So how about a Les Paul museum?

On June 8 and 9, Julien’s Auctions are hosting an historic event: the sale of hundreds of personal items owned by the late great Les Paul (with proceeds going to the Les Paul Foundation). There’s some amazing stuff on offer, including:

Guitars used by Les in the 40s and 50s to test his inventions and ideas, including one of his famous ‘Klunkers.’

The key-changing harmonica rack Les invented when he was a child.

Dozen of Gibson Les Pauls: Studios, Orvilles, Historics and of course Les’s beloved Les Paul Recording models, including what is believed to be the first Les Paul Recording prototype.

Acoustic guitars including a late 30s or early 40s Kalamazoo archtop, 1968 Gibson L-48, 1927 Gibson L5, various Gibson Chet Atkins acoustics and many more.

Recording equipment, including tape machines, preamps, speakers, microphones (dating back to the 30s!) and mic stands.

Electronic equipment including multimeters, tube testers, power supplies, oscillators, and – good lord – several caches of miscellaneous tubes!

Some gorgeous mid-century furniture – Les had style!

Handwritten research notes into pickups.

A 1951 Fender ‘Nocaster’ signed on the back of the headstock by Leo Fender.

A Gibson EB-2 bass modified to be an 8-string.

A Hammond B-3 organ and two Leslie cabinets.

Fender Rhodes electric piano and speaker cabinet.

Vintage echo and vibrato effects.

Mickey Mantle signed baseball.

Acoustic wall panels hand-cut, stained, lacquered and mounted by Les himself.

Le’s recording and mixing console which still features hand-written channel strip names.

Film equipment.

Christmas cards between Les and Mary Ford.

Scripts for 24 episodes of the Les Paul and Mary Ford Show.

A hat given to Les by Slash.

A custom Peavey Wolfgang – a gift from Eddie Van Halen.

But there’s so so so much more. See the full catalog here. And when taken together, these items tell a real story, a true story, about the development of recording and guitar as we know it. There’s equipment used in developing the first ever multi-track recordings, in-progress guitar experiments which led to refinements and features we still use today, and historic pieces of studio equipment which provide an absolutely invaluable link back to recording’s past. And that’s before you even begin to consider the personal items of a man who is destined to be remembered as someone who changed the world.

So what’s going to happen to all of this stuff? Undoubtedly, collectors are going to snap up some key pieces and have some really, really lovely things for their respective walls. But what I’d really love to see is for someone, some well-heeled, well-meaning person or organisation, perhaps, to invest heavily in this auction and keep as much of it together as possible to establish a Les Paul museum. Wouldn’t you just love to some day go to a place where you can see Les’s own recording studio, his personal Les Pauls, various in-progress inventions which give you insight into his creative mind, and keepsakes, awards, membership cards, letters and personal items that remind us all that this was also a husband, a father, a son, a man who knew the value in an idea and the importance of following through with your dreams? A place to reflect on what’s possible when one inspired individual puts their mind to it and never lets go of an idea. I think Les’s life is an incredibly inspiring story, one that should be celebrated and passed on, and always remembered. And keeping this collection together in a museum is the ideal way to do that.

Below is a press release about the auction.

Julien’s Auctions is proud to present Property From The Estate of Les Paul. Les Paul not only revolutionized the sound of the electric guitar, but also the technology behind modern day sound recording. Les Paul pioneered innovative techniques with sound-on-sound recording and commissioned the first 8-track tape recorder, which would become the core technology behind multitrack recording still used today. The sale will include property equipment, memorabilia and instruments that span the entirety of Paul’s career from his days as Rhubarb Red to his weekly Monday night concerts at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City. Some of the guitar and equipment highlights from the sale include:

