Kurt Cobain’s Martin D-18E
This Martin D-18E Kurt bought in early 1992 at Voltage Guitars in Los Angeles for $5,000 [Julien’s]. It became one of his best known and most iconic guitars after he was seen performing with it during the MTV Unplugged in New York live album.
Kurt’s Martin is actually a pretty rare guitar produced only for a year in the late 50s, and it was one of the earliest Martins to feature electric pickups.
Kurt’s guitar, serial number 155864, was just number 7 out of 302, according to Julien’s. Also, the guitar originally came equipped with two DeArmond pickups.Embed from Getty Images
Regarding mods on Kurt’s guitar, apparently those stock DeArmond pickups didn’t sound very good with bronze-wound strings that Kurt was using, so his D-18E was fitted with an additional Bartolini 3AV sound hole pickup – which Kurt already tried out on his Epiphone Texan.
The Guitar Today
After Kurt’s passing, it seems that the guitar ended up with his daughter, Francis Bean – however, it was kept at the secret vault in Seattle, together with the rest of Kurt’s belongings.
According to TMZ, in 2018 the guitar ended up with Isaiah Silva, Francis’ ex-husband, as a part of the divorce settlement agreement. Soon after, it was auctioned through Julien’s, and ended up with RODE Microphones founder, Peter Freedman. The final price was $6 million, which makes this guitar the most expensive guitar ever sold through auction at the time of writing this.
Based on the more recent photos of the guitar, it seems that someone replaced the original bridge. When Kurt played the guitar, the bridge was adjusted for left-hand playing. On left-handed guitars, the bass side of the saddle is angled away from the fretboard, while on the right-handed one, the case is exactly the opposite.
It’s also possible that the old saddle slot was simply filled, and that someone re-cut the slot for right-handed play. In any case, this just goes to show that someone right-handed used the guitar during all these years.
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