During the "Golden Era" period, Martin's revolutionary designs defined and shaped the modern acoustic guitar, but there was so much experimentation that some Martin innovations never lasted. In 1931, Martin began producing archtop guitars. Ultimately, the flattops released in the mid-'30s permanently changed both the Martin company itself and the 20th century acoustic guitar. Once those flattops hit, Martin archtops were made in fewer and fewer quantities, and with time they were almost forgotten altogether.
Debuted in 1931, the C-1 is essentially Martin's Style-18 archtop in that it has Mahogany back and sides, whereas the C-2s have Rosewood. The original C-1s had a round soundhole, but in 1932, Martin began experimenting with F-hole designs. In total, Martin made 786 F-hole C-1s, and in 1936, they produced 127 of these very cool archtop guitars.
This C-1 is serial number #62465, so it was made in 1936. The year before, Martin switched over to Ivoroid binding on this model, and it looks really nice with the darker shade top finish. Over the years, this C-1 has been properly maintained and cared for, so it finds us in nice, playable condition. It includes its original Martin-branded Grover tailpiece that shows a clear art-deco influence, typical of the 1930s.
On this '36 C-1, the neck may have been reset, and current the neck angle allows for great action. It has been refretted, and the tuning machines have been replaced with modern Grover reproductions. Because of that, it's a playable, usable guitar with stable tuning. There is one repaired top crack running from the f-hole to the edge on the bass side. On the treble side (~6" from the end pin), there are two small cracks from an impact. By the edge of the fingerboard, there are three finish fills where the pickguard would've come into contract with the top.
As for sound, this 1936 C-1 produces woody, punchy tone that is more suited for old-time or folk music than jazz. The C-1 has been described as a carved top 000-18, and that's an apt commentary on this one. In subtle ways, its sound and vibe are so characteristically Martin, yet the Martin archtop is such a rare beast. The feel of the '36 neck carve is everything you'd expect from a genuine Golden Era guitar. The original case is included, but be careful because the handle is on its last leg.