Hours after Kurt Cobain's death was announced, the top priority for entrepreneurs was to have enough merchandise for mourners

By Patricia Sellers
Updated April 22, 1994 at 04:00 AM EDT

On Saturday, April 9, The New York Times hit the streets with a front-page obituary for Kurt Cobain. By later that morning, at least two shops in Greenwich Village, Modern New York and Second Gift, were selling $15 T-shirts with the obit printed on the front. Where did they come from? ”Top secret,” says an employee at Second Gift, who would only disclose sales—two dozen shirts that afternoon alone.

No wonder entrepreneurs are exploiting Cobain’s suicide—they recognize a lively market. On Friday, April 8, photo agencies were charging nearly 10 times as much for a cover image of Cobain as on the day before. St. Martin’s Press is slated to publish a quickie bio, Never Fade Away: The Kurt Cobain Story, later this month. And at Geffen Records, a source reports that 40 minutes after rumors of Cobain’s death were first heard, an executive phoned the production department to make sure enough albums were available to meet the likely jump in demand.

Were there enough? Of course not. Nirvana collectibles—a rare interview CD, singles, and anything on old-fashioned vinyl—sold out in a flash across the country. In Seattle, mourners mingled with materialists stocking up on Nirvanabilia. Mara Rivet, a clerk at Tower Records in the University district, says, ”A lot of people have been trying to figure out how to cash in: ‘So what kinda Kurt Cobain stuff d’ya got? How much d’ya think it’s gonna be worth tomorrow?”’ At the Cellophane Square record store, clerk Chris Scofield was getting the same queries—and from customers he believes hadn’t even heard of the band before. ”I just tell them, ‘I really don’t know what it’ll be worth,”’ he says. ”I hope nothing.”