So what is the Holy Grail of electric guitars? There are a few models that cost more than your house, and are very rare! Today we take a look at the greatest, and talk about why they are so coveted.
What Is The Holy Grail Of Electric Guitars?
There have been some very unique guitars over the years that have fetched some extremely high prices. What makes these guitars so special though? I was not kidding in the intro when I said some of these cost as much as a house! But why would a guitar cost such an exorbitant amount of money?
Well, that could really be due to a lot of factors. The main thing we have to think about is the history of these rare guitars. These might have been very limited runs, or maybe only a few of these guitars were actually made. But there is a another factor that we also have to take into account…
Who owned these guitars? This can be the biggest factor, especially when we get to the #1 choice of the Holy Grail guitars on this list. If a guitar has been played by someone famous, or has been passed down through many different famous artists, it can drive the rarity (and prices) way up!
So what is the Holy Grail of electric guitars? Is there one axe to rule them all? There is, but there are a couple of other honorable mentions that we should talk about. These 3 guitars are the rarest and most sought after guitars in the world that we could find. So let’s dive in!
#3: 1950-1951 Fender “No-Caster”
I know what you are thinking, this looks just like an original 50’s Telecaster. It is definitely vintage, so that would drive the price up. But why would this be considered one of the “Holy Grail” guitars? Well this one has a pretty interesting history, and there were less than 500 of these guitars made before it was renamed!
The original Fender Telecaster run was not called a “Telecaster” at all! It was called “The Broadcaster” at first, and the 1950 run featured that name. Leo fender started with radio repair, so the name was perfect. But this name only lasted for the first year of production.
However, there was a huge problem with this name. The Gretsch Company had a drum set called “The Broadkaster” and Fender was notified that the name would cause confusion, as well as have possible legal ramifications. Ironically, Fender OWNS Gretsch now and has owned the company moniker for decades. But that was not the case in 1951, unfortunately.
Leo Fender could not do anything about the 1950 Broadcaster guitars that had already sold. However, Fender knew something had to be done to fix the situation. The company shaved the Broadcaster name off of all of the guitar headstocks by hand, with a razor blade! This left the guitars with nothing but the “Fender” logo on the headstock.
These guitars became known as the “No-Caster” since there was no official name on any of these models. One simple mix-up lead Leo to rename the guitars “Telecaster” which still aligns with the “radio concept” that he wanted to keep. This name mishap made these models a collector’s item, as not only are they vintage-but also a production mistake! John 5 is a proud owner, as he has a Tele from almost every year!
These currently sell between $150,000 all the way to $225,000!
#2: 1959 Gibson Flying V
It may be hard to believe, but in 1958 Gibson released the first Flying V guitar to the world… and it absolutely BOMBED. This might be a case of a guitar that was just way before its time. Nowadays, the Flying V is a legendary guitar favored by Metal guitarists. The Flying V design has been replicated, and altered by many companies, but Gibson made them first!
It may be crazy to think, but there are less than 100 of these guitars in the world due to their unpopularity! Gibson tried to push the Flying V in 1958, but only managed to sell about 81 models that entire year. The next year, Gibson sold only 17 of these guitars. Which means when it comes to the famous Flying V, less than 100 were ever sold at release. Gibson chalked it up as a design mistake, and immediately ditched the idea.
This makes the 1958-1959 Gibson Flying V an extremely rare guitar. In 1960, Gibson gave up completely on the Flying V and discontinued the guitars. It was reported that the guitar was “just too extreme for the time period, and the retro-future design was not well-received.” Gibson tried again with the Flying V and Explorer shapes, but much later, since both were such failures.
Which is funny, because the Explorer was also a failure during the same year, and made from similar materials. These extreme designs were just a little “too much” for the time period. Heavy Metal had yet to be invented, unfortunately! By the 1970’s the Gibson extreme shapes made a huge comeback. But unfortunately, they were just not popular at the time of release.
1958 Gibson Flying V’s are so rare that they sell for OVER $100,000 in good condition.
1959 Gibson Les Paul And “Greeny”
What is the Holy Grail of electric guitars? It is by far the 1959 Les Paul, and specifically… a very special one called “Greeny” that has been in the hands of many legends. The 1959 Les Paul Standard was again, not very popular when it was released. It took a few years for it to really take off with guitarists. Fender was dominating the electric guitar market, yet Gibson finally became popular.
