Is this the most expensive smashed guitar ever sold? Kurt Cobain’s stage-smashed Fender Stratocaster sells at auction for $600,000 – 10 times its initial estimate

Kurt Cobain's stage-smashed Fender Stratocaster sold at auction for $600,000
(Image credit: Jason Childs / Getty / Julien's Auctions)

A stage-smashed Fender Stratocaster played by Kurt Cobain has fetched almost $600,000 at auction, which could well make it the most valuable smashed guitar ever sold. 

We are, by now, used to seeing Kurt Cobain-associated guitars fetch a premium at auctions, but even regular observers and participants will have been shocked at the $595,000 price tag fetched by a broken Strat that once belong to the Nirvana frontman.

The 1990 Japanese Fender Stratocaster was signed by all three members of the band and features a notable inscription to the late Mark Lanegan, then frontman for The Screaming Trees. 

“Hell-o Mark!” reads the message. “Love, your pal, Kurdt Kobain [sic]/Washed up rockstar.”

The guitar was reportedly played onstage and met its end during the band’s 1992 Nevermind tour, before being gifted to Lanegan. As such, the instrument is missing half its headstock and a slice of the neck down to the third fret, where it splintered off during its onstage reckoning. 

Clearly, the context of the Strat’s use, the signatures and its previous owner(s) all seem to have contributed to the final price. 

The instrument carried an initial estimate of $60,000 - $80,000, but that always seemed a little low, particularly given two Kurt-smashed Strats sold for $150,000 in 2020 and, just last year, a stage-smashed 1973 Fender Mustang owned by Kurt Cobain sold at auction for $486,000. By our calculations, that Mustang now has the honor of being the second most expensive stage-smashed guitar sold at auction. 

Other contenders include Noel Gallagher’s 1960 Gibson ES-355 (famously smashed by his brother Liam Gallagher during the argument that led to Oasis splitting up in 2009), which sold for $403,000.

If you were to broaden the criteria to ‘stage damaged’, then you can mention Jimi Hendrix’s 1965 Stratocaster, which was the instrument he set fire to onstage in London in 1967. That one fetched around $497,557 at auction in 2008 – though the recent Cobain sale still comfortably exceeds that sum.

Regardless, there is certainly a premium associated with the Nirvana man’s gear. This is likely down to the ever-growing legend around the late Cobain, alongside (we suspect) demographic forces at play – as Gen X’ers hit the wealthiest stage of their lives. 

Indeed, the most expensive guitars sold at auction both belonged to the Nirvana frontman. Kurt Cobain’s Smells Like Teen Spirit Fender Mustang (as featured in the song’s promo clip) fetched over $4.5 million last year, while his Martin D-18E (aka the MTV Unplugged acoustic guitar) was sold in 2020 and still holds the top spot, raising over $6 million.

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Matt Parker

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