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.
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Martin Guitar to Reveal New D-35 ModelsBroadway World, June 29th
C. F. Martin & Co. continues to celebrate the 50(th) Anniversary of the iconic Martin D-35 model with two commemorative limited-edition D-35 models at the 2015 Summer NAMM show in Nashville July 9(th) through July 11(th). The limited edition D12-35 ...Read more
Martin's Rich Pickings: The £100k guitarAcoustic Guitar Magazine, June 28th
Back in 2002, when Martin realised that they were approaching the manufacture of their one millionth guitar, plans were set in motion to ensure that it was something truly unique. Acoustic talks to Dick Boak about the mightiest dreadnought ever made...Read more
Chris Martin's guitar sells at auction for almost £19000Western Morning News, June 25th
A guitar owned by Coldplay's Chris Martin has been sold at auction for almost £19,000- more than double the estimate. The acoustic guitar, owned by the singer from Exeter, was used during the recording of Coldplay's UK number one hit album Parachutes...Read more
Coldplay star Chris Martin's acoustic guitar an auction hitBBC News, June 24th
Coldplay frontman Chris Martin's first acoustic guitar has been sold at auction for nearly £19,000, more than twice the guide price. The classical guitar, made by Tatay, was bought at a shop in Exeter, the city where Martin grew up. He took it with him...Read more
Bond memorabilia, Chris Martin guitar for sale at London auctionWNWN-FM, June 22nd
LONDON (Reuters) - From a replica of the handgun used in the James Bond film "The Man with the Golden Gun" to Coldplay frontman Chris Martin's guitar, a range of memorabilia from the world of entertainment goes under the hammer at a London auction ...Read more
James Bond gun and Chris Martin's first guitar go under the hammerReuters, June 22nd
From a replica of the handgun used in the Bond film ''The Man with the Golden Gun'' to Coldplay frontman Chris Martin's guitar, a range of memorabilia goes under the hammer in London this week. Edward Baran reports. ? Hide Transcript. ? View Transcript...Read more
Chris Martin guitar up for auctionGlasgow South and Eastwood Extra, June 4th
Chris Martin guitar up for auction. 11:41 Friday 05 June 2015 15:35 Thursday 04 June 2015. Chris Martin's first acoustic guitar, which he used during the recording of Coldplay's debut album, is expected to sell for thousands of pounds at auction. The...Read more
Martin Guitar has a new leader.Allentown Morning Call, June 2nd
"I am honored to join the Martin Guitar team, an organization whose distinguished history, traditions and culture are recognized throughout the music industry and by guitar enthusiasts worldwide." Renner said in a statement provided by the company...Read more