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Guitar from Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' video will be sold at auction



That's one of the most famous opening riffs in rock and roll history. And soon, you might be able to take home a piece of it for a price.


KURT COBAIN: (Singing) With the lights out, it's less dangerous. Here we are now, entertain us.


Nirvana's 1991 single, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," became an anthem for Gen Xers. The music video remains one of the most popular of all time.

MARTIN NOLAN: That is a video that has been watched over 1 1/2 billion times.

INSKEEP: Martin Nolan is executive director of Julien's Auctions, where, next month, they will host a sale of Cobain's memorabilia, including the iconic blue guitar played in that video.

FADEL: Nolan says the treasured piece of rock history is a left-handed 1969 Fender Mustang, and its auction comes at a time when many people are looking back fondly at the '90s.

NOLAN: There's a lot of money being spent on memorabilia today. People are nostalgic. They're looking for a memory - a legacy from their youth.

INSKEEP: Julien's Auctions has partnered with the Cobain family on sales for 20 years. A used paper plate that once held a piece of Cobain's pizza - and on which he'd written a set list for a show here in D.C. - went for $22,000 in 2019. Nolan says the guitar will go for a good deal more - anywhere from $600,000 to $800,000.

FADEL: Other items up for auction include Cobain's 1965 Dodge Dart and an illustration that Cobain drew of Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk. But if your pockets aren't quite deep enough, Nolan says they'll also be auctioning off NFTs of Cobain memorabilia, which he says appeal to younger generations.

NOLAN: Their mindset is different. They've grown up with iPhones. They've grown up with the technology that we didn't have, and so they're all about less clutter - like, less stuff. They're not that - really interested in owning stuff, but they're still curious.

INSKEEP: Might be better to have the guitar - if you can afford it - but Nolan says the enthusiasm for Cobain speaks to his enduring popularity.

NOLAN: You know, anything that represents Kurt Cobain - people want to own. And that's his legacy, and they want to keep his memory alive.

FADEL: The auction starts May 20, with a portion of the proceeds going to the mental health charity, Kicking The Stigma.


COBAIN: (Singing) Memoria... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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