Lot 94
  • 94

[Nirvana] - Kurt Cobain

30,000 - 40,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Guitar used and smashed in concert, 1989
  • wood, metal, plastic
Univox Hi-Flier electric guitar, phase 3 model (no serial no.) with 2 humbucking pickups, sunburst finish, maple body and neck, black-striped Univox logo on headstock, 2 string trees, white truss rod cover, 21-fret maple fretboard with black dot inlay, white pickguard, steel bridge with nylon saddles, steel tremolo, black plastic pickup rings; neck detached from body, wiring and internal electronics gone, baseplate of tremolo only present, parts of finish worn to wood, cracks and gouges in back. Original dark-gray tolex soft shell case with red shag lining, pictorial label from Morley Pedals on top with motto “Morley Men do it with their Feet.” Accompanied by a typed letter of provenance signed.


Janet Billig Rich


Chris Gill, “From the Archive: The Definitive Kurt Cobain Gear Guide,” Guitar World [http://www.guitarworld.com/archive-definitive-kurt-cobain-gear-guide?page=0,1]

Catalogue Note

“The wooden body of an Univox electric guitar, played by Kurt Cobain at Maxwell’s in Hoboken NJ of July 13th, 1989. The guitar was broken during the show, and the body was stripped of all electronics and components. The guitar body was gifted to Janet Billig by Kurt Cobain personally following the show, during the band’s stay at her apartment in New York City” (accompanying typed letter signed by Janet Billig Rich).

While critics have come to see the use of cheap guitars by Punk and Grunge bands as an anti-materialistic statement, Cobain always maintained that he bought them because they were the only ones he could afford. In 1989, Nirvana went on its first American tour. According to Earnie Bailey, a Seattle guitar repairman who was friends with Krist Novoselic and who often worked as a technician for the band, Cobain would look for cheap replacements in pawn shops or have Sub Pop [his label] ship him guitars via Federal Express.

"I heard stories about Kurt's guitar destruction from the Sub Pop people early on," says Endino. "When he was out on the road he'd call them up and say, `I don't know what got into me, but I just smashed up my guitar.' I don't think he was planning on smashing guitars from day one. It was just something he did. The poor Sub Pop people would call all the pawn shops up and down the coast, looking for Univox guitars."

Between tours, Cobain often bought equipment from Guitar Maniacs in Tacoma, Washington, and Danny's Music in Everett, Washington. According to Rick King, owner of Guitar Maniacs, Cobain "bought a whole bunch of Univox Hi-Flyers — both the P-90 version and ones with humbuckers. Those pickups have huge output and are completely over the top. He broke a lot of those guitars. We sold him several of them for an average of $100 each over the course of five years."

Many videos of the 1989 Maxwell's gig are now online, showing Cobain playing and then smashing the present lot.