Like the song says: Everybody wants a thrill. This weekends event at Heritage Auctions
starring guitars from the Neal Schon Collection provided more than a few.
Saturdays auction was held only hours before Schon and Journey headlined Lollapalooza in Chicago (to rave reviews), and as a warm-up act more than 90 instruments from the guitarists historic assemblage sold for more than $4.2 million. That includes two Holy Grails now in the hands of new owners: One 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard Sunburst sold for $350,000, while another of the six-string Ferraris favored by arena-rock gods realized $300,000.
Those two guitars are now the most expensive vintage instruments sold in Heritage Auctions history, with seven of Schons guitars ranking among the Top 20 in the auction houses hall of fame.
Nearly 500 bidders from around the world, on the phone and online and on the floor at Heritages global headquarters, took part in the sale. Among them was an NFL owner who added one of Schons most famous instruments to his own world-renowned collection.
Schons 1977 black Gibson Les Paul, played on 1981s chart-topping, 10-million-selling Escape, was acquired during the auction by the Jim Irsay Collection.
The Journey founder and songwriter used the Les Paul on Dont Stop Believin, one of the most performed, covered, downloaded and streamed songs in history, well before its inclusion in The Sopranos finale in June 2007. Irsays latest rock-and-roll acquisition was made only two weeks after the Indianapolis Colts owner and CEO bought from Heritage Auctions Elton Johns longtime touring Steinway.
Irsay says he wanted to include Schons Les Paul in his acclaimed collection of historic and culturally significant artifacts assembled over several decades. Among the items in that collection: President Abraham Lincolns walking cane, a Jackie Robinson bat from 1953 (the year of the Colts founding) and instruments used by Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Prince, Jim Morrison and Pink Floyds David Gilmour.
Rock music is a uniquely American art form, and the instruments and artifacts that created its rich history should be protected and preserved, says Irsay, who regularly tours his artifacts and one day hopes to open a museum in which to display them. I look forward to sharing this and other pieces of the collection in the hopes that they may educate and inspire others to do great, meaningful things.
Ten of Schons guitars, including the Escape Les Paul, sold for six figures, among them a 1959 Gibson ES-335 Natural Semi-Hollow Body that sold for $137,500, a 1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop Solid Body that realized $131,250 and a 1958 Gibson Les Paul Standard Goldtop Solid Body that fetched $125,000.
The vintage market remains strong, says Aaron Piscopo, Heritage Auctions Director of Vintage Guitars & Musical Instruments. Neal pretty much covered all aspects of electric-guitar collecting, and the condition of these rare instruments is just extraordinary. The variety of finishes, vintages and details within his collection was just breathtaking. As a result, we had many new bidders, as this collection caught the eye of some of the most prestigious collectors in the world. I am sure theyre grateful that Neal made them available, and working with him and his collection was an honor and a pleasure.