That time Def Leppard showed up on Pawn Stars to authenticate a hand-painted guitar, and by doing so only made it more valuable

Joe Elliott and Phil Collen on Pawn Stars
(Image credit: The History Channel)

Back in the days of shred, Jackson guitars became one of the go-to brands for the fleet-fingered guitarist. The company’s first instrument was the Concorde, a Flying V created with Randy Rhoads, before they came up with the Dinky, the first in a series of "Super Strat" guitars of the type favoured by fret burners like Eddie Van Halen, Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai and others.

Def Leppard's Phil Collen got his own Super Strat, his signature PC1, and in 2010 he hand-painted 30 of them to celebrate Jackson's 30th birthday. Collen would visit the company's paint shop daily – for the best part of a year – adding Pollock-esque splashes of colour on each visit, before signing his name (in Japanese) in white paint. 

Collen took one of the custom-painted PC1s on the road during Def Leppard's Mirror Ball Tour the following year, and an instant collector's item was born. And, as is the way of many an instant collector's item, the guitar eventually showed up on The History Channel's reality TV show Pawn Stars. And, as is the way of many an episode of Pawn Stars, some celebrity guests were conveniently on hand to provide their expertise (see also: the Billy Gibbons Nudie suit episode).

"Hey, it's Def Leppard!" exclaims a surprised Rick Harrison, owner of the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas, as Joe Elliott and Phil Collen stroll through the door, apparently happy to help authenticate the guitar, which the seller is eager to exchange for $10,000 in hard cash. Phil tells the story of the instrument, confirms its identity, solos wildly in the shop, and a final valuation is reached: $12,000. 

Of course, that valuation would only increase once the guitar had been played by Collen on Pawn Stars, its cameo on the show increasing both the axe's provenance and its collectability. Another hand-painted PC1 eventually made its way to Essex Recording Studios back in the UK – who have a range of artist-owned, wallet-emptying gear for sale – and they advertised it on the Reverb website

The price? $35,000. 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.