Cobain, that green cardigan, and his 1959 Martin D-18E. Thirty years on, Nirvana’s 1993 MTV Unplugged concert remains one of the most memorable sets in music history. As proof, the acoustic-electric axe that Cobain wielded during the gig just sold for a record-breaking approx £4.86 million at auction.
The sale, which took place in Beverly Hills on Saturday, garnered a ton of interest from musos and collectors alike. Julien’s Auctions opened bidding at a million dollars, but that was quickly eclipsed, and the winning bid came in at $6.01 million after fees. According to the auction house, the iconic instrument set no less than five world records and is now the most expensive guitar ever sold. The previous record was set in 2019 when a black Stratocaster owned by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour sold for early USD$3.95 million, or around £3.2 million.
The top bid came from the Australian entrepreneur and founder of Rode Microphones Peter Freedman. The die-hard Nirvana fan intends to take the legendary guitar on a worldwide tour, with all proceeds going toward the struggling performing arts sector.
“The global arts industry has been shattered by the impact of Covid-19, with musicians and artists being amongst the most affected,” Freedman said in a press release. “The last few months were the straw that broke the camel’s back, and for many in the arts brought forth the harsh reality that they work in an industry for which there is little support in times of need.”
The guitar was one of only 302 D-18Es built by Martin and was customised by the beloved 27-year-old singer-songwriter, who added a Bartolini pickup to the soundhole. It was sold with its original hard-shell case, which was decorated with a flyer from the band Poison Idea’s 1990 album Feel the Darkness, as well as three baggage claim ticket stubs and an Alaska Airlines “Fragile” sticker. Inside, the storage compartment held a half-used pack of guitar strings, three Dunlop guitar picks and a black velvet stash bag that’s fitted with miniature knife, fork, and spoon lapel pins.
Just last year, Julien’s auctioned Cobain’s famed green sweater from the same concert for $340,000, or around £276,000 establishing a new record for the most expensive sweater ever sold at auction. The MTV gig really is the gift that keeps on giving.
Check out more photos of the guitar below: