View Full Version : What can you tell me about this vintage Martin ukulele?

12-26-2013, 02:49 AM
During our family Christmas get-together, my great aunt pulled out this ukulele that belonged to her father. It's a Martin ukulele that he won in a poker game about 70 years ago. It had another owner before that so I'm not exactly sure how old it is.

Photos: http://imgur.com/a/6YCd2

It has a big plastic panel on the front where it was apparently broken and repaired...? On the side is what looks like some kind of serial number. "?4492" I think, can't see the first number. I tried to get it in tune but it was impossible. The tuning pegs would not stay put.

Can anyone give me any information on this ukulele? Is it possible for us to get it in playable condition? What's the deal with the plastic panel?? It has great sentimental value to my aunt and she'd love to know any information you might be able to give me.

12-26-2013, 04:12 AM
Martin used those wooden pegs from 1922-1926.Yours is a BASIC "0" MODEL SOPRANO. I had a banjo uke that had pegs like that and they worked well. Try pushing them in to tighten them. I also heard a little chalk dust will keep them from slipping.The string is wrapped the wrong way on the 2 outside strings, they should all be the same way. no big deal. tHE PLASTIC PIECE LOOKS TO BE A HOME MADE pick guard.Martin didn't use serial numbers on their ukes, so someone added that too.
Once you get the tuners sorted out it should be a playable instrument as is. You have a very nice and desirable ukulele there.

12-26-2013, 04:19 AM
Cool! I would imagine that "plastic pick guard", which appears rather thick, could be replaced with a much thinner one of imitation tortoise or a black one that would look waaaaaay better, be waaaay thinner but still be thick enough. Those serial numbers were often added for music schools or music club instruments, etc. Good luck.

12-26-2013, 04:23 AM
Martin actually did use serial numbers on its ukes for a time in the 1920s. The serial number is consistent with the wooden pegs.

12-26-2013, 04:26 AM
Martin actually did use serial numbers on its ukes for a time in the 1920s. The serial number is consistent with the wooden pegs.

Where did they put them? surely, not where these are?

12-26-2013, 04:31 AM
Nope, those are where the music clubs and schools put them.

12-26-2013, 04:52 AM
The decal logo dates this to after 1932, the bar frets visible in the last picture put it at pre 1934. I would imagine the pegs are not original, as this is obviously not in mint condition; as Phil pointed out it was most likely in a school or club. You can switch out pegs, but the frets and decal can't lie. IMHO

David Newton
12-26-2013, 07:06 AM
A Martin uke from the teens could have a serial number on the neck block. Very early and rare.

A Style-0 from this date, early 30's, could have wood pegs I believe, there is no evidence of patent pegs, as they would have had ferrules and make an indent on the face and reverse of the head stock, and these wood pegs are the Martin style.

Replacing the pickguard would be a "players restoration", and good, but since this uke is family memorabilia, removing and replacing it would be a detriment.

12-26-2013, 09:58 AM
The pegs look to be from that time era so they are probably original to this uke. It was also common to sometimes wind the string to the outside of the post on the A and G string with these types of pegs. I say get rid of that pick guard and if you have to have one use a thinner and better colored one as already suggested. I don't know of any instrument company that would stamp numbers on their instrument like that, definitely after market.

12-26-2013, 10:00 AM
Early30Martin makes an excellent point about the decal, and unless someone added the decal (not probable), then it's a thirties or newer Martin with some added friction pegs. David also has some points.

Bottom line, op, is that it's a fine players ukulele, I'll bet it sounds good, and you should play it like you're the only uke player in a marching band at half time. Enjoy!

12-26-2013, 03:48 PM
Bar frets discontinued for Martin guitars in 1934, for ukes in 1947 per Walsh/King.


12-26-2013, 04:13 PM
All good info here. The only thing I can add is that this ukulele has been heavily modified, and we don't know why. Usually something like that pick guard is done to cover wear and/or damage. The monetary value is strongly impacted by that pick guard. Since your aunt has such a connection with it, enjoy it for what it is.

12-26-2013, 04:28 PM
hey you got a really nice Martin style 0 from the WW2 era.
A good luthier can help to remove that plastic pickguard carefully and then you will have a very valuable uke to play :)


12-26-2013, 04:58 PM
Wow, thank you everybody for all the great info. This is way more than we expected and I'm grateful!

I'm glad to find out the plastic panel is a pickgaurd, I was very confused about that. Frankly I find it quite an unfortunate modification to an otherwise lovely instrument. My aunt says it has always looked this way since her father had it so the modifications must have been made over 70 years ago by the previous owner, probably by whoever put the number stamp on the side.

My aunt is not quite ready to part with it yet, but has promised to pass it on to me eventually. Then I can look into removing or replacing the pickgaurd and restoring it to its former glory. In the meantime, you can be sure I'll play it every time I visit.

Although the damage is unfortunate, I think it's great how the ukulele was cherished and played extensively. It's wonderful to find out that my family has been enjoying the ukulele for 3/4 of a century.

12-26-2013, 08:22 PM
There are two correct ways to wrap # 1 and #4 string. What you are seeing is the other way. It actually makes the strings come straighter from the notch to the string post than all four running down the middle.

12-27-2013, 02:01 AM
There are two correct ways to wrap # 1 and #4 string. What you are seeing is the other way. It actually makes the strings come straighter from the notch to the string post than all four running down the middle.

you are right the last style 5K i bought new from martin had the strings wound like yours....i usually wind them that way but not always if the pegs are placed closer to the edge of the peghead
...when you change strings next time clean the pegs and apply a very small amount of 'peg dope' on the friction area before putting back into the tapered hole...your wood pegs are original martin pegs and are original.....the only thing modified on your ukulele is the pick guard which a luthier should remove then you will have an all original instrument ...it will also sound a lot better as that thick pick guard is not allowing the top to vibrate you can get peg dope from any place that sells violins....it will make your pegs work smother and also prevent slipping.....if you push in on the pegs make sure to support the front side of the peg head with your right hand so you don't put pressure on the neck/heel joint.....you have a nice ukulele