A guitar pick that previously belonged to Kurt Cobain sold at auction last month for a final price of $14,678.
The sale concluded on June 10 and the price fetched by the orange Dunlop Tortex pick represents – as far as we can verify – the highest ever paid for a guitar pick. So what makes it worth the money?
Well, the pick has a few unique features. Firstly, it’s signed by Cobain using his joke ‘Kurdt Kobain’ misspelling (similar to the 'Kurdt' signature found on the Cobain-used Boss DS-1 that sold at auction last year). It’s also been heavily worn and, in the place of the original Tortex tortoise logo, features a recreated tortoise doodle drawn by Cobain.
More important, though, is the context within which the Nirvana man used it. The pick was acquired on Friday April 6, 1990. This marked the end of the week that Nirvana spent demoing Nevermind material at Butch Vig’s Smart Studios – including the version of Polly that would make the final album – and it very likely saw use on those sessions.
The auction was won by Shaun Ertischek – a longtime Nirvana fan who describes himself as “an eclectic collector” and “product of the 1990’s alternative and grunge rock scene.”
“I knew this piece was special when I saw it come up at auction,” Eritschek tells Guitar World. “Guitars and other equipment used by Kurt Cobain have gone for exorbitant prices.
“I often try to get my hands on guitar picks during live concerts, but there is usually no way to authenticate them because they are so generic. How can anyone prove that a particular pick was used by a musician?
“This pick, however, was signed by Kurt on one side and he drew on the other side. His personality comes through in this little doodle.”
It’s not the first Cobain pick to come to auction. Another orange Tortex pick, used during Nirvana’s 1991 John Peel session, sold last year for $5,760. At the time, we remarked it was a huge amount for a pick. At three times the value, this latest sale comfortably eclipses that.
However, in this case, the context, the personality and the provenance – with multiple experts authenticating the signature – all persuaded Ertischek to stay the course in the auction. So how did it feel to win?
“It feels surreal to own this piece of music history,” responds Ertischek. “I haven’t seen anything like it before and it is truly one-of-a-kind. Kurt was obviously an incredible singer, songwriter and guitarist. It is beyond rare and special to have something played by his hand and subsequently signed.”
Ertischek says he hasn’t yet decided “if or how” it will be displayed, but for now there will be “occasional excursions to show off to friends that share my love and passion of rock music [and] I look forward to sharing its story with others.”
As Ertischek rightly asserts, Kurt Cobain is by some margin the most valuable celebrity name when it comes to record-breaking guitar gear auctions.
The aforementioned Boss DS-1 pedal used by Cobain in a John Peel BBC radio session went for $75,000 – making it very likely the most valuable guitar pedal ever sold at auction. Meanwhile, a Cobain-owned, stage-smashed Stratocaster fetched almost $600,000 earlier this year – likely, the most expensive smashed guitar ever sold.
Now, it seems, the world’s priciest pick can also be attributed to Cobain’s legend. Just go easy on the pick slides, eh, Shaun?