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Kurt Cobain’s smashed guitar sells for nearly $600,000 at auction

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A guitar smashed once played by Kurt Cobain has sold for just shy of $600,000 (£480,000) at auction.

The instrument in question is a black Fender Stratocaster, which was reportedly broken by the frontman around the same time that Nirvana were releasing their now-iconic second album, ‘Nevermind’.

Hosted by Julien’s Auctions, it sold on Saturday (May 20) at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City, and exceeded all expectations by reaching 10 times the expected value. Originally, the axe was thought to bring in between $60,000 and $80,000 at the event, namely due to the period the musician used it and the details it included on the body.


Not only was the Stratocaster reportedly used by the musician around 1991, but it also features signatures from all three band members – Cobain, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic. Accompanying the guitar was a short note by Cobain, written for his friend and musical collaborator Mark Lanegan, who passed away in February last year.

In the inscription, which is at the bottom of the guitar’s body, the frontman also incorrectly spelt his own name. “Hell-o Mark. Love, your pal Kurdt Kobain. Washed up Rock Star,” it reads.

Kurt Cobain's Smashed Black Fender Stratocaster Electric Guitar is displayed during Julien's Auctions press preview ahead of the public exhibition and auction
Kurt Cobain’s Smashed Black Fender Stratocaster Electric Guitar is displayed during Julien’s Auctions press preview ahead of the public exhibition and auction “Music Icons”, at Hard Rock New York on May 15, 2023. CREDIT: Angela Weiss/ Getty Images

According to the auction house, the instrument was gifted to Lanegan by the late ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ singer during the North American leg of Nirvana’s 1992 ‘Nevermind’ tour.

The grunge icon notoriously smashed a number of guitars throughout his time in the band. Discussing his approach towards his live performances, Kody Frederick of Julien’s Auctions told AFP news agency (via BBC): “The man was angry, and you could feel that on stage. And you would feel that by the way he would treat his instruments.”

The Strat – which sold with the closing bid of $596,900 (£478,522) – was put back together ahead of the auction, but remains unplayable. The identity of the buyer remains unknown.


Back in 2022, another of Cobain’s smashed guitars sold for more than £400,000 when going to auction. The model – which was a 1973 Fender Mustang – was smashed onstage by Cobain during Nirvana’s first US tour in 1989, and sold for more than double the original estimate.

Similarly, in February, skateboarding legend Tony Hawk launched replicas of an Iron Maiden skateboard, which was hand-painted by Kurt Cobain, to raise money for charity.

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