Most Martin guitars made between about 1885 and the beginning of serial numbers in 1898 are dated under the top of the guitar in pencil or blue crayon. Occasionally initials are also seen under the date.
This guitar is one of the few instruments that are dated prior to 1885. In this case the guitar is dated "AD 1875" (AD indicating "Anno Domini" and does have initial under the date although they are very hard to read. Martin only had four employees in 1875: C. F. Martin Jr., C. F. Hartmann, Henry Goetz and Reinhold Schuster. The signature could be "Goetz" but closer examination will be needed to confirm this.
The 1-21 model was one of Martin's more popular mid-range guitars. The "student" styles 3-17 and 2½-17 generally accounted for 50% of Martin's production at the time. A total of 223 guitars were made in 1875, of which 31 were the 1-21 model.
The tuners on this guitar are Seidel machines.
What a beautiful guitar! I assume the cracks in the top below the bridge are repaired. I assume that it has the “X” bracing. It certainly has been taken car of and loved.
I know this guitar has been repaired and is in playable condition (and is actually used quite a lot by the owner). It does have X-bracing.
I don’t usually comment on condition because if my website is still up 10 years from now condition may have changes in the meantime.
It’s in excellent, playable condition…old guitars will crack (even youngish ones will!) And any cracks have been strongly cleated. I had the neck reset several years ago. Original frets show only moderate wear . Bridge plate was reinforced for ultra light steel and brass-wound silk strings .10 through .42. Original tuning gears and three of the bone tuning buttons are original… There is a bit of pick wear to the right of the sound hole..but overall, very little wear. Ideal “picking” guitar….V-shaped neck.
I certainly understand your concern about commenting on condition but then your post about condition is dated. This means that in ten years or whenever, we will know that as of that date, your comment was appropriate.
I really appreciate your statement about the number of workers at the factory and the number o guitars made. That means less than one guitar was finished each day back then. I did not realize that the Martin Company was such a small enterprise back then. There must have been other guitar companies that were appreciably larger or were guitars not so popular at the time? It also means that Martin Guitars from this era are relatively rare.