Museum: Martin Guitars

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1953 Martin D-18 Shade Top

Serial # 129943. Easily the rarest incarnation of the Post-War Martin D-18, this 1953 shade top is nothing short of spectacular. It's a museum piece that you'll never want to put back behind the glass. Shade-top (Martinspeak for sunburst) Dreadnoughts are pretty much the stuff of legend to most Martin collectors, and only a few are thought to have been built through the 1950's. 1953 saw the return of Adirondack Red spruce tops for a short while, and this guitar features that tonewood for an extra-nice touch. This D-18 is simply perfect, without cracks, repairs, significant blemishes, or any real playwear. In short, it doesn't get better than this.

The guitar was purchased in 1953 in Baltimore, Maryland, by a young woman named Alma. Her brother-in-law told her that Martins were the best guitars, so that's what she asked for; and, this is the guitar she walked out with that day. She played it for a few years in a country string band with her sister and brother-in-law, but around 1956 the guitar went into the basement and didn't resurface until 2010.

An exceptionally loud and well-balanced Dreadnought, this D-18 has a poppy and punchy mid-range response that would make any flat-picker weak at the knees. It's amazingly articulate and accurate, but doesn't give up any warmth to make it happen, as is the case with most other guitars. Treble notes are full and clear, basses are exceptional, present and controlled, and every note literally jumps off a heavy flatpick -- the guitar is amazingly responsive.

In near-perfect condition and in need of no repairs, this shade-top D-18 is ready for whatever is thrown at it. It plays beautifully in all positions of the neck, has unworn original frets, a clean neck reset by Ken Fallon, and no replaced parts other than a replacement saddle and new-old-stock bridge pins (the shrunken originals are in the case). There are crazes in the finish, some finish-flaking around the body's edges, and minor finish blemishes on the pickguard, and minor capo-dents in the back of the neck.

Mahogany back and sides, Adirondack Red spruce top, Brazilian rosewood fingerboard and bridge, tortoise-celluloid bindings and pickguard, Kluson tuners, and ivory nut. Action set at 5 to 7 64ths with medium-gauge strings.

We offer this guitar with a confidence that it is among the most desirable non-celebrity-owned post-war Martin D-18 in the world.

With original hardshell case

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