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Kurt Cobain's broken guitar sells for nearly $600,000

Kurt Cobain's smashed Fender Stratocaster is displayed at Julien's Auctions in Gardena, California on May 2 ahead  of Julien's "Music Icons" auction of over 1,200 items from rockhistory and exclusive artist collections.
Frederic J. Brown
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AFP via Getty Images
Kurt Cobain's smashed Fender Stratocaster is displayed at Julien's Auctions in Gardena, California on May 2 ahead of Julien's "Music Icons" auction of over 1,200 items from rockhistory and exclusive artist collections.

Kurt Cobain's black Fender Stratocaster is covered in scratches and chipped wood. The names of Cobain and his former band, Nirvana, are misspelled. And the guitar itself, which was once smashed and put back together, is no longer playable.

But on Saturday, the broken guitar was soldat Julien's Auctions for a whopping $596,000 — nearly 10 times more than the opening price — showing that the adoration for the rock icon is alive and well nearly 30 years after he died.

"Items from Kurt Cobain or Nirvana are becoming more difficult to obtain and they are one of the highest in terms of collectability of all rock bands," Darren Julien, the CEO of Julien's Auctions, told NPR.

Cobain was known to have destroyed multiple Fender Stratocasters during his career. This particular instrument was wrecked while Cobain and his band worked on their landmark album, Nevermind, in the early 1990s.

The guitar was eventually repaired and gifted to his friend and musical collaborator, Mark Lanegan of the Screaming Trees.

"Hell-o Mark! Love, Your Pal, Kurdt Kobain / Washed up rockstar," Cobain wrote in silver marker on the body of the guitar. Nirvana members Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl also signed their names.

"This artifact is particularly special," Julien said.

Other iconic references on the Fender Stratocaster is the inscription "Boddah Lives," scratched into the neck plate, which refers to Cobain's childhood imaginary friend. The guitar's case also includes the phrase "Abort Christ" written in large white letters.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.