Kurt Cobain’s 1989 stage-played guitar sells for $486,400
Julien’s Auctions Icons & Idols: Rock N Roll auction featuring an incredible line-up of over 1,500 lots featuring memorabilia, wardrobe, musical equipment, jewelry and more from legendary musicians and pop culture icons, Kurt Cobain, Nirvana, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Prince, Neil Young, The Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Steve Jobs, Steve Vai, Don McLean, Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson, Eddie Van Halen, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Tupac Shakur, LL Cool J, Guns N’ Roses, Lady Gaga, and more, sold in front of a live audience at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City and online with thousands of bidders, fans and collectors from around the world participating.
One of the highly anticipated moments of the weekend was the sale of the 1973 Fender Mustang owned, stage-played, smashed and signed by Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain which was sold for an astounding $486,400, originally estimated to fetch $200,000. The axe was used on Nirvana’s first US tour at two performances in 1989 — the first at Club Dreamerz in Chicago, Illinois on July 8th, and the second at the Sonic Temple in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania on July 9th — where Cobain smashed the guitar to pieces across the stage during the finale performance of “Blew.” Following that performance, the band stayed at Sluggo Cawley of the band Hullabaloo’s apartment, where Cobain noticed a smashed Gibson SG hanging on Cawley’s wall. Cobain offered to trade it for the Fender Mustang he had smashed on July 9th because he thought he could repair the Gibson SG well enough to smash it again later on. Sluggo agreed to the trade and had Cobain inscribe the Mustang, signing as Nirvana and additionally drawing two flowers along the upper right portion of the pickguard before the band moved on to their next show. Along the lower portion of the body, the inscription reads, “Yo Sluggo / Thank for the trade/ If its illegal to Rock and Roll, then throw my ass in jail/ Nirvana.”
The King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, reigned once again on the auction block with his 18k gold and diamond Ebel brand wristwatch, purchased by Presley in 1972 selling for $256,000; a Las Vegas Cowboy shirt worn by Presley at the Bon Air Club in 1954 which sold for $31,250; a black leather belt monogrammed with the initials “EP” that sold for $28,125; and a 14k gold double loop bracelet that brought in $36,250.
Another top highlight of the auction was the sale of Steve Jobs’ personally owned and worn pair of brown suede leather Birkenstock Arizona sandals which was sold for an astonishing $218,750, seven times its original estimate of $60,000, a new world record for highest-selling price for a pair of sandals sold at auction, accompanied with an NFT of the sandals. The American entrepreneur and tech pioneer wore these sandals during many pivotal moments in Apple’s history. In 1976, he hatched the beginnings of the Apple computer in a Los Altos garage with Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak while occasionally wearing these sandals. This pair of Birkenstock sandals was previously owned by Mark Sheff, the house manager to Steve Jobs. The sandals have been a part of multiple exhibitions, including the History Museum Württemberg in Stuttgart, Germany.
Another remarkable relic that appeared on the auction stage was a Wm. Knabe & Co. brand Louis XV grand piano personally owned and used by the legendary Bob Dylan to compose tracks for his 1969 release and seminal album Nashville Skyline which would include the hit song “Lay Lady Lay” at his Byrdcliffe home in Woodstock, New York which sold for $217,600, over four times its original estimate of $50,000. Dylan’s circa 1960s abstract nude oil painting on canvas also sold for $100,000, five times its original estimate of $20,000.
The three-day auction offered astounding items from “Property from the Life and Career of Don McLean,” the legendary performer known for his touchstones “American Pie” and “Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)” including McLean’s 1969 Martin 00-21 acoustic guitar used to compose “Vincent” which sold for $156,250; a circa 1960 Vega banjo sold for $12,800; a tour used Martin D-45 acoustic guitar including during his guest performance of “American Pie” to close the 1997 Garth Brooks free concert in Central Park, New York City which sold for $44,800; McLean’s collection of Rolex watches including an Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona Zenith that sold for $35,200, an Oyster Perpetual Datejust wristwatch that sold for $11,520, and an Oyster Perpetual GMT Master II wristwatch that sold for $11,250.
