Founded by German immigrant Christian Frederick Martin Sr. – Martin Guitars has been uninterruptedly family-owned for six generations. Loved by artists all over the world, Martin has helped define almost all genres of music, from country to blues, folk, and rock.
To ensure an honest worth for what you pay, and to retain the magic of the original models, Martin luthiers apply hand-building skills that have been preserved for over 180 years.
These instruments retain the lightweight, quality materials, aesthetic perfection, and tonal properties of their best classic creations. Even the cases are made with the same tooling as the original ones.
This article is all about answering your question – “Are Martin Guitars Worth The Money?”
I’m excited! Let’s begin!
C.F. Martin & Company: A Brief Overview
C.F. Martin & Co., also known as Martin Guitars, makes what are considered by the masses to be the finest acoustic guitars on the planet.
Praised by musicians for their durability and quality of sound, Martin guitars have been used by legendary artists such as Jimmie Rodgers, Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton, Kurt Cobain, Johnny Cash, and many, many more.
The company offers from budget-priced composite material guitars to custom-built models that cost up to $20,000 or even much more. Martin also makes ukuleles, guitar strings, and accessories.
Their headquarters are in Nazareth, Pennsylvania since 1839. The Martin family has taken the company very seriously and they have been running it for six long generations.
Why Are Martin Guitars So Expensive?
On the higher-end models, they use the highest quality solid woods which these days are not cheap. They are also made in the US where manpower is expensive.
The factory has an impressive operation with several highly skilled artisans. Although computerized machines are used, much of their builds are done by hand. Their quality control is also highly stringent. They even have a store that sells rejected parts that are still quite good to use for luthiers.
To many people, they may seem very expensive, but their excellence is so, that in reality, these guitars are for life. And nevertheless, eighteen decades on top of the line earns a company a lot of respect.
These guitars sound great. They’re truly solid and durable. And something that everybody may not know is that well-conserved high-end units multiply their value as they ages.
“They cost too much,” they say, but I still haven’t met anyone who bought a Martin and regretted it later.
Choice Of Materials
Throughout 170 years, C.F. Martin & Co. has built its name on guitars made of rosewood, mahogany, and other good reputation woods.
Martin patented a material called HPL (High-Pressure Laminate) for its X Series guitars, which they launched in 1998. Some of these models are made entirely of laminate, while others have a wooden top. After the line was launched other X models feature two different synthetics too.
Throughout the years, Martin has installed Grover, Kluson, and Waverly tuners on their 14 fret guitars.
The binding on their guitars is made of wood and Boltaron which is a brand-name plastic (made of PVC), they have black and white versions.
For their first fingerboard inlays, Martin used white pearl, and now they use different types of pearl for different purposes. Martin uses Jescar frets.
LUXE BY MARTIN® are high-tech bridge pins made from Liquidmetal®, a Zirconium alloy, that reflects physical energy instead of absorbing it.
For the next 170 years, it’s possible they become famous for using Micarta, Stratabond, or other less known man-made materials.
Innovation & Top-Tier Hardware
Martin guitars never stop innovating, introducing techniques and features that have turned into industry standards, like the X-bracing, the 14-fret guitar, and the “Dreadnought” size.
These guitars are hand-made by highly skilled craftsmen and women, which use a combination of new techniques and designs along with the antique ones introduced by the company founder.
Martin uses the quarter-sawn technique of cutting wood.
They use a CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing) software that takes 3D models into a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine to cut out the pieces from a sheet of wood, aluminum, or any of the materials implemented. This process eliminates waste as well as decreases manufacturing time.
CAD and CAM systems also are utilized in cutting necks, fretboards, and other parts of the guitar efficiently and quickly.
And apart from all that, they use a Plek machine that millimetrically levels and shapes the fretboards through a process called fret dressing.
Martin has developed an unbelievable amount of 31 different body shapes and sizes; they divide them by family, each with its own characteristics and price ranges.
These families are:
- X Series
- Road Series
- Performing Artist Series
- Modern Deluxe Series
- 15 and 16 Series
- 17 Series
- Standard Series
- Vintage Series
- Authentic Series
- Little Martin Series
- Backpacker Series
- Junior Series
Their X Series locate among the most affordable Martins while Road Series is Martin’s lowest cost guitars that have all solid-wood construction.
Performing Artist Series have cutaway bodies that give easy access to high notes, making them a good choice for soloing players. Modern Deluxe features very easy playability and high-performance electronics.
15 Series are crafted to reproduce the look and feel of the 1940s 15 Series models. 16 Series are high-quality medium-priced guitars that don’t have all the cosmetic luxury of the more costly series.
With a history dating from 1906, the 17 Series have a minimalistic, vintage styling and can be used in diverse styles of music.
Some of Martin’s most iconic and oldest models are made in the Standard Series which envelop the heart of Martin’s legacy. Including the D28 and D35.
Little Martins are small but offer a big sound. They provide trustful durability and good portability. The Martin Backpacker has a slender body shape that makes it easy to take almost anywhere and it’s crafted from solid tonewoods.
And the Junior Series is slightly smaller 000 or Dreadnought bodies that refuse to make sacrifices in tone or volume.
