John Lennon last saw his prized J-160E Gibson guitar—the instrument he played when recording "Love Me Do"—in December 1963, during a Beatles Christmas show in a London park. The guitar went missing and stayed that way for about 50 years, when an amateur guitarist realized he'd been playing it for decades, the New York Times reports. "It easily could have been lost," says the president of Julien's Auctions, which plans to auction the guitar in November and rake in an estimated $600,000 and $800,000. "There’s no mistaking it’s the guitar." Guitarist John McCaw purchased the guitar for a couple of hundred dollars in San Diego in the 1970s, and kept it without refinishing or making a single modification—a lucky turn of events, it turns out.
Last year, one of his friends recognized the guitar in a Beatles memorabilia book written by Fab Four expert Andy Babiuk. Such correspondence about possible Beatles instruments yields nothing "99% of the time," Babiuk says, but in this case the serial number and look of McCaw's guitar piqued his interest. He then matched the wood grain to Lennon's guitar, and the finding was later authenticated. But the auction house might want to set slightly lower expectations: A Jimi Hendrix guitar expected to sell for up to $1 million went for a paltry $320,000 earlier this year on the auction block, Guitar Player reports. (George Harrison's 1963 guitar sold for nearly half a million bucks earlier this year.)