Great Acoustics: 1938 Martin 000-28

This golden-era flattop was in such well-preserved condition that some customers mistook it for a newly made Martin Authentic.
1938 Martin 000-28 acoustic guitar front closeup

Coveted prewar Martins surface all the time, usually with typical telltale signs of age, like scars and repairs. That’s what makes the 1938 000-28 that recently sold at The Music Emporium in Lexington, Massachusetts, so unusual. The guitar was in such well-preserved condition that some customers mistook it for a newly made Martin Authentic or a refinished vintage example, according to Andy Cambria, a sales associate at the shop. “It’s a marvel to behold,” he says.

1938 Martin 000-28 acoustic guitar


This particular 000-28 perhaps owes its cleanness to geographical circumstances. Cambria speculates that the guitar spent most of its life in the moderate climate of Carmel, California, where it avoided the punishing effects of dry winters and humid summers. Because of this, the Brazilian rosewood back and sides and the Adirondack spruce top are entirely crack-free; the finish is devoid of crazing and, aside from a few dings, looks much like it did when it left the Martin factory 80 years ago.

1938 Martin 000-28 acoustic guitar back view


The short, 24.9-inch-scale guitar has a 1-3/4-inch nut, as opposed to the 1-11/16-inch width that became standard on Martin triple-0s in 1939. Cambria says that the neck has the perfect V profile and that, thanks to a neck reset by T.J. Thompson, it plays better than most new guitars. Most important, the guitar’s voice is ideal. Cambria says, “It’s incredibly responsive and has a surprising amount of bass, matched by clear highs and an impressive midrange. The notes are consistent up and down the neck; it’s everything you would want in an acoustic guitar.” 

1938 Martin 000-28 acoustic guitar back closeup

Acoustic Guitar magazine's June 2018 issue: Guitar on a Budget

This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.

Adam Perlmutter
Adam Perlmutter

Adam Perlmutter holds a bachelor of music degree from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and a master's degree in Contemporary Improvisation from the New England Conservatory. He is the editor of Acoustic Guitar.

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