Certain guitars have long been the standard by which all others are judged; the Pre-war Martin D-18 is always one of them. This 1940 example represents a beautifully kept all original 14-fret mahogany Dreadnought that has seen endless imitations but very few peers since its birth. While the guitar shows almost no playwear it remains in excellent playing condition and offers the expected fantastic sound one expects. The power and depth of a Dreadnought combines with the sweetness, sparkle, and singing character of the best pre-WWII mahogany Martins in a magical mix, making this an exceptionally versatile flat-top guitar suited to practically any musical situation. This D-18 shows the classic pre-war features of the model, introduced in this form in late 1934 and widely imitated ever since.
This incredible example was purchased by my friend, Dave Walsh, in 1982 from Buzzy Levine’s Lark Street Music when in Albany NY. The original owner came in & sold it to Buzzy w/its original ebony bridge hanging on by its strings. It slightly pulled on the spruce top & made 3-4 tiny almost invisible crackies just below the perfect replacement bridge. There appears to be no mods nor touchup done ever on this beauty & it is completely crack free otherwise. Its an amazing time warp example that looks like it 30 years newer. There is no weather checking nor any pick wear. Its the cleanest pre-War Martin dreadnaught we have ever owned & experienced in our 34 years in biz & 50 years of collecting. Its a no excuse, Adirondack topped, scallop braced, mind blowing, piece of Historical Significance.
The top is made of tight-grained Adirondack spruce, its Honduras mahogany back & sides have aged very nicely, bound on the edge with tortoise celluloid. The ebony belly bridge is a perfect reproduction. The original pickgard is made of tortoise celluloid in a small “teardrop” shape & has not shrank a bit over time. The neck is mahogany w/an unbound ebony fingerboard discreetly inlaid with small mixed-size pearls. The peghead is faced in Brazilian rosewood with the gold “C.F. Martin & C.” decal at the top. The neck profile is round backed but with the slightest hint of a “V” profile in the way the sides bear away from the center as it moves towards the nut, which is slightly narrower than mid-thirties examples. The nickel tuners are open back individual Grover D-98 units with metal buttons & look as new as if they were chrome. Its neck & body finish is completely intact & appears to look like a far newer guitar but its not…
They sold decently by contemporary standards, with 377 shipped that year. By the 1950s Martin was building two or three times that amount every year; pre-war examples were far scarcer even then. Today at 83 years young, finding a 1940 example even as well preserved as this one is a fairly rare occurrence. In the minds of most acoustic guitar players, collectors, and historians, very few instruments approach the pre-war Martin Dreadnought in terms of sound and historical importance. Compared to all that’s come down the pike since, this is still one of the finest performing or recording guitars imaginable. While the rosewood D-28 is optimized for power and bass response, the D-18 is often a more versatile instrument combining the mellow depth of the Dreadnought with a crisp, slightly dry mahogany ring. This is a truly great early pre-war example, rarely played over the decades but also well-cared for and ready for many more years of enjoyment.