The Most Expensive Guitar Ever Sold Revealed!

by Madonna

Guitars, beyond their role as musical instruments, often hold significant historical and cultural value. The allure of expensive guitars lies in their unique craftsmanship, historical significance, and association with legendary musicians. These instruments become coveted collectibles, fetching astronomical prices at auctions. The combination of rarity, provenance, and the legacy of iconic performances imbues these guitars with extraordinary worth.

The Most Expensive Guitar Ever Sold

The title of the most expensive guitar ever sold goes to Kurt Cobain’s 1959 Martin D-18E, which fetched an astonishing $6 million at auction. This historic sale took place on June 20, 2020, at Julien’s Auctions. The guitar’s immense value stems not only from its association with the Nirvana frontman but also from its significant role in one of the most memorable performances in rock history.


Provenance and History

Kurt Cobain’s 1959 Martin D-18E is steeped in rock history. Cobain used this guitar during Nirvana’s legendary “MTV Unplugged” performance in 1993, a seminal event that showcased a more introspective and acoustic side of the grunge icons. The concert, recorded less than six months before Cobain’s untimely death, has since become one of the most celebrated and iconic live performances of all time.


The provenance of the guitar further includes its previous owners, starting with Cobain, who played it during the entire “Unplugged” set. Following Cobain’s death, the guitar remained within his family until it was put up for auction by his daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, as part of a legal settlement. This direct link to Cobain and the emotional weight of its history significantly contributed to its record-breaking sale price.


Specifications and Features

The 1959 Martin D-18E is a unique and rare model, combining Martin’s revered craftsmanship with early electronic amplification. The guitar features a solid spruce top, mahogany back and sides, and a Brazilian rosewood fingerboard and bridge. What sets this particular instrument apart are the modifications made by Cobain himself, including a Bartolini pickup installed in the soundhole, which was crucial for the “MTV Unplugged” performance.

The guitar’s distinctive wear and tear, as well as the modifications, offer a glimpse into Cobain’s personal style and approach to music. The fact that it remains in the same condition as it was during the historic performance adds to its authenticity and appeal.

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Comparison with Other Expensive Guitars

While Kurt Cobain’s 1959 Martin D-18E holds the record, several other guitars have fetched significant prices at auctions, reflecting their unique histories and associations with legendary musicians.

David Gilmour’s Black Strat: Sold for $3.975 million at Christie’s in June 2019, this Fender Stratocaster was used by Gilmour on many iconic Pink Floyd recordings. Its immense value is derived from its direct connection to classic albums like “The Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall.”

John Lennon’s Gibson J-160E: This guitar, used by Lennon in the early 1960s, sold for $2.41 million in 2015. Its significance lies in its association with the Beatles’ early hits and Lennon’s songwriting.

Jerry Garcia’s “Wolf”: This custom guitar, used extensively by the Grateful Dead frontman, fetched $1.9 million in 2017. Its unique design and Garcia’s legacy as a pioneering guitarist contributed to its high value.

These comparisons highlight the importance of provenance, historical significance, and the personal connection between the musician and the instrument in determining a guitar’s value.

Current Location or Ownership

As of the latest information, Kurt Cobain’s 1959 Martin D-18E is owned by Peter Freedman, founder of RØDE Microphones. Freedman purchased the guitar with the intention of using it as a centerpiece for a worldwide exhibition tour, with proceeds supporting the performing arts. His acquisition and planned exhibition aim to honor Cobain’s legacy while raising awareness and funds for a noble cause.


The world of high-value guitars is a fascinating intersection of music, history, and culture. Kurt Cobain’s 1959 Martin D-18E, with its record-breaking $6 million sale, epitomizes the extraordinary value placed on instruments that transcend their physical form to become symbols of artistic legacy. These guitars, through their storied pasts and associations with legendary musicians, offer a tangible connection to musical history, making them treasured artifacts for collectors and fans alike. Whether owned by private collectors or displayed in exhibitions, these guitars continue to inspire and evoke the timeless allure of music.


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