Martin Guitars

1931 Martin C-3 Guitar (Serial Number 59524)

Martin launched its carved-top guitars in June 1931. They were offered in three models; C-1, C-2 and C-3, with the C-3 guitars being the most expensive. These carved-top guitars were based on the same 000-size body used for the flat top guitars.

However, Martin took a different approach to making arched-top guitars compared to its competitors. Martin opted to keep a basically flat back and continued to glue the fingerboard extension to the top of the guitar while most arched-top guitars had an elevated fingerboard. To compensate the neck angle was greater than most other arched-top guitars.

The C-3 came in two versions, the early guitars having a round sound hole and the later ones having f-holes. Only forty-six C-3 guitars were made with the round hole. The C-3 guitar in this entry was the 21st C-3 made.

The C-3 guitars were the most expensive regular production instrument made by Martin in 1931. I had a retail price of $200, $20 m0re than a OM-45. C-3 guitars are also very scarce with only 109 C-3,  two C-3S and one C-3TS guitars being made between 1931 and 1934.

Serial number 49524 was stamped on December 29, 1931 and cleared final inspection on January 15, 1932.

The original tuners are clipped plate Grover G-98 machines although three have been replaced with later types of machines.

The case its original to the guitars and appears to be a Style C case.

Style C-3 features:

Back and sides: Brazilian rosewood

Top: Most carved-top Martin guitars had Sitka spruce tops, although a few Adirondack spruce tops may have been made

Purfling: White and black celluloid lines

Binding: Ivoroid

Back stripe: Style 45 purfling pattern

Dark top (sunburst finish)

Pearl "C. F. Martin" head stock veneer

Round sound hole with single sound hole ring

Fancy tailpiece

Adjustable ebony bridge with ivory saddle

Other period features:

Straight braces (similar to other arch-top guitars)

Ebony fingerboard

Pearl "snowflake" fingerboard inlays beginning at the 5th fret

Ebony neck reinforcement

1-3/4" neck width at nut

Ivoroid bound tortoiseshell celluloid pick guard (missing) - see photos below

C. F. Martin & Co. stamp on back of headstock

Style stamp

Photos courtesy of Kansas City Vintage Guitars.


Circa 1936 photo of a young lady playing this guitar when it was almost new, note bound pick guard 


3 thoughts on “1931 Martin C-3 Guitar (Serial Number 59524)

  1. Hi Greig,
    I am trying to confirm the tuners on Martin’s C style guitars. Jim Dulfer and I have had conversations about this and we think that the C-1 and C-2 would have come with nickel plated Grover G98s with clipped ends and seamed buttons. The C-3 would have come with gold plated Grover G98gs with clipped ends. Any info you can share or confirm would be much appreciated. Thx. Tom

    1. The 1932 Martin brochure on carved top guitars states the C-3 model had “gold trimmings”. I would assume that would included Grover G-98G clipped plate tuners. However, I would not be completely surprised that Martin may have shipped a C-3 with nickel plated tuners if they ran out of G-98G machines. The only photos I have of a C-3 show a mixture of Grover tuners (replacements from several periods of time) so there is no definitive answer there. However, you are correct in your assumption, I would expect the tuners on a C-3 to be Grover G-98G clipped plate machines with seamed butterbean buttons.

  2. One more question regarding my C-3. The tuners on it when I acquired were Waverly 5038s which did not exist until around 1950. When I removed the Waverlys I expected to find indentations or outlines of G98s; I did not find such a thing. So the speculation is that this guitar may have gone back to Martin in the 1950s for repair and the G98Gs were replaced with Waverlys and perhaps the back of the headstock was refinished, removing any signs of G98s. If you have access to Martin repair records, can you see if there is any repair record for this guitar? – serial is 48704. BTW I am putting on gold Grover G98Gs with clipped ends from the mid 1930s. Thx Greig!

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