Following a five-year hunt for Paul McCartney’s stolen Höfner bass, the artist was reunited with the instrument after more than 50 years.

For nearly 50 years, Paul McCartney’s guitar cried without him, but the violin-shaped 1961 electric Höfner bass has now been reunited with the legendary singer after a five-year search by the instrument’s manufacturer. The guitar is estimated to be worth $12.6 million.

McCartney sought Höfner for assistance in locating the missing instrument, which he had played hundreds of times during the Beatles’ early days and on their first two albums, including successes like “Love Me Do,” “She Loves You,” and “Twist and Shout.” Höfner CEO Nick Wass teamed up with writer Scott Jones to find the elusive guitar.

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“Paul said to me, ‘Hey, because you’re from Höfner, couldn’t you help find my bass?'” Wass recounted. “That’s what triggered the great hunt. Sitting there, knowing what the lost bass meant to Paul, I was resolved to unravel the puzzle.”

During the Beatles’ 1961 residency in Hamburg, Germany, Paul paid around 30 pounds ($37) for the distinctive-looking violin-shaped guitar. It was supposed to have been taken while the band was recording their final album in 1969, but no one knew exactly when it went missing.

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“Because I was left-handed, it looked less daft because it was symmetrical,” the actor once explained. “I got into it. And after I purchased it, I fell in love with it.”

An email from sound engineer Ian Horne, who had previously worked with McCartney’s band Wings, was the first important breakthrough in the search for the missing bass. Horne said the bass was stolen from the back of his vehicle in Notting Hill, London, in 1972.

“I’ve carried the guilt all my life,” Horne claimed, despite McCartney telling him not to be concerned about the theft at the time, and the two continued to collaborate for another six years.

However, disclosing details about where the bass had been stolen resulted in additional discoveries, including a communication from someone who claimed their father had stolen the instrument. Their father allegedly did not intend to steal McCartney’s guitar explicitly, and “panicked when he realized what he had.”

The instrument was then sold to Ron Guest, landlord of the Admiral Blake Pub, for “a few pounds and some beers.” As Wass and Jones set out to find Guest’s relatives who might know where the instrument was currently located, word spread independently, and Guest’s daughter-in-law contacted McCartney’s studio.

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Ron Guest gave the guitar to his oldest son, who died in a vehicle accident, before passing it down to his younger son, Haydn Guest, who died in 2020. Haydn’s wife, Cathy, stated that the bass had been in her attic for years. The guitar was returned to McCartney in December and authenticated approximately two months later.

The guitar’s estimated worth is based on Kurt Cobain’s Gibson acoustic guitar from MTV’s Unplugged, which sold for $6 million. However, McCartney’s guitar has “held almost no value” for the last 50 years.

“The thief couldn’t sell it,” Jones explained. “Clearly, the Guest family never attempted to sell it.” It’s a red flag because the moment you come forward, someone will say, ‘That’s Paul McCartney’s guitar.'”

A note on Paul McCartney’s website reads: “Paul’s 1961 Höfner 500/1 bass guitar, stolen in 1972, has been returned.” Höfner authenticated the guitar, and Paul is extremely grateful to everyone involved.