Two played-and-smashed Kurt Cobain Fender Stratocasters are up for auction

Julien's Live is auctioning two Cobain guitars
(Image credit: Julien's Live)

Update (12.04): This auction has now ended, and the guitars have sold for over $150,000.

We’ve seen some cool Kurt Cobain guitars go up for auction lately, and now there’s two more – a pair of Fender Strats – being added to the block, courtesy of Julien’s Live.

The first electric guitar is a played-and-smashed cream-colored Strat that Cobain used, and then destroyed, at a Nirvana gig in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on October 30, 1992.

The MIJ Strat is signed by Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic in black marker, and drummer Dave Grohl wrote an entire poem on the guitar within a heart-shaped bubble that reads: “Hello. My name is Dave. I like Rave. It’ll drive me to my grave. But I’m not dumb. I play drums with two green thumbs and a sour plumb that makes the roof of my mouth numb. David.”

According to Julien’s, someone, presumably Grohl, drew a stick figure inside the hole where the jackplate would have been, with a text bubble that reads “Help me!” Additionally, the back plate of the guitar has “The Who” handwritten as well.

The guitar is one that Cobain would typically use toward the end of Nirvana sets in case he wanted to destroy it. The Strat is missing strings and hardware and is in two main pieces, with two more additional small pieces that came off during the breakage included. Most of the serial number is still present at the back of the neck as “039699.”

Julien's Live is auctioning two Cobain guitars

(Image credit: Julien's Live)

The second Cobain guitar on auction is a black Fender Strat used on the 1993-1994 In Utero tour. Cobain gifted the guitar, which has a “#2” sticker on the back, to an audience member, Guillaume Enault Daniel Herve, after a performance, and the Strat is accompanied by a three-page letter of provenance signed by Herve. The guitar is in the original condition as when Cobain handed it to Herve.

According to Jim Vincent, Cobain’s guitar tech from December 1993, Cobain had five of these lefty black and white Strats shipped by Fender specifically for the end of set jamming and destruction during the In Utero tour. They were typically smashed at the end of the shows on the songs Blew or Endless, Nameless. Everything seems to be stock on this guitar except for the neck, neckplate and strings, which were replaced by Cobain’s tech for re-use.

This guitar was smashed at a prior performance (or perhaps several prior performances) and was one that was able to be repaired for future use. The tuning keys are Gotoh, Cobain’s preferred brand, and it comes with a hardshell case.

Bidding on the cream-colored Strat stands at $55,000. The black Strat, meanwhile, is currently at $60,000. 

The same auction is playing host to signed guitars from Eddie Van Halen, as well as prized instruments from Albert King, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix.

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.