Rare Beatles Vox Guitar Goes on Exhibit in New York City

A rare Vox guitar played by John Lennon and George Harrison will be on display throughout this week at the Hard Rock Cafe New York. The guitar will be auctioned off on Saturday, May 18, where it is estimated to bring $200,000 to $300,000.

The striking custom guitar has a special place in Beatles history. It was built by Mike Bennett with electronics by Dickey Denney of Vox in 1966 and presented to the group the following year while they were at work on Magical Mystery Tour. Harrison played the guitar while practicing “I Am the Walrus” during the Magical Mystery Tour sessions, and Lennon used it while recording a video session for the song “Hello, Goodbye” from the same period.

Lennon later gifted the guitar to Beatles pal “Magic Alex” Mardas, whom the Beatles had hired to design their Apple Studio in Savile Row. A plaque on the back of the guitar reads “To Magic Alex / Alexi thank you for been [sic] a friend / 2-5-1967 John.” Mardas says the date is a reference to his 25th birthday, which preceded the date on which he received the guitar.

The guitar is notable for its unique scroll design. It features a mahogany hollow body with a single f-hole, a 24-fret rosewood fretboard with rectangular inlays, and electronics that include six pushbuttons for treble, bass, top boost, mid-boost, fuzz and repeat. The headstock is labeled "Vox Custom.” Though the guitar was not originally designed as part of the Vox Kensington line, it has since become known as such.

The exhibit and auction will be presented by Julien’s Auctions, the world’s premier music and entertainment memorabilia auction house, at Hard Rock Cafe New York on Saturday, May 18.

The guitar is the highlight of the pre-auction exhibit, which also will feature rock and roll memorabilia from artists that include Elvis Presley, David Bowie, the Grateful Dead, Madonna, Jimi Hendrix, David Cassidy, Bette Midler, Beyoncé, Michael Jackson and more.

The general public can view the exhibition from Monday, May 13, through Saturday, May 18, beginning at 11 a.m. at the Hard Rock Cafe New York, 1501 Broadway, New York, NY 10036.

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Christopher Scapelliti

Christopher Scapelliti is editor-in-chief of Guitar Player magazine, the world’s longest-running guitar magazine, founded in 1967. In his extensive career, he has authored in-depth interviews with such guitarists as Pete Townshend, Slash, Billy Corgan, Jack White, Elvis Costello and Todd Rundgren, and audio professionals including Beatles engineers Geoff Emerick and Ken Scott. He is the co-author of Guitar Aficionado: The Collections: The Most Famous, Rare, and Valuable Guitars in the World, a founding editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine, and a former editor with Guitar WorldGuitar for the Practicing Musician and Maximum Guitar. Apart from guitars, he maintains a collection of more than 30 vintage analog synthesizers.