“Eric continued to be surprised at how a lower-cost acoustic could stand up to top-of-the-line guitars”: One of the “best-sounding” guitars Eric Clapton has ever played is set to be auctioned

Eric Clapton performs onstage (left), one of his prototype Martin 000-28EC guitars
(Image credit: Getty Images / Gardiner Houlgate)

An extremely rare prototype Martin guitar made for Eric Clapton has been put up for auction. 

A 1995 prototype of Martin's 000-28EC signature acoustic guitar, it is only one of four ever made, as the pair tried to ride the success of Clapton's limited-edition 000-42EC.

Though extremely pricey and made in limited numbers, the 000-42EC had proved successful upon its release, with the 000-28EC intended to be tonally identical, while undergoing several cosmetic tweaks to minimize its price tag. 

The prototype pairs hand-selected East Indian rosewood back and sides with a central back stripe. It also features a mahogany neck with vintage-style volute, an ebony fingerboard bestowed with abalone cut diamond inlays, and Martin-branded Grover Sta-tite tuners. Clapton’s signature also features on its 20th fret. 

The instrument will be auctioned off with its original hard case and two 1998 Eric Clapton Lexus US tour guitar picks

Though its premium features were scaled back to represent a more affordable version of its progenitor, Clapton is full of praise for the acoustic. 

Writing in the 2003 Martin Guitar Masterpieces book, guitar-builder Dick Boak said: “We sent one of the prototypes to Eric in England, and he sent me these exact words back through Lee [Dickson, Eric’s guitar tech]: ‘Don’t get me wrong. I love my 000-42EC Martins. The craftsmanship and detail are superb. But this new 000-28EC model is the best-sounding acoustic guitar I’ve ever played.’” 

Eric Clapton Martin 000-28EC

(Image credit: Gardiner Houlgate)

In the book, Boak also recalls how the 000-28EC featured at NAMM in July ‘96, garnering “a slew of orders,” with Clapton also adding it to his collection of performance guitars.

Boak added that Clapton “continued to be surprised at how a lower-cost instrument could stand up to the top-of-the-line guitars.”

Although not visible in the photos of the prototype released by auctioneer Gardiner Houlgate, it talks of “substantial scratch marks” on the instrument, corroborating Boak’s claims that the instrument had graced Clapton’s stages. 

“The nature and position of the buckle scratches point to the distinct likelihood of that being the case,” the firm believes. “Sitting in the comfort of a living room or studio would never create marking to this extent.”

Eric Clapton Martin 000-28EC

(Image credit: Gardiner Houlgate)

It is expected to fetch between $25,404 – $50,809 at auction, after two models from the same production sold for $31,250 in 2008, and $34,956 in 2011.

The auction will be held on June 11, with the 000-28EC acoustic guitar featuring alongside two of Gary Moore’s Gibson Les Pauls, two guitars previously owned by Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green, and Ian Bairnson's Wuthering Heights Les Paul. 

Head to Gardiner Houlgate for more information about the auction. 

Phil Weller

A freelance writer with a penchant for music that gets weird, Phil is a regular contributor to ProgGuitar World, and Total Guitar magazines and is especially keen on shining a light on unknown artists. Outside of the journalism realm, you can find him writing angular riffs in progressive metal band, Prognosis, in which he slings an 8-string Strandberg Boden Original, churning that low string through a variety of tunings. He's also a published author and is currently penning his debut novel which chucks fantasy, mythology and humanity into a great big melting pot.