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 000-28 Acoustic Guitar W / Martin Ohsc! 2008 Model! Minty! No Reserve!!!!Martin Hd-28v Vintage Acoustic Guitar / Showroom Condition / No ReserveMartin Guitar Kit D-18 D-28 Large Box Of Luthier Wood Parts Necks Spruce Wood 2007 Martin Hd-28 **excellent** **a Cannon**Martin 000-28ec Eric Clapton Signature Acoustic Guitar W/case1941 Martin 0-15 All OriginalVintage Martin & Co 1966 00-16c Nylon String Classical Guitar (s04010979)1974 Martin D-28-12 String Old School Auction No Reserve .99 StartMartin D41Sigma By Martin Dr-9 Acoustic Guitar Sn 307035 W/ Chipboard CaseMartin & Co. Sigma Guitars Tb1b 6 String Acoustic Electric Guitar - BlackMartin Dr Rosewood Dreadnought Acoustic String Guitar Martin Case Road SeriesVintage 1969 Martin D-28l Acoustic Guitar Left Handed With Case Martin 5-18 1968 Guitar All Original With Period Correct Chipboard CaseMartin D-18 Acoustic Guitar Vintage Guitar W/hs CaseMartin Lxk2 Little Martin Guitar Koa With GigbagMartin "claire's Guitar" #58 Of 100, Limited Edition2005 Martin D-45 Marquis - Acoustic Guitar, ExcellentCf Martin & Co 'the Backpacker Guitar' Acoustic Travel Guitar Sn194.484 - RepairRare Antique Original Vintage Wooden Martin 2-20 Parlor Guitar Coffin Case Nice!Martin 1924 Style 2-17 Mahogany Guitar With Period Correct Chipboard CaseMartin Dcx1e Acoustic Electric Guitar Martin D-41 Guitar 2011 "great Sound" And **near Mint**2001 Martin Standard Series J-40 JumboMartin Performing Artist Gpcpa4 - Natural2007 Martin D-16gt Acoustic/electric **mint** Martin D 15 S Acoustic Guitar Sloped Shoulder -slack Key !Martin Mmv Acoustic GuitarSigma / Martin Dm-5 Acoustic Guitar Mij Japan W/ L.r. Baggs Element Onboard PuOriginal Set Of 1950's Grover Tuners For Martin, Guild, Gretsch, Vintage Guitar.Martin Guitar 2007 Custom Very Rare Model 000-42 MarquisMartin Guitar 028vsMartin Stamped "custom" Acoustic-electric Made In Usa! Awesome Hardshell Case A+Sigma/martin Dm-1full Body Acoustic Dreadnought Guitar,excellent Cond,no ReserveMartin Hippie Guitar, Model 000x *rare* 24 Of Only 200 MadeMartin Hippie Guitar, Model 000x *rare* 65 Of Only 200 MadeMartin Golden Era-marquis D-18ge 1934 Acoustic GuitarCarl Martin Compressor/limiter Pedal In Excellent Condition. Free ShippingMartin Omc 15e 6 String- Free ShippingMartin Guitar Genuine Fretboard Fingerboard 000 Slotted And Radiused!Martin BackpackerMartin Lxl Little Man Guitar Martin Guitar Gpcpa5 Black Acoustic Electric Martin Lx1 Little Martin Solid Spruce Top Acoustic Guitar With Accessories Martin GuitarC.f Martin & Co Gpcpa5 Artist Performing Acoustic/electric GuitarMartin Backpacker Steel String Acoustic GuitarMartin Standard D-41 Acoustic GuitarMartin 11gcbcl Left-handed Nylon String Backpacker Guitar W/gig Bag Lefty!!**call Store** 2016 Octa-switch Octa Switch Mk Ii Carl MartinMartin Sigma Leather Guitar Strap, 1980's - 90's, Good ConditionMartin Guitars Soft Leather & Suede Electric Guitar Bass 2.75" Wide StrapLearn To Play Fingerstyle Guitar Great For Martin D-18 D-28 Players +++

Recent News: Martin Guitars

Source: Google News

1870s Martin guitar smashed by Kurt Russell on 'Hateful Eight' set
Allentown Morning Call, February 5th

A priceless Martin guitar was destroyed by Kurt Russell during filming of 'The Hateful Eight,' and now the Nazareth, Pennsylvania, based guitar maker will no longer loan instruments for movies. At right is a Morning Call file photo of a 19th century...Read more

Liquidmetal Technologies and C.F. Martin & Co. ® Enter into Development Program
Business Wire (press release), February 1st

Under the terms of their agreement, Martin Guitar will provide its expertise in design and innovation for producing acoustic instruments that have been acknowledged to be amongst the finest in the world. In collaboration with the Liquidmetal...Read more

Solid Wood. No Compromise. Martin Guitar Proudly Presents The Dreadnought Junior.
PR Newswire (press release), February 1st

NAZARETH, Pa., Feb. 1, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Martin Guitar's Dreadnought Junior, which first debuted at the 2015 Winter NAMM Trade Show, is the perfect model to add to the Martin Guitar family of acoustic guitars. The Dreadnought Junior is a solid wood ...Read more

Martin Guitars Introduces the Dreadnought Junior
Premier Guitar, February 1st

Nazareth, PA (February 3, 2016) -- Martin Guitar's Dreadnought Junior, which first debuted at the 2015 Winter NAMM Trade Show, is the perfect model to add to the Martin Guitar family of acoustic guitars. The Dreadnought Junior is a solid wood guitar...Read more

NAMM 2016: Martin Guitar Introduces D-222 Anniversary and D-28 John Lennon ...
Guitar World Magazine (blog), January 14th

Martin Guitar will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of its iconic Dreadnought model (1916-2016), known worldwide as the most copied body size in the world. To launch the year-long celebration, Martin Guitar will unveil two distinctive limited...Read more

NAMM 2016: Martin Guitar Expands Standard Series, Introduces 17 and 15 Series
Guitar World Magazine (blog), January 13th

Just in time for the 2016 Winter NAMM Show, Martin Guitar continues its tradition of innovation by enhancing its iconic 18, 28 and 35 Standard Series and introducing new cutaway models featuring the new Aura VT Enhance acoustic amplification by Fishman...Read more

Martin Guitar Expands Their Premier Standard Series Line And Introduces New 17 ...
PR Newswire (press release), January 11th

NAZARETH, Pa., Jan. 11, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- (NAMM, Hall B, Booth 5454) – Just when you thought it could not get any better, Martin Guitar (www.martinguitar.com) continues their tradition of innovation by enhancing the iconic 18, 28 and 35 Standard ...Read more

NAMM '16 - Martin John Lennon 75th Anniversary D-28 & 000-17 Black Smoke
Premier Guitar, January 27th

Since attending a Dave Matthews Band concert as a teenager, Jason has been into all things guitar. An Iowa native, Jason has degrees in Music Business from Minnesota State-Mankato and Jazz Pedagogy from the University of Northern Iowa. Since then, he ...Read more