E-18/E-28 Series

The Martin E-18 Series

Martin EM-18

Martin’s E series electrics were produced in two broad series, the 18 series (E-18, EM-18 and EB-18 bass) and the 28 series (E-28 and EB-28 bass). All the Martin labeled instruments were made in the USA.

The E series guitars have interesting stories, made more vivid by the fact that the key people involved in their design and production helped me immensely when I was researching the history. The various books and articles previously available vary in their accuracy, and it has taken quite a lot of detective work to build what I believe to be a complete and accurate picture. My thanks to Dick Boak, John Marshall, Pete Entstasser and of course CF Martin and Co, my history would be a lot less interesting without their enormous contribution, not least of course that they made all these instruments in the first place.

Starting with the 18 series, we’ll look at the instruments and the production facts.

The 18 series was Martin’s first solid electric guitar, and was designed by Dick Boak. Unusually, a new 4-digit serial number was used for the 18 and 28 series instruments, starting at 1000. The first production instrument shipped was an EM-18, serial number 1004, in December of 1978. The last was 3645, an EB-18 at some point during 1980. A total of 341 E-18’s, 1,375 EM-18’s and 874 EB-18’s were  manufactured, a total of 2,590 instruments. Of course if the first were 1004 and the last 3645, that should be 2,642, so we should probably assume a numbering skip or some instruments rejected in QA, or a combination thereof.

Many people believe (because many books are unclear about this) that the 18 and 28 series were manufactured concurrently, this is not the case. The last 18 series was made before the first 28 series went to production – however because there was some inventory 18 series instruments were sold into the 1980’s by distributors.

The 18 series comprised three models: two six strings (E-18 and EM-18) and the EB-18 bass. The E-18 and EM-18 were virtually identical, with some minor electronics changes. The EB-18 was Martin’s first production electric bass as well as it’s first solid electric bass. Despite appearances, these instruments are not neck-through but set neck.

Myths and Legends

1. Two higher specification 18 series basses were produced, designated the EMB-18. I have no idea if this is true or not, I have only seen it referenced once. If anyone knows more – let me know!

2. The 18 series was produced 1979-83. Not true – Dec 78 to Late 1980/Early 1981.

3. The hard case was actually a modified gun case. True.

(To be continued)

The Martin E-18 models made in the USA:


Sigma E-18

The various non-USA made derivates:


The Martin E-28 Series

Martin E-28

Some additional E-28 information (courtesy of John Marshall) CF Martin original typescript E-28 series marketing

52 Comments.

  1. Congratulations! Nice guitars, may I have the serial numbers for my register? Also whether they have cream or black pickups, and black or brass read cavity covers.

    Thanks!

    Andrew

  2. I forgot to mention that I live in Norway, and I don’t think many of these were sold here, if any..

  3. Hi
    Nice website..I have been collecting electric guitars and basses for almost 20 years, and two weeks I found this rare bass guitar on the internet, Martin EB-18 with the original arrow case, mint condition. I had to buy it, and one week later, a EM-18 electric guitar was offered fir sale, also with the supercool case, and I had to buy that one too..

  4. You should check out the Facebook page ‘Martin Electric Guitars’ there’s a lot of owners on there. I have a lot of background information which I will post eventually, too many projects, not enough time!

  5. Anything info you may have will be greatly appreciated. Just like reading about these rare instruments. Would like to know where they all got to. I live in WV. Working WV,OH,KY and Pa this summer. Mine is the only one I have seen so far. Thanks.

  6. Hi Harry, thanks for sharing. Is there anything in particular you want to know? I have a lot of information I haven’t posted on the website yet.

    Andy

  7. Adding to my earlier post. I have the original owners card and owners warranty certificate from CF Martin. This EB18 bass was purchased Feb. 1984 at Fazio’s Frets & friends in Manchester, Mo. The instrument had been in stock for three or four years prior to the sale. I don’t like putting the complete S# out on the net, but it is in the extremely low 2500’s. It has the black gun case with the v patterns pointing inward.

  8. I currently play an EB18 in a traveling country band. I love everything about this bass. S# 25xx. Although it does get kinda heavy on a long show. Any information you can post I will appreciate. Always trying to find out info on the “E” series. This site is great. Thank you.

  9. Thanks admin, I don’t have a facebook, but wife does. I’ll ask her to post something on there. 🙂

  10. I’d check out the Martin Electric group on Facebook –

    Best of luck!

