Kurt Cobain’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ Guitar Sells For $4.5 Million

An iconic guitar once owned by Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain sold for $4.5 million on Sunday, after billionaire Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay scored the winning bid. The mythical 1969 Fender Mustang electric guitar was featured in Nirvana’s landmark 1991 music video, Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Cobain considered the guitar, with its “competition lake placid blue” finish, one of his favorite instruments, and said in his final interview with Guitar World: “I’m left-handed, and it’s not very easy to find reasonably priced high-quality left-handed guitars. But out of all the guitars in the whole world, the Fender Mustang is my favorite. I’ve only owned two of them.”

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The guitar holds a special place in rock and roll history, as it was used in the studio during the recording of the band’s major-label debut, Nevermind. The album is credited with bringing grunge music to a mainstream audience, which defined a turning point in pop culture. The Nirvana frontman also used the guitar on the group’s follow-up record, In Utero, which sold over 15 million copies.

The guitar remained in Cobain’s family after his death in 1994, but was lent to Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture, where it proudly remained on display for nearly 12 years.

“I am thrilled to preserve and protect another piece of American culture that changed the way we looked at the world,” Jim Irsay said after placing the winning bid. “The fact that a portion of the proceeds will go toward our effort to kick the stigma surrounding mental health makes this acquisition even more special to me.”

Darren Julien—president and chief executive officer of Julien’s Auctions—said that it is “one of the greatest privileges” of his career to be involved with the auction of the iconic guitar.

“To have this legendary guitar, one of the most culturally significant and historically important guitars of Kurt Cobain and in all of rock music history return to my home state of Indiana to be part of Jim Irsay’s renowned memorabilia collection is a great honor and personal highlight of my life,” he said. “This once-in-a-lifetime auction has been one of the greatest privileges in my professional career and I’m duly pleased that the proceeds will also bring much-needed attention to mental health awareness.”

In 2020, the guitar Cobain played during his iconic MTV Unplugged performance sold at auction for more than $6 million.

Source: Variety, Forbes

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