Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS


Support ANTIQUES ROADSHOW by supporting public television! Give Today
  • ON TV
  • SHOP
  • The Roadshow Archive

    Martin Guitars, ca. 1850, 1946

    Appraised Value:

    $13,000 - $16,000

    Appraised on: July 31, 2004

    Appraised in: Memphis, Tennessee

    Appraised by: David Bonsey

    Category: Musical Instruments

    Episode Info: Memphis, Hour 2 (#908)

    Originally Aired: February 21, 2005

    slideshow IMAGE: 1 of 1  

    More Like This:

    Form: Acoustic Guitar
    Material: Wood
    Period / Style: 19th Century, 20th Century
    Value Range: $13,000 - $16,000

    Related Links:

    Understanding Our Appraisals
    Useful tips to keep in mind when watching ANTIQUES ROADSHOW


    Appraisal Video: (3:37)


    Appraised By:

    David Bonsey
    Musical Instruments
    Director, Fine Musical Instruments
    Skinner, Inc.

    Appraisal Transcript:
    APPRAISER: You've brought us two guitars here today, and I can see right away that they were made about a hundred years apart-- one circa 1850 and one in 1946.

    GUEST: The old one I bought here in Memphis, and I paid $35 for it.

    APPRAISER: And what's the story with the new guitar?

    GUEST: Well, a friend of mine had hocked it, and he couldn't get it out of hock, so I gave him ten dollars for his pawn ticket, and he had hocked it for $25.

    APPRAISER: $25, plus the ten dollars means you got about 35 into it.

    GUEST: Right.

    APPRAISER: One thing that strikes me about these two are the similarities in their construction even though they look very different. The evolution of guitar making started with this in the 1850s in Europe to this, which is really representative of the highest point of American guitar making, which was around the Second World War. This one has a much more European design based on classical styles, and it's smaller, and we call it a parlor guitar, because the music of the time was played in small parlors in people's homes. These guitars had a very sweet sound. This one is in a very pure state of preservation. There hasn't been really anything put on it that wasn't original. It has a very patinated surface with all of these scratches and wear marks. You don't want to clean this, you don't want to polish it and you never want to refinish it. And here we see a beautiful antique inlay around the sound hole. We see an ebony fingerboard and the old design of peg head, which was a slotted peg head and they would ebonize it-- in other words, they would paint it black-- and it had a very fine binding also made of black ebony wood, starting to come off around here. Now, a hundred years later, this is the Martin Company of Nazareth, Pennsylvania. This is a 1946 model D-28, and this happens to be one of the most sought after guitars in the world by country artists, rock artists, everybody who wants a big, booming sound. And similarities with this one are the inlay around the sound hole. And this is what they call the herringbone inlay, and this was only available until the war years because they did get it from Germany. When we look at the flip side of the guitar... we see all of those wonderful belt buckle scratches-- you don't want to do anything to that, leave it how it is-- and the zipper inlay in the middle. Another similarity-- they're both stamped in the center strip. In this one, you can see a stamp that says "A. Martin." When we look into this one, we see the same type of traditional center stamp with a "C.F. Martin." Now, C.F. Martin came from Vienna. A. Martin-- we don't know who it is, but it could have been a guitar maker in Saxony, Germany, about 1850 or 1840. So somewhere along the line, these two instruments are related. This one, as is, worth about a thousand dollars.

    GUEST: Oh?

    APPRAISER: To play it, you'd probably want to put in about a thousand dollars or so, and it would be worth $2,000, because the parlor guitars are not as collectible as the big Martins. You've got $35 into this?

    GUEST: Right.

    APPRAISER: It's worth about $12,000 to $15,000 now. Not a bad investment.

    WGBH This website is produced for PBS Online by WGBH Boston. ©1997-2015 WGBH Educational Foundation.
    ANTIQUES ROADSHOW is a trademark of the BBC and is produced for PBS by WGBH under license from BBC Worldwide.
    WGBH and PBS are not responsible for the content of websites linked to or from ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Online.
    PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.

    ROADSHOW on Facebook ROADSHOW Tweets ROADSHOW on YouTube