The rarest, most collectible and desired electric guitars in the world
The rarest, most collectible and desired electric guitars in the world, rarest musical instruments and coveted by collectors.
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The most collectible guitars in the world
Undoubtedly, electric guitars are one of the most collected and valuable musical instruments in the world. As the years go by, guitars go up in value. This is especially noticeable when the number of guitars is more limited. Furthermore, the value of an electric guitar increases exponentially according to the fame of the musician who has owned it. Because of this, many of these guitars are rare because of their history and the number they were produced, as well as their age. For this list, we chose the guitars that were produced in the early years of electric guitars; when the production of the instruments was very manual and in limited quantities. Also, we include rare prototypes that can be obtained. So these aren’t just rare guitars, they are the most collectible guitars ever.
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1949 Bigsby Birdseye Solid Maple Body
Approximate number of guitars made: 23 | Approximate value based on prices paid at auction: US$266,000 | Manufacturer: Bigsby | Year of production: 1948 – 1949
In 2012, one of the rare early Bigsby-created electric guitars sold at auction for US$266,000. the guitar was the fourth 1949 Bigsby Birdseye Maple Solid Body made out of a total of 23 guitars. The guitar came with its original case and was also verified as authentic. According to the auction listing, this 1949 Bigsby Maple Solid Body was the same guitar featured on the Bigsby brochure and catalog cover.
1964 Vox V251 Guitar Organ Prototype
Approximate number of guitars made: 2 | Approximate value based on prices paid at auction: US$305,000 | Manufacturer: Vox | Year of production: 1964
By its very nature, anything labeled a prototype is incredibly rare and the first two prototypes of the Guitar Organ Prototype Vox V251 Guitar Organ Prototype Vox V251 are some of the rarest electric guitars ever produced. The V251 guitar organ was invented by Vox lead engineer Dick Denney in the early 1960s. As its name implies, the Vox guitar organ can be played as a guitar or as an organ, separately or combined.
Denney he personally presented the first prototype Vox V251 guitar organ to John Lennon and Paul McCartney of the Beatles. Although they kept the guitar organ and liked it, McCartney and Lennon thought it was too heavy and difficult to use. Lennon gave the guitar to his roadie Mal Evans and the V251 Guitar Organ Prototype sold at auction for US$305,000. AccordingThe Rolling Stones reportedly also received a prototype V251 guitar organ.
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1969 / 1970 Gibson Les Paul Recording Model -prototype-
Approximate number of guitars made: 1 | Approximate value based on prices paid at auction: US$187,500 | Manufacturer: Gibson | Year of production: 1969 / 1970
As a prototype, there was only oneGibson Les Paul Recording model made in 1969-1970. This rare electric guitar is imprinted with the serial number “001” and “Original Gibson Prototype”. A Les Paul Recording guitar was sold at auction for US$187,500 and is believed to be the first unit.
Interestingly, this model was the Les Paul’s favorite. The Les Paul Recording model never sold well, being one of Gibson’s biggest flops. It was only in production for about eight years and aside from the Les Paul itself, only musician Jimmy Page is the only other known famous artist to own a Recording model.
1954 Gibson Les Paul Custom «Black Beauty»
Approximate number of guitars made: 1 | Approximate value based on prices paid at auction: US$25,000 | Manufacturer: Gibson | Year of production: 1954
The original Gibson Les Paul from the 1950s, also known as “Black Beauty” is one of the most iconic models in the electric guitar world. The first of the famous Gibson Les Paul Custom model guitars was personally owned by Les Paul. The guitarist worked on it and modified it, making it truly unique, making it the rarest electric guitar in the world.
In 2015, thisBlack Beauty was sold at auction for US$335,500 by its owner at the time, Tom Doyle, who was Les Paul’s guitar tech, friend, and sound guy. This rare electric guitar was purchased by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.