But when it did? It became an absolute WEAPON in the hands of players like Jimmy Page. The Gibson Les Paul became the sound of rock arenas all over the world. The Les Paul started to be seen on stages all over the world, and the Les Paul is still a great guitar that players crave. But there was one 1959 Les Paul that is more famous than almost ANY guitar.
1959 Les Paul Standards sell for up to $250,000 on a regular basis. But… one is almost priceless.
The Greeny Les Paul has been passed down for years, starting with Peter Green, who used it in the early days of Fleetwood Mac. Peter sold the guitar to Gary Moore in the 1970’s and it quickly became his favorite axe. Moore used the guitar when he played solo shows, but he also recorded some famous Thin Lizzy songs with Greeny! Jazz, Blues, or Rock…Greeny seemed to be up for the task year after year.
Gary Moore fell on hard times, and sold Greeny. The Greeny Les Paul went through many private collectors (probably brokers and investors) until Kirk Hammet from Metallica bought it in 2014. Gary has often expressed regret in selling his famous axe, but has met with Kirk several times to play it again.
Kirk and James from Metallica are huge fans of Thin Lizzy, and they covered some of their songs with Greeny in the studio and on stage! Kirk has played Greeny since 2014, and it is his favorite guitar in his collection. Some people think Greeny should be in a museum, but Kirk likes to show it to the world!
Kirk bought Greeny for “Just under 2 MILLION Dollars in 2014”!
So what is the Holy grail of electric guitars? I think we have our answer. The 1959 Les Paul might not have been a big hit when it was released, but like the above mentioned “extreme” Gibson models, it just took a little bit of time to catch on. Now it is absolutely infamous! Famous guitarists are always looking for a 1959 Les Paul, even if it is NOT Greeny.
Only around 1800 Les Paul models from 1959 exist in the world today.
#1: The Holy Grail…A Simple Les Paul Standard?
That’s correct, the 1959 Greeny Les Paul is just a regular “Standard” model. But this guitar has some interesting mods under the hood. Greeny has an out-of-phase pickup mod that gives the guitar a very distinct tone, due to a reversed neck pickup. This was an accident, since Green took the pickup out and just happened to put it back the wrong way!
Kirk Hammet has said that this unique “mod” makes the guitar sound “like a Stratocaster through a 100 watt stack”. The “out of phase mod” is done by Gibson these days in the Custom Shop by request. Gibson has done a limited run of replicas of Greeny, and the 1959 Les Paul Standard Replica is still one of the most famous models that Gibson sells today.
Kirk refuses to play a replica on stage, and wants fans to be able to hear and see Greeny. You can hear Kirk playing it on “Whiskey In The Jar” during live shows, and it still sounds amazing to this day. It is definitely cool to see a piece of guitar history on stage!
Kirk has also used Greeny in the studio on Metallica albums, especially when he is writing solos. He says that the guitar “is full of mojo, and while I love my signature guitars, there is something special with Greeny. I agree, and the Gibson replicas of the famous guitar have every scratch and defect that the original gained over time. But they can get pricey, otherwise I would have bought the replica Greeny I was lucky enough to play!
In my opinion, I think I have come across about 20 “Holy Grail” guitars in my lifetime. I currently own 4 of them! But it is hard to really quantify something like “mojo”. Some guitars just inspire you to play, or they feel great. But they all have something special, some mojo. Sometimes it may be because they are just really well made? It is hard to say really, but I am glad I have played some “special” guitars in my 30 years of guitar!
Nothing is more inspiring than a guitar that feels “alive” or somehow special when you pick it up. Sure, guitars are just tools to make music. But guitars can also be works of art. My Holy Grail guitar might be VERY different from yours, but every guitarist has played a “magic” guitar at some point.
What do YOU think is the Holy Grail of electric guitar? Is it one that you own?
What is The Holy Grail Of Electric Guitar?
What is the Holy Grail of electric guitar? It is by far the 1959 Les Paul, and specifically a very special one called “Greeny” that has been in the hands of many legends. The 1959 Les Paul Standard was again, not very popular when it was released. It took a few years for it to really take off with guitarists.
What is the Greeny Les Paul?
The Greeny Les Paul has been passed down for years, starting with Peter Green, who used it in Fleetwood Mac. Peter sold the guitar to Gary Moore in the 1970’s and it quickly became his favorite axe. Moore used the guitar when he played solo shows, but he also recorded some famous Thin Lizzy songs with Greeny! Kirk Hammet currently owns/plays Greeny.