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For Sale: Kurt Cobain’s Iconic “Smells Like Teen Spirit” Fender Guitar

Ellen Gutoskey
Kurt Cobain performing (with a different guitar) in Paris in 1992.
Kurt Cobain performing (with a different guitar) in Paris in 1992. / Gie Knaeps/GettyImages
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When it comes to iconic songs, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” ranks among the best. In fact, back in 2015, University of London analysts named it the most iconic song of all time.

It was iconic in its early days, too. As the lead single off the band’s sophomore album Nevermind, it helped catapult Nirvana into the mainstream and make Kurt Cobain the face of the grunge movement. Over the years, people have paid homage to the song with their own sometimes strange renditions, a category that “Weird Al” Yankovic pretty much founded with his own 1992 parody “Smells Like Nirvana.”

In short, people can’t get enough of the grunge anthem and anything remotely related to it—and those people will soon have a chance to own a significant part of its history. The 1969 Fender Mustang that Cobain played in the music video, which MTV debuted in September 1991, is headed to auction.

The left-handed electric guitar, whose body and headstock flaunt the same Lake Placid blue paint job, is iconic in its own right: because Cobain really loved it. “I’m left-handed, and it’s not very easy to find reasonably priced, high-quality left-handed guitars,” he told Guitar World shortly before his death. “But out of all the guitars in the whole world, the Fender Mustang is my favorite. I’ve only owned two of them.”

kurt cobain fender mustang guitar
The Fender Mustang. / Julien's Auctions

With an endorsement like that from the likes of Nirvana’s beloved frontman, it’s not exactly surprising that Julien’s Auctions has valued the guitar at a “conservative starting estimate” of $600,000 to $800,000. It’s also not the only former belonging of Cobain’s soon to be for sale. His 1965 Dodge Dart 170 sedan, purchased for $2500 and fondly nicknamed “Baby Blue,” is expected to fetch somewhere between $400,000 and $600,000. 

Those items and other Cobain-related memorabilia will be featured in Julien’s Auctions’ “Music Icons” auction, which kicks off on May 20 and runs through May 22. You can find out more about it, including how to bid online, here.

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