Dylan denies authenticity but experts say that it looks genuine
The story goes that Dylan played the 1964 Fender Stratocaster on 25 July 1965 at the Newport Festival in what was one of his early forays into electric guitar music. The event was iconic and is one of the most important musical moments of the 1960s.
And now Rolling Stone reports that the '64 Strat had been missing for 47 years before it was recently located by PBS researchers who told New Jersey resident Dawn Peterson that she had it in her home.
According to Peterson the guitar was owned by her father, Victor Quinto, who used to be a pilot for Dylan's manager Albert Grossman in the mid-60s.
"After one flight, my father saw there were three guitars left on the plane," she says. "He contacted the company a few times about picking the guitars up, but nobody ever got back to him."
She contacted PBS's History Detectives to confirm the authenticity of the guitar and so far the show seems pretty convinced.
Vintage-instrument specialist Andy Babiuk was convinced after PBS asked him to compare it to close-up color photos from Newport. "The more I looked, the more they matched," Babiuk says. "The rosewood fingerboard has distinct lighter strips. Wood grain is like a fingerprint. I'm 99.9 percent sure it's the guitar – my credibility is on the line here."
Dylan memorabilia collector Jeff Gold, who often helps auction houses authenticate items for sale, said "A vast percentage of the stuff I get shown isn't real," he says. "By nature, I'm a defeatist. But this was obviously real."
However, Dylan has other ideas about whether the guitar is the same one.
"Bob has possession of the electric guitar he played at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965," his attorney, Orin Snyder, said in a statement. "He did own several other Stratocaster guitars that were stolen from him around that time, as were some handwritten lyrics."
All that being said, if the guitar were somehow authenticated it would be worth an estimated $1m, but Peterson would be unable to sell it.
"It's his guitar until he makes an affirmative act to give it to someone else or sell it," says lawyer Josh Grier, who represents artists including Wilco. "I think if they put it up to auction, Dylan has a claim to the proceeds. If he finds out beforehand, he might be able to stop from from doing it."