Competition for Nirvana memorabilia is at an all time high.
Instruments, autographs and ephemera from the Seattle grunge legends are selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Let’s take a look at why that might be.
Nirvana had a charismatic front man
If you were to take a look through my online store, it wouldn’t be long before you noticed the vast majority of my top end items are connected with charismatic people who died young.
Kurt Cobain was the most charismatic frontman of his generation
There’s a couple of reasons for this.
Perhaps the main one is the collective trauma brought about by the death of a popular celebrity. We all feel those moments. Many of us recall them with great clarity. It’s why you can remember exactly what you were doing the day you heard JFK had been assassinated or Princess Diana had died.
Along with those moments come intense, cathartic periods of mourning that play out in public. There’s a sense of unity that you rarely experience in secular life.
Nirvana are one of few bands to fit the bill. Kurt Cobain fronted one of the greatest bands of his generation. His suicide at the age of 27 was followed by a period of grieving among fans. His legacy was preserved in aspic.
That legacy is starting to have an effect now because...
Generation X is moving into middle age
I’m confident this is also behind the explosion in demand for Prince memorabilia since the star’s death last year.
Middle age certainly has its upsides. For some, one is an increase in disposable income. But middle age is also a time for looking back and taking stock. To remember formative experiences.
Memorabilia represents a link back to a moment in time. A chance to own something intimately connected with one’s youth.
And Nirvana were the voice of a generation.
Explosive influence on the music industry
Nirvana’s legacy rests on the way they smashed down the doors of the music industry.
Seattle was the home of Nirvana and the grunge scene
Here was an underground band with an unapologetically DIY ethos suddenly selling out arenas. It was punk minus the theatrics. The excesses of the 1980s came to a screeching halt. The fashion was for plaid shirts, baggy jeans and lashings of ennui.
While the Beatles were the first band to completely alter the music industry, Nirvana were the last. By the early 2000s, the way the industry operated was forever altered by the arrival of the internet.
For a band with such an enormous, dedicated following there is little genuine Nirvana memorabilia for sale.
Kurt Cobain's MTV Unplugged cardigan sold for $137,500 in 2015
The band formed in 1987, hit mainstream success in 1991 and disbanded after Cobain’s death in 1994. The band were not keen on signing autographs. Guitars were frequently smashed. Everyone was taking a lot of heroin.
Only a few pieces have ever surfaced and collectors have battled valiantly to attain them.
This effect will only become more acute in the years to come.
All the best,