C.F. Martin Parlor Guitar, ca. 1860

Value (2003) | $6,000 Auction$8,000 Insurance

My great-grandmother played it. I know that my grandparents did not play it. My youngest son played it a little but not really very much and I'm afraid I don't play it at all.

Well, this is what we call an American parlor guitar, circa 1860. And this one was actually built by Christian Fredrik Martin, who came from Germany, first lived in New York and later moved down to Pennsylvania and established the Martin Guitar Company, which is still regarded as the finest guitar company in the United States, maybe the world. He actually made this instrument in Pennsylvania, although he stamped the guitar "Martin, New York," and the reason for that was because of marketing. It's wonderful to see a guitar like this in such great condition. We'll look at some of the very beautiful and ornate appointments on this guitar, starting with the carved mother-of-pearl tuning pegs. These were made in Germany and imported by C.F. Martin to the United States. A bound ebony fingerboard and this is bound with real elephant ivory, binding the neck and also the top of the instrument and the back. These are single pieces of ivory which were scraped down and glued to the edge of the guitar to protect it from bumps and knocks.


And around the sound hole we have concentric circles of abalone, ivory, mother-of-pearl and rosewood. Turning the guitar around, we see a very select piece of rosewood on the back, a very beautiful figure with an inlay of wood down the center which is called a herringbone inlay. Another detail that I'd like to point out is inside the guitar where you have an actual lamination of spruce over the Brazilian rosewood in back. And that's a particularly German trait. It gave the guitar a brighter sound. And a guitar like this would have been used in a parlor situation, not in a concert hall, but really to accompany a singer or an instrumentalist in a parlor. It would be something like this. ( strumming simple chord progression ) ( strums final chord ) Have you had any appraisals of the guitar at all?

No, not really.

Now, a guitar like this you can't touch nowadays in terms of workmanship. I would give it a value of at least $6,000 to $8,000.


Insure it for $8,000. The other interesting thing is that we have the original bill of sale from your great- grandfather, dated 1863-- an original price of $45... ( chuckling ) for a Martin guitar and 2.50 for the sheet music, which makes the sheet music rather expensive compared to the instrument. Thanks very much for bringing it on the ROADSHOW.

Thank you very much.

Appraisal Details

New York Violin Consulting, Inc.
New York, NY
Appraised value (2003)
$6,000 Auction$8,000 Insurance
San Francisco, CA (August 16, 2003)

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