The 1969 Fender Mustang electric guitar that Kurt Cobain used in the iconic music video for Nirvana's smash hit, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," has sold at auction for a whopping $4.5 million.
The eye-watering price tag makes it the second most valuable guitar ever sold at auction, beneath only another Cobain guitar – the heavily-modified Martin D-18E acoustic guitar the late Nirvana frontman used during the band's 1993 MTV Unplugged performance. That particular six-string was sold in June 2020 for $6,010,000.
Having gone under the hammer over the weekend (May 22), as part of Julien’s Auctions’ Music Icons sale, the Mustang obliterated its pre-sale estimated value of $600,000 – $800,000. It was sold to Indianapolis Colts owner – and noted collector of valuable guitars – Jim Irsay.
The Lake Placid Blue Mustang was used by Cobain for a number of prominent Nirvana live performances – including the band's show at the Tree Club in Dallas in 1991 and their 1993 set at the Hollywood Rock Festival in Rio de Janeiro. At the Dallas show, Cobain is said to have smashed the Mustang on a mixing board, resulting in a broken neck joint that was later repaired.
Its most memorable turn though, was its appearance in the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" music video, which – with relentless play on MTV – made Nirvana overnight superstars.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the guitar – which was previously displayed at Seattle's Museum of Pop Culture – are set to be donated by the Cobain family to Irsay's mental health-focused Kicking the Stigma initiative.
“I am thrilled to preserve and protect another piece of American culture that changed the way we looked at world,” Jim Irsay said of his purchase in a statement. “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.”
For more info on the guitar, visit juliensauctions.com.
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Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.