In 2015, a sweater belonging to the late Kurt Cobain made headlines when it sold for a whopping $137,500. And while only four years have passed since then, that number already seems like a bargain. As of this past weekend, it's now the most expensive sweater to ever sell at auction—never mind that it's a moth-eaten blend of acrylic, Lycra, and mohair complete with a burn hole, a stain that a previous owner once ventured could be chocolate or vomit, and a missing button. Nor the fact that it hasn't been washed since Cobain died, in April of 1994.
And yet, when the custom-made Fender Mustang that Cobain brought on Nirvana's 1993 tour for In Utero went for $340,000 at the so-called "Icons & Idols: Rock 'N' Roll" auction in New York on Saturday, Cobain's sweater wasn't far behind. This time around, it fetched $334,000—well more than double what it went for four years ago. (The apparently ecstatic president of Julien's Auction, which sold the sweater, described it as the "holy grail.")
As for how the sweater accumulated such value—and a legacy that stretches from the title of a Pains of Being Pure at Heart song to a comprehensive history in Rolling Stone? It was the same sweater that Cobain wore when he and the rest of the band recorded Nirvana's live album MTV Unplugged in New York, which eschews hits in favor of covers of David Bowie, Lead Belly, and the Vaselines. By the time that Cobain died a year later, in 1994, it had already adopted a clear significance: Courtney Love gave the sweater to Jackie Farry, Frances Bean Cobain's first nanny. She had planned to give it Frances in her will, but, like another piece of Unplugged memorabilia, it might never make it into the hands of Cobain's 27-year-old daughter: After 10 years of battling cancer, Farry was forced to sell the sweater to pay for her medical bills.