9 Rarest Electric Guitars in the World

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Electric guitars are one of the most collected and valuable musical instruments in the world. Often times, the value of an electric guitar increases exponentially depending on how famous the musician who owned it was. Due to this many of these guitars are rare because of their history and not because of how many were produced. For this list, we chose to focus on rare electric guitars that are scarce because very few were sold during their original production run. This of rare electric guitars also contains some prototypes.

  1. 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard (Original Series)
  2. Number Made: 1,700
    Value (Based on Highest Price Ever Paid at Auction): $237,000
    Manufacturer: Gibson
    Year Produced: 1959
    1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard (Original Series)
    photo source: Skinner

    The 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard in the sunburst pattern is widely considered to be one of the most famous electric guitars ever produced. However, this wasn’t always the case and when the Gibson Les Paul Standard was first released it wasn’t that popular. The Les Paul Standard only became popular after many great guitarists –  including Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, and Keith Richards – started using this electric guitar.

    Only about 1,700 Gibson Les Paul Standards were produced during the original series run in 1959. Any Les Paul Standards from that year are now quite rare and valuable. The highest amount paid for a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard was $237,000.


  3. 1951 Les Paul Fender “NoCaster”
  4. Number Made: about 475
    $225,000
    Manufacturer: Fender
    Year Produced: 1951

    1951 Les Paul Fender “NoCaster”  height=
    photo source: Julien’s Live

    The 1951 Fender “NoCaster” is an electric guitar with an interesting history. The NoCaster is the precursor to Fender’s Telecaster, the most popular solid body electric guitar in history. These rare electric guitars were initially called “Broadcaster” during the initial run in 1950.

    After a request from the The Gretsch Company, which offered a drum set named “Broadkaster”, Fender decided to shave off all of the Broadcaster logos from the remaining guitars in the following year. Until late 1951, when the guitars received their new name, Telecaster, only the Fender logo was present on the guitars sold that year. Only about 475 Fender NoCaster guitars were produced and one sold at auction for $225,000 in 2012.


  5. 1959 Gibson Flying V
  6. Number Made: 98
    $182,500
    Manufacturer: Gibson
    Year Produced: 1959

    1959 Gibson Flying V
    photo source: newatlas.com

    When the Gibson Flying V was first released in 1958, it was a very unpopular guitar. Only 81 Flying Vs were sold in 1958 and 17 were sold the following year (a total of 98). By 1960, production stopped on the initial run of the Gibson Flying V. With so few ever manufactured, not many Gibson Flying Vs are around today.

    In 2009, a 1959 Gibson Flying V was sold for $182,500 and typically Flying Vs in mint condition sell for more than $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 era.”


  7. 1949 Bigsby Birdseye Maple Solid Body
  8. Number Made: 23
    $266,000
    Manufacturer: Bigsby
    Year Produced: 1949

    1949 Bigsby Birdseye Maple Solid Body
    photo source: Heritage Auctions

    In 2012, one of the rare early electric guitars created by Bigsby was sold at auction for $266,000. The guitar was the fourth 1949 Bigsby Birdseye Maple Solid Body ever 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 pictured on the cover of the Bigsby brochure and catalog. Paul Bigsby is credited with creating the first successful vibrato tailpiece aka the whammy bar.


  9. 1958 Gibson Explorer
  10. Number Made: 19
    $611,000
    Manufacturer: Gibson
    Year Produced: 1963 (made from leftover parts from 1958)

    1958 Gibson Explorer
    photo source: Guitar Player

    The 1958 Gibson Explorer is one of the rarest electric guitars that Gibson ever made simply because no one really wanted them when they first came. Only about 19 Gibson Explorers were made in 1958 and Rick Nielson of Cheap Trick believes he is the only person in the world to own two of these rare guitars.

    In 2006, a 1958 Gibson Explorer was sold for over half a billion dollars ($611,000 to be exact)! The Gibson Explorer sold at auction was built in 1963 with the leftover bodies and necks from 1958 and came with its original case.


  11. 1959 Left-handed Gibson Les Paul Standard Sunburst
  12. Number Made: 2
    $194,500
    Manufacturer: Gibson
    Year Produced: 1959

    1959 Left-handed Gibson Les Paul Standard Sunburst
    photo source: Heritage Auctions

    A 1959 Left-handed Gibson Les Paul Standard Sunburst was sold for $194,500 and is one of the rarest electric guitars because only two were ever made. This rare left-handed electric guitar used to belong to tennis star John McEnroe and was on featured with McEnroe on the cover of a 2009 issue of Guitar Aficionado.

    There was some speculation that this 1959 Left-handed Gibson Les Paul Standard Sunburst was a fake, but the experts at Heritage Auctions deemed the guitar authentic. The guitar was part of a consignment of instruments and equipment from the United States Marshals Service, with profits from the sales benefiting victims of the Aspen Energy Oil and Gas Investment Scheme.


  13. 1964 Vox V251 Guitar Organ Prototype
  14. Number Made: 2
    $305,000
    Manufacturer: Vox (invented by Dick Denney)
    Year Produced: 1964

    1964 Vox V251 Guitar Organ Prototype
    photo source: Sotheby’s

    By their very nature, anything labeled as a prototype is incredibly rare and the first two Vox V251 Guitar Organ prototypes are some of the rarest electric guitars ever produced. The V251 Guitar Organ was invented by Vox’s lead engineer Dick Denney in the early 1960s. As its name implies, Vox’s Guitar Organ could be played as a guitar or an organ, separately or combined.

    Denney personally presented the first V251 Guitar Organ Prototype 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 their roadie Mal Evans and the V251 Guitar Organ Prototype was sold at auction for $305,000. The Rolling Stones also reportedly received a V251 Guitar Organ Prototype.


  15. 1969/1970 Gibson Les Paul Prototype Recording Model
  16. Number Made: 1
    $187,500
    Manufacturer: Gibson and Les Paul
    Year Produced: 1969 – 1970

    1969/1970 Gibson Les Paul Prototype Recording Model
    photo source: Julien’s Live

    As a prototype, there was only one Gibson Les Paul Recording model made in 1969 – 1970. This rare electric guitar is stamped with the serial number “001” and “Original Gibson Prototype.” This particular Recording model was sold at auction for $187,500 and is believed to be the very first Les Paul Recording model.

    Interestingly, of all the guitars that Les Paul ever made, the Recording model was his favorite. The Recording model never sold well, with only a couple thousand ever purchased. It was only in production for about eight years and besides Les Paul himself, only musician Jimmy Page is the only other known famous artist to own a Recording model.


  17. 1954 Original Gibson Les Paul Custom “Black Beauty”
  18. Number Made: 1
    $343,750
    Manufacturer: Gibson (customized and created by Les Paul)
    Year Produced: 1954

    1954 Original Gibson Les Paul Custom “Black Beauty”
    photo source: Guernsey’s

    The original Gibson Les Paul from the 1950s, which was called “Black Beauty”, is considered the “holy grail” of the electric guitar world. It was the very first of Gibson’s famous Les Paul model guitars and served as the model for all the later models in the line. Black Beauty was personally owned and worked on by Les Paul himself and is truly one of a kind, making it the rarest electric guitar in the world.

    In 2015, Black Beauty was sold at auction for $335,500 by its owner at the time, Tom Doyle, who was Les Paul’s guitar tech, friend, and sound man. This rare electric guitar was purchased by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.

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