Howard Leese’s Golden Eagle PRS Worth $500,000?

June 3, 2009 | By | Reply More
The original Golden Eagle (Vintage Guitar photo)

The original Golden Eagle (Vintage Guitar photo)

It’s generally accepted that, rock star-owned guitars possibly excepted, the priciest guitars in the world are 1959 ‘burst Gibson Les Pauls. Apparently they sound great, feel great, play great, and they’re old and rare – all amounting to guitars worth a few hundred thousand dollars each.

At times I’ve seen prices quoted in the half-mil range with some speculation that they would go to $1 million in the future. Silly money, but then again these are rare, collector-prized Les Pauls.

So it was a surprise to me to see that $500K figure thrown out for a Paul Reed Smith guitar – in a Vintage Guitar magazine interview with Howard Leese, one of Heart’s original guitar-slingers.

Howard said his Golden Eagle PRS, hand-made by Paul himself, has been his main guitar for about 20 years. But then when talking about his Golden Eagle #2 guitar, he said that one’s “also from 1980.” So let’s say both were built in 1980.

I believe the company PRS was founded in 1985, meaning that both Golden Eagles pre-date the company. Still, the original Golden Eagle doesn’t qualify as “vintage” by age standards, yet it is one-of-a-kind, was handmade by Paul and apparently is the first PRS with a maple top.

Given all of that, the question is:  Are guitars hand-built by Paul himself back in the pre-PRS days worth six figures – meaning as much as ’59 ‘burst Les Pauls?

Anything is only worth what someone pays for it, so you never know. Anyhow, here’s an excerpt from the VG interview:

VG: Let’s talk about your PRS guitars.

Leese: The big daddy is called the Golden Eagle. It’s got a mahogany body with a maple top. The building of this instrument was cited as one of the defining moments in guitar history. This is the first PRS with a maple top: it’s completely hand-made. The wood came from a 300-year-old maple dresser that Paul got from his bass player’s mom. If you look closely at the top you’ll see a little dowel, opposite the knobs, where the drawer pull used to go. Paul built it for a customer in Maryland, but when it was finished, the guy didn’t want it. So he contacted me.

When I saw the picture, I couldn’t believe how beautiful the wood looked, and I sent him a check right away. It’s been my main guitar for 17 years or so. It’s been on every Heart gig and record since I got it.

I don’t think Paul was making his own bridges back then, but the vibrato on it is fantastic. There’s a song called “The Wolf,” where I made a howling sound with this guitar. This is my best guitar and my most valuable – it’s currently valued at a half million. It’s the one I am most emotionally attached to, and the best player. If I had to pick one to play, this is it.


> PRS recently announced a limited reissue of this guitar. More details on it here. The guitar is retailing at about $10,000.

Category: Howard Leese, Les Paul, PRS

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