Courtney Love’s Masterbuilt Surf Green Fender Venus goes up for sale

Courtney Love Fender Venus
(Image credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images / Reverb)

Courtney Love’s personal Fender Venus electric guitar, which was Masterbuilt in 1994 in the Fender USA Custom Shop, has gone up for sale on Reverb.

One of only three prototypes made, the Surf Green six-string was said to be designed collaboratively by both the Hole guitarist and then-Fender Artist Relations Builder Larry Brooks, who was also responsible for building Kurt Cobain’s Jag-Stangs.

The guitar was used extensively both in the studio and onstage by Love, who can be seen wielding the unique, single pickup-equipped six-string during historical performances such as Lollapalooza in 1994, Reading Festival in 1995 and the MTV Music Awards that same year.

Design-wise, it was an all-new body shape for Fender at the time, taking cues from a smaller-bodied Rickenbacker and a unique Mercury instrument that Love had been playing in the early ‘90s.

Notably, when the Venus was produced, Love was the only female guitar player alongside Bonnie Raitt to have a Custom Shop signature guitar.

As for its features, the retro instrument sports a string-through design, color-matched headstock and a single neck single-coil. The guitar is also devoid of any volume controls – a decision, according to Brooks, that was made by Love’s manager, to prevent her from “turning it up louder and louder” during gigs.

The Venus also flashes cream binding around the neck as a nod to late ‘60s Jazzmasters, a retrofitted Schaller bridge and Sperzel locking tuners.

Such was the cultural and musical impact of the Masterbuilt Venus, Fender partnered with Love to create a signature run of Squier Venus instruments in 1997, which took the original blueprint one step further with a bridge humbucker and volume knob.

In a signed letter that accompanies the Venus, Brooks wrote, “I was the Artist Relations Builder at Fender during the 90’s when I built/designed this guitar, serial number CN402003. 

“It was owned and played by Courtney Love,” he continued. “I worked closely with her to build this prototype. It was one of three guitars that were built for her during that time period. Fender model 'Venus' is what ensued.

“I designed this ballsy-toned guitar to include many custom aspects, like the bound custom shaped neck, matching painted headstock, absence of a volume knob, custom shape pick-guard, custom body shape, and strings that flare over the tune-o-matic bridge through the body.”

However, the guitar’s history is not without controversy. As per an article titled “The real story of the Venus design” (opens in new tab), the original Venus guitar – initially named Mercury – was supposedly conceived by Tim George and Danny Babbitt, and was sold to Love after Babbitt bumped into the Hole bandleader after attending a Nirvana concert in an effort to sell the band some guitars.

The original Mercury guitar can be spotted in the music video for Hole's Violet.

Love's Fender Venus is currently listed for $61,304. Visit Reverb (opens in new tab) to find out more.

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Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.