“Property from the Archives of Steve Vai” excited metal and hard rock fans from around the world with the Grammy Award winning icon’s epic guitars, wardrobe and showstopping ephemera from his legendary career roaring across the stage with incredible results. From Vai’s jawdropping collection of electric guitars came a 2012 Ibanez electric guitar (“Evo IV,” SV28) that sold for $44,800; a 2011 Ibanez electric guitar with custom coral and blue finish (“Sofia,” SV 83) which brought $44,800; a circa 2018 prototype Ibanez Woody electric guitar (“Nauga,” SV 277) which sold for $12,800; a 1998 Ibanez Hoshino 90th Anniversary Model electric guitar (“Crystal Snow,” SV 152) that brought in $12,800 and more.
In partnership with Gibson Guitars, Julien’s Auctions proudly presented a number of blue and yellow Gibson Les Paul guitars as part of Gibson Gives’ fundraising efforts to provide relief to Ukraine. Highlights included a Gibson Les Paul played by Slash at a concert in Prague on June 18, 2022 signed and drawn with a skull in a top hat on the guitar by the rock legend which sold for $31,250, a Gibson Les Paul signed and played onstage by Slash which sold for $28,800 and a Gibson Les Paul played by Paul McCartney in support of Gibson Gives during his 2022 summer tour that brought in $76,800.
The Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert Collection charity auction offered guitars, cymbals, drumheads, and a one-of-one custom 2022 Ram Rebel Crew Cab pickup truck (sold for $64,000) with unique badging, all signed by music legends who participated in the all-star concerts honoring the life and memory of Foo Fighters legend Taylor Hawkins. The sale of these items will go towards MusiCares and Music Support. Highlights included (with winning bids): a Remo Ambassador drumhead signed by musicians Joe Walsh, Joan Jett, Stewart Copeland, and others who performed at the September 27, 2022 Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert at the Kia Forum in Los Angeles ($5,625); a Remo brand drumhead signed by musicians such as Elliot Easton, Stewart Copeland, Kesha, who performed at the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert in Los Angeles ($7,500); an EVH red, white, and black colored Van Halen guitar signed by numerous musicians such as Wolfgang Van Halen, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, at the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert in Los Angeles ($11,520); a black John Paul Jones Signature Manson Electric Bass Guitar played by John Paul Jones during the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert at Wembley Stadium in London, England, signed by John Paul Jones, Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl, Elliot Easton, and many other artists who performed both at the Los Angeles concert and at the London concert with NFT ($21,875, eight times its estimate of $3,000); a cherry red Brian May guitar signed by Brian May, Dave Grohl, Brian Johnson, Chrissie Hynde, and many others at the September 3, 2022 Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert in London ($21,8750); a metallic blue Gibson Trini Lopez electric guitar that is signed by musicians such as Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl, Chrissie Hynde, and many others that performed during the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert at the Kia Stadium in Los Angeles ($22,400) and more.
Additional stellar highlights included (winning bids with buyer’s premium): Prince’s blue 1992 Kurt Nelson Cloud electric guitar ($192,000); John Lennon’s pair of photo-matched round wire-rimmed gold-tone “Granny” glasses owned and worn on the cover of the 1988 biography The Lives of John Lennon by Albert Goldman ($162,500, over its estimate of $60,000); Tupac Shakur’s framed large-format black and white photo print of the rap legend’s hand prints on the celebrity sidewalk panels display outside of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood completed during a June 1996 fundraiser for AIDS Project Los Angeles (ALPA) at Planet Hollywood in Los Angeles, California ($128,000); a circa 1971 custom Axe Bass model guitar stage-used by John Entwistle of The Who. and played by Entwistle in the classic 1975 rock-opera film, Tommy (81,250, eight times its estimate of $10,000); a 1968 Fender Precision bass guitar used extensively by Stu Cook of Creedence Clearwater Revival ($93,750); a beehive hair topper worn by Amy Winehouse during her performance at the 2008 Grammy Awards ceremony ($12,500); a custom-made Gibson electric guitar smashed by Michael Jackson in the landmark video for the song “Scream” ($87,500); LL Cool J’s denim coat worn during In Concert ($12,500); Beatlemania items such as a rare UK red label Parlophone 7-inch first pressing of “Please Please Me” ($16,000) and a 2000 Hofner 500/1 Model 1963 Reissue bass guitar signed by Paul McCartney ($38,400) and more.