  11. Hi all, I have a Em-18 with original case and paperwork that I am forced to part with. It was a player, not mint, put in great condition still. Sounds great plugged into my small Marshall. Everything works, still has original strap locks and paperwork. Let me know if interest before I list it on the big auction site.

  12. The head stock on the e 28 has a decal of cfm on it… both mine were the very first back when I toured the factory andsaw them being built… the decal is like a gold color. The colors are tabacco brown sunburst the body is solid mahogany neck is one piece mine is as new condition. Both are matching..

  13. I have photos of both of mine matching serial numbers if they can allow pics here ill post both of mine. The backs are autographed by celebrities. Both have samurai and urushi black lacquer I also have two matching still in ori ghost inal tobacco sunburst in black gun cases with the v patterns facing inward. Mine had seymour duncan pickups of the humbucker types and black plastic knobs. I now do variations of yhese with uranium glass k mm obs and stainless damascus steel and titanium parts. Basf finishes.. carbon fiber covers and clearcoats by basf.

  14. I have the first e 28 still sold serial number 2 and matching bass. Had custom samurai inlaid and urushi on it.

  15. All I can say about the one I have is that it feels REAL solid, just like my ’68 Tele.
    And the DiMarzios are somethin’ else.

  16. Great to see other Folks collecting and caring for these fine instruments, they (good examples) are becoming harder and harder to find. I have 3 myself, an E-18: #1200, an EM-18: #1392 and another EM that some mental giant started to refinish and sanded off the badges and serial number. Im proud to have all these in my collection and they are keepers for sure. Cheers

  17. I stumbled across (and bought) an EM-18 off eBay from the Nashville area. Serial #3561. Black DiMarzio (?) pickups and black plastic plates on the back. I’m an acoustic player but took it to a jam last night and many electric players were suitably impressed. Not one had ever seen one before. I’m in Calgary Canada.

  18. Amazing site! I have had my E-18 for years after my father in law passed it down to me. It has been an amazing instrument. Serial number – 3078. It’s still all original and sounds fantastic.

  19. I agree with most it’s a great guitar. I’m looking for a copy of the manual and wiring diagrams just to keep with the guitar and case. My serial no. 3566

  20. Hello Andrew

    That is fantastic news. I have always been in awe of US guitars and have been since I saw my first when I was 10 y.o. I bought the E28 for its tone and its beauty, but I always felt proud to have a real American guitar made in the USA…it seems to me that the guitars that bring us the sound we know have to be made by the people who invented it. (even if everyone else was demanding a cheaper strat!)…give my best regards to John!

    When I bought the E28 at Palings music clearence they only had one…but I had played an E28 at guitar factory in Mt Druit some weeks before. I dont think the are the same instrument because the guitar factoty one was set up and maybe the tobacco sunburst was slightly lighter in the burst, if you follow me.

    The rewards of ownership of a true quality instrument are many: like the still straight neck, the pots are like new, switches perfect, EQ system still booms/ sparles and everything in between…

    My Martin still sees some live action and our community bigband leader asked me to use it for the next performance…even trumpet players can tell it is special!

    Best regards, Andrew.

  21. Thanks for that – first E28 I’ve heard of in Australia, you might have the only one! The genius that designed the E28 is John Marshall (no relation) and he still works at Martin in Nazareth, I’ll pass this on!

  22. Hi there Andrew

    I have E28 #4202 bought new 1982 in Sydney Australia.

    It has almost no wear or blemishes.

    Thanks for your page – it seems Martin disown these great guitars…. But they are actually a work of genius! If I had spent the same money on a D series that day I would never have been able to resist the $$$$s and would have probably sold it. So maybe the appalling price they attract is to ensure my sons inherit a masterpiece despite having cost me a bloody fortune to house and educate!!

  23. U 😮 😯 💡 i have marten elect.guitar with searel # 3599 what do i have thank you

  24. @Gerald – the earlier E/EM-18’s had cream colored pickups, and later in the production run they switched to black. This roughly coincided with the switch from anodized gold to black plastic rear cavity covers, although you do see the occasional transition instrument with a mix. Conversely all the EB-18’s are cream with the exception of the very earliest ones, which were black.

    Thanks for the serial numbers, all contributions are greatly received for my serial register. Martin have no production serial logs on these.

  25. I am the original owner of an EM-18 (guitar s/n 2595) and an EB-18 (bass s/n 28/79). I bought them in either late 1980 (or early 1981) at a very small boutique music store in Minden, Louisiana. Both are mint. I have the original cases. I own a dozen or so other martins, but these two are my favorite. Most of the EM-18’s and E-18’s have blonde colored pickups, mine are black. Why did some have different pickups? Thanks for all the helpful information!

