View Full Version : martin 1904

Feb-27-2006, 7:15pm
I have a Martin Bowlback that my father left me.I was told its 1904,but it has 17 frets and is amost indentical to one descibed as 1899 in www.henrystrobe.com/intinst.htm.
That is to say,the decorative detail,apart from bottom of the fret board is identical.Almost a sister.
It has 41 ribs?.Inside it says c.f.martin 600.
Mandolin players have used it and say it is still playable.
What would it be worth?I'll try to add more photos to the Photos of my Mandolin.

Feb-27-2006, 8:38pm
More photos

Feb-27-2006, 8:40pm

Feb-27-2006, 8:41pm
more photos

Feb-27-2006, 8:44pm

Bob A
Feb-27-2006, 9:25pm
If the "600" is on the neck block, I assume it's the serial number, and would be 1899. If there's abalone on the side borders as well as the top, it'd be a style 7, the fanciest bowlback Martin made. If not, it's a style 6, which ain't no slouch either. Gruhn's book states these have 42 ribs, but who's counting?

Please do not string it with bluegrass strings. GHS makes a "classical" set which is light enough to keep from wrecking the top and neck. There are other sets available, mostly imports.

It's a lovely and very rare instrument. I don't know how many were made, but darn few, for sure. Worth a couple grand easy, if it's playable. Maybe more - I'm no expert on Martin prices.

If you plan to post more photos, a close-up of the neck/peghead joint from the rear would be pretty impressive. Serious joinery.

Nice textiles, by the way.

Jim Garber
Feb-27-2006, 10:54pm
Yours is very similar in specs to my 1902 Style 6 which you can see on this thread (http://www.mandolincafe.net/cgi-bin/ikonboard.cgi?act=ST;f=15;t=14185).

It is probably a style 6 which was first made in 1898. Bob is correct that if it does have some pearl around the cap of the bowl it ia probably a style 7. Those are even rarer than the 6's tho. Also they were first made around 1904 ands started out with an even wider and more garish pearl inlay around the top.

By the time you get to the top of the mandolin line at Martin, none of these ever seem to have exactly the same ornamentation. At least I have never seen any two identical ones.

BTW the serial number and Martin stamp on mine is on the inside neck block.

That link you mentioned should be Henry Strobel's site (http://www.henrystrobel.com/intinst.htm).

Did your father play that mandolin? I love to hear the history esp if it was in your family.


Feb-28-2006, 1:00am
Thanks for your info.
The 600 is on the inside,on the neck block.
There is no extra shell work on the side ,so it looks like style 6.
My father used to play it in the Russian club band in Sydney,Australia in the 50's.I dont know where he got it,but he'd be over a hundred now if he were still alive.

So 600 is a year stamp for 1899?
It lives in its case in a cupboard at my place now.
No point in that.

Feb-28-2006, 1:02am
photo neck

Jim Garber
Feb-28-2006, 6:15am
I love that dovetail neck joint. Do you have any old photos of your dad playing?


Feb-28-2006, 12:55pm
Sorry to disagree with Bob but I think he's a year out. The 600 is a serial number. Martin started numbering their mandolins in 1895 and the last number in 1899 was 577. No.600 was, therefore, made 23 instruments into 1900.

If you can get hold of a copy of "Martin Guitars a History" by the late Mike Longworth - you'll find detailed descriptions of their mandolins together with serial numbers and production figures. Unfortunately, I think the book is out of print and is becoming quite a collector's item.


Bob DeVellis
Feb-28-2006, 1:14pm
I think 1900 is correct. The inlay around the end of the fingerboard was deleted in 1901. A mere 8 Style 6's were made that year with a total run of 106. The Style 7 wasn't introduced until 1904, so this was the top of the line in its day. An instrument of this quality is certainly worth getting checked out for any structural issues. Even if it looks playable superficially, there may be problems with the neck joint or elsewhere that need attention before it's put into service. Others are better equipped to recommend a competent repairperson with sufficient bowlback experience. Your ordinary guitar repairperson is very unlikely to be able to handle this rather specialized instrument.

Many old bowlbacks are potentially fine sounding instruments but their value when fully restored often doesn't justify the cost of restoration. No so in this case. The value of the instrument in solid shape (which it may be in now) will easily justify the cost of a thorough going-over, good set-up, and attention to any problems that may exist. Value is hard to determine for these instruments because it's all a matter of who wants one and what they're willing to pay, but in good shape, I would think a couple of thousand is a reasonable ballpark with the potential for appreciably more if someone is really interested. There really isn't an established market value for this instrument because they don't change hands that often. Demand is low but so is supply. If I owned it, I certainly wouldn't entertain any offers below $2000.

Jim Garber
Feb-28-2006, 1:38pm
The Style 7 wasn't introduced until 1904
Actually the Style 7 was catalogued in 1904. According to Longworth's production totals, there was one #7 produced in 1899, one in 1900 and 4 in 1902. I assume that these were actually style 6 ne plus ultras -- for those who found the style 6s too plain(!)

I would love to see as many of these high end Martins as we could gather next to each other, because I doubt there are any two that have exactly the same ornamentation. They seem also to get less ornamented as the line fades into the teens.


Feb-28-2006, 11:26pm
Delicious! Did you write to me directly about this instrument a few years ago, Peter? I know somebody wrote me about an early style 6 and sent me a number of pictures.

Mar-01-2006, 7:20pm
I am not really into Bowl backs, but this one is a real beauty.

Bob DeVellis
Mar-01-2006, 7:22pm
Jim, good catch on the date of origin. Thanks for setting the record straight.

Mar-01-2006, 9:47pm
Beautiful....That mandolin really shows the true craftmanship and pride of the builders at that time in history...today we just call it over the top!! #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Jim Garber
Mar-01-2006, 10:40pm
I showed my style 6 to my luthier for an estimate on restoration and he could not get over the craftsmanship in it. Thye are pretty incredible instruments.


Darryl Wolfe
Mar-02-2006, 9:33am
Astounding piece. It's too bad the Martin Book doesn't have color pictures. Black and White certainly doesn't do pieces like this justice. Thanks for posting

Jim Garber
Mar-02-2006, 9:59am
There are a few color photos of bowlbacks including a style 7 in the Washburn and Johnston Martin book.


Bob A
Mar-02-2006, 11:29am
Right. 1900. I blush for my old eyeballs.

Mar-02-2006, 11:32am
That is one beautiful mando, Peter, and you're even more lucky that it's got family history.

Paul Doubek