Kurt Cobain’s guitar from Nirvana’s iconic MTV Unplugged performance sold at auction Saturday for a record $6 million. The previous record was $3.95 million for a Black Stratocaster owned by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour.
Pre-auction bids on the 1959 Martin D-18E, purchased by the Nirvana singer at Los Angeles’ Voltage Guitars and modified for the left-handed Cobain, reached $1 million even bidding officially opened Saturday. The guitar received seven bids total, including the winning bid of $6,010,00, the Julien’s Auctions website stated.
The guitar also came with its original hard-shell case that Cobain had adorned with a flyer for the band Poison Idea’s 1990 album Feel the Darkness. Inside the case is a half-used pack of Martin guitar strings, three picks, and a “suede ‘stash’ bag” that’s decorated with a small silver spoon, fork, and knife.
Soon after the auction, the buyer was revealed to be Peter Freedman of Rode Microphones. “When I heard that this iconic guitar was up for auction,” Freedman said through the auction house. “I immediately knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to secure it and use it as a vehicle to spotlight the struggles that those in the performing arts are facing and have always faced.”
Freedman continued, “Nirvana’s Unplugged is one of my favorite records of all time and easily one of the best live performances ever captured on film. They were a huge influence on me; the early-90s were Rode’s formative years, and Nirvana’s music was very much the soundtrack to that time in my life and that era of the company.”
Freedman also said he planned to display the guitar in a worldwide tour of exhibitions, with all proceeds (including the guitar) going to the performing arts.
“This important guitar has earned its rightful place in rock & roll history as the instrument played by one of rock’s most influential musicians and icons in one of the greatest and most memorable live performances of all time,” Darren Julien, president and CEO of the auction house, previously said in a statement.
Other Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance items included in the Julien’s Auctions lot included Curt Kirkwood’s handwritten lyric sheet to the Meat Puppets’ “Oh, Me,” a typed setlist from the legendary gig, typed-out lyrics for David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” and Meat Puppets’ “Lake of Fire,” and a letter to Cobain from Nirvana’s management company nine days before the Unplugged performance outlining potential songs for the gig.
In October 2019, Cobain’s green cardigan from the Unplugged performance sold at Julien’s Auctions for $334,000, making it the most expensive sweater ever purchased at auction.
Julien’s Auctions’ Music Icons event also featured the sale of Prince’s “Blue Angel” Cloud 2 electric guitar, which exceeded pre-auction estimates with a winning bid of $563,000.