Kurt Cobain’s stage-smashed 1973 Fender Mustang sells for nearly $500,000 at auction

Kurt Cobain and his 1973 Fender Mustang
(Image credit: Julien's Auctions)

Kurt Cobain’s 1973 Fender Mustang – which was smashed onstage in 1989 by the Nirvana frontman – has sold at auction for $486,400.

It’s a staggering sum for a guitar that was destroyed effectively beyond repair when a young Nirvana took to the stage on July 9 at the Sonic Temple in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. Still, the six-figure price tag can be offset by the guitar’s history and the role it played in developing Cobain’s guitar-smashing showmanship.

Played only twice, Cobain wielded the sunburst offset amidst Nirvana’s first-ever US tour, which was conducted in support of the band’s ‘89 debut album, Bleach. It was one of the first signs of Cobain’s guitar-smashing tendencies, and a time when such activities were championed by the grunge legend.

Indeed, Cobain’s wrecked guitars are quickly becoming the stuff of legend – you need to look no further than his two smashed Fender Stratocaster and destroyed Univox (opens in new tab) for confirmation.

Kurt Cobain (right) plays a 1973 Fender Mustang

(Image credit: Julien's Auctions)

The Mustang in question met its maker when Nirvana made their way through a set-closing rendition of Blew, which saw Cobain batter the sunburst beauty beyond repair.

Four days later, Cobain smashed another guitar – that previously mentioned Univox, which sold at auction in 2016 – thus leaving him without an electric guitar for Nirvana’s forthcoming tour dates.

As such, Cobain famously completed the band’s nine-song set in Boston on July 15 without a guitar, leaving short-lived second guitarist Jason Everman to pick up the slack and deliver both guitar parts as best he could.

In attendance at that gig was Sluggo Cawley – member of a band called Hullabaloo – with whom Cobain stayed after the show. While in Cawley’s apartment, Cobain spied a smashed Gibson SG hung on one of the walls.

Kurt Cobain's smashed 1973 Fender Mustang

(Image credit: Julien's Auctions)

The two then brokered a deal that saw Cawley receive the wrecked Mustang and Cobain obtain the slightly less-smashed and easily repairable SG, which the Nirvana frontman went on to play at future gigs.

As a sign of his gratitude, Cobain also signed the Mustang, which has since carried the message, “Yo Sluggo, Thank for the trade, If its illegal to Rock and Roll, then throw my ass in jail, Nirvana.”

Just as we had anticipated when news of the auction first broke, the ‘73 Mustang didn’t make it onto the list of the most expensive guitars sold at auction, but it’s fair to say it exceeded most expectations by reaching almost half a million dollars.

Again, why the guitar carries such value is understandable: not only was it a right-handed guitar played upside down by Cobain, it comes from an era where Nirvana were starting to make an impact and when Cobain’s guitar-smashing antics took off.

One of Cobain’s instruments also tops the list of most expensive guitars sold at auction, which is currently headed up by his $6m MTV Unplugged Martin D-18E.

For more info, head over to Julien’s Auctions (opens in new tab).

Cobain's Mustang was just one of a number of instruments sold by Julien's over the weekend, and was joined by guitars signed by Dave Grohl, Nile Rodgers, Brian Johnson, John Paul Jones, Krist Novoselic and more, which were auctioned in honor of Taylor Hawkins.

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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.