On Saturday, December 9, Julien’s Auction will be auctioning off over 450 lots of Neil Young’s stuff. I say “stuff” because this auction has a lot more than just musical instruments and recording gear, there are Lionel trains (a lot of Lionel trains), Neil’s golf clubs, a few cars, Hawaiian shirts and more. Though there are probably some great train deals to be had (and with over 200 lots of model trains, this may be your best chance to own something of Neil’s for less than four figures)– for this week’s Catch of the Day, we’ll focus on a handful of Neil’s guitars that are up for bidding. As with seemingly every celebrity auction of late, the estimates for most of these items seem rather modest, so don’t get too excited by the Julien’s catalog. We expect bidding to be fast and furious.
Because of construction and intonation issues, 1970s Martins get a lot of flack from the collectors out there. But here’s a 1977 Martin D-19 (the seldom seen, short-lived, darker-stained variant of a D-18) that clearly must have a decent sound as Neil recorded at least a few songs on it: “Goin’ Back” and “Human Highway” on Comes a Time and “Lost in Space” on Hawks & Doves. Current internet bidding is just up to $10,000, undoubtedly a record breaking price for a D-19.
Someone in Neil’s inner circle – or perhaps Neil himself – must have a sense of humor. Unbeknownst to most of us, Young – who famously criticized commercializing music with “This Note’s For You” – is been the proud owner of a Dean Budweiser guitar. Typically, these will set you back around $500 (or approximately 26 24-pack cases of Bud), but with Neil’s provenance, who knows how far this will go? One thing is for certain, you’ll have a conversation piece on your hands if you buy it.
Fender reverb tanks get all the attention but, for a couple of years in the early ‘60s, Supro tried its best to offer burgeoning rock & rollers the surfy sounds they were looking for with their Model 500R and 600R reverb units. Neil has been holding onto this 500R, which apparently isn’t working and is in need of a power supply. We’d buy it, send it to an adventurous amp expert like Skip Simmons and see if we can’t resurrect this beast. Bidding is currently up to $300.
Size 5 Martins may be an acquired taste, but there’s something magical about these 3/4 size models – they pack a ton of punch under the hood and have a volume and tone that defies their modest size. Beyond that, Neil’s 1950 Martin 5-18 has the unique distinction of being one of the only guitars in this auction where there’s actual photographic evidence of him using it, thanks to a gorgeous shot by famed photographer Henry Diltz (shown). The guitar was estimated to sell for 2,000-4,000 dollars but is already triple that low estimate with early internet bidding.
Let’s face it: If you’re going to take the expense to own something of Neil Young’s, why not make it something that he’s actually known for using? Since Old Black isn’t on the auction block, the next best thing may be this early version of the Whizzer, the motorized device that Neil invented to turn his Fender tweed Deluxe’s knobs for him, via pedal board. Common knowledge has the Whizzer being invented in 1978 on the Rust Never Sleeps tour but Neil claims (at least through Julien’s) that this item dates from all the way back to 1975-1976. (A revamped digital set of Whizzers came out in the early ‘90s via Rick Davis and are still presumably going strong). If you’re the lucky winner, you can figure out exactly when this contraption was born and have fun staring at the road case, cables and spare parts that come with it.
None of the guitar items float your boat? There’s always his original 1929 RCA Theremin with matching speaker cabinet. File under: Who knew?