Late rocker Kurt Cobain’s iconic guitar used in the video for Nirvana’s lead single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” has been sold at auction for $4,550,000. The guitar, a 1969 left-handed Fender Mustang, was expected to sell between $600,000 to $80,000, according to Julien’s Auctions.
The “Lake Placid Blue” guitar was bought by the Jim Irsay Collection, based in Indianapolis. The Cobain family, which owned the guitar before it sold, is donating some of the proceeds to Kicking The Stigma, the Irsays’ initiative to raise awareness about mental health, according to the collection.
Cobain’s guitar was also used in the studio while Nirvana recorded their albums “Nevermind” and “In Utero,” as well as numerous prominent live performances, according to Julien’s. It was named one of the 150 of the most important guitars of all time to be featured in the book The Guitar Collection, according to the auction house.
Before being auctioned off, the guitar was on tour in Beverly Hills, London and Indianapolis and then was on display at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City’s Times Square, according to the Jim Irsay collection.
“I am thrilled to preserve and protect another piece of American culture that changed the way we listened to and looked at the world,” said Jim Irsay, who is also owner and CEO of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. “The fact that a portion of the proceeds will go toward our effort to kick the stigma surrounding mental illnesses makes this acquisition even more special to me.”
Irsay’s memorabilia collection also includes items owned by several iconic artists, including Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Prince, Eric Clapton, Sir Elton John, Jimi Hendrix and others. He regularly loans items to museums, nonprofits and other organizations for display and research.
According to the Jim Irsay Collection, Cobain considered this Mustang his favorite. The collection will display the guitar at a free exhibit at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City on June 3, according to their Instagram post.
Cobain died in 1994 at age 27. The Seattle Police Department, which ran the case, re-examined the evidence in the music star’s death investigation in 2014 and confirmed Cobain’s death was a suicide.
In May 2021, more than 27 years after his death of Nirvana, the FBI released a 10-page file that included letters from fans urging the agency to investigate Cobain’s death as a possible homicide. However, the FBI said the case was not within its investigative jurisdiction.