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1937 Martin D-18 Pre-War Vintage Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar w/ Case


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Up for sale, a 1937 Martin D-18 Pre-War vintage dreadnought in exceptional condition, complete with the original hardshell case. A one family-owned instrument passed from father to son and now offered here at Mike & Mike's Guitar Bar, this Martin was produced early in '37, representing the gold standard for this model and dreadnought acoustic guitars writ large.

With a tight-grained Adirondack spruce top, hand-scalloped forward shifted X bracing, mahogany back and rims, an ebony fingerboard and bridge, and hot hide glue construction used throughout, this Martin easily achieves a range of sounds befitting its holy grail reputation.

Currently strung with 13-56 bronze strings and weighing 4lbs 5oz, a single strum yields a broad, open quality possessing the increased headroom and dryness expected from a Pre-War dreadnought. The note separation and piano-like clarity is emblematic of Martin, with a bloom to chords, even at lower volumes, and dense higher octave overtones. Projection is ample, and the high volume ceiling with limited compression is flattering to both authoritative strumming and fingerpicking. Timbre on the treble strings is smooth and round, and the balance between plain and round strings is uncommonly even, with a quality more akin to an OM. The bass register is round and muscular, and the overarching sound softens up nicely with lighter pick or finger attack without losing complexity.

Thoroughly serviced, and with all work done to a very high calibre, this Martin has been professionally refinished in its lifetime, and while the family recalls this work being done by Martin in the 1960s, the composition of the fillers present in the crack repairs and the characteristics of the material used in refinishing infer that this work was done (or redone) within the last couple of decades.

The neck has been reset to the correct pitch, with light overspray across the heel to mask a professionally addressed heel crack, and a new ebony bridge has been carved with a long/through bone saddle and oversize bridge pins. The original small maple bridge plate has been retained and repaired. The ebony fingerboard has been lightly planed and refretted with vintage correct fretwire, and a new bone nut has been carved as well. Braces have been reglued as necessary, and previous tailblock separation has also been addressed, with a couple repaired splits on either side of the endpin. A few additional cracks have also been repaired on the mahogany back and rims.

The mahogany neck has a well-rounded C-shaped carve in the 1st position which softly transitions to noticeable V shape by the 5th fret. The profile has a gentle and consistent increase in overall heft when traveling up the fingerboard, substantial and effortless, measuring .840" deep at the 1st fret and 1.050" at the 9th. The ebony fretboard has been lightly planed, with a 12" radius at the nut, flattening out to a 16" radius by the 14th fret and beyond. Refretted with flawless slender fretwire, the guitar plays cleanly in every register up the 25.4" scale. The carved bone nut is slightly proud of 1 3/4", with 1 15/32" string spacing. The headstock features a Brazilian rosewood veneer and Martin logo, with Pre-War Grover open-gear tuning machines with (uncommon for this model) butterbean buttons. The original gear screws are intact, with later Phillips mounting screws.

The top sits extremely flat with very little belly, almost perfectly straight laterally in front of the replacement ebony bridge. The modern carved bone saddle has ample height for decades of future viability, and string spacing at the bridge measures 2 5/16". The original brown tortoise celluloid pickguard is intact, and the serial stamped on the heel block is in the 66,000 range, placing this Martin early in 1937's production totals.

Given the professional gloss nitro lacquer refinish, subsequent playwear is quite minimal, limited to some minor nicks and finish scratches on the body as a whole. The gloss on the neck profile is smooth and clean.

The original hardshell case is included with its black textured exterior and purple interior. The original case latches are still functional, and a replacement leather handle has been installed. Extremely rare and valuable in its own right, Pre-War Martin dreadnought cases have survived in notably few instances.