Despite their esteemed reputation for guitars, C.F. Martin & Co. also built mandolins for nearly 100 years. Their early bowl-back designs were a perfect fit for classical mandolin players in the late 19th Century, but as the mandolin evolved in the early 20th Century, Martin mandolins never acheived great recognition from collectors or musicians. That was largely because most of Martin's mandolin designs—with flat backs, bent tops, and oval sound holes—were heavily influenced by guitar, and they simply didn't capture the same look or feel of other brands.
Nevertheless, Martin introduced three models in the mid-'30s that featured carved Spruce tops, carved Maple backs, and traditional mandolin F-holes. These rare instruments may be the best-sounding Martin mandolins, and their feel and design will certainly be the most familiar to modern mandolin players. Of the three carved top and back models, the top-of-the-line 2-30 is the most rare. Between 1936 and 1942, only 64 were made, which means the 2-30 is the rarest of all commercially-made American mandolins from the prewar era.
This 1936 Martin 2-30 is a sweet-sounding mandolin with clear, balanced tone. It doesn't have the cut and treble for hard-hitting bluegrass, but for folk music, swing, gypsy jazz, or mellow songwriting, this Martin has a lot to offer. This '36 2-30 has held up nicely over the years. It has one repaired top crack, and it is currently set up with an after-market Ebony bridge. The original tuners, tailpiece, and pickguard still do the job nicely, and it plays well with low action.
This 1936 Martin 2-30 includes its original case and a signed letter from Stan Jay at Mandolin Brothers who appraised it in 1978. Stashed in the case, you'll also find a collection of old picks, some old-time setlists, and the original ebony bridge.
True to the Martin reputation, this '36 2-30 shows substantial build quality throughout. The set of Flame Maple used for the back plate is absolutely stunning, and the dark sunburst is so Martin. Two-point body with elaborate binding, diamond inlays on the fingerboard, and how cool is the ornamental cutout on the headstock?