“The workhorse”: The Fender ‘Sky Stang’ played by Kurt Cobain during Nirvana’s last show – and 53 In Utero tour dates – is going up for auction

Kurt Cobain Sky Stang I Fender Mustang electric guitar used a Nirvana's final show
(Image credit: Raffaella Cavalieri /Getty Images / Julien's Auctions)

Just when we think we’ve seen the last of the Kurt Cobain mega auctions, something else comes along that blows our minds. Now Julien’s Auctions has announced that a made-in-Japan Fender Mustang electric guitar used by Kurt Cobain at his final public performance with Nirvana is going under the hammer.

Known as the The Sky Stang I, Cobain reportedly used the guitar extensively throughout his final tour dates with Nirvana, following the release of In Utero.

“Former Nirvana guitar technician Earnie Bailey refers to this Electric Blue Mustang as the Nirvana front man’s ‘workhorse,’” reads the Julien’s Auctions listing

“From its In Utero stage debut on October 18th, 1993 at the Arizona State Fair Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, to the band’s final performance on March 1, 1994 at Terminal 1 in Munich, this storied guitar was used during 53 of the 63 In Utero tour performances and the band’s final chapter.”

The Sky Stang I was one of 10 left-handed Mustang models reportedly bought by the guitarist ahead of the tour, but clearly became one of his go-tos as the shows progressed.

It is distinguished by the combination of its Electric Blue finish, a unique yellow ‘V’ shape on the tortoiseshell-style pickguard and a white humbucker in the bridge position. There is also a sizeable crack on the rear of the instrument, running from the neck heel to about half way down the body.

Of course, provenance is everything in celebrity gear auctions and the Sky Stang I has that in spades.

There is official footage of Cobain playing the Sky Stang I at the Munich show for a tongue-in-cheek cover of The Cars’ My Best Friend's Girl

It was also used for nearly all of the band’s MTV Live and Loud show in December, 1993 and has previously been on display in Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture. 

And, if all that’s not good enough for you, it is currently owned by one Chad Cobain –the late frontman’s brother.

In Kurt Cobain’s final interview with Guitar World, back in 1993, the Nirvana man discussed his reasons for playing the Mustang.

"I don’t favor them – I can afford them,” Cobain joked to Guitar World, at the time. 

“I’m left-handed, and it’s not very easy to find reasonably priced, high-quality left-handed guitars. But out of all the guitars in the whole world, the Fender Mustang is my favorite.”

At that point (February 1992), Cobain only owned two of them. The aforementioned order of 10 lefties came in July 1993.

The current estimate on the Sky Stang I is $1,000,000 – $2,000,000, but other notable Cobain instruments have far exceeded that. Cobain’s Smells Like Teen Spirit Fender Mustang fetched $4.5 million and his MTV Unplugged Martin D-18E went for over $6 million – placing it at the top of the pile when it comes to the most expensive guitars sold at auction.

This, along with Eric Clapton’s iconic Gibson SG ‘Fool’, which is also going up for auction, would seem to be prime candidates for Jim Irsay’s billion-dollar guitar collection

Regardless, let’s hope they both go somewhere we can see them… To register to bid, head to Julien’s Auctions.

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.