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- Year: 1925
- Serial #:
- Back/Sides Wood: Mahogany
- Top Wood: Mahogany
- Neck Wood: Mahogany
- Fingerboard: Ebony
- Fret Markers: Dots
- Bridge: Small rectangular
- Rosette: Purfling lines
- Condition: See description below
- Body Length: 19 in.
- Upper Bout: 9 1/2 in.
- Lower Bout: 13 1/2 in.
- Scale Length: 24 3/4 in.
- Nut Width: 1 7/8 in.
As a teen, I played my mother’s guitar, an instrument of questionable lineage, unknown make, terrible fit and finish, and probably more suitable as a cheese grater than as a source of music. At some point I gave up trying to play it. It would be years before I picked up another guitar. That was a very basic Larrivee D3 Rosewood dred. Little did I know it back then, but I had taken my first step down a path that led to insatiable G.A.S. (guitar acquisition syndrome) a revolving door of guitars in-and-out of the house, at times so many cases I ran out of closets and beds to store them in and under.
For five years I indulged in an orgy of instruments, mostly Martins (over 65) both new and vintage but many other guitars as well, made by superb contemporary luthiers such as Bill Tippin, John Greven, Bill Collings, Huss & Dalton, Charles Fox, James Goodall, and more. Some of the vintage instruments were very old Stellas ~ almost turn of the century often with very ornate decals on the top, old woody instruments that smelled like old pianos. Others were elegantly beautiful in their simplicity and overall condition.
Take, for example the old Harwood parlor guitar that I bought from luthier Roy McAlister’s personal collection of vintage parlors. Made of gorgeous century old Brazilian Rosewood back and sides with a spruce top, it included the orginal coffin case and the name “Harwood” inlayed in the fingerboard. Awesome! Or the 1928 Martin 0-18K strikingly beautiful made of ancient Hawaiian Koa. It required tremendous strength just to tear one’s eyes away from staring at it long enough to play it!
Eventually the G.A.S. subsided. I am now down to just 3 guitars and I have not bought or sold one in almost two years. Luckily, I began taking photos of the instruments early in my odyssy. I believe my photographic skills improved over the five year span as I felt I needed to take the best photos possible to present the instruments at their most presentable when it came time to sell them. To me, this meant correct color. Capturing the nuances, shades, and tones of oftentimes rare vintage instruments accurately. I made every effort to photograph the instruments in natural ambient sunlight. Photographing them outdoors, I found, was incredibly difficult to achieve high quality shots. I came to prefer strong, late afternoon sunlight filtered through Hunter Douglas Silhouette window shades. The room was painted a pale green color called ‘Seafoam’ manufactured by Sherwin-Williams. Holding the guitar with one hand and shooting with the other I achieved a look where it appears as if the guitar is floating in space. The colors were incredibly true using the ambient light.
Introduced in 1922, the 2-17 was the first Martin “Spanish Style” guitar braced for steel strings. Most people today would consider it a very humble vintage Martin with relatively low interest as a collector piece and inexpensively priced compared with other vintage Martin models. With an initial list price of $25 it was priced at the lower end of the Martin line but not what one would call cheap or inexpensive in 1922. Martin sold 344 units in it’s first year, a humble beginning for a guitar about to influence the history of steel strings. With the triple combination of good selling price for the guitar, low price for steel strings – $1 compared to $2 for gut strings- and the endorsement of Jimmie Rodgers the “Singing Brakeman” playing a 2-17 early in his career as country music’s first superstar (he eventually played a 000-45 – and one is currently available on a popular website for only $69,999) the humble, lowly, 2-17 arguably set the course for all steel string instruments in that it was an eye-opener for Martin ~ the first real steel string to enjoy any real measure of success and popularity in terms of dollar sales for the guitar manufacturer and it led the way introducing thousands of players to the joys of picking steel rather than gut.
By it’s second year, Martin more than doubled sales of the 2-17 selling nearly 800 in 1923. It quickly became Martin’s best selling model with over 6,000 sold in the first eight years of production. Martin made 4,600 guitars TOTAL in 1926 and the 2-17 accounted for 28% of production with 1,300 sold.
It would not be until 1928 that Martin would begin bracing other models for steel strings and by 1929 Martin had made the conversion to steel strings on all Martin models made. As the demand for louder, larger models increased, popularity of the smaller 2-17 waned and by 1938 production was discontinued altogether in favor of the larger, louder models.
Today, the 2-17 can be readily found on vintage websites or auction sites. It is an absolute joy and a gem to own to play. A real hoot. Easy to play and to hold it will transport you to another time in another era.”
References: Martin Guitars, a History by Mike Longworth.
Pictures kind courtesy of Bob Masiak.
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