251 Telfunken microphone belonging to Les Paul ($28,125), a Gibson Les Paul recording model ($56,250), Les Paul Gold record awards ($10,625), a Les Paul sound panel ($11,875) and the Les Paul “Paulverizer,” a custom switching device created by Paul in 1956 ($22,500).

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In addition to the 1982 Gibson which sold for $180,000, other highly anticipated guitars won by bidders included Paul’s 1940s Epiphone Zephyr known as “Klunker #3” ($144,000) and his 1951 Fender No-Caster ($216,000).

.In addition to the 1982 Gibson which sold for $180,000, other highly anticipated guitars won by bidders included Paul’s 1940s Epiphone Zephyr known as “Klunker #3” ($144,000) and his 1951 Fender No-Caster ($216,000).

Paul died Aug. 12, 2009, and the auction coincided with and celebrated what would have been his 97th birthday on Feb. 9.

When I visited Les at his home and studio in Mahwah, N.J., in May 1991, to interview him for the book I wrote to accompany his four-CD Capitol boxed set, “The Legend & The Legacy,” he showed me rooms and rooms with with dozens of guitar cases stacked high. They were production models, prototypes sent to him to check out, gifts, his own experimental models, and more.

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Photo by Russ Les Paul Jr.The Julien’s auction pulled them out of their darkened cases so the rest of us could see what they look like. And it was mind-boggling, a guitar-player’s wet dream, and a real treat for anyone interested in Les Paul, recording history, or electric guitar design and development.

Les Paul, the author, and the world’s first eight-track recording machine, not included in this auction, mug at Paul’s home studio in Mahwah, N.J., May 1991. Photo: Russ Les Paul Jr.

It was also the last time these items would ever be in the same place. Now, the guitar players, collectors, museums, investors, fans and others who bought parts of this historic collection will scatter these items to the far corners of the planet.

Julien’s ( did a first-class job curating and staging the event, with beautiful displays, a full-color inch-thick catalog suitable for any coffee table and smooth integration of bidding between those in the room and those online. Bidders and fans were able to participate by watching the stream at and Julien’s was posting the winning bids for each item ( in real-time.

Photo by Stephen K. PeeplesWhat will never come through the pics, video or stream is the aroma.

The Mahwah house and studio was nearly four decades old by my 1991 visit, and it had a certain musty but not unpleasant smell, in part because of all the gear.

At Julien’s, walking into the various rooms where similar gear was sorted and stacked, the same aroma was omnipresent.

The smell goes with the gear. So whoever won the bids on that stuff got not only the hardware, but also the authentic Mahwah studio aroma as a bonus.

Proceeds from this auction will benefit the nonprofit Les Paul Foundation and its events and programs designed to keep Les’s legend and legacy alive and thriving.

Photo by Peter B. Sherman/Getty ImagesFind out more at

Above photo:
(c) Stephen K. Peeples –

For many more SKP photos from the auction, click here.

For exclusive Peeples Place videos from the auction:

On what would have been his father’s 97th birthday, Russ Les Paul Jr. chats with Stephen K. Peeples at Julien’s. Links to the interview videos are just above. Photo: Peter B. Sherman/Getty Images.

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In addition to his “Peeples Place” blog, Stephen K. Peeples is a writer/reporter for KHTS News ( and in the Santa Clarita Valley, and host, writer and co-producer of the WAVE-nominated “House Blend” music and interview television series on SCVTV, community television for the SCV ( A former SCV music/entertainment columnist for The Signal (2004-2011), Peeples is a Grammy-nominated record producer (“Monterey International Pop Festival,” MIPF/Rhino, 1992), an award-winning radio producer (“The Lost Lennon Tapes,” Westwood One, 1988-1990) and an award-winning online editor (The Signal website, 2007-2011). For more information, email or visit