A banjolele owned by George Formby and once coveted by the Beatles’ George Harrison has sold for £28,000.
The Gibson UB3, described as the “Stradivarius of the ukulele world,” was one of the Wigan-born entertainer’s favourite instruments.
The banjolele attracted interest from around the world including the US and Dubai.
But it was sold to a man living in the UK by Hansons Auctioneers in Etwall, Derbyshire, when it went under the hammer.
The instrument was last sold privately in 1972, when late Formby fan Terence Wallin paid £310 for it.
It was originally purchased in 1961 from Formby’s estate by Bill Logan, the first president of the George Formby Society.
Auctioneer Charles Hanson told the BBC that a round of applause echoed around the room as it was sold.
He said: “It was a great honour to handle it. It was quite a moment. The room gave a round of applause. It’s memories, as an auctioneer, you don’t forget.
“It is simply a banjolele which ordinarily is worth maybe £400, but with the provenance, with who it belonged to, with that story, fascination... We pumped on a guide of between £20,000 and £30,000 and thankfully it came good.”
George Harrison tried to buy the banjolele from Mr Wallin in the early 90s, but he would not part with it. Decades later, Mr Wallin’s family, from Sutton Coldfield, came across it during a clear-out and decided to let it go.
Nearly 10 years ago, another Formby banjolele sold for more than £70,000 at auction to Queen guitarist Brian May.