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Kurt Cobain’s Nevermind-era Fender Mustang smells like the next $1 million guitar as it goes up for auction

The Fender Mustang that Kurt Cobain used in Nirvana’s video for the era-defining hit single Smells Like Teen Spirit has gone up for auction – and it could well be the next million dollar electric guitar.

It is going under the hammer as part of Julien’s Auctions (opens in new tab) Music Icons three-day event, which sees a veritable cornucopia of gear and ephemera being auctioned. If you are sorted for entry-level Fender guitars, Cobain’s 1965 Dodge Dart, aka ‘Baby Blue’, is also up for grabs.

But this 1969 Fender Mustang, finished in Competition Lake Placid Blue – complete with racing stripe – is one of the defining instruments for a generation of guitar players. The Smells Like Teen Spirit video ushered in a new dawn for popular culture as grunge and alternative rock went mainstream.

Kurt Cobain Mustang auction

(Image credit: Julien's Auctions)

Julien’s places a conservative estimate of $600,000 - $800,000 on the Mustang. We are big fans of the painted headstock and would happily pay a premium for one, but the value of this guitar is related to its cultural importance.

For Cobain, the Mustang a perfectly utilitarian choice; cost-effective, compact, lightweight, easily modded/fixed, and last but no means least, he could find a left-handed model. The Mustang in question has been on display at the Experience Music Project in Seattle (now MoPOP Museum of Pop Culture) for the past 12 years.

A portion of the proceeds from the guitar’s sale will go to mental health charity Kicking The Stigma. 

This being a 21st century auction, there are a variety of Nirvana-related NFTs available, including on from Cobain’s tech Earnie Bailey talking about the guitar and its place in music history – this comes with a 360-degree digital representation of the Mustang and is forecasted to fetch between $6,000 and $8,000 – and an NFT of the Smells Like Teen Spirit sweater that Cobain wore in the video. Again, the sweater is digitally represented and accompanied by Cobain’s narration.

Kurt Cobain’s 1959 Martin D-18E acoustic guitar presently holds the world record for the most-expensive guitar sold at auction, edging out David Gilmour’s Black Strat in 2020 when it sold for $6,010,000 at a similar event hosted by Julian’s Auctions.

This year’s Music Icons event commences on Friday 20 May live at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York, and online at Julien’s Auctions.

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.