First manufactured in the United States in 1833, Martin guitars remain a mainstay in the music industry. While musicians know the company for its flat top guitars, they created several other guitar types through the years. Vintage Martin guitars are collector's items for both monetary and display purposes, so you should know what to look for when buying a vintage Martin guitar.
Martin Guitar Years
If the company manufactured a Martin guitar in 1898 or later, you can find out the exact year by checking the serial number inside the sound hole on the neck of the instrument. The first Martin serial numbers started with 8000, as Martin estimated it manufactured 8,000 guitars prior to printing serial numbers. You can use the serial number to research the exact year of manufacture of a particular Martin guitar. All Martin flat top and arch top guitars have serial numbers in sequential order, but mandolins and ukuleles have their own serial numbers.
Martin Guitar Types
Although people know Martin for manufacturing some of the top quality flat top guitars in the business, they have also produced many arch top guitars. One sound hole in the centre of the instrument characterises Martin flat top guitars. However, you can find some arch top guitars for your collection produced back in the 1930s. You can identify these guitars by their two sound holes, one on each side of the bridge, as well as an arched top that curves a bit at the start of the neck. Some arch top guitars have one sound hole shaped like an X. You can also find variations of these guitar types. For example, a guitar with one sound hole, but only four strings is a tenor guitar. You can also identify a tenor guitar by a T stamped by the style number, located above the serial number. Smaller Martin instruments with just four strings are ukuleles.
Martin Guitar Sizes
The exact size of any guitar helps determine the sounds it produces. Right near the serial number and the style number, collectors can find the size number, which Martin began printing on all of its guitars in the 1930s. You can determine sizes by letters, with a range going from O to D, with O being the smallest and D being the largest. In between, you will see OO, OOO, and OM.
Martin Guitar Original Parts
To make a vintage collector guitar truly valuable, it should have all of its original parts. If a part shows less wear than the rest of the guitar, odds are the part is new and this can bring down the instrument's value. The most commonly replaced parts on a Martin flat top guitar include the bridge, tuners, and frets.