C. F. Martin 0-17 Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1931)

C. F. Martin  0-17 Flat Top Acoustic Guitar  (1931)
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Item # 10265
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C. F. Martin 0-17 Model Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1931), made in Nazareth, PA, serial # 49246, natural lacquer finish, mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard and bridge, hard shell case.

This is a truly superb example of a transitional Martin 0-17 in exceptionally fine condition for its age. Not only does this guitar show only light wear and minor repair but it is also a very fine player with a surprisingly powerful voice for a small all-mahogany guitar. This 0-17 was built in late 1931, one of the last ones made before the switch to a "modern" fourteen fret design. At the time the Depression was very much still in evidence and this small, affordable guitar was Martin's best seller. This one model may well have had a major role in keeping the company in business during the first half of the decade.

This 0-17 is a direct descendant of Martin's first 12 fret, 2-17 steel string budget guitars of the early 1920's, which were a novel idea for the company at the time. Designed to offer a reliable, great sounding instrument at the lowest price Martin could possibly manage, these Style 17 instruments were a study in elegant minimalism. The body is all mahogany, with no ornament except for the 5-ply soundhole ring and tortoise celluloid pickguard, a new fitting at the time. The tuners are unplated strips with black plastic buttons. The unbound, tiny-dot-inlaid rosewood fingerboard has an ebony nut. The traditional Martin bar frets were retained until early 1934, then supplanted by modern tang fretwire.

While plain in appearance and at the bottom of the Martin guitar line, The 0-17 is still built of high-grade materials to the company's lofty standards. Decent guitars could be had much cheaper from the likes of Harmony, Regal or the Sears catalog, but none came close to the sonic value of this instrument. 353 of these little mahogany wonders were shipped in 1931, a large number for the company at the time and an indication of how their dealers must have been clamoring for an affordable Martin guitar. While the original price of $30.00 may seem laughable today, in 1931 this was still a fairly expensive proposition for many Americans struggling to make ends meet.

Then as now 0-17 is a fully professional-quality guitar, extremely responsive with a rich, singing tone that belies its humble appearance. This final 12-fret version with a pickguard is a fairly rare variation of the model and a true treat for the Martin connoisseur as well as the casual strummer. As a bonus this guitar includes an envelope containing the original time-payment sales contract dated November 1932, and a string price list from the sales agent.
Overall length is 38 in. (96.5 cm.), 13 5/8 in. (34.6 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 4 1/8 in. (10.5 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 13/16 in. (46 mm.).

This is one of the loveliest and best preserved early depression-era mahogany Martins we have seen in some time, showing signs of use but really amazingly clean for being 90+ years old. The finish is completely original showing only small dings, dents and scrapes, with only some strum wear through the finish between the pickguard and the bridge and a group of scuffs on the treble side rim between the waist and the lower bout. No cracks are evident, which is very unusual for these.

The original bar frets have a fresh grind and polish and are in superb shape with plenty of life left, the neck has been very neatly reset and the rosewood bridge is an exact replacement matching the original in footprint and contours with a correct bone saddle. The original non-slotted black plastic bridgepins are intact. The original tiny maple bridgeplate remains in place and undamaged. The tuners are the correct original brass Waverley's with black buttons. This is just a lovely find with a huge shimmering sound for a small mahogany guitar, one of the nicest examples of this popular instrument we have ever had. Excellent Condition.