Kurt Cobain’s Smells Like Teen Spirit Fender Mustang sells at auction for $4.5 million

Kurt Cobain and his Fender Mustang
(Image credit: Nirvana/YouTube / Rob Pinney/Getty Images)

Kurt Cobain’s legendary Fender Mustang – best known for its appearance in Nirvana’s music video for Smells Like Teen Spirit – has sold at auction for almost $5 million.

The iconic offset smashed the incredibly conservative estimation set by host auction house Julien’s Auctions, who originally expected the guitar to sell for $800,000. Instead – following a $2 million bid from Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay earlier this month – the iconic six-string ultimately sold for $4,550,000 after 27 bids.

The Mustang was snapped up by Irsay, who will be adding the electric guitar to The Jim Irsay Collection in Indianapolis, which is filled with other museum-quality memorabilia from American rock ‘n’ roll history.

Thanks to the eye-watering sum, the sale now makes Cobain’s Lake Placid Blue Fender the second most expensive guitar ever to be sold at auction, overtaking David Gilmour’s Black Fender Stratocaster, which sold for $3,975,000 in 2019.

Kurt Cobain's Fender Mustang

(Image credit: Julien's Auctions)

It sits behind another Cobain instrument, the Nirvana frontman’s MTV Unplugged Martin D-18 acoustic guitar, which occupies the top spot following a $6 million sale in 2020.

A portion of the Mustang’s $4.5 million sale will go towards supporting mental health charity Kicking The Stigma, which was founded by Irsay.

Of the sale, Irsay said, “I am thrilled to preserve and protect another piece of American culture that changed the way we looked at [the] world. The fact that a portion of the proceeds will go toward our effort to kick the stigma surrounding mental health makes this acquisition even more special to me.”

Elsewhere, Darren Julien, CEO of Julien’s Auctions, described Cobain’s Mustang as “one of the most culturally significant and historically important guitars… in all of rock music history”.

“To have this legendary guitar return to my home state of Indiana to be part of Jim Irsay's renowned memorabilia collection is a great honor and personal highlight of my life,” said Julien. “This once-in-a-lifetime auction has been one of the greatest privileges in my professional career and I'm duly pleased that the proceeds will also bring much needed attention to mental health awareness.”

The guitar made its most notable appearance in the Smells Like Teen Spirit music video, which debuted on the September 29 edition of MTV’s 120 Minutes in 1991.

It occasionally saw some live action, too, and was wielded by Cobain at Nirvana’s 1993 Hollywood Rock Festival set in Rio de Janeiro and their Tree Club, Dallas, show in ‘91. During the latter show, Cobain smashed the Mustang on a mixing board, resulting in a broken neck joint that was later repaired.

For more information about the auction, head over to Julien’s Auctions.

It proved to be a busy weekend for Julien’s Auctions, which also hosted the Property from the Archives of Alex Lifeson auction. In that event, the Rush legend’s treasured Gibson ES-355 sold for $384,000.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Matt Owen

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.