Rare, Priceless Martin Guitar on Display at Sweetwater August 19

There probably isn’t a guitarist alive, beginner or a veteran, who hasn’t dreamed of owning a Martin guitar. Perhaps they fell in love with the instrument after seeing Eric Clapton play his unplugged rendition of “Layla” on a vintage OOO-42. Or possibly they saw their first Martin on the cover of a Stephen Stills album. To satisfy all those musicians, Martin has created a wide range of guitar models and lines that cover price levels from very affordable to quite expensive.
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But there are certain Martin guitars that are out of reach of almost anyone’s budget: limited edition handcrafted instruments such as the $35,000 Celtic Knot or the $100,000 D-100. The ultimate example of guitar extravagance is the Martin simply identified as “serial number 1,000,000.” This lavishly ornate creation is so unique that it’s not for sale at any price, remaining in the loving hands of company representatives at all times.

On August 19 guitar lovers will have the rare opportunity to inspect these exotic instruments at the Martin Guitar Showcase, held at Sweetwater, 5335 Bass Road. From 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. they can view one-of-a-kind guitars, take a virtual behind-the-scenes tour of the

Martin factory, and perhaps even win a Martin Backpacker guitar. Martin officials have announced that the Sweetwater showcase will be the final public display of these collector guitars. Following the August 19 event they will be placed in the Martin museum at the guitar maker’s Pennsylvania plant.

The millionth Martin is based on a D-45 body. Its ornate design was executed by California inlay artist Larry Robinson, who followed sixth-generation Martin CEO Chris Martin’s directive to “go crazy with the look of classic European decorative art.” The result is as much a work of art as a musical instrument. The guitar boasts 141 gemstones, including 65 diamonds. Other materials used include fossilized ivory, copper, silver, and yellow and white gold. Robinson and Martin luthiers worked on the guitar for two years, handcrafting more than 2,000 individual pieces to create the intricate figures.

The top of the guitar is dazzling, but it is almost eclipsed by the Victorian-influenced vine-and-arbor design on the back. Mother of pearl and abalone inlays offer a homage to the company’s past, featuring a portrait of founder C.F. Martin and representations of Martin instruments from the company’s 172-year history, surrounded by angels and cherubs. David Giulietti, a well-known engraver in the guitar world, created the gold and the living figures, using live models and working for five weeks with a stereomicroscope.

Of course, a question that will arise from almost any guitar fan is, “How does it sound?” While acknowledging that it was a challenge to give a guitar inset with five pounds of abalone a truly magical voice, Robinson said the millionth guitar is playable and “sounds great.” But this guitar isn’t about playing, which is almost a first in Martin’s history.

However, the company has produced other one-of-a-kind instruments, including the Chinese Dragon (serial number 700,000) and the Art Nouveau. These commemorative models will also be on display at the August 19 showcase, along with other rare Martins valued at up to $100,000. The cost of the millionth guitar? Martin won’t say, simply stating that it is “priceless.” If you simply must have something similar — and have $100,000 to satisfy your craving — Martin is producing 50 D-100 Deluxe models, with simplified, laser-cut versions of Robinson’s inlay.

The Martin Guitar Showcase is free to the public.Those interested can pre-register at www.sweetwater.com/events to be included in a drawing for a free Backpacker guitar or a box of Martin strings.