The First Ever Gibson Les Paul Is Headed to Auction

The historic guitar will be auctioned by Christie's on Oct. 13

Les Paul
Les Paul with his "Number One" guitar, which will be sold at auction.

Guitar enthusiasts with deep pockets looking to own a piece of history are in luck: as Rolling Stone reports, the first ever production model Gibson Les Paul — approved and owned by Les Paul himself and referred to as “Number One” — is headed to auction.

The guitar, which is believed to have been developed around 1951 or 1952, will be auctioned off as part of Christie’s New York’s “Exceptional Sales” lot on Oct. 13. Its estimated value is between $100,000 and $150,000.

“In any creation narrative there are always multiple protagonists, but the name Les Paul ranks at the pinnacle when discussing the electric guitar,” Christie’s consultant Kerry Keane said in a statement. “His lifelong search and development in perfecting the electric guitar would forever change the instrument. That transformation is responsible for the successful careers of generations of guitarists that performed on the Les Paul guitar. This guitar physically embodies his endless passion that produced the most iconic musical instrument in popular culture.”

Gibson brought Paul aboard to develop their own solid-body electric guitar in response to Fender’s launch of the Telecaster in 1950. The result was “Number One,” which is being auctioned off by longtime guitar builder and engineer Tom Doyle and Paul’s son Gene.

“Les brought his idea to Gibson and they initially dismissed it outright, but Les was dogged,” Doyle recalled about the genesis of “Number One.” “He held strong to his ideas and his beliefs, knowing that someday they would see the light. Les kept tinkering and inventing, and making his concept better and better. Then finally after about 10 years, and after lots of trial and error, the good folks at Gibson presented this very guitar to Les. He was smitten, and he was overjoyed… and the rest, as they say, is history.”

“This was the most historically significant, valuable, pivotal, and important guitar to my father, his crowning achievement,” Gene Paul said.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.