Though we didn’t hear it often during his reign as the chain-smoking, bed-haired, cardigan-clad enfant terrible of Seattle’s grunge rock scene, a few hoarse chuckles from the late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain are no doubt hovering over the latest celebrity online auction.
Front and rear view of Kurt Cobain’s credit card
If anything could tickle Cobain’s funny bone, it would have been the sight of his old SeaFirst Bank Visa credit card going to the highest bidder at “Legendary: Memorabilia from Rock Gods & Pop Stars,” presented by auctioneer Paddle8 through Feb. 26.
Having reached a bid of $6,600 just two days in, the Kurt Card is expected to tap out at $7,000 to $9,000.
And yes, the winning bidder can pay for it with a credit card. Kurt would have loved that.
As memorabilia goes, the Kurt Card has its merits. For starters, because the February 1995 expiration date on the front is less than a year following his suicide, chances are it was among the last credit cards in his wallet. His signature in blue ballpoint on the back is followed by a handwritten Seattle telephone number, perhaps to the home he and wife Courtney Love shared overlooking Lake Washington with their baby daughter, Francis Bean.
It’s accompanied by a fold-over “King of Clubs Slot Club” plastic card carrier from the Riverside Resort in Laughlin, Nevada.
But you’d probably have to be a Nirvana trivia expert to recall the back story that makes this unlikely reappearance of Cobain’s SeaFirst card something of a cosmic howler — if not a one of-a-kind memento of sorts for deeply-felt if unexplained symbolic acts against unnamed financial overlords.
In 1985, six years before Nirvana would release their groundbreaking “Nevermind” album, the 18-year-old Cobain was caught red-handed defacing a branch of the very bank in his hometown of Aberdeen, Washington, that would one day issue him the Kurt Card currently up for auction. When he tried to run, a local cop chased him two blocks in his patrol car, cuffed him and hauled Cobain to the station.
Writer Charles R. Cross, longtime editor of the Seattle fanzine The Rocket, describes what happened next in “Heavier than Heaven,” his 2001 biography of Cobain:
At the station, he wrote and signed a statement that read in full: “Tonight, while standing behind SeaFirst Bank talking to three other people, I wrote on the SeaFirst building. I don’t know why I did it, but I did. What I put on the wall was, “Ain’t got no how watchmacallit.” Now I see how silly it was for me to have done this, and I’m sorry that I did.”
Sadly, Cobain has left the building. Seafirst is gone as well, having assumed the Bank of America brand in 2000. All that remains tying this card issuer to its famous cardholder is tucked inside a King of Clubs cover.
Who wants to bet it smells like Teen Spirit?