Kurt Cobain’s iconic Smells Like Teen Spirit Fender Mustang to go on tour ahead of world-first auction

The blue 1969 Mustang Fender guitar used by Kurt Cobain in the 1991 Nirvana music video "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is displayed at the media preview of the "Music Icons" auction, at Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills, California, on April 11, 2022
(Image credit: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Earlier this month, it was announced that the Fender Mustang that Kurt Cobain used in the music video for Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit would be hitting the auction block for the first time ever in May.

Now, Julien’s Auctions has announced that the hallowed axe will be going on tour, meaning members of the public will be able to catch a glimpse of Cobain’s Mustang for free before it is sold at auction.

As part of the tour, the Mustang will take a trip to London, where it will be showcased at an intimate, invitation-only event on April 27 at the Hard Rock Cafe in Piccadilly Circus. Following the event, the Mustang will then be open to public viewing from April 28 to May 3.

It will then commute back to New York, where it will eventually be sold, for a three-day event that will see the six-string be displayed at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square, New York, on May 20, 21 and 22.

In a statement, the auction house said, “In this one-time exclusive UK exhibition, Julien’s Auctions will offer music fans in London the rare chance to see Kurt Cobain’s legendary blue Smells Like Teen Spirit music video 1969 Fender Mustang on display at the Hard Rock Cafe Piccadilly Circus, before it heads to New York to be sold at auction for the very first time.”

For the past 12 years, the guitar has resided in Seattle’s MoPoP museum of Pop Culture, meaning this brief tour will be the first – and potentially last – time people will be able to see the Mustang in public ahead of the private auction.

Julien’s Auctions has dubbed the instrument as “the electric guitar that changed music and the world," having powered the song that made Cobain and his Nirvana bandmates superstars.

Despite being famous for its appearance in the ‘91 music video – which has now been viewed well over 1.4 billion times on YouTube alone – the Mustang also accompanied Cobain on a number of live outings.

Its most notable live appearance came that same year during Nirvana’s show at the Trees club in Dallas, at which the six-string was smashed heavily by Cobain on a mixing board, causing the neck joint to break.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale will go towards supporting Kicking The Stigma – a mental health initiative launched by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, which works to remove the stigma associated with mental health-related illnesses.

Julien’s Auctions has estimated that the guitar will sell for around $800,000, though owing to the musical and cultural significance of the Mustang, we wouldn’t be surprised if it eventually smashed the one-million mark and beyond.

For more information, head over to Julien's Auctions.

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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.