Identifying C. F. Martin Guitars

Nearly all Guitars built by C. F. Martin can be identified by a stamp, decal, or label on or inside the guitar.

For more information, see the section stamps.html.

Since the 1930's, nearly all models of C.F. Martin Guitars have been designated by a model name stamped on the neck block inside the guitar, such as "00-17" or "D-28".  

These model names consist of two parts.  The first part refers to the size of the guitar.  Larger numbers signify smaller guitars, thus the smallest is size 5, working their way through size 3, 2 1/2, 2, and 1, followed by 0, 00, and 000, with the largest Martin being designated as "D" for Dreadnaught. The dimensions of each of these sizes can be found in the section sizes.html.

The second part of the model designation, following a hyphen, is a number signifying the level of appointments, ranging from 15 to 45.  Information on these levels can be seen in the sections on the home page under the heading "Martin Styles".

Before the 1930's, the model designations were not stamped on the neck block.  Early Martins with coffin cases had the model names written on paper labels affixed to the inside lids of the cases.  The models were similar, however, and can be identified by reading the above mentioned "sizes" and "styles" sections.

Before 1898, when Martin models were consolidated, it was more common for a specific trim level to be available only in certain sizes.  These combinations of size and trim level dated to about 1852, when the model names were first developed.  At the time, the number of the trim level was derived from the price of the guitar.  Thus, in 1852, a Style 2-27 was a size 2 Martin with a trim level costing $27.  This can lead to some confusion, since a style 27 is fancier than a style 28.  This is because a style 27 was offered as a size 2, while a style 28 was offered as a larger size 0, which was more expensive to build.

Before 1852, Martin guitars were often unique, and were not standardized.  Folks will argue endlessly about what model a given guitar is, when in fact there were no model designations at the time!

While there were no formal model names, these guitars are often referred to by their body shapes, such as the early "Viennese" shape with a larger upper bout than later Martins, by the Stauffer style headstock, by the name on the paper label indicating Martin's sales partner at the time, such as "Martin & Schatz" or "Martin & Coupa", or by the address on the label, such as "Hudson Street".  More can be learned about these guitars in the section on Early Martins.

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