The guitar played by Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain in the music video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the band’s biggest hit, could sell for as much as $800,000 when it goes to auction next month, with a portion of proceeds set to go toward mental health charities.
In the video, Cobain played his 1969 left-handed Fender Mustang guitar with the brand’s Competition Lake Placid blue finish with matching headstock.
Fender Mustangs were his favorite “out of all the guitars in the whole world,” and he owned two of them, Cobain told Guitar World in a February 1992 interview, his last with the publication before his suicide in April 1994.
The “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video, which shows a high school pep rally developing into a chaotic mosh pit, was released on MTV on September 29, 1991, and its popularity helped push the album Nevermind to be certified as gold five weeks later.
The guitar has remained in the Cobain family, but for the past 12 years, has been lent out and on display at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, Nirvana’s hometown.
The auction will be held in May, which coincides with Mental Health Awareness month, and a portion of the proceeds from the guitar and sales of other Cobain memorabilia will be donated to a charity that raises awareness for mental health chosen by the singer’s family, according to Julien’s Auctions.
Along with the guitar, Julien’s Auctions will offer a nonfungible token featuring a 360° digital representation of the Fender Mustang along with a narration from Cobain’s longtime guitar tech, Earnie Bailie, which the auction house expects to fetch between $6,000 and $8,000.
Along with the guitar, Julien’s Auctions will sell Cobain’s 1965 Dodge Dart 170 4-door sedan, the only car that was owned and driven by Cobain that is known to still exist. The car was nicknamed “Baby Blue” for its light blue shade, and could sell for as much as $600,000, according to the auction house. After Cobain’s death, his sister Kim purchased the car from his wife, Hole frontwoman Courtney Love. The Dodge Dart will come with the original license plate and a vehicle title showing ownership by Cobain and Love. Other items up for auction that were owned by Cobain include a boarding pass for a United Airlines flight from Seattle to Chicago, a drawing of Michael Jackson by Cobain, and several of the singer’s tour passes. The items — which come from the Cobain family and people close to the Nirvana frontman — are being auctioned as part of Julien’s Auctions “Music Icons” sale, which will feature more than 1,200 items related to musical groups like the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Little Richard, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Erica Clapton, Cher, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix.
$6 million. That’s how much one of Kurt Cobain’s guitars – a Martin D-18E – sold for in 2020. It was the most expensive guitar ever sold at auction, and beat out the former record of $3.9 million paid the previous year for a Black Strat that belonged to Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. Cobain played the Martin D-18E during Nirvana’s 1993 MTV Unplugged performance in New York, which was one of the band’s last performances before Cobain’s death. It won a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Performance in 1995.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” is widely regarded as one of the greatest rock songs in the history of the genre, and is credited with popularizing the grunge subgenre. Last year, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was ranked by Rolling Stone as fifth on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
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