The earliest approved model of the Gibson Les Paul — owned by Les Paul himself and known affectionately as “Number One” — is headed to auction. The lot will be part of the upcoming “Exceptional Sale,” taking place October 13th at Christie’s in New York City.
Paul and Gibson Incorporated developed “Number One” around 1951 and 1952. At the time, Gibson had lost ground and market share to Fender, which had launched the Telecaster, the first mass-produced solid-body electric guitar, in 1950. In response, Gibson tapped Paul — one of the most popular musicians in the country at the time — to help them develop a solid-body electric guitar of their own; the “Number One” Gibson Goldtop they crafted would serve as the basis for the Gibson Les Paul guitars that would eventually become a rock and roll staple.
“Number One” is being auctioned off by Paul’s son, Gene Paul, and longtime guitar builder, engineer and producer, Tom Doyle.