Kurt Cobain’s Martin guitar from MTV Unplugged goes up for auction

The heavily modified Martin D-18E carries a presale estimate of $1million.

Kurt Cobain mtv unplugged

Photo: Frank Micelotta / Getty Images

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Kurt Cobain’s iconic Martin D-18E has been announced to be part of Julien’s Auctions upcoming Music Icons 2020 auction. The heavily-modded acoustic/electric guitar was famously played by Cobain during Nirvana’s entire set on MTV Unplugged in 1993.

The guitar is recognised as one the seventh of 302 such models built by Martin Guitars and was further modified to include a mounted Bartolini soundhole pickup – in addition to its two stock 1950s DeArmond Dynasonic pickups, three control knobs and three way toggle switch.

Kurt cobains martin d18e
Image: Julien’s Auctions

Cobain’s Martin auctions with its original hard case – decorated by the late musician, and with airline baggage claim ticket stubs still attached to the handle. Inside the case’s storage compartment are a partial set of Martin guitar strings, three guitar picks, and a suede “stash” bag decorated with a miniature silver spoon, fork, and knife. Also included is a flyer for punk group Poison Idea’s 1990 album, Feel The Darkness.

kurt cobain's guitar auction kit
Image: Julien’s Auctions

Nirvana’s 14-song set on MTV Unplugged has been widely celebrated both critically and commercially – receiving numerous awards and accolades for its live album release, and a 5x Platinum certification at the Recording Industry Association of America.

The guitar was also the subject of a multi-year legal dispute between Cobain’s surviving spouse Courtney Love, daughter Frances Bean Cobain; and the latter’s ex-husband, Isaiah Silva. In 2018, the Martin guitar ended up in Silva’s possession as part of divorce settlements with Cobain. The following year, Silva filed a lawsuit against Love, alleging that she conspired to have him killed in order to regain the instrument.

Juliens Auctions’ Music Icons 2020 event is set to take place 15 June, and will also see Prince’s 1984 Cloud guitar go under the hammer.

Learn more about Cobain’s Martin D-18E at juliensauctions.com

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