Saturday, January 19, 2008

7-22-1932: C.F. Martin/Harptone guitar case price list

In the 1920s and 30s, the C.F. Martin Guitar Co. offered several case options for their many different instrument models. Unlike today, the cases were not included in the price of the instrument, and it’s surprising how many guitars during the period were ordered and shipped without cases. Dealers would often source cases from their own vendors after receiving instruments, leaving us now to wonder whether or not the vintage Martin we just bought indeed has the original case.

Although Martin purchased cases from a variety of different vendors for their many different instrument models, by 1932, the Harptone Manufacturing Corp. of Newark N.J. was the leading supplier of cases for the Nazareth guitar manufacture. Martin offered four different case options for their instruments, Style A, B, C and D.

The following is a description of each, taken from a March 16th, 1931 Martin Price List:

Style A - Canvas, covering on stiff strawboard, flannel lining, end-opening.

Style B – Keratol, brown alligator grain, on heavy chipboard, flannel lining, nickel trimmings, side-opening.

Style C – Keratol, black seal grain, on three-ply wood, padded duvetyn flannel lining, nickeled brass trimmings, side opening.

Style D – Keratol, same as Style C except silk plush lining.

Today, the "hardshell" Style C case is the most common case we find, as many of the A and B cases have failed over time. Martin also rarely received requests for the Style A case from dealers during the period. Harptone's Deluxe case offered, Martin's "Style D," were mainly ordered by dealers to go along with 40-Series Martin guitars, although there were exceptions.

Below is a July 23rd, 1932 hand-typed Harptone case price list by C.F. Martin III, at cost. Note the 1932 listing of; “Ditson Dreadnaught.”


Seems that some are still confused on the originality of these period cases, so I've included this 1935 letter from Lifton Mfg. to C.F. Martin. Notice they write "We are having requests for cases for these instruments." Lifton was receiving requests from the dealers Martin was shipping guitars to without cases, which were many. Martin sent Lifton the needed paper drawing of their new F model archtop after receiving this letter, so Lifton could then begin filling dealer requests. This was common when a new model was released.