Kurt Cobain's iconic guitar sells for €5.4 million in California auction

The 1959 Martin D-18E was sold for $6 million at auction in California on Saturday
The 1959 Martin D-18E was sold for $6 million at auction in California on Saturday Copyright AP
By Michael Daventry
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The instrument was used by the Nirvana frontman in his 1993 MTV Unplugged set, one of Cobain's last appearances before he died.


The acoustic guitar played by Kurt Cobain during Nirvana's iconic MTV Unplugged performance in 1993 has been sold for $6 million (€5.4 million) at auction.

The record sum was paid in California on Saturday by Australian microphone maker Peter Freedman, who is the new owner of the 1959 Martin D-18E.

It is a clear sign that, 26 years after Cobain's death, love for his music and his band remains strong.

Martin Nolan, executive director of the auction house Julien's Auctions, which made the sale, said the guitar was typical of the kind of instrument Cobain wanted.

"Kurt, he didn’t look for ostentatious guitars or glamorous guitars," he said.

"He wanted a guitar because he was a left-handed guitar player, he needed one that was easily conformed from a right-handed to a left-handed, which Martin guitars are, so that was important to him."

Nirvana's MTV Unplugged appearance was one of the last televised performances by Cobain before he died.

Mark J. Terrill/AP
Kurt Cobain, pictured in 1993, was the lead singer of the US rock band NirvanaMark J. Terrill/AP

But his guitar is not the first piece of memorabilia from that set to go under the hammer.

"During that performance, Kurt wore a green cardigan sweater that he probably bought in a thrift shop for a few dollars, with cigarette stains and smells and everything else, and we sold that back in October of last year for $334,000 (€299,000)".

Nirvana's grunge rock sound and angst-filled lyrics struck a chord with young people in the early 1990s, and left a legacy that still resonates today.

On Friday the California auction house sold a custom guitar played by Prince at the height of his stardom for $563,500 (€504,000) — a small sum compared to the Cobain guitar, but more than twice what it was expected to fetch.

Other items sold on Friday included a macrame belt that Elvis Presley wore about 30 times on stage brought, which went for $298,000, and an ivory gown worn by Madonna in the video of her 1990 hit Vogue for $179,200 (€160,300).

Video editor • Michael Daventry

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