  • 1968 Prototype Gibson Les Paul Custom Recording Model (Est. $60,000 – $80,000). White flat top with Bigsby tail piece and note in Paul’s hand reading, “Reward this is the property of Les Paul A.K.A. Lester William Polfuss…Mahwah, New Jersey USA…” The guitar is featured on page 350 of his autobiography Les Paul In His Own Words.
  • 1951 Fender Nocaster serial number 1751(Est. $40,000 – $60,000). Butterscotch with black pickguard, neck date “5-10-51 T.G.”, no body date, with original thermometer case. Guitar has replaced volume and one tone pot but originals are present. This guitar was personally gifted to Les Paul by Leo Fender who signed the back of the headstock “Leo Fender.” The guitar is uncharacteristically light weighing only 7.4 pounds.
  • Early 1940s Epiphone Zephyr serial number 7133– Klunker #3 (Est. $14,000 – $16,000) Blonde, electric trap door model arch top with two chicken head knobs, one volume and one a toggle switch, with bard door opening in the back and Paul’s aluminum support system which led him to use solid body construction. This is one of three early experimental models called the “Klunkers” by Paul, featured on pages 120 and 121 in his autobiographyLes Paul In His Own Words.
  • 1927 Gibson L-5 Sunburst Cremona serial number 87230 (Est. $10,000 – $15,000) Hole drilled through the original pickguard, back re-finished, no original case. This is one of the two L-5s purchased by Les Paul, then going by the name Rhubarb Red, at Gibson in Kalamazoo Michigan with his friend and band mate Sunny Joe Wolverton in 1933. Paul discusses the trip and purchasing this guitar extensively in his autobiography. He later gave this guitar to a friend Dave Moran requested the guitar be returned to Paul upon his death.
  • 1952 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop (Est. $14,000 – $16,000) No serial number, Trapeze tailpiece, tuners have been changed to Grover’s, pat. Pending with original case. This is one of the very first Les Paul guitars produced. The back of the headstock is hand signed, “Les Paul.” The guitar is pictured on page 238 of Paul’s autobiography Les Paul In His Own Words.
  • Boss BCB-6 Pedal Effects In Case (Est. $3,000 – $5,000). Six Boss pedals including: chromatic tuner TU-2 white, super chorus ch-1 blue, digital delay DD3 silver, digital reverb/delay RV3 grey. The case also contains tools including a pair of Les Paul’s sunglasses and has all of his settings recorded on masking tape. This is the gigging case used by Les Paul during his weekly shows at both Fat Tuesdays and the Iridium Jazz Club for decades. 3 ½ by 25 by 11 inches
  • 1955 Steinway B Grand Piano In Ebony (Est. $20,000 – $30,000) Steinway & Sons New York original piano, serial number 348128-B (NA-K1304 3035), from Les Paul’s legendary main recording studio in his home in Mahwah, New Jersey, this is the only piano used for recordings made in the house.
  • Early 1970s Ampex MM1000 (Est. $3,000 – $5,000) Sixteen track recording machine using two inch tape, with custom VSO, serial number 260, with AC cable and side block. Has been re-built in good condition. This was the first Ampex sixteen track machine and is one of the most sought after sixteen track machines to this day. This machine was used in the downstairs recording studio at Les Paul’s Mahwah, New Jersey home. 65 by 41 by 27 ½ inches
  • Late 1960s API Recording Mixing Console (Est. $40,000 – $60,000) Twenty eight by sixteen console believed to be one of the first few made with the desireable configuration of twenty eight mic line input channels and sixteen buss. Originally a twenty-channel mixer with an eight-channel side car added later, three 12 point patch bay main console and 144 patch bay on side car. Modules include: five – 558 EQs, one – 550 EQ, four – 553 EQs, 9 – Aengus 8 band EQs, one – old school audio mic pre 580 series size, two – 525 compressors, one – 575 oscillators, one – talk back module, four – 553 EQs, sixteen buss BU meters, and an elaborate master section with buss and cue system. The board is made by Automated Processes Inc. of Farmingdale New York, one of the most notable American made mixing consoles. Original masking tape label with channel identifications in Les Paul’s hand including, “channel 1 Les Guitar.” 45 by 99 1/8 by 35 ½ inches
  • Les Paul’s Touring Rig (Est. $5,000 – $7,000) Gibson LP1 guitar amplifier pre-amp controller, serial number 1038. A prototype designed by Les Paul featuring Plexiglass panel on front with “Les Paul” two channel amplifier with a normal and box switch, crossover switch, vibrola switch. Les Paul’s markings in red nail polish indicate his settings on the knobs and Plexiglass panel. Additional tape markings reading “Les Paul Road 1” and “#1 pre-amp” among others. Single fifteen Altec Lansing speaker with high frequency horn, power amp and Paulverizer attachment built into the cabinet. Topped with a Nakamichi 700, three head cassette player which Paul used to play along with tracks. This was Paul’s long-time tour rig and is features on page 291 of his autobiography Les Paul In His Own Words. Sold together with a spare Nakamichi 700 and identical Altex Lansing single fifteen cabinet. Head 5 ½ by 21 by 15 Cabinet 24 by 24 by 15 inches

The proceeds of the auction will benefit the Les Paul Foundation established by Les Paul who was encouraged at a young age by his mother to follow his instincts regardless of how unusual or different his approach. Paul felt that establishing a foundation, which could provide that same encouragement to so many others was the best way to perpetuate the areas most important to him in his lifetime. The mission of the Les Paul Foundation is to honor and remember the life, spirit, and legacy of Les Paul by supporting music education, engineering and innovation as well as medical research. The Les Paul Foundation is an approved IRS 501(c)3 organization.

The Les Paul Estate Auction will be a moment to remember in the history of Rock N’ Roll. Be inspired by Paul’s innovations and see an unmatched collection of the most innovative electric guitars assembled in one place.

Tuesday, May 29th – Friday, June 8th
Monday – Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (P.S.T.)
Friday, June 8th, 2012
Session I: 10:00 a.m. P.S.T.
Session II: 2:00 p.m. P.S.T.

Saturday, June 9th, 2012
Session III: 10:00 a.m. P.S.T.
Session IV: 2:00 p.m. P.S.T.

Julien’s Auctions Beverly Hills
9665 Wilshire Boulevard
Suite 150
Beverly Hills, CA 90210For more information email
or call 310-836-1818.

Registering to Bid
Registration is required to bid in this live auction and can be done in person at the exhibition and auction, or online before the sale at the Registration page to bid by phone, proxy or in person, or online at to bid live online, or by calling (310) 836-1818.

Placing Bids
There are four ways to bid in this sale:

  1. Bid through Julien’s Auctions Online Live in Real Time at
  2. Place bids in the room by attending the auction.
  3. Bid over the telephone through an auction house representative, who sits in the room and conveys the bid to the auctioneer.
  4. Enter Absentee bids. Absentee bid forms are printed in the back of each catalogue, and are also available by calling Julien’s Auctions or online at