Elvis Presley’s Gibson Guitar Fetches $334,000 at Auction

He gave it to a shocked audience member.

Elvis was given a guitar-shaped key to the city of Tupelo, Mississippi, by Mayor James L. Ballard, in 1957. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
Elvis was given a guitar-shaped key to the city of Tupelo, Mississippi, by Mayor James L. Ballard, in 1957. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
Photo courtesy Julien's Auctions.

Photo courtesy Julien’s Auctions.

A customized guitar that Vernon Presley bought for his son Elvis in 1969 brought $334,000 at Julien’s Auctions, in New York, on Saturday, May 21.

The elder Presley had his son’s name inlaid on the guitar’s neck and changed the finish to black to celebrate his son’s recently earned black belt in karate, says the house. Marking that achievement is a sticker for Kenpo karate, a particular variety of that martial art, on the body of the instrument.

The guitar joins other Presley memorabilia that have recently come to the auction block, including his first recording and a private jet.

Photo courtesy Barnes & Noble.

Photo courtesy Barnes & Noble.

The guitar became part of broadcasting history when the King played it during his 1973 “Aloha from Hawaii” concert, the first televised performance to be beamed around the world by satellite. Viewers in forty countries, numbering as many as 1.5 billion, tuned in to see Presley perform hits like “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”

Photo courtesy Julien's Auctions.

Photo courtesy Julien’s Auctions.

Presley gave the guitar to an audience member at a 1975 concert in North Carolina. Mike Harris, the recipient, held on to the guitar for four decades, until selling it at Julien’s. Presley is supposed to have told Harris something like “You keep the guitar. I gave it to you for a reason. Someday it will help you out.” Harris was given a police escort from the stadium, according to Julien’s.

The Gibson was estimated to sell for up to $300,000. The sale also included memorabilia like the piano on which Lady Gaga wrote her first song, at five years old; a letter penned by David Bowie in response to a piece of fan mail; and a jacket worn by Queen frontman Freddie Mercury during the band’s 1986 “Magic” tour. In other guitar auction sales, Boston’s RR Auction sold Johnny Ramone’s vintage Hamer for $55,247.


Follow artnet News on Facebook:


Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
  • Access the data behind the headlines with the artnet Price Database.

Share

Article topics