When Levon Helm of The Band sang "I pulled into Nazareth, was feelin' about half past dead" in "The Weight," he wasn’t alluding to a weary pilgrim’s desire for salvation. Rather, he was singing about a mythological trip to Nazareth, Pennsylvania, home of C. F. Martin & Co., makers of Martin flat top acoustic guitars.

Founded in 1833 by a German immigrant named Christian Friedrich Martin, whose father was also an instrument maker, Martin was originally based in New York City before moving in 1839 to Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley.

Guitars from these earliest years had hourglass-shaped bodies, suggesting Martin’s German roots. By the 1840s, though, Martin was producing distinctly American-looking instruments, with smooth, flat tops and a big, bright sound. Shortly thereafter, in 1852, the company’s long-standing convention of naming its guitars after their size and style designations was established.

Martin’s 19th century guitars were smaller than they are today and were made for gut strings — guitars strong enough to handle steel strings would not appear until 1928. The original sizes (biggest to smallest) were 1, 2, 2 1/2, and 3. Sizes 000, 00, 0, 4, and 5 were added between 1854 and 1902, and in 1929 this numbering system was scrapped for the one we know today.

The OM, or Orchestra Model, was introduced that year; it is the same size as a 000. The D or Dreadnought (named for the large battleships of the day) appeared in 1916. It was bigger than a 000 and was originally produced exclusively for the Ditson company. But by 1931, Martin was selling its own D-size guitars. It became one of the company’s most popular guitars.

Other sizes in the line include the M (an 0000), the 7 (approximately 7/8ths of the size of a D), and the J (for Jumbo; it’s the same size as a M but as deep as a D), but all of these guitars were introduced on or after 1977, which makes them of little interest to serious collectors.

Style designations have remained consistent since the 1850s, although new designations added in the mid-1980s have made the designation system more arbitrary than it used to be. ...

Some of the most collectible Martin flat tops include the pre-war Dreadnoughts from the 1930s, which many of the world’s best musicians consider the Stradivariuses of guitars. That said, just about any of the 12- or 14-fret steel-string models from the mid-1920s until the mid-1940s will bring a good price.

Also worth keeping an eye out for are guitars made from the post-war years through the end of the 1960s, when Brazilian rosewood was replaced by Indian rosewood. Indian rosewood is handsome enough, but it lacks the visual richness of Brazilian. More importantly to musicians, guitars made from Indian rosewood don’t seem to sound as good as those crafted from Brazilian stock.

If your ear or eye is not as discerning as a professional musician’s, Martin has made it simple for you to tell which is which: Vintage Martin guitars from 1898 on are easy to date because each instrument is stamped with an individual serial number.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vintage Guitars Info

