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Bids on Kurt Cobain’s Smells Like Teen Spirit Fender Mustang have already hit $2 million

Kurt Cobain Smells Like Teen Spirit Mustang
(Image credit: Rob Pinney / Stringer / Getty)

Kurt Cobain’s Smells Like Teen Spirit Fender Mustang is due to go up for auction later this month. Now Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay is reported to have placed an opening bid of $2 million on the instrument.

The guitar was used by Cobain in the iconic Smells Like Teen Spirit video and carried an initial estimate of $600-800,000.

The instrument is set to take centerstage as part of Julien’s Auctions Music Icons sale later this month (May 20-22), with a portion of the profits going to Kick the Stigma, a mental health charity founded by Irsay.

According to The Indianapolis Star, the businessman and Colts owner has had his head turned by the guitar and its poignant association – and has subsequently decided to kick things off by placing a personal bid of $2 million on the instrument. 

“This guitar is big, and it relates so much to stigma,” says Irsay in the piece. “When you have a mental illness, people die. These are fatal diseases – bipolar, schizophrenia, post-partem depression, alcoholic addictions. With fatal diseases, people die and they don't choose to die.

“Those of us who are alive, we're not stronger or better. We didn't get our act together more. We didn't have more character. That's where it's so false.”

Irsay’s charity has so far helped raise over $16 million for mental health services and helped to start conversations around mental health in sport and music. The Colts owner is also reported to be an “avid collector” of instruments, so the Mustang clearly has genuine appeal to him beyond its philanthropic side.

Irsay’s actions have certainly fired up the sale, too. We commented in our initial piece that the $600,000 estimate seemed oddly low, particularly when you consider Cobain’s MTV Unplugged Martin D-28E sold for over $6 million in 2020. We suspect the Mustang could top that.

Sadly, though, that starting bid has just about tipped us out of the running on this one…

For more information on the sale of Kurt Cobain’s Smells Like Teen Spirit Mustang, head to Julien’s Auctions

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Matt is a freelance journalist who has spent the last decade interviewing musicians 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.