Martin Guitars, ca. 1850, 1946

Value (2004) | $13,000 Auction$16,000 Auction

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.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
New York Violin Consulting, Inc.
New York, New York
Appraised value (2004)
$13,000 Auction$16,000 Auction
Event
Memphis, TN (July 31, 2004)
Material
Wood

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