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World's Oldest Electric Bass Guitar Sells on Ebay for $23,000

(Image credit: ultimate-guitar.com via Ebay)

An ultra-rare Audiovox 736, the first electric bass guitar ever made, was sold on Ebay (opens in new tab) yesterday for $23,850. According to the listing (opens in new tab), the instrument was one of only three Audiovox 736s left in the world.

For decades, it was thought that Leo Fender invented the electric bass guitar with his iconic Fender Precision Bass, an assumption that—though it is true that the Fender Precision was the first mass-produced electric bass guitar—has proven to be false. Vintage Guitar magazine told the story of the then-unknown Audiovox 736 bass in its March 1999 issue.

After hearing years of rumors (and after a good deal of digging,) historian and writer Peter Blecha discovered that Paul H. Tutmarc actually created the modern electric bass guitar—frets, pickups and all—back in 1936, 15 years before Fender's Precision Bass made its debut. Tutmarc—a Seattle-based pioneer in electric pickup design who throughout the Thirties and Forties made a number of guitars and amplifiers under the Audiovox brand—first gave the bass to his wife Lorraine, who used it while performing with the Tutmarc family band. Tutmarc also sold copies to various gospel, Hawaiian, and country players.

(Image credit: ultimate-guitar.com via Ebay)

With a price tag of $65 (around $1,150 today) though, the Audiovox 736—despite some success in the Seattle area—never took off, and Audiovox folded in 1950. Today, the basses remain extremely rare, with only three still known to exist. The other two—aside from the recently auctioned instrument—are held in Seattle's Museum of Pop Culture and by a private collector.

You can watch a demo of the instrument below.

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Jackson Maxwell
Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player (opens in new tab). Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder (opens in new tab) and Unrecorded (opens in new tab). Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.