C. F. Martin 5-17 Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1943)

C. F. Martin  5-17 Flat Top Acoustic Guitar  (1943)
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Item # 11867
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C. F. Martin 5-17 Model Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1943), made in Nazareth, PA, serial # 84264, natural mahogany finish, mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, original black chipboard case.

The model 5-17 is one of Martin's prime entries into the all-time cutest guitar sweepstakes, a very playable and good-sounding professional quality instrument despite its diminutive size. The "modern" all-mahogany 5-17 was introduced in 1927, built from the company's 19th century terz guitar patterns with an 11" body and short scale of just over 21". Along with the more upscale spruce-topped 5-18 this was the smallest guitar Martin made, and the 5-17 remained the cheapest.

The all-mahogany body features an X-braced top with three ply white-black-white soundhole rosette and a tortoise pattern celluloid pickguard as the only adornment. The fingerboard is rosewood with a simple pattern of white celluloid dots, one at the fifth fret, two at the seventh and one at the ninth. The bridge is rosewood with a bone saddle and the nut is ebony. The slotted headstock still has plain pre-war brass Waverly 3-on-a-strip tuners with ivoroid buttons and a "C.F. Martin" decal on the face.

This is a fairly rare guitar; between 1 and 3 were made per year from 1927 up to 1937 when a "huge" batch of 68 were shipped out. After 1938 the production numbers fell again and 1943 was the final year for the model, then listed at a whopping price of $28, plus case. All of 12 were sold that year, and the total number shipped only amounts to 218 over more than 15 years.

With a sparkling sound, easy playability and unmatched portability, this littlest Martin is a mostly forgotten gem, a fine instrument today for travel, recording, and even live use. Dolly Parton has been seen many times with the 5-18, the spruce-topped cousin of the 5-17, over the years. It's awfully cute, for sure, but this little wartime Martin can really sing too!
Overall length is 32 5/8 in. (82.9 cm.), 11 1/4 in. (28.6 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 15/16 in. (10 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 21 1/4 in. (540 mm.). Width of nut is 1 5/8 in. (41 mm.).

This is a very clean guitar for its age, just hitting its 80th birthday showing some superficial wear but an excellent player. The mahogany top has a few small random dings and dents, but no actual pick wear. The rims show a few small scuffs and scratches, the back shows some the most wear with heavier scratching, dings, and scuffs over the surface and small dents along on the edges, common on these unbound mahogany Martins. There is one small grain crack to the back repaired long ago.

The top is very solid with no bulging as often seen on these thinly made mahogany-top models, just a slight dip in front of the bridge. Everything on this guitar is original down to the bridge pins and endpin. The neck does not appear to have been reset but the angle is excellent; the frets look to have been polished with virtually no wear, so playability is excellent. This guitar is a superb example of this rare mini-Martin, complete in its original chipboard case which has somehow survived in relatively functional condition with a capo and collection of old fingerpicks still in the pocket. Excellent Condition.