Martin guitars are widely considered to be some of the greatest instruments in existence. While the brand has produced diverse types of guitars since their infancy in 1833, their steel string flat-top guitars are the most sought-after. Known for their rich sound and superb build, many Martin guitars are high-ticket collectible items. Unfortunately, the market is flooded with cheap replicas that capitalize off the Martin name. This is why you have to pay attention to the Martin guitar serial numbers.
Furthermore, the company has created many different guitars with similar designs throughout its history. To ascertain a guitar’s value and authenticity, look at the serial number.
Martin Guitar Serial Numbers
The company started branding guitars with a serial number in 1898. The serial numbers begin with 8001, as the company estimated that they already had 8,000 guitars prior to 1898 in their portfolio. Martin guitar serial numbers will have between 4 and 7 serial numbers.
The most common Martin serial numbers will have 6 digits due to an influx in manufacturing quantities in the 1960s and 1970s. Serial numbers are on the neck block inside the sound hole, on the back of the head-stock, or on the neck joint. Let’s see more details depending on the guitars’ production year.
1989 – 1905: #8001 – #10120
Martin guitar serial numbers on earlier guitars are typically on the back of the head-stock. This causes used Martin guitars to show wear. Just over 2,000 guitars appeared on the market in this time.
A considerable dip in demand occurred in 1901, resulting in the company introducing a largest Martin guitar size and a 12-fret design.
1906 – 1919: #10121 – #14512
The 1-45 guitars are common in this group. They were similar in length to standard 1 sizes but featured wider sides.
During this time, the first full-sized Dreadnought guitar also appeared. So, Martin also stopped using authentic elephant ivories, instead opting for celluloid bindings and ebony bridges.
1920 – 1929: #14513 – #40843
These guitars mark the start of Martin making the switch from gut-string guitars to steel-string guitars. The OM-28 appeared in 1929, becoming the first Martin guitar with steel-string that had no modifications.
Larger sizes like the 000 are modified to accommodate 14 frets instead of the standard 12. Models with these Martin guitar serial numbers are often bigger and feature a warmer bass tone to accompany vocals.
1930 – 1939: #40844 – #74061
Martin guitar serial numbers first appeared onto the neck block in 1930. The company also began to include the model number directly above the serial number. Stamping on the head-stock officially stopped in 1935.
The famous D-45 guitars appear in this decade and start at the 53177 serial number. Used Martin guitars from this group are often the most valuable and sought-after by collectors.
1940 – 1949: #74062 – #112961
Production of the D-45 stops due to the wartime shortage of materials. Guitars in this era have a noticeable change in style. Herringbone marquetry and scalloped bracing are discontinued.
Guitars from this group have a simpler build. The necks now have ebony to provide them strength and extra reinforcement.
1950 – 1959: #112962 – #171047
Demand was high during this time, so production increased. Certain design elements like the zippered back seam were discontinued while bracing material changed. The most valuable models from this era feature Brazilian rosewood.
1960 – 1969: #171048 – #256003
The famous D-45 reappeared in 1968. Used Martin guitars from this era feature pearl inlays on the fretboard. Brazilian rosewood lost its place in production in favor of rosewood from East India.
1970 – 1979: #256004 – #419900
Martin serial numbers in this range include many new features, such as rosewood side strips, plastic saddles, and Micarta nuts. Replicas of older models also appeared.
These include the HD-28 and D-76. The replicas aren’t as valuable as the originals. However, they contain many original design elements like scalloped braces and herringbone.
1980 – 1989: #419901 – #493279
Many guitars from this time are replicas and special editions. The company created many collectible guitars that harken back to the vintage pre-WWII designs. Glue-down pickguards also disappeared for regular production models.
Other common elements in these guitars are maple bridge plates and adjustable truss rods.
1990 and beyond: Starting at #493280
The new era of Martin guitars includes A-frame bracing, scalloped back bracing, laminated sides, innovative joints, and much more.
Common guitars in this group include the D-1 and HD-28V from the Vintage Series. The group also includes special edition guitars featuring intricate pearl details and Victorian design elements.
Facts about Martin Guitar Serial Numbers
- Martin serial numbers are on all guitars which have a production date after 1989. The system is valid for all flat-top and arched models. It doesn’t apply to ukeleles or mandolins.
- Martin guitar serial numbers can indicate the time of the guitar production. It can provide information on the guitar’s build, materials, and features from the production era. For example, models prior to 1970 are notorious for being difficult to play because of the neck set. Another example is the use of exotic woods and X bracing prior to the 1940s. By comparing the Martin guitar serial numbers with the year and production information, you can determine the guitar’s authenticity.
- If you’re having trouble getting information about a serial number, Martin’s website includes information on every year of production. They’ll also be able to help with pre-1898 models. Alternatively, you can head over to the Guitar Dater Project. The database provides reliable information about the guitars.
- The serial number can also indicate the guitar’s production place. Most Martin guitars come from the company factory in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. The exceptions to this are modern guitars from the X, Backpacker, Road, Dreadnought Junior, and 9A5 series, which come from the company plant in Mexico.
Martin guitar serial numbers are one the biggest indicators of authenticity. The company has a detailed logging system that dates back well over 100 years.
With a clear serial number, you can trace the guitar’s history, understand its production, and get the information you need to spot a fake.