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Left-Handed 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard Sunburst
Approximate number of guitars made: 2 | Approximate value based on prices paid at auction: US$194,500 | Manufacturer: Gibson | Year of production: 1959
The Left Handed Gibson Les Paul Standard Sunburst is one of the rarest and most difficult guitars to come by. Gibson built only two units of this electric guitar in 1959. One of these rare left-handed Gibson Les Paul 1959 “Burst” guitars sold for $194,500. Thus, it is one of the most expensive guitars in the world. This rare left-handed electric guitar used to belong to tennis star John McEnroe. Also, it is worth noting that 1959 is the best year for the Gibson Les Paul.
1958 Gibson Explorer
Approximate number of guitars made: 19 | Approximate value based on prices paid at auction: US$611,000 | Manufacturer: Gibson | Year of production: 1963
TheThe 1958 Gibson Explorer is one of the rarest electric guitars Gibson has ever made simply because no one wanted it when it first appeared. Only about 19 Gibson Explorers were made in 1958. In 2006, a 1958 Gibson Explorer sold for more than $611,000. The Gibson Explorer sold at auction was built in 1963 with leftover 1958 bodies and necks and came with its original case. This guitar was made in the middle of Gibson’s Golden Age.
1958 / 1959 Gibson Fling V
Approximate number of guitars manufactured: 98 | Approximate value based on prices paid at auction: US$182,500 | Manufacturer: Gibson | Year of production: 1959
When it was first launched Gibson Flying V in 1958, it was a very unpopular guitar. Only 81 Flying Vs were sold in 1958 and 17 the following year. In 1960, production stopped on the initial run of the Gibson Flying V. Thus, with only 98 units made, there are not many Gibson Flying V’s today from the first series.
In 2009,a 1959 Gibson Flying V sold for US$182,500, and Flying Vs in mint condition typically sell for over US$100,000. According to J. Levine Auction & Appraisal in Scottsdale, Arizona, the Gibson Flying V failed because its design “was too radical for the people of the day.”
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1951 Fender Broadcaster and No-Caster
Approximate number of guitars made: Broadcaster 250 and No-caster 475 | Approximate value based on prices paid at auction: US$60,000 | Manufacturer: Fender | Year of production: 1951
The 1951 Fender Broadcaster and “Nocaster” are electric guitars with an interesting history. The Broadcaster and No-Caster is the forerunner of Fender’s Telecaster, the most popular solid body electric guitar in history. These rare electric guitars were initially called the “Broadcaster” during the initial run in 1950. After a request from The Gretsch Company, which offered a drum kit called the “Broadkaster”, Fender will remove all Broadcaster logos from the remaining guitars the following year. Until late 1951, when the guitars received their new name, the Telecaster, only the Fender logo was present on guitars sold that year.
Fender produced only about 475 Fender No-Caster guitars and the one that belonged to the Les Paul was it sold at auction for $225,000 in 2012. You can also see this guide to Telecaster prices by year of manufacture.
Here’s a note to see other rare Fender guitars that resulted in big flops.
1958, 1959, 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard «Burst»
Approximate number of guitars manufactured: 1,700 | Approximate value based on prices paid at auction: US$237,000 | Manufacturer: Gibson | Year of production: 1959
Gibson Les Paul Standards made in 1958, 1959 and 1960 with their Sunburst finish are considered to be one of the most famous electric guitars ever produced. However, this was not always the case and when the Gibson Les Paul Standard was first released it was not that popular. In fact, in the late 1960s the Gibson Les Paul was discontinued and replaced by the Gibson SG. In 1969 the Les Paul Standard is remade after many great guitarists including Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Keith Richards began using this electric guitar.
Les Paul Standard Sunbursts made in 1958, 1959 and 1960 are nicknamed the “Burst” and are highly sought after by collectors. Among those years, guitars from 1959 are preferred. Gibson produced around only 1,700 Gibson Les Paul Standards between 1958 and 1960. Any Les Paul Standard from that year is now quite rare and valuable. One of the highest prices paid for a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard was US$237,000. Visit this guide to Gibson Les Paul guitar prices according to their year of manufacture.
We recommend that you take a look at the history and evolution of the Gibson Les Paul.
There are many more rare guitars in the world, like Brian May’s Red Special. What other guitar would you include in the list of the rarest in the world? Leave us your comment below.
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