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Will John Lennon’s "Paperback Writer" Guitar Be a Million-Dollar Seller?

Any artifact connected with the Beatles has a market. What prices those artifacts command depends on their intrinsic value, rarity, and provenance. A guitar up for auction in November has plenty of all three, which may drives the price up as high as a million dollars! John Lennon used a 1963 Gretsch model 6120 Chet Atkins Nashville hollow-body guitar in the mid-‘60s, and gave it to his young cousin David Birch in 1967. Birch has been in possession of the guitar ever since, so there’s no question as to its provenance. 

Birch watched his cousin’s rise from both up close and afar, visiting Lennon’s home, Kenwood, in Weybridge, just southwest of London, on several occasions. By the time the 19-year-old Birch went to stay with Lennon for a couple of days in November of 1967, he, too, was living with Mimi, as Lennon had done before him. Thus the two men were linked by shared experiences, as well as blood.

On that November visit, while hanging out in Lennon’s music room, where Lennon wrote such compositions as “We Can Work It Out,” “I Am The Walrus,” “A Day In The Life,” and “Across The Universe,” Birch mentioned that he was trying to start a band. “I was just cheeky enough to ask John for one of his spare guitars,” Birch recalls. “I had my eye on a blue Fender Stratocaster that was lying in the studio, but John suggested and gave me the Gretsch while we were talking.” Over the years, the guitar got enough use by Birch that it underwent a few minor repairs, but the handsome instrument, whose laminated-maple body, headstock, and neck retains its original orange-stain finish, is mostly as it was when it changed hands that day in Lennon’s Kenwood music room.

Although we don’t know exactly how many songs Lennon wrote using the guitar, a witness documented it being used to compose “Paperback Writer.” When the Gretsch goes up for auction on November 14th, the bidding will start at £400,000 ($638,048). Read the story of this particular guitar at Collectors Weekly. 

(Image credit: Leslie Bryce)


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