FOR SALE: 1930 Martin 0-21
This wonderful old guitar from 1930 is a superb example of the 12-fret design Martin perfected over its first hundred years. The following year, Martin would introduce the 14-fret neck that would come to dominate their product line and that of virtually every other guitar maker. This is a great player too, with a voice much bigger than its size, fantastic classic tone and a fascinating history, making for some serious mojo.
– Martin 0-21, serial #42590
– Adirondack spruce top
– Brazilian rosewood back, sides & binding
– Mahogany neck with ‘rounded V’ neck profile
– Ebony fretboard & bridge
– Herringbone rosette & backstrip
– 12 fret neck
– Original tuners w/ivoroid buttons
– Neck reset and new bar frets by luthier David Eichelbaum
– Belly bridge. 1930 was the first year Martin began using this style bridge
– Bridge plate appears to be original
– Large patch on bass side upper bout rim from perhaps 50 years ago. Well-executed considering its size. See photos below.
– Cleated crack on treble side rim. See photos below
– Top & back are crack-free with only a few scuffs & scratches
– Serial number only on neck block (no model number); Martin first began including model numbers in Oct. of 1930
– Martin stamp on back of headstock
– Fretboard width at nut: 1 7/8”
– Black plastic bridge pins w/white dot (included) replaced with ebony pins w/white dot
– Weighs just 3.0 lbs.
– Comes with its original hard-shell case(!) The case is in ‘fair’ condition at best, but is still serviceable after 92 years. All latches are intact and functional. The handle is in pretty rough shape, but it’s reinforced with metal and still does the job. See photos. An original case from this era is collectible in and of itself, and I’ve seen them offered at some pretty ridiculous prices.
This guitar was sold by Vintage Nationals Guitar Co. in 2010 with the demo video included below. This text accompanied the video:
“Nov 26, 2010 Hi All, I have here a demo of a very cool 1930 0-21 with Brazilian rosewood sides and back. I have blues artist Kenny Sultan demo’ing the guitar for us. Available now, this has been owned by Karla Bonoff for the last 30 years.”
I met with Karla Bonoff after a recent show in Asheville, NC and showed her the guitar. She confirmed that she’d owned it and said that she bought it in the mid-60s from Norman’s Rare Guitars in LA. She would have been in her teens at the time. She loved the tone, but the wider neck didn’t match her hands very well and she didn’t play it much, so it was well-preserved for three decades. I purchased the guitar from screenwriter David Yorkin (Blade Runner, Spitfire, et al.) who owned it for 10 years or more.
Its bar frets were the tallest I and my luthier James Condino had ever seen, so I had him lower the height of the frets from .07″ to .05″ and set the 12th fret action to .086” on the 6th string and .055” on the 1st string. I also had him cut new string slots at the nut with slightly narrower string spacing. The distance between the outside of the E strings is now 1.6″, and the playability is wonderfully smooth.
There is a sizeable old repair, using a Brazilian rosewood graft, to the upper bout rim on the bass side that is shown in the video and photos. If you look for it, you can see a difference in the grain in the patch, but the repair was very cleanly done, with good color and grain match, and is not terribly obvious. There is also a 4-5” crack along the grain down the center of the treble side rim that has been cleanly glued and cleated. I include a photo of it below, but it’s hard to see and doesn’t photograph well, meaning that it’s not obvious either. The top and back are crack-free.
The guitar also comes with its original case. See photos below. An instrument of this vintage that still has its original case is pretty rare, and to preserve it, I use a different case when I need to take it anywhere.
Over the space of a few months I had three vintage Martin guitars pass through my hands: a 1947 00-18, a 1932 0-18 and this 1930 0-21. I was struck by the fact that all three shared one remarkable characteristic that my other, more recent guitars do not. All of the vintage guitars sounded fully ALIVE, with a resonance so pronounced that I had to back off slightly when playing them in order to have a little better control over their dynamics.
This guitar is quite loud for its size, with the warm, sweet blended tone I’ve come to expect from rosewood. It’s a balanced voice that sounds COMPLETE, holding nothing back, and this is what one can only get from a vintage guitar that’s been cared for and played regularly for a long, long time. The neck is straight, comfortably worn, and the action is great for almost any style of music.
This is an uncommon model, with 103 12-fret 0-21’s made in 1930, and only 164 more made over the next 15 years during Martin’s ‘Golden Era’ between 1930 and 1945. I’ve kept an eye out for other vintage 0-21s but they’re pretty scarce. In November 2021, I found two other 1930 0-21s for sale: one at Retrofret for $12,000 and one at Jet City Guitars for $11,500. They are long gone, but as of August 4, there is a 1928 0-21 for sale at Dying Breed Music for $12,500. Click the link to see it. It looks just like mine but with more wear on the top & a pyramid bridge. And if it comes with the original case like mine, it’s not mentioned.
Shipping included, OR local pickup within 100 mi. of Asheville, NC.
Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.
– Herman Melville, Moby Dick