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.

Specs

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.

Photo credit: Julien’s

Bridge Replaced?

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.

The bridge saddle is now angled exactly the opposite of before.

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.

Feedback

GroundGuitar counts on your criticism and feedback. In case you notice anything wrong with the information posted on this page, or you have knowledge of something that you would like to share, be sure to leave a comment below.

If you notice a piece of gear missing, and you wanna add it yourself, you can do so on this page Add Gear to GroundGuitar.

In case you want to talk to me directly and privately, please use the Contact Form and I will get back to you as soon as possible. (Dan)

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
20 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Leandro
Leandro
2 years ago

This Martin is officialy the most expensive guitar ever sold, it was auctioned for $6 million dollars at Julien’s.

fouie lerris
fouie lerris
1 year ago

this guitar was given to his daughter in the will, when she got older she got married and then had a divorce, the only way for the divorce to go through was her having to give him this guitar unfortunately. he then put it up for auction which came to a grand total of 6 million US dollars, i think it was so wrong and should never of happened.

khristore
khristore
5 months ago
Reply to  fouie lerris

Actually the story is more complexed, you can find it easy.

Illya24
Illya24
4 months ago
Reply to  fouie lerris

Wow bet she is pissed because he sold it and because he got 6M to boot talk about a come up from a break up

Dems
Dems
10 months ago

Was it not modified also to accommodate him Playing left handed?

Dems
Dems
10 months ago

Still doesn’t say how much he originally paid for it!

Giuseppe
Giuseppe
5 months ago
Reply to  Dan Kopilovic

He bought it for $5.000 (as a vintage guitar) at Voltage Guitars in Los Angeles in 1992…

[From this YouTube video by Darren Julien (2:02): https://youtube.com/watch?v=a5yHjbTWG7A&feature=share ]

Giuseppe
Giuseppe
5 months ago
Reply to  Dems

According to Darren Julien Kurt Cobain bought it for $5.000 at Voltage Guitars in Los Angeles in 1992!

Wolf Wizard
Wolf Wizard
5 months ago
Reply to  Dems

$5,000 in 1992

Illya24
Illya24
4 months ago
Reply to  Dems

Think I saw 4/5k is what it sold for in a La.music store in a article related to this story

Giuseppe
Giuseppe
5 months ago

Ok for the sound-hole pick-up… so what about the other two pickups?! Any information?
Just curious also to know which one he used more often and how the electronic works on that guitar for blending / switching the 3 pickups. Any information or external link would be appreciated. Thank you in advance!

Giuseppe
Giuseppe
5 months ago
Reply to  Dan Kopilovic

Oh ok, I’ve read it once more and got it, sorry!

khristore
khristore
2 months ago

I’ve just made the full set replica;)
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=91U0SRxhmmM

khristore
khristore
2 months ago
Reply to  Dan Kopilovic

Thanks:)
Full description on my website khristore.com