John Lennon and Paul McCartney
John Lennon with his Gibson J-160E (right) and Paul McCartney with his Hofner violin bass

An acoustic guitar used by John Lennon to write some of The Beatles biggest hits has sold at auction in California for $2.4 million (£1.5 million). Lennon bought the J-160E guitar in Liverpool in September 1962 for £161 ($242).

It was one of only two of its type especially flown from America to England in 1962 for Lennon and George Harrison. He used it to record and write hit songs such as "Love Me Do" and ''I Want to Hold Your Hand."

"John so loved this particular guitar that he would take it home and wrote songs on it with Paul McCartney," Julien Auctions said.

The guitar was stolen from the legendary singer at a Christmas concert in 1963 and then went missing for 50 years after musician John McCaw bought it in the late 1960s for $275, knowing nothing of its famous former owner or its value.

After stumbling on an old magazine story about Harrison, which featured a photo of the instrument which bore similar markings as his guitar, McCaw realized he was in possession of a piece of musical history.

Julien's Auctions has now sold it to an undisclosed buyer for twice the expected figure, shattering records for rock and roll memorabilia. Mr Julien said: "It's such an important part of Lennon's career and Beatles history. I knew it would go over $1m; I had no idea it would go over $2m."

The price far surpasses the $965,000 paid at a 2013 Christie's auction for an electric guitar owned by Bob Dylan. A Fender Stratocaster guitar - signed by the likes of Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney - sold for a record $2.7m in 2005 Sky News reports.

The drum head that the Beatles used in their historic performance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 was also auctioned on Saturday for $2.1 million. It was billed as the most famous of the seven known Beatles drop-T logo drum heads and the only one to be featured on a Beatles album jacket.

In August this year, the first recording contract ever signed by The Beatles, during their early days in Hamburg, Germany, went up for auction in New York.