Released in September 1991, it became the band's most successful song and propelled Nirvana's "Nevermind" album to the top of several album charts at the start of 1992. Dubbed an "anthem for apathetic kids" of Generation X, it's often listed as one of the greatest songs of all time. It was certified platinum in the U.S. with sales of more than one million copies.
The guitar, which remained in Cobain's family after the singer committed suicide in 1994, spent the last 12 years in the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, Nirvana's hometown. Sold by Julien's Auctions, the left-handed Mustang far surpassed all expectations, after being estimated to sell for up to $800,000.
The guitar was acquired by Jim Irsay, the American businessman known for being the owner and CEO of the Indianapolis Colts. An avid memorabilia collector, Irsay also owns guitars played by Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Prince, and Bob Dylan.
A part of the proceeds was donated by the Cobain family to Kicking the Stigma, an initiative that raises awareness about mental health.
While $4.5 million is a massive amount for an electric guitar, it's not the most expensive instrument previously owned by Kurt Cobain that was sold at auction. In 2020, the Martin D-18E acoustic guitar that Cobain played during Nirvana's 1993 MTV Unplugged performance in New York went under the hammer for a record $6 million.
Julien's Auctions' three-day music auction event also saw Cobain's personal 1965 Dodge Dart cross the block. The light blue four-door sedan was estimated to fetch at least $400,000 but sold for $375,000.