Bonamassa is interviewed in the new issue of Guitarist and discusses the highlights of his immense collection. When it comes to the price paid, though, his Donny J Flying V lies at the very top of that pile, having cost the blues rock ace more than $400,000.
“This is a mint-condition '58 Flying V I call Donny J,” Bonamassa tells Guitarist. “I got it from my friend Don in Oklahoma. He bought it in 1976 for $1,100, which was a lot of money.
“It belonged to a preacher outside of Oklahoma City. I always thought it would be an odd sight going to church and seeing your pastor rocking a Flying V.”
Adjusting for inflation, $1,100 in 1976 would be around $6,000 in 2023 prices. Nowadays, though, original korina Flying Vs and Explorers routinely fetch far, far higher prices – indeed, they routinely rank among the most valuable electric guitars on the vintage market.
As such, Bonamassa says he paid a much higher premium for the Flying V when he picked it up four years ago.
“All my korinas have provenance going back to day one, pretty much,” says Bonamassa. “This one's mint and is the cleanest I've ever seen – although, allegedly, there's one in New Hampshire that's just as clean. It also has a mint case.
“When I made the deal with Don I said, ‘Don, in 1976, it wasn't cheap. And it's not cheap in 2019, either.’ He goes, ‘No. It isn't.’ In fact, it's the most money I've ever paid for a guitar in my life: over $400,000.”
As mentioned, any original Flying V carries a huge premium. It's acquired iconic status over the decades, but was regarded as a flop following its launch in 1958. Indeed, the space-age design proved so unpopular it was discontinued by ’59.
As such, Gibson’s initial production run resulted in just 98 instruments, making them some of the rarest guitars in the company’s storied history.
It’s an astonishing price tag, ultimately, but then, as Bonamassa argues: “What's a Flying V worth? It's worth what someone's willing to pay for it.”
Elsewhere, in the same issue of Guitarist, Bonamassa tells the story of the strangest guitar deal he ever did.
“I made a deal, paid him in cash, and he died two months later,” says the collector of his deal to secure a 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard, known as the Bolin ’Burst. “His last text to his daughter was, ‘I buried the money in the desert.’”
For more highlights from Bonamassa’s immense vintage guitar collection, plus in-depth discussion of his new album, Blues Deluxe II, pick up issue 504 of Guitarist.