The 1959 Martin D-18E acoustic-electric guitar far surpassed its original estimate of $1 million dollars. The sale set five new world records, including the most expensive guitar ever sold and the most expensive piece of band memorabilia ever sold. The buyer was Peter Freedman, founder of RØDE Microphones, who plans to display the guitar in a worldwide exhibition tour, with all proceeds going to the performing arts organizations.
In addition to the instrument itself, the guitar came with its original hard-shell case — decorated by Cobain with a flyer from Poison Idea’s 1990 album Feel the Darkness, three baggage claim ticket stubs, and an Alaska Airlines sticker — as well as Cobain’s half-used pack of Martin guitar strings, three guitar picks, and a suede “stash” bag with tiny utensils.
Prior to today’s auction, there was quit a bit of controversy surrounding the guitar’s ownership. Over the past several years, both Cobain’s daughter, Frances Bean, and Courtney Love have been locked in a legal tug-of-war to retrieve the guitar from his Frances’ ex-husband, Isaiah Silva, who claims he was given the instrument as a wedding present. Technically the guitar was auctioned off by an anonymous seller, but both Frances and Love think it’s Silva who decided to cash in, ignoring the family’s disputes.
There’s been a lot of Cobain memorabilia up for grabs lately. In the past year alone, his MTV Unplugged unwashed sweater was auctioned off, his former Seattle house with Love went on the market, and his estate launched the “Kurt Was Here” apparel collection curated by his daughter. Who needs a Marc Jacobs knockoff when you’ve got thousands to spend on the real things?
It’s also worth noting that Cobain’s Martin D-18E wasn’t the only prominent guitar auctioned this weekend. Yesterday, Prince’s Blue Angel Cloud 2 guitar sold for $563,500.