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John Lennon’s ‘Paperback Writer’ Guitar Purchased by Indianapolis Colts Owner

Hulton Archive, Keystone, Getty Images

The Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins Nashville model hollow body guitar that John Lennon used while recording the Beatles‘ “Paperback Writer” has changed hands, with Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay purchasing the instrument for more than $500,000.

Rolling Stone reports that the guitar had been listed for auction but failed to meet its $600,000 reserve, at which point Irsay redoubled his efforts to obtain it at a price that he and the Gretsch’s previous owner, Lennon’s cousin David Birch, could agree on.

“He’s a feisty old Englishman,” explains Irsay’s personal guitar curator, Chris McKinney. “It took about 15 figures paddled back and forth before everyone agreed to the $530,000 figure.”

The Gretsch joins some distinguished company in Irsay’s personal collection, which includes legendary axes owned by Jerry Garcia and Bob Dylan as well as the “Black Beauty” that belonged to Les Paul and used as the prototype for a host of other guitars. Calling it “a significant piece of history,” Irsay told Rolling Stone, “John Lennon’s guitars are as special as it gets. Instruments like this rarely become available, so anything John Lennon used is some of the most important historical musical archives that exist on the planet.”

For Birch, the sale ends decades of owning a piece of Beatles history that started with a covetous half-joke he made during a visit to Lennon’s home in 1967. “I was just cheeky enough to ask John for one of his spare guitars,” he wrote in the original auction listing. “I had my eye on a blue Fender Stratocaster that was lying in the studio, but John suggested and gave me the Gretsch as we were talking.”

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