Get back: Paul McCartney’s long-lost bass guitar returned after more than 50 years

Höfner bass guitar bought by former Beatle in 1961 is returned after global search to find instrument

A Höfner bass guitar bought by Paul McCartney for £30 in 1961 has been returned to the former Beatle after a global search to find the stolen instrument.

The distinctively shaped guitar, bought by McCartney before his rise to stardom and reportedly his favourite, was last seen around the time the Beatles were recording their final album to be released, Let It Be.

McCartney paid £30 for the bass guitar 63 years ago, equivalent to about £800 (€936) at today’s prices.

A search to find the missing violin-shaped bass, a German-made Höfner 500/1, was announced by the Lost Bass Project last year, and on Tuesday a student, Ruaidhri Guest, shared a photograph on social media of the elusive instrument.


Guest said he had inherited it, adding that it had since been returned to its original owner.

“To my friends and family I inherited this item which has been returned to Paul McCartney. Share the news,” he posted on X.

McCartney’s bass – which could now be worth as much as £10 million – became synonymous with the versatile musician during the early days of the band. It was bought when the then unknown group were touring nightclubs in Hamburg, Germany, in the early 1960s.

A statement on McCartney’s website said: “Following the launch of last year’s Lost Bass Project, Paul’s 1961 Höfner 500/1 bass guitar, which was stolen in 1972, has been returned.

“The guitar has been authenticated by Höfner and Paul is incredibly grateful to all those involved.”

McCartney has previously said he “fell in love” with the instrument because, unlike many electric guitars, it had a symmetrical shape. “For about £30, I found this Höfner violin bass,” said McCartney (81). “And to me, because I was left-handed, it looked less daft because it was symmetrical. I got into that. And once I bought it, I fell in love with it.”

It would go on to become a familiar sight, with McCartney using it for live performances between 1961 and 1963, before it finally went missing shortly before the Beatles split up in 1970.

Höfner helped out with the Lost Bass Project’s unlikely search for the instrument by creating the hashtag #tracingthebass, encouraging people from all over the globe to help find it.

The brand has been McCartney’s choice throughout his career and the company owes much of its success to the former Beatle’s endorsement. He has owned four Höfner basses since 1961, and still plays one given to him by the manufacturer.

There have been various theories over the years about what happened to the instrument, with rumours that the thief stole it from a closet at Abbey Road, as well as some believing it simply went missing in the basement of the band’s Savile Row offices.

It was last seen days before McCartney and his bandmates – John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr – played their final live performance from the roof of their Savile Row base.

In 1963, the guitar John Lennon used to write I Want to Hold Your Hand disappeared during the band’s Christmas show at Finsbury Park, according to the project. It resurfaced 51 years later, selling for £1.9m at auction.