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Frequently Asked Questions: Historical



When was my guitar manufactured?

If you have the serial number of your guitar, just visit the "Serial Numbers" page and you’ll be able to obtain the information you need. If you have a Martin Guitar in your possession that does not have a serial number and was manufactured prior to 1898, it may only be identifiable by measurements, appointments and stampings. We would then request you contact us either by e-mail, phone or letter. Photographs are certainly beneficial in trying to identify pre-serial numbered instruments.

When did East Indian rosewood enter the picture?

In the 1960’s Brazil placed an embargo on Brazilian rosewood logs that Martin required. Their purpose was to attract industry to Brazil by demanding that the logs be sawn in Brazilian mills. This was unsatisfactory, and Martin changed to similar product, East Indian rosewood from India. In addition to the embargo, there was another basic problem in acquiring Brazilian rosewood. The available supply of large rosewood trees, in which the processed wood is wide enough for two-piece Dreadnought backs, was depleted. The shortage of wide pieces led to the introduction of the D-35 with a 3-piece back, in 1965. We ceased using Brazilian rosewood in standard production for complete sets of back and sides in 1969. Then in June of 1992, CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) which is an international treaty signed by 115 countries, adopted a new amendment that went into effect which affects international shipments of Brazilian rosewood no matter how large or small. In order to export a guitar made with Brazilian rosewood, the C. F. Martin & Co. must first have a "General Permit" from the U. S. Department of Agriculture, and secondly we must have a "Pre-Convention Certificate" documenting that the Brazilian rosewood was harvested before June 11, 1992.

What is a Martin Shenandoah guitar?

The Shenandoah Series guitars were designed as an intermediate line between the Sigma guitars and the higher priced Martin guitars. It was a sincere effort to make a Martin guitar which was more affordable. These guitars have tortoise-style pickguards, and all models have the Martin Thinline pickup as a standard feature. They were assembled in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, from imported components. The back and sides are laminates, rosewood, mahogany, or maple, the tops solid spruce. The neck is mahogany, the fingerboard and bridge are rosewood. The Shenandoahs had a lacquer finish and came with the limited lifetime warranty to the original, registered owner. This series was offered from 1983-1993, retailing at $1000-$1500. You can determine the year your Shenandoah was manufactured by its serial number. Please visit the "Dating Your Martin" section of the website.

Why are guitars manufactured with Brazilian rosewood so sought after?

Mostly, because the wood is so rare and difficult to obtain. Since it is considered nearly extinct, it is extremely expensive if available at all. Martin rosewood models before mid-1969 were made with Brazilian rosewood. As a result, Martin’s long standing reputation for tone was closely connected to the historical use of this wood. Brazilian rosewood is available in very limited quantities for special limited edition orders only. Brazilian rosewood is sometimes referred to as "Jacaranda". This species of genuine rosewood ranges in color from dark brown to violet, with spidery black streaks. The smell is like roses when freshly cut.

What is a Martin Goya guitar?

The Goya series was imported from Korea and offered as a resale item in an effort to reach the lower priced guitar market. This series was offered from about 1980-1993, and they came with a one-year warranty to the original owner. Unfortunately, serial numbers and specifications were not kept on the models offered in the Goya series. The Martin Company did not own Goya instruments before 1980. We have no history on Goya before 1980.

I understand that all of your guitars were once made with Brazilian rosewood back and sides. Is that true?

Yes, at one time all of Martin’s regular styles were made of Brazilian rosewood. The Style 17 was the first to use mahogany for the sides and back. This change occurred about 1909 and was documented in the catalog of that year. Style 18 followed suit in 1917 according to a dealer notice dated January 1 of that year. Brazilian rosewood continued to be used for all instruments in Style 21 and was the next style up from the 18 at that particular period of time.

How can I determine the current appraised value of my guitar?

We would ask that you contact an independent appraiser for the current value of your guitar or refer to the "Blue Book of Guitars". Many factors are taken into consideration when appraising an instrument, such as the model, woods used in construction, and original condition. As a manufacturer of new instruments, we do not follow the used market, so we are unable to evaluate or appraise our guitars on the current market.

What is a Martin Sigma guitar?

The Sigma program was initiated in 1970, and Sigma guitars were manufactured in Japan (later in Korea and Taiwan). Sigma instruments were imported by Martin to serve the lower priced markets. Each Sigma instrument was inspected and adjusted by Martin personnel before going to the authorized retail store for retail sale. In more recent years, Martin introduced what they call the "Second Generation" Sigmas with solid tops and extended warranties. As of September 17, 1984, all solid top Sigmas offered a limited lifetime warranty to the registered original owner. All Sigma guitars are constructed with laminated (ply) backs and sides. Sigma banjos and mandolins also constructed with laminated (ply) backs and sides. The Martin Company does not keep Sigma serial number records; therefore, Sigmas guitars and Mandolins cannot be accurately dated.

On instruments such as the D-35P and D-28P, what does the "P" designation stand for?

The "P" was designated to distinguish guitars manufactured with low profile necks. This was done while we were manufacturing both full thickness neck guitars and low profile neck guitars of the identical models. The low profile (thinner) neck was introduced on the J40M in 1985 and was extended to some other models. The “P” designation was dropped when the low profile neck became the standard neck shape in 1991. Beginning January 2011, the "P" designation was resurrected to distinguish guitars manufactured with the High Performance Neck. Ex. D-18P,D-28P. the "High Performance Neck" is the name given to the neck used in the Performing Artist Series guitars, which debuted in January 2011.

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