When Nirvana agreed to appear on MTV Unplugged back in 1993, few could have predicted that the band’s acoustic set would go down as one of the greatest performances in rock history. Now the guitar Kurt Cobain played during the live concert could fetch $1 million at auction.
The sale is part of the Music Icons event hosted by auctioneer Julien’s Auctions next month. Cobain used the 1959 Martin D-18E during the in-studio concert on November 18, 1993, just a few months shy of his death at the age of 27. It was during this set that Cobain produced what many fans consider to be the definitive versions of several songs, including “About A Girl,” “All Apologies” and “Come As You Are.” The album of the show debuted at number one on the US Billboard charts and has since become a classic.
“Julien’s Auctions is proud to offer this historic guitar from Kurt Cobain, who upended the music industry and pop culture at large with his mythic performance fronting Nirvana on MTV Unplugged in New York,” Darren Julien, president and CEO of Julien’s Auctions, said in a press release. “This important guitar has earned its rightful place in Rock ’N’ Roll history as the instrument played by one of rock’s most influential musicians and icons in one of the greatest and most memorable live performances of all time.”
The vintage instrument was only the seventh of 302 D-18Es produced by Martin, making it rare and valuable even without its famous association. Cobain did make his mark on this particular example, however, when he added a Bartolini pickup to the soundhole. It comes complete with its original hardshell case Cobain decorated with a flyer from the punk rock band Poison Idea’s 1990 album Feel the Darkness. Three baggage claim ticket stubs are attached to the handle, and an Alaska Airlines sticker is affixed to the case.
Inside, there’s even more valuable memorabilia. The case’s storage compartment contains Cobain’s half-used pack of Martin guitar strings, three guitar picks, and his suede “stash” bag decorated with a miniature silver spoon, fork and knife. That package has led to the starting estimate of $1 million.
The auction is set to take place in Beverley Hills and online on Friday, June 19 and Saturday, June 20. See more photos of the guitar below: