Dating vintage martin guitars
Since serial numbers weren't introduced until 1898, approximate dating of the earlier guitars can be accomplished by knowing when Martin made changes to their labels or to the brand, which can be found stamped into the back of the head, the upper part of the back, and just inside the soundhole on the long strut which reinforces the back joint. Ukuleles didn't have serial numbers, but Craig Thompson wrote, "I recently talked to the ukulele expert, Mike, at Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto.The very earliest Martins, around 1833, had a paper label "Martin & Coupa". One good way of dating old Martin ukuleles is the headstock.Some letter suffixes clarify styles: A = ash B = Brazilian Rosewood BK = Black finish C = classical DB = Deep body E = electric FMG = Figured Mahogany G = Gut string classical GE = Golden Era GM = Grand Marquis H = Hawaiian style K = Koa wood back & sides K2 = Koa wood back, sides and top L= Left handed LE= limited edition M = Mahogany (of if a "J" prefix is used, Jumbo M body size) MB = Maple Binding MP = Morado back and sides and low profile neck N = Non-low profile neck (when low profile necks were standard) P = Plectrum (pre-WWII), low profile neck (1985 to present) or Fishman Prefix pickup Q = Old style non-adjustable truss rod neck (1985-present) R = Rosewood back and sides S = special order (pre-WWII) or 12 fret neck (1967 to present) SE= signature edition SW = Special Wurlitzer T = tenor V = vintage specs W = Walnut Martin Summary Timeline.Mike (AKA elephantfan85) put this together, and it takes most of the info above and summarizes it into a single Martin guitar timeline. Some of these turn up and vary from the standard instruments, but they are usually very nice and are frequently signed by the maker. Martin workers are allowed to build a guitar for their own use after they have been with the company a stipulated period.Heel block on this one stamped 1939 switch to narrow necks (1 & 11/16ths) at serial #72740 for 000 and D models.
1934 Martin ends their use of bar frets on most models.
Oct 1930 to present: flat top model number stamped inside on neck block around serial number rant 439xx to 44362 (exact serial number change unknown).
All Martin f-hole arch tops have the serial and model number on the inside center backstripe.
The size and style designation was written on a paper label, glued inside the top of the instrument case.
Some pre-1898 guitars have the date penciled on the top just inside the sound hole.