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 for 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    

Cf Martin D-18 1980 Spruce & Mahogany Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar & Case_2 361701975 Martin D-35 Project GuitarMartin D-42 2010 Model W/original ReceiptVintage Martin 1950 0-18t 4 String Tenor Mahogany Project As Is Repair GuitarMartin Standard D-18 Acoustic Guitar2005 Martin D-45v Acoustic Guitar, Excellent / Mint, Vintage Series, No Reserve!Martin 000-28ec Eric Clapton Signature Limited Acoustic Guitar 000-28ec Vintage 1959 0-18 Martin Guitar Restoration?1972 C. F. Martin D12-20 12-string Acoustic Guitar2013 Cf Martin 00-18v W/ Delux Archtop Case-showroom Cond. Vintage Series Guitar1955 Martin Guitar 0-15Vintage Martin 5-15t 4 String Acoustic Tenor Guitar 1950s2000 Usa C.f. Martin Dc-16rgte D-16 Acoustic Electric Guitar & Ohsc L@@kGibson Hummingbird Cherry Sunburst With Martin Strings!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Martin Custom Shop Podium Oo-15 2002 Martin D-28 **a Cannon** (d35) No Reserve2000 Martin D-16gt **deep And Loud** (d18, D28) No Reserve 1969/1970 Martin D-18 S Guitar1998 Martin 000-28ec **bold Bright**Martin X Series Dx1ae Acoustic-electric GuitarMartin Guitar 000x1 & Hard Case1952 Martin 00-18 Acoustic Guitar - Original 2nd Owner Survivor W/ Original Case Martin X Series Lx Little Martin Acoustic GuitarGibson Dove With Martin Strings!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Martin Gpcpa4 Rosewood Performing Artist Acoustic Electric GuitarMartin 000rs1 Road Series Acoustic- Electric GuitarRare Martin Custom Dc Trey Anastasio Signature Edition Acoustic 11 Of 141 PhishMartin 000-15sm 12 Fret All Mahogany Acoustic Martin 000x1ae Acoustic-electric Guitar 1976 Martin D-76 Bicentennial ModelMartin Backpacker Travel 6 String Acoustic Guitar ModifiedPerfect Condition Martin Swomgt Acoustic Guitar With BearclawCustom Martin 00-15m!!Carl Martin Plexitone Overdrive Guitar Effect PedalMartin Dcme Dreadnaught Cutaway Mahogany Acoustic/ Electric GuitarCarl Martin Plexitone - Superb Sounding Marshallesque Drive & DistortionMartin Acoustic Om 28 V 2001 Flawless Vintage Series - Right HandedMartin Acoustic Guitar 0000-28h With CaseMartin Guitar!!! 00cxae Black!! Acoustic/electric!Old Martin Guitar Dx1 Dreadnought Spruce Top 6,034309 PatentMartin Backpacker Steel String GuitarVintage Sigma Dr-28 Acoustic Guitar By MartinWonderful 1984 Martin D-28 32 Acoustic-electric, Excond. Ohsc, Nr!Martin D-1 Dreadnought Acoustic GuitarMartin 000-28 Acoustic GuitarMartin J12-16gt 12-string GuitarMartin Guitar Kit - Partially Complete2013 Martin D12-28 **mint Mint Mint**Martin Acoustic Om 28 V 2001 Flawless Vintage Series - Right Handed2013 Martin D-28 Acoustic Guitar With Hard Black Carrying Case Vintage 1979 Martin M-36 Acoustic Guitar / #411882 / A Great Player /Martin X Lm Little Martinacoustic Guitar Gig Bag, Warranty Card, ReceiptMartin Backpacker Travel Acoustic GuitarCarl Martin Dc Drive - Overdrive Distortion And Clean BoostMartin Custom Lx1e Ed Sheeran Signature Limited Edition Acoustic Electric Martin Sigma Dr 28hMartin Backpacker Steel String Acoustic/electric GuitarMartin X Series Little Martin Lx Acoustic Guitar White With Martin Gig BagMartin Sigma Dm-1st Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar Natural Right HandedLittle Martin Guitar

Recent News: Martin Guitars

Source: Google News

Sylva welcomes Whitewater Bluegrass Co.
Waynesville Smoky Mountain News, July 30th

The driving rhythm of Bill Byerly's Martin guitar provides the backdrop against which the melody of sound is woven. With the addition of mandolinist David Pendley, the blend of the Whitewater sound has become riveting. Newest member 18-year-old fiddler ...Read more

Kyle Oxley's passion for guitar pays off
Muncie Star Press, July 29th

Kyle Oxley plays his brand new Martin guitar Thursday afternoon while surrounded by family, including sister Taylan, 16, who also sings, on the back porch of his grandpa's house. Oxley was able to buy the Martin, a long time wish, with the $1,000 he...Read more

Rare Elvis items go up for auction at Graceland
Today.com, July 29th

Elvis Presley said we could do what we want, but lay off of his blue suede shoes. That won't be a problem at the first-ever Graceland-hosted auction of King memorabilia next month. The lyrical footwear is not on sale — but fans shouldn't despair. As...Read more

Nazareth preps for thousands of acoustic guitar lovers to flock to Martin on Main
The Express-Times, July 27th

Martin on Main Music and Arts Festival held on Aug. 3, 2013 View full sizeJohn Hall, left, of Higgins, Pa., with Blues Creek Guitars, hands over a newly restrung Martin guitar to Peter Mansback, of Easton, during the Martin on Main festival on Aug. 3...Read more

Guitar maker's work strikes the right chord with players
Journal Gazette and Times-Courier, July 24th

STEWARDSON -- With a practiced eye and single-minded determination, Tom Foreman works long hours in his shop to produce top quality guitars some of which now rest in music studios in Nashvillle. Foreman 51, started repairing electric guitars while...Read more

Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson and Paul McCartney all strum Martin guitars made ...
The Patriot-News, July 16th

At your request, a bellman will deliver a D-40 Martin guitar to the suite for you to use during your stay. You can strum to your hearts content amidst photographs of other Martin guitar players like Clapton, Paul McCartney, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson...Read more

Greg Bates on Performing at NAMM: 'It's Just Fun To Go Sit and Play Guitars'
Billboard, July 14th

“I'm a Martin Guitar artist, so they let me try out a lot of their stuff. It's just fun to go sit and play guitars and hang out with gear heads where all they do is talk about pedals and guitars, pickups, and all of that. So, it's just going to be fun...Read more

Watch Martin's Summer 2014 New Product Videos!
Guitar World Magazine, July 13th

that will play tribute to Martin's factory locations on Sycamore Street in Nazareth, PA and Navojoa, Mexico; an exclusive Nashville show special; two stunning new editions to the acclaimed X model series; and two new Martin Guitar Custom Shop models...Read more