Kurt Cobain’s MTV Unplugged Martin D-18E sells for record-breaking $6m

American singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain (1967 - 1994), performs with his group Nirvana at a taping of the television program 'MTV Unplugged,' New York, New York, November 18, 1993.
(Image credit: Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)

Kurt Cobain’s 1959 Martin D-18E acoustic guitar, which he played at Nirvana’s iconic MTV Unplugged in New York concert, has sold for over $6m at auction.

The winning bid of $6,010,000 at the Julian's Auctions sale came from Australian businessman and owner of RØDE Microphones, Peter Freedman.

That figure makes the acoustic the most expensive guitar ever sold at auction, eclipsing the previous record-holder, David Gilmour’s 1969 Black Strat, which sold for $3,975,000 last year.

Freedman plans to take the guitar on a worldwide exhibition tour of galleries and art spaces, putting the proceeds towards the performing arts.

“It’s a big deal. I didn’t even buy it for me,” he told the PA news agency.

“I paid for it but I’m going to use it to highlight the plight of artists worldwide by touring it around, and then I’m going to sell it and use the dough for that as well, later.

“Musicians and artists have supported my family since the ’60s. We’ve been in that game forever so I’ve been very lucky with RØDE and I’ve been able to give away lots of money, quite a few mill.”

(Image credit: Julien's Auctions)

The D-18E was the seventh of only 302 models build by Martin, and was modded by Cobain, who fitted a Bartolini pickup to the soundhole.

It came with the original hardshell case, to which Cobain added a flyer from Poison Idea’s 1990 album Feel the Darkness.

The case’s storage compartment contained a half-used pack of Martin strings, three guitar picks and a suede “stash” bag decorated with a miniature silver spoon, fork and knife.

The Martin is rumored to be the last guitar Cobain played before his death. In 2018, it was reported that it was no longer with the frontman’s family after his daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, left the instrument to her ex-husband, Isaiah Silva, as part of the couple's divorce settlement.

(Image credit: Julien's Auctions)

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Michael Astley-Brown

Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism from Cardiff University, and over a decade's experience writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as 20 years of recording and live experience in original and function bands. During his career, he has interviewed the likes of John Frusciante, Chris Cornell, Tom Morello, Matt Bellamy, Kirk Hammett, Jerry Cantrell, Joe Satriani, Tom DeLonge, Ed O'Brien, Polyphia, Tosin Abasi, Yvette Young and many more. In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe.