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    

Vintage 1963 Martin 016ny Steel String Parlor Guitar No Reserve .99 StartVintage 1971 Martin 000-18 6-string Acoustic Guitar With Martin Hard Case1931 Martin Guitar C-2 Sitka Carved Archtop Brazilian Rosewood Side Back ProjectSuperb Condition 1970’s Martin Sigma Dr-7 Dreadnaught Jumbo Acoustic Guitar Nors1978 Takamine Acoustic "martin D28 Lawsuit" Guitar (f-360) -- Free Shipping!!Martin D42 Koa Acoustic Guitar 2005 In Mint Condition *unbelievable*1968 Martin D-28 Brazilian Rosewood Vintage Acoustic Guitar With Hardshell Case 1983 Martin 150th Anniversary Custom D-35 Brazillian Rosewood Rare Fancy Inlays!1922 Martin 00-21 Vintage Acoustic GuitarMartin 000-28 Eric Clapton '35 Sunburst Acoustic Guitar2012 Martin D-28 **dead Mint** **perfect** (d-35 Hd-28)2001 Martin D-28 **excellent** **a Cannon** (d-35 Hd-28)$1 Nr Lefty Martin Hd-28v Vintage Series Acoustic Guitar Hd28vMartin Om-1gt Acoustic GuitarSigma By Martin Acoustic Guitar Model Dm1 Sn 92131000 W/ Chipboard CaseMartin J12-15 12-string Acoustic Electric GuitarVintage 1964 Martin 00-16c Classical GuitarMartin Cs-21-112007 Martin Custom (d-15) Guitar W/ Factory Flat Finish L@@k Sigma Martin Acoustic Guitar Dm-1 W/ Case €Martin Hd28v Acoustic Guitar With Fishman Pickup Excellent Condition! Martin Hd 35 Guitar1963 Martin D-18 Acoustic Guitar2009 Martin Standard D-41 Acoustic GuitarMartin Hd-28 - 2007 - Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar W/ohsc1974 Martin D12-18 (12 String Acoustic)Martin 000-16 Sgt - 12 Fret Slot HeadMartin Hd28 Guitar W/ Fishman Elispe Blend Pickup SystemBrazilian Rosewood Martin Guitar KitHawaiian Curly Koa Acoustic Guitar Wood 4-piece Set For Martin / TaylorMartin 000-28 Eric Clapton Signature Model Acoustic Guitar - NaturalMartin Guitar D28 CoustomMartin Standard D-35 Acoustic GuitarMartin D-15 Acoustic GuitarAmazing 2013 Custom Collings D-41 Dreadnough Acoustic W/martin Fx Strings 1 2 3 Martin & Co. Custom Acoustic Guitar70' Martin D-35 S Solid Spruce Top Indian Rosewood Back&sides W Brazilian WedgeMartin B-1 Acoustic / Electric Bass GuitarMartin & Co. Vintage Series Om-28v GuitarLittle Martin Lx BlackMartin Standard D-18 Acoustic GuitarMartin Hd-28 W Molded Case In Martin BoxMartin 000c-1e Guitar Accoustic ElectricVintage 1937 Cf Martin 0-17t Tenor Guitar -plays Nicely, Needs A Little Clean-upMartin Acoustic GuitarMartin 000-28vs GuitarMartin Dx1 Solid Spruce Top Dreadnought Acoustic Electric + Lr Baggs & Case Dx-1Martin Standard D-42 Acoustic GuitarSigma By Martin Dm1 Acoustic Guitar Sn 92129711 For Project/repairMartin Gpcpa1 Performing Artist Series Plus Acoustic Electric 2009 Mint Cond.Martin Drs1 - Acoustic/electric Guitar With Hard Shell Case And Strap 1966 Martin Gt75 With Ohsc And Free Shipping!!!Martin & Co Dx1 Dreadnought Acoustic Solid Spruce Top Guitar With Skb Hard CaseMartin D-15m Mahogany Acoustic GuitarMartin Limited Editions Lx Elvis Presley Acoustic GuitarC.f. Martin Backpacker Acoustic Guitar, Steel Strings Good Cond. With Bag.Vintage 1970's Martin Sigma Dr 12-7 12 String Acoustic Guitar With CaseVintage 70's Aria 9400 Acoustic Guitar Martin Lawsuit D28 Mij Japan W/caseMartin & Co. Usa X Dme Acoustic Electric Guitar Dreadnought Dxme Luthiers Martin Size -000 To Om Mold W/ Or Wo/ Cutout & Middle Turnbuckle

Recent News: Martin Guitars

Source: Google News

Police recovery of stolen guitars strikes a chord as musician departs
Times Colonist, April 15th

The Martin guitar, worth about $1,800, was also gone, along with speakers, monitors, microphones and a seal-skin guitar strap made by a now-deceased friend. Osmond reported the theft to the Victoria police. The crime-reduction unit, which targets...Read more

Man sentenced in counterfeit Martin guitar scheme
Allentown Morning Call, April 10th

Authorities said the final defendant has been sentenced for his role in a scheme to traffic counterfeit guitars as those made by C.F. Martin and Company of Upper Nazareth Township. Randy Gray, 27, of Fort Worth, Texas, was sentenced Thursday to serve...Read more

Martin Guitar counterfeiting ring leads to federal sentences
The Express-Times, April 10th

Martin Guitar counterfeiting ring leads to federal sentences. Print · Rudy Miller | The Express-Times By Rudy Miller | The Express-Times The Express-Times Follow on Twitter on April 10, 2014 at 3:19 PM, updated April 10, 2014 at 6:23 PM. View/Post ...Read more

Review: Martin CEO-7 Acoustic Guitar
American Songwriter, April 9th

The first thing I noticed about the Martin CEO-7 was that, somehow, it didn't really seem like a Martin. I tuned it up and played it for a minute before I stopped and realized that it almost looked like a 1930s Gibson, even though the headstock did...Read more

The Twenty Million Dollar Guitar Auction That Wasn't: Guernsey's Aims High ...
New York Observer, April 7th

The guitar will be displayed in the Martin Guitar Museum in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, alongside other instruments that trace the evolution of America's best-known acoustic guitar manufacturer. “We are extremely happy and excited that this guitar is...Read more

1930 Martin guitar to be auctioned in New York City — to tune of $2 million
New York Daily News, April 1st

1930 Martin guitar to be auctioned in New York City — to tune of $2 million. Auctioneer Guernsey, located on the city's Upper East Side, will sell the 1930 Martin OM-45 Deluxe, one of the most expensive guitars on the planet, with a collection of 264...Read more

Against industry headwinds, Martin guitar stays strong
Fortune (blog), March 25th

Against industry headwinds, Martin guitar stays strong. March 25, 2014: 1:25 PM ET. Despite the rising cost of raw materials and a deluge of low-cost competitors, C.F. Martin & Company has managed to retain a reputation as the BMW of the guitar world...Read more

Parker Millsap Live: Presented by Martin Guitar
American Songwriter, March 20th

In his early teens, Parker Millsap took a trip to a high-end guitar shop in Oklahoma with his dad. He felt like a kid in a candy store, and picked there for hours on end, sampling as many vintage axes as he could get his hands on. Finally, his dad put...Read more