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Guitar World
Guitar World
Matt Owen

“That doesn’t make any sense. It was not worth that”: Guitar collector and Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay doesn’t think Kurt Cobain’s MTV Unplugged acoustic was worth $6 million

Kurt Cobain of Nirvana during the taping of MTV Unplugged at Sony Studios in New York City on November 18, 1993.

Sitting at the very top of the list of the most expensive guitars ever sold at auction is Kurt Cobain’s iconic MTV Unplugged Martin D-18E, which sold in 2020 for a whopping $6,010,000.

However, according to Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay – the renowned guitar collector, whose own catalog comprises a huge array of high-profile electric guitars – that figure “doesn’t make any sense,” and the D-18E isn’t actually worth that much.

The acoustic guitar was bought by Rode Microphones owner Peter Freedman, whom Irsay says had his own personal valuation of an instrument that clearly meant so much to him as a fan of Cobain.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” he says of the sale figure in an interview with Rolling Stone. “It was not worth that, but it was to him.”

That much is true. As per Rolling Stone, Freedman particularly wanted the acoustic as Nirvana's music had helped him through difficult times during the '90s.

Funnily enough, the second most expensive guitar to have sold at auction is another Kurt Cobain guitar – his Smells Like Teen Spirit Fender Mustang, which was bought in 2022 for $4,550,000 by – you guessed it – Irsay himself.

Despite his Cobain guitar costing just $1.5 million less than Freedman’s, Irsay says his purchase is easier to justify owing to its greater cultural and musical significance.

“That being Kurt’s main guitar, and the electric guitar that survived the stage and survived many a jump – versus a one-night show – I felt [the electric guitar] was worth more,” Irsay says.

However, Freedman, who was also interviewed for the Rolling Stone piece, was given the opportunity to rebut Irsay’s comments, and was quick to dismiss the NFL team owner’s observations that Cobain only used the Martin D-18E for the MTV performance.

“It was not a one-off guitar that Kurt bought and put away,” Freedman fires back.

Irsay’s comments are worth hearing out, though, especially since he has emerged as one of the most high-profile guitar collectors of our time.

His roster includes an ultra-rare 1964 Fender Jazzmaster owned by Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour’s famed Black Strat, and Bob Dylan’s Newport Folk Festival Strat, which he says is his favorite guitar of the lot.

In fact, Irsay’s guitar collection is so revered that he apparently was once offered over $1 billion to sell the entire catalog and relocate it to Dubai.

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