Kurt Cobain’s smashed up ’73 Fender Mustang guitar fetches $700K

A now-vintage guitar once owned, signed, and played by Kurt Cobain of Nirvana has exceeded sale estimates at a recent auction in the US.

A 1973 Fender Mustang guitar once played and smashed by Kurt Cobain has sold for over $700, 000 AUD at a recent auction hosted by Julien’s Auction House. The tobacco sunburst-finished electric guitar exceeded initial sale estimates of $500,000, due in part to its signed inscription by the late guitarist and its use during Nirvana’s first-ever US tour.

Prior to its demolition at the hands of Cobain, the guitar appeared at two stops of Nirvana’s 1989 North American tour, making its debut at the rock band’s Chicago show before being victim to an on-stage smashing by the frontman the following evening in Pennsylvania. Cobain trashed the instrument during Nirvana’s performance of Blew, which featured on the band’s first studio album, Bleach.

Credit: Julien’s Auctions

Sold in its unrepaired form, the guitar also boasts flower illustrations hand drawn by Cobain, as well as a message on behalf of the Washington rock trio which reads: “If it’s illegal to Rock and Roll, then throw my ass in jail, Nirvana.” When asked about his propensity to smash guitars on stage — a stunt he pulled at almost every stop during the 1989 tour — Cobain replied in a manner fitting for a true rockstar.

Why not?” Cobain famously said in 1990. “It feels good. Somebody already cut down a nice old tree to make that f—ing guitar. Smash it!”. The Cobain memorabilia formed part of Julien’s Auction House’s broader catalogue full of music history relics, including a wristwatch owned by Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan’s grand piano, and the electric guitar used by Michael Jackson in he and his sister Janet’s music video for Scream.

Kurt Cobain
Credit: Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic

The Cobain guitar sale comes just days after fellow music legend Freddie Mercury had his former Rolls Royce sell for over $500,000 AUD last week, the proceeds from which will be donated to Ukraine aid efforts. Meanwhile, the contents of writer Joan Didion’s apartment — including first-edition copies of her books and the work of Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell — were auctioned off earlier this month.