Vintage Guitars Info

This great reference site features detailed sections on vintage guitar makers, including Gibson, Fender, Martin, Gr… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Want to see all the old brochures and ads for your favorite vintage axe? Check out this great site, which showcases… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Martin D28m Merle Travis.only 100 Built. Serial # 4.mint!Vintage 1950 Martin 0 18 Acoustic Guitar Lifton Alligator Case Amazing Tone 00 DMartin B-51 Baritone Ukulele Uke 1950's Excellent +++ Orig Case 2014 Martin D-16rgt **near Mint**Martin Standard 000-28 Acoustic Guitar Great Condition Little Play - Late 20062006 Martin D-16r Great Condition!!!Martin Custom Acoustic Guitar 1697257Martin Custom Mmv Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar D-28 W/ohsc Gc Exclusive -2013Martin D-35 Acoustic Guitar 2001 W/ Orig Hardshell CaseMartin & Co. Lxm Acoustic GuitarMartin Gpcpa1 Plus Performing Artist Series Acoustic Electric GuitarMartin & Co. 1970's 00-28c Nylon 6 Stringacoustic Guitar Made In Usa2013 Martin Dcpa4 Cutaway Acoustic/electric Guitar With Hardshell Case Very Nice50's 60s Silvertone H929 H604 Flat Top Parlor Solid Birch Harmony/martin StringsUsed 1998 Martin Dc-1e Acoustic/electric Guitar!Martin Lx1 Little Acoustic Guitar For Parts Or Repair!Martin D-41Martin & Co. Drs1 6-string Acoustic GuitarVintage Martin Guitar Neck Mahogany Ebony 14 Fret Extra Fingerboard Part ProjectMartin Omcpa1 Acoustic Guitar Taylor ElectricMartin Lxm Little Acoustic GuitarMartin Om-28 Custom Shop W/gibson Tobacco Finish Fishman Matrix Pickup1971 Martin D28C.f. Martin & Co The Classic Backpacker Acoustic Travel Guitar W/ Gig Bag Nice!Martin Acoustic Guitar W/hscMartin D-15 14 Fret Dreadnought Made In Usa Scratch N Dent Plays GreatHawaiian Curly Koa Acoustic Dreadnaught Guitar Wood 4-pc Set For Martin KitNice Martin Rare Acoustic Custom American Made Satin Finish Adirondack? W/caseHawaiian Figured Koa Acoustic Guitar Dreadnaught Wood 6-pc Set For MartinTakamine Ef-340s Vintage "martin Lawsuit" Dreadnought With ElectronicsSigma By Martin Dr-41 Rh Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar W/ Hsc ~beautiful InlaysMartin Acoustic Electric Cutaway 6 String Guitar 000c-16gte 14 FretMartin 000x1 Acoustic GuitarC.f. Martin & Co Classic Backpacker Acoustic Travel Guitar W/ Gig Bag, Steel StrMartin Sigma D35style Guitar,japan,52sdr-9,solid Top,18211 Serial,clean,no ResrvVintage Martin Classical Guitar Neck 00-28c Mahogany Ebony 12 Fret14 Fret Dreadnought Rosewood/sitka Spruce Acoustic Guitar Kit, Luthier Martin 2010 Martin Hd-28 **a Cannon**Martin Sigma Guitar Dm-4s 1983Martin D-17 M, Excellent Condition With Martin Hs CaseMartin Gpcpa4 Sapele Acoustic/electric GuitarMartin Dm Acoustic GuitarMartin 000x1ae Guitar With Hardshell Case! Acoustic/electric!2013 Martin D28 **mint Perfect**Custom Martin Spec Guitar Kit Mahogany D-size Om-ooo, Parlor, Classical U ChooseMartin Lx1 Acoustic Travel GuitarMartin Standard Series D-35l Left-handed Dreadnought Acoustic GuitarMartin 000 Hardshell Case With Padding, Very Good Condition - No ReserveTakamine Vintage Acoustic Guitar 85' G330 Made In Japan Lawsuit Martin D28Martin 000 15 Parts Vintage Goya G3 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar, By C.f. Martin Co., See DescriptionGoya/martin Classical Folk Acoustic, Very Good Cond. Free Case, Nr!!Martin Dm3md Dreadnought Dave Matthews Guitar #198 Of 234Left Handed Lefty Martin D 21 S In Perfect Condition With Geib CaseMartin D-1gt Acoustic Guitar With Case Mint 9.5/10Dreadnought To Connect To Martin D-28 Microphone Mounted AmplifierCarl Martin Plexitone Overdrive Guitar Effect PedalCarl Martin Rock Drive Bob Dylan Owned Hard Rock Cafe Martin D-28 HscMartin Dm Acoustic Guitar With Lr Baggs Pickup And Martin Case

Recent News: Martin Guitars

Source: Google News

Moore Brothers to kick off Doudna season
The Daily Eastern News, August 27th

Some of these performances include Merlefest, the Martin Guitar Showcase at the Country Music Awards Festival, the OBX Bluegrass Festival, the IBMA Bluegrass Ramble Showcase and other shows around the East Coast. “The trio weaves a musical ...Read more

Entertainment Highlights: Americana Trio Kicks Off a New Road Show
Valley News, August 26th

In addition to asking Flinner and bandmates Eric Thorin (bass) and Ross Martin (guitar) to kick off the road show on Sunday, Ross has reserved five hours at a studio in Bath on Monday to record acoustic instrumental versions of familiar children's songs...Read more

Country star Brad Paisley teams with Santa Cruz Guitar to create signature model
San Jose Mercury News, August 26th

SANTA CRUZ - When a country western idol meets with a West Coast luthier, the result is a handmade guitar of exceptional quality. That's what happened when Brad Paisley collaborated with Richard Hoover, founder and chief executive officer of the Santa ...Read more

Brad Paisley teams with Santa Cruz Guitar to create signature model
Santa Cruz Sentinel, August 23rd

“When we began, people wouldn't play it if it didn't look like a Martin guitar,” he says. Hoover recalls that in 1983, trade magazines were predicting the extinction of the acoustic guitar. Just a few years later, that began to change, especially after...Read more

Women in Business Q&A: Amani Duncan, VP Brand Marketing, Martin Guitar
Huffington Post, August 17th

Before joining Martin Guitar I was the Chief Marketing Officer for Sean Combs Enterprises, where every day presented new opportunities and new challenges. It was a play-to-win environment where the impossible had to be viewed as possible. Creative ...Read more

Martin lets Musikfesters strum their own tunes
Allentown Morning Call, August 12th

Company workers are selling T-shirts and goodies, running contests for charity and giving Musikfest attendees a chance to play an honest-to-God Martin guitar — either in the background with no onlookers or on a microphone and a PA system with the...Read more

People travel worldwide to learn at Nazareth Guitar Institute (PHOTOS)
lehighvalleylive.com, August 2nd

Unger, who was in construction at the time, struck a deal with long-time Martin Guitar employee, Dick Boak. Unger performed some housing renovations for Boak who, in turn, taught Unger how to build guitars. "I grew up in Nazareth so I was always around ...Read more

Martin on Main tunes up on Saturday
Allentown Morning Call, July 29th

The other stage is the Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum Main Stage at the Nazareth circle where Martin aficionados from all over the country will perform. The headliner is Mark Kreitzer, who plays guitar, mandolin, bass, banjo and fiddle in styles...Read more