Museum: Martin Guitars

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1937 Martin 00-18 Shaded-Top

Serial # 67185. Call it a sunburst or call it a shade-top, either way it's among the most attractive and most exciting guitars we've presented in a while. No one is really sure how many shaded-top instruments Martin produced before '39, but we all can agree that there weren't too many of them. That is particularly true of the company's flattop Spanish guitars. Martin did frequently sunburst the tops of their archtops and their Hawaiian models, but the flat-tops were mostly left with a natural lacquered top. Interesting stuff.

The guitar pictured here is a rare bird, but more so, it's an exceptional instrument --regardless of its top's finish. Scoring high marks in tone, feel, and condition, this 00-18 is about as good as they come.

A powerful, clean, articulate, and richly toned guitar, it has incredible throttle -- particularly in the low register -- and that piano-like attack and long decay that makes a good pre-war Martin unlike so many other instruments. Considering the guitar's short scale neck and the light-gauge strings we've strung it with, its fundamental presence and purity is surprising. It sounds as if it were a long-scale guitar strung with medium gauge strings. There is ample headroom should you dig in with a hard right hand attack, but the guitar is ready and quick to reply to a softer approach with lush overtones and a full voice. No matter how the guitar is played, its sustain is mesmerizing.

The guitar's neck is about as perfect as they come -- not big or small, and just beautifully rounded in the first position. It tapers to a very soft V profile past the 7th fret with increasing depth, until finally rounding into its gracefully carved heel. Nut width is 1-3/4", string spread at the bridge is 2-5/16", scale length is 24.9".

A crack free guitar that has never needed any brace repairs or reglues, the instrument's only modification is a replacement bridge made by TJ Thompson. Neck reset by TJ as well. Original bridge plate is in perfect condition, original finish throughout, and the frets are likely original as well. The guitar's Grover tuners, ivory nut, and black bridge pins are also all original. There are dings, scratches and dents on the guitar as shown in our photos, but no areas of heavy playwear, no signs of neglect or water damage, and no modifications to the original finish but for a few small fills near the heel of the neck on the back that are pretty hard to make out. All told, it's in particularly remarkable condition.


With modern high-quality hardshell case

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