Kurt Cobain's guitar in 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' video sells for $4.5M at auction

FILE IMAGE - Kurt Cobain's 1969 Fender Mustang electric guitar photographed at Hard Rock Cafe on April 28, 2022, in London, England. (Photo by Rob Pinney/Getty Images)

Kurt Cobain’s Fender Mustang, the blue guitar that he played in Nirvana’s iconic 1991 "Smells Like Teen Spirit" music video, sold for nearly $5 million at an auction on Sunday.

The 1969 left-handed electric guitar was sold to the Jim Irsay Collection of Indianapolis during the Julien's Auctions' "Music Icons" event. The guitar had been expected to fetch between $600,000 and $800,000 — and the winning bid came in at $4,550,000. 

Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, already has an impressive collection of rare memorabilia from American history, rock 'n' roll, and pop culture and will display Cobain's guitar at an upcoming public exhibition on June 3 in New York City.

"Smells Like Teen Spirit" was Nirvana’s breakout single from its second album "Nevermind." The success of the song and music video on MTV catapulted the album to the top of several music charts and is often credited as the moment when grunge music entered the mainstream.

Julien’s Auctions previously noted how the Generation X anthem "turned the underground Seattle based trio, Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, overnight into the biggest band in the world, bursting on the music scene and pop culture zeitgeist with an explosion of energy unlike anything felt or seen before in rock history."

The "Smells Like Teen Spirit" music video depicted Nirvana performing the song at a high school pep rally, which turns into a mosh pit frenzy. The video was quietly released on Sept. 29, 1991, on MTV’s "120 Minutes," propelling the band into superstardom.

Cobain, who died by suicide in 1994 at age 27, spoke about his go-to guitar in a 1991 interview with Guitar World.

"I’m left-handed, and it’s not very easy to find reasonably priced, high-quality left-handed guitars. But out of all the guitars in the whole world, the Fender Mustang is my favorite. I’ve only owned two of them," Cobain told the outlet. 

For the past 12 years, the guitar has been on display at Seattle’s Experience Music Project, now named the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), the auction house said. 

In addition to the guitar itself, Julien’s Auctions also offered an exclusive NFT — a 360°digital representation of the Fender guitar — along with a minted narration by Cobain’s long-time guitar tech, Earnie Bailey, discussing the historical significance of the instrument. The NFT sold for $5,760 at auction.

Julien’s Auctions said a portion of the proceeds from the auction would benefit "Kicking the Stigma," an Indianapolis Colts and Irsay family’s national initiative to raise awareness about mental health disorders.

"I am grateful to the Cobain family for donating a portion of the auction proceeds to our Kicking the Stigma initiative on mental health," Irsay wrote on Twitter following the sale. 

Other Kurt Cobain items sold

The auction also included Cobain’s 1965 Dodge Dart 170 4-door sedan, which is the only known surviving car that was owned and driven by the famed musician, according to the auction house. The car sold for $375,000 at the auction.

After Cobain’s death, Courtney Love sold the vehicle to his sister, Kim Cobain, who had owned it for the past 28 years. 

"The roadworthy vehicle has a new water pump, gas tank, heater core and repairs made to the radiator, in which Kim personally worked on alongside her mechanic. Also included with the Dodge Dart is the vehicle's original license plates, and a vehicle title showing ownership by Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love," Julien's Auctions said previously. 


A light blue 1965 Dodge Dart 170 4-door sedan that is the only known car still in existence owned and driven by famed musician Kurt Cobain. (Photo: Provided / Julien's Auctions)

Cobain’s hand-drawn 1985 Iron Maiden "Killers" skateboard deck artwork featuring the Iron Maiden mascot "Eddie" plus NFT sold for $35,200. The auction house said Cobain was creating artwork on skateboard decks and T-shirts as a way of earning money at the time it was created. 


An original artwork by famed musician Kurt Cobain featuring the Iron Maiden mascot "Eddie" from the album Killers. The artwork was completed on a SIMS skateboard deck in February 1985. During this time, Kurt aimed to create custom artwork on skateboa

Cobain’s personally-owned Pokey toy, a bendable figure from the clay animation series Gumby inscribed with "Nirvana" on one side, fetched $5,625.


A child at heart, this Pokey bendable figure from the clay animation series Gumby was personally owned by famed musician Kurt Cobain. This figure is inscribed "Nirvana" on one side and features an illegible inscription on the opposite side. (Photo: P

This story was reported from Cincinnati.