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Darren Julien, head of Julien's Auctions, holds a custom made prototype VOX guitar played by George Harrison and John Lennon during The Beatles 1967 Magical Mystery Tour. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press)

A custom-made electric guitar played by the late John Lennon and George Harrison of the Beatles sold at a New York auction on Saturday for $408,000 US, said officials with the company behind the event.

The semi-hollow-body guitar, manufactured by the VOX company, was sold to an unidentified U.S. buyer at the "Music Icons" event organized by Beverly Hills, California-based Julien's Auctions and held at the Hard Rock Cafe in Manhattan.

Julien's said previously it expected the guitar, which was the centrepiece of Saturday's sale, to fetch between $200,000 and $300,000.

Harrison played the instrument, distinguished by two symmetrical flared shoulders on the upper body, while practicing I Am The Walrus, and Lennon used it in a video session for the song Hello, Goodbye, according to a statement from Julien's Auctions.

Both songs were on the Beatles' 1967 album Magical Mystery Tour.

The VOX guitar was a prototype instrument custom-built for Lennon in 1966, said Martin Nolan, executive director of Julien's. Lennon gave the VOX guitar as a gift in 1967 to Yanni (Magic Alex) Mardas, who was the electronics engineer for the band's Apple Records label, the auction house said.

The instrument, displayed in recent weeks at a museum in Ireland before the sale, was sold a few years ago by Christie's Auction House for a little over $100,000. Nolan said the latest buyer, who sent a representative to Saturday's auction to bid on his behalf, wished to remain anonymous.

Lennon was shot to death in New York in 1980 by a deranged fan, and Harrison died of lung cancer in Los Angeles in 2001. The surviving members of the Beatles are Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.

Reuters