The guitar Kurt Cobain played during Nirvana’s 1993 MTV Unplugged performance just sold at auction for $6 million.
WRITTEN BY JOSEPH J. BELLINGER
Joseph Bellinger has thirty years of experience as a bankruptcy attorney and over twenty years as a bankruptcy trustee, serving on the Panel of Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustees in the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division (1996 – 2017), during which time he administered over 15,500 bankruptcy cases.
After serving over 20 years as a bankruptcy trustee in the District of Maryland, I have a fairly good frame of reference for the value of many things, such as residential properties, machinery and equipment, vehicles and boats, to name a few common types of assets.
I have also developed a fascination with how we value things –more specifically, how unpredictable value becomes when emotions are the main driver of the seller and/or the buyer.
For example: A debtor lists as an asset in her bankruptcy filings, “1 guitar” with a value of “unknown.” As trustee, I would have asked, “What kind of guitar is it?”
If the debtor answered, “Oh, it’s some old thing I bought at a guitar shop in Seattle. It is an old Martin guitar.” I would know that a Martin is to a guitar what Rolex is to a watch – almost any Martin guitar will have a value of up to $5,000 just for being a Martin guitar.
If I asked the debtor, “Did anyone famous ever play this guitar?” and she answered, “Kurt Cobain played this guitar in Nirvana’s performance on MTV Unplugged.” I would know that this Martin guitar has a value far greater than $5,000.
Kurt Cobain’s 1959 Martin D-18E guitar, inverted to accommodate his left-handed guitar playing, sold last week at an auction for over $6 million! The previous record was $3.95 million for a Black Stratocaster owned by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour.
The buyer’s motivation? After the auction, the elated high bidder said, “When I heard that this iconic guitar was up for auction, I immediately knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to secure it and use it as a vehicle to spotlight the struggles that those in the performing arts are facing and have always faced.”
Strange thing about his motivation for buying the guitar – he does not mention playing it.
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