by Jef | Approximate reading time: 3 Minutes
Kurt Cobain's Martin acoustic guitar is up for auction

Kurt Cobain's Martin acoustic guitar is up for auction  ·  Source: Juliens Auctions


UPDATE: This guitar sold for $6,010,000 dollars, making it the most expensive guitar ever! The buyer: Australian businessman and owner of RØDE Microphones, Peter Freedman. Congratulations, Peter.


The Martin acoustic guitar owned by Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain is going up for auction. The instrument is famous for being used on the MTV Unplugged show and is said to be the last one ever played by the troubled musician. This iconic guitar is expected to sell for more than $1 million!

Kurt Cobain MTV Unplugged Martin

The guitar started life as a 1959 Martin D-18E and was eventually modded by the left-handed guitarist by adding Bartolini pickups. The instrument was made famous due its appearance on the Nirvana MTV Unplugged performance, a show that was filmed and released as an album. Many Nirvana fans around the world associate this one-off instrument with Cobain, so it is a pretty special piece of rock history.

Kurt Cobain MTV Unplugged Martin

Kurt Cobain MTV Unplugged Martin

Cobain Case Candy

The guitar still has its original hard shell case, which was decorated by Cobain with a flyer from Poison Idea’s 1990 album Feel the Darkness, three baggage claim ticket stubs attached to the handle, and an Alaska Airlines sticker affixed to the case. The contents of  the case include a half-used pack of Martin guitar strings, three guitar picks, and Cobain’s stash bag, decorated with a miniature silver spoon, fork and knife.

Kurt Cobain MTV Unplugged Martin

Kurt Cobain MTV Unplugged Martin

Divorce Settlement

Back in 2018 it was reported that the guitar was no longer with his family. Cobain’s daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, allegedly left the instrument to her ex-husband, Isaiah Silva, as part of the couple’s divorce settlement.

Juliens Auctions of the Kurt Cobain MTV Unplugged Martin

Juliens Auctions of the Kurt Cobain MTV Unplugged Martin

Smells Like Profit?

This very special guitar will be sold at Julien’s Music Icons event, taking place June 19 and 20 in Beverly Hills. It can be viewed at the Hard Rock Cafe in London’s Piccadilly Circus May 15-31 and then at Julien’s Auctions Gallery in Beverly Hills from June 15-19. Unfortunately, due to the COVID 19 lockdown, fans may not get the chance to see it at these venues.

With starting estimates for the Kurt Cobain 1959 Martin D-18E at around $1 million or more, this piece of music history will no doubt go to some private collector and end up inside a vault somewhere. So this may well be the last chance the world will have to see this iconic guitar.

Cobain’s Fender Mustang, his last instrument on auction, sold for $340,000 in October last year. However, I suspect this acoustic guitar will fetch a lot more, because of its link to the iconic MTV Unplugged performance, which many fans associate with Nirvana.



The guitar was sold for a whopping $6,010,000 to RØDE Microphones owner, Peter Freedman, making it, to date, the most expensive guitar to ever have been auctioned. Freedman plans to showcase the instrument on a worldwide exhibition tour, with proceeds generated being donated to the performing arts. “I paid for it but I’m going to use it to highlight the plight of artists worldwide by touring it around, and then I’m going to sell it and use the dough for that as well, later”, he said.

The Unplugged in New York Martin broke the record of the most expensive guitar to be auctioned previously held by David Gilmour’s Black Strat, which fetched $3,975,000 at Christie’s Auction House last year.


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7 responses to “Kurt Cobain’s iconic MTV Unplugged Martin sells for $6million!”

  1. Dane says:

    Little known fact about the guitar and the session:

    In the videos you might notice the other guitar player behind Cobain. Curious because you really only hear two guitars in the session: “Cobain’s guitar”, and Novoselic’s. I put that in quotes because what really happened is that Cobain was so stoned that the studio placed a session musician – that other dude – just behind Cobain, and that dude was told to watch Cobain’s playing and shadow it so that the mixer guy could fade from Cobain to the session musician whenever Cobain’s playing was bad.

    In the end Cobain was so stoned that you hear the session musician throughout the whole gig, not Cobain.

    So that guitar “being played” at the concert is a rather, uhm, artistic interpretation of what actually happened.

    • Cort says:

      Pat Smear. Toured with them for six months as, ahem, “backup”. After Cobain died and Nirvana ended he went on to rejoin Grohl in the newly-formed Foo Fighters.

    • Daniel says:

      Dane, what the hell are you talking about? Are you stoned or just a troll? We can hear two guitars and one bass consistently the whole show. Pat was in the band. Singing is a lot more difficult than playing those songs on the guitar, did he had a session singer as well for his f*ckups? Did he seem sooooo stoned during the show that MTV would have to resort to that? Musicians can play on heroin, so it would have to be a high dose like you suggest… Well, he managed to walk out of there by himself and never acted that stoned at all… I cannot imagine such high dose of heroin that MTV would allow the show and at the same time be fearful that he could not play but having faith that he would manage to sing well and while hearing him singing well, they though “lets cut off his guitar the whole concert”. Troll!

    • Brendan ODell says:

      Listen to “Something in the way” from the unplugged session. Kurt very clearly played and sang that one by himself.

  2. To say the guitar was “modded by the left-handed guitarist by adding Bartolini pickups” is not quite true. The two larger pickups with the chrome casings are DeArmond pickups and are original to the Martin D-18E model (E for electric). The black pickup supported by perspex plates in the soundhole is the Bartolini – note it is only ONE pickup and not plural. The volume and tone controls on the guitar don’t look to be original either.

  3. Ugo says:

    You are a guy, you meet the “right” girl, you marry her, divorce in 3 years and get a piece of music history as a settlement that you then sell for 6 milions. Go figure….

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