Do Martin Guitars Hold Their Value?
One of the main reasons people acquire used Martin guitars is just their value. One Martin guitar may even get to have a six-figure price. Meanwhile, a used Martin can be found for around $4,000.
In 2002 the Vintage Guitar Price Guide listed the amount of $200,000 for a 1936–1937 D-45s guitar and up to $150,000 for a 1940–1942 model. In 2011 a valuation of $375,000 was posted for a newly discovered 1942 piece. Martin guitars have values suggested elsewhere between the range of $175,000-$350,000 according to their condition and rarity.
Kurt Cobain’s 1959 Martin D-18E, the one that he played in Nirvana’s historic 1993 “MTV Unplugged” live show, has blown up the world record price for a guitar, sold for US$6,000,010 at an auction in Hollywood.
Is Martin Really The Best Acoustic Guitar Brand?
What happens when you compare tasty apples against tasty oranges? You still end up with apples and oranges!
Anyways, here’s my two cents on Martin vs Other Acoustic Guitar Brands:
Taylor vs. Martin: here we have two great instruments, when both are properly set up, their playability is superb, Martin offers a set-neck, which is non-adjustable, but it provides great energy transfer between the body and neck. Taylor has an adjustable neck angle to easily adjust the action, which is awesome.
Martin vs. Gibson: Each of these two has their own unique voice and place in history, and in the end, you can’t go wrong if you’re playing the guitar you love to play! Check out this honest head-to-head comparison of two of their flagship models to learn more.
Martin vs. Yamaha: Early Yamahas, which are collectible, had a very open, more heavy, and robust sound. But current models, specifically the higher-end ones, don’t have that deep sound quality to the same extent.
Alternatives at the high-end Martins which are worth looking at:
Takamine: Balanced sound with great playability.
Guild: Big sound, works for everything, tends to be top-light.
Ovation: Less popular, but have a very clear upper register that always cuts through.
BONUS: What Famous Musicians Played Martin Guitars?
From the long list of notable artists who use this brand, we’ll name Elvis Presley, Don McLean, Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, Ed Sheeran, and Eric Clapton.
On 1992 MTV Unplugged, Clapton played a 1939 Martin 000-42 and a 1966 Martin 000-28. This show is seen as a turning point in Clapton’s career, marking the beginning of a deeper, and more wise, acoustic sound.
The Bottom Line: Are Martin Guitars Worth YOUR Money?
Martin Guitars are definitely worth money for the right person.
From our point of view, Martins are not exactly overpriced. Any guitar would cost half as much but it wouldn’t have the same tonal quality that comes with an extremely high-end instrument as Martin does.
Their attention to detail, sound, and playability are what make them worth more than a thousand dollars.
On the other hand, our opinion about lower-end Martins in the sub-1000$ range is that those are more comparable to other good quality brands.
In the end, a 2500$ guitar won’t sound 5 times better than a 500$ guitar. But in terms of their building process and attention to detail, Martin’s quality has no comparison point.
What are your thoughts on this debate? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
8 thoughts on “Are Martin Guitars Worth The Money? (Before You Buy!)”
My 1927 00-21 is awesome
Now that’s a lovely baby you got there Frank! 😉
2000 D-15, 2013 000-17 sm. They will belong to my grandkids one day!
Damn! Lucky kids man!
I have two Martins, an OMC 28 aucustic electric with Aura Fishman electronics. And my real prize, a Martin 000 42. The OMc’s held its value and the 000 42’s has risen. It’s also a lefty, which makes finding a buyer more difficult. But if you find a buyer, he’s really pleased. They only made 11 000 42s in 2012, the year of my model. I’ve been in Thailand for the past four years and truly quality instruments are a lot harder to find, not to mention delivery time.
Thailand isn’t at all a 3rd world nation. It’s best described as an emerging nation. And there are many people with money, from enough to be considered wealthy by Western standards Robert, very wealthy.
Well anyway, as far as a dreadnaught I played and fell in love with a Collings. I know Martin produces instruments as fine as anyone but the Collings just grabbed me.
So I don’t have a Martin dreadnaught to compare with my smaller bodied Martins.
Subsequently, I have played Martin and Collings dreads in a store. A high end shop, not like Guitar Center.
They don’t display high end Martins for play if there’re even in their stock. And a Collings being displayed at Guitar Center? Yeah, right.
But playing them side by sometimes it’s Collings, sometime Martin. There’re both superbly crafted.
But my favorite dread is the one I play.
My Martin1975 D 12 35 is an incredible guitar. I love the pristinely clarity and angelic like sound. Easy to play.
I have two Martins. 75 D28 and a 49 D18 both in the original cases. Two totally different but incredible sounds. The 28 is very mellow whereas the 18 is a Banjo killer.
Martin D18 owner/player here – mine is only 6 years old, but even over that span the tone has noticeably grown more warmly lush and resonant – the sustain on a cleanly played (at normal volume) G-bar chord (E shape) will continue to be audible and pure for 12-15 seconds.
My D-18 is a “forever” guitar to be passed down someday to whichever of my grandkids is most interested in making music.