“Sick”: In 1985, Kurt Cobain carved one word into this Teisco Del-Ray guitar. Now it has sold at auction for $153,000

Kurt Cobain Teisco Del Ray EV-2T
(Image credit: GWS Auctions)

A Teisco Del Ray EV-2T electric guitar engraved by Kurt Cobain has sold at auction for $153,000.

The electric guitar was never actually owned by Cobain, but had an interesting provenance, given the Nirvana man reportedly played it and inscribed the word ‘sick’ on the body when he stayed with previous owner, Johnny Cooper.

The guitar came with a letter of provenance from Cooper and carried a minimum bid of $10,000. 

That figure was comfortably exceeded by the close of the sale, with a winning bid of $120,000 (which was then subject to a 25% sales premium and other fees, making for the final $153,000 price tag).

As we have previously reported, guitars associated with the Nirvana frontman repeatedly rank among the highest-value instruments in the world. 

A Martin D-18E played by Cobain during his iconic MTV Unplugged performance is currently the most expensive guitar sold at auction, having gone for $6 million. 

Meanwhile, the Fender Mustang used by Cobain the Smells Like Teen Spirit video occupies second place, with a price tag of $4.5 million.

It seems that some of that stardust has rubbed off on the Teisco. However, the same cannot be said for the Franciscan acoustic guitar that featured in the same sale and appears to have gone unsold. 

Kurt Cobain Teisco Del Ray EV-2T

The engraved 'sick' – and is that a hidden 'KC' initial incorporated into the scrawl? (Image credit: GWS Auctions)

That instrument hailed from the 1996 Kurt Cobain estate sale and, while we hate to be that guy, GW’s initial observation that the auctioneer’s minimum price of $50,000 was optimistic appears to have rung true. 

Indeed, it proves that merely being a Cobain-associated acoustic is not enough to command the big bucks, if there’s no evidence of particular usage or interaction. Rather, if there’s one clear trend, it’s that personality counts when it comes to Cobain auctions. 

In comparison, the MTV Unplugged Martin has distinctive control knob mods, was used extensively in arguably the most iconic acoustic performance of the last 30 years – and has the advantage of being a vintage Martin build, to boot.

The Teisco certainly has character and a good story, too. In addition, as GW reader Teja pointed out to us following our previous story on the Teisco, Cobain’s ‘sick’ engraving also appears to have contained the frontman’s initials – note the small ‘C’ that appears to follow the K on the close-up.

On that point, some of the songwriter’s otherwise indistinct gear has also fetched huge prices thanks to his graffiti adornments. Not least, Cobain’s ‘Nirwahna’ Boss DS-1, which fetched $75,000 at auction last year.

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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.