  26. @Chris, you do come across EB-28’s occasionally, worth keeping an eye on eBay! If you haven’t done so already, check out the Martin Electric Guitar group on Facebook – regards, Andrew

  27. Chris Francklyn

    I am an original owner of a Martin E-28 which I have had since 1982. I have the original case and other stuff. the active circuitry makes for some interesting tones not available on Fenders and Gibsons. Would love to snag a matching EB-28 bass but have not seen them around. these guitars are the ugly ducklings of the collecting world!

  28. Do you have any photos of the Baritone? That’s a new one on me….

  29. Hi guys ..

    I have a 1980 EB28 bass with gun case and a few years ago owned a one of a kind 6 string baratone EBT28 that was made special. Like a dumb ass i sold it on ebay for $650. Wish i could find it and get it back.

  30. Sigmas were made in asia and assembled in the US. After the end of the Martin E-18 series, Martin toyed with having the bodies and necks made overseas, but never executed on it, and the few they had imported were sold, the later ones as kits from the Martin store at the factory. The Sigma version is actually a better instrument (in my opinion, your mileage may vary) than the E-18 as it’s lighter and better contoured, however it isn’t made in the USA.

    A great guitar, you should have a lot of fun with it.

  31. Sigma… what does that mean?? Is it not considered a martin??? Is the value affected??

  32. Sounds like it’s a Sigma – does it have Sigma on the Headstock, or Martin?

  33. I have either an e 18 or an em 18.. I can’t tell… the serial number is 000083… how is this possible???? And what does that mean???j

  34. Hi there,

    I’m sure you’re right, very few people own both an E28 and an EB28 – I think you’re the only other person apart from me that I know of.

    There were either 410 or 411 (depending on whose number you use) 28 series made, including E28, EB28, EB28F and a few custom shop models. The first serial was 3851, and the last was 4261, so your E28 is one of the very first. Some of the later 28’s are very exotic custom shop models. I own a fretless with hexagonal inlays and gold hardware – there is also a black, bound body E-28 and a fretless 6 string E28 that I know of.

    The serial numbering has nothing to do with the earlier instruments, the 4-digit number was introduced in December of 1978 with the EM-18. Previous Martin electrics – the F and GT series, and the pickup modified acoustics you referred to – used the standard Martin 6 digit number and were co-mingled with all the other instruments. The 4 digit serial on the E18 and 28’s were intended to separate them from the acoustic guitars.

    The 28’s are highly underrated instruments and they are definitely ‘keepers’ – thanks for the E28 serial, I’ll add it to my register.

    best

    Andrew

  35. I’m the original owner of a matched-pair E-28 and EB-28. Chris Martin told me that I’m probably the only owner of a matched pair. Per Chris and Mike Longworth, only about 100 of the E-28 guitars were made. In both instances, the pickups are Seymour Duncans, Craig Anderton had a hand in the electronics design. Both play wonderfully and the bass is still my go-to recording bass if I can get away with 4 strings.

    At the time I inquired, Mike said that the serial numbering is kind of sketchy because it goes back to the ill-fated “dreadnought with DeArmonds slapped on” experiments of the 19060’s.

    I bought the E-28 new from the factory in late 1980 or early 1981. The bass came about 6 months later. Our Martin rep at the time explained that Martin was pulling their solidbody stock out of the big-box guitar stores and going back to smaller bricks and mortar stores. I scored one of the basses that he had taken back.

    The bass is tucked away at the moment, but the guitar S/N is 3864, supporting the idea that the 28 series manufacturing came after the 18 series run.

    The necks and playability on both of mine are stellar. They may not get much love out there in the “vintage” or collector guitar market, but that’s OK. I’ll keep them as my little secret weapons. 😉

  36. Hi,

    I have a E-18 with a serial # 0000150 or 00000150.

    Is this from a kit? Does it affect the value?

    Thanks

  37. Thanks Kevin – three of the pickups? (The E-18 only has two)

  38. Hi,

    I have an E-18, serial #1274. It has all original parts except that somewhere along the way one of its’ owners traded out three of the pickups for seymour dun cans. Unfortunately the original pickups were not included in the case.

    It is an overall stellar guitar, which I find ridiculously inspiring.

    Thanks so much for your content and research, it has brightened my evening.

  39. Best of luck! It will be a 1979 not a 1978.

  40. I have a 1978 or 1979 EM-18, serial #1989. It’s been played and shows appropriate wear, but is all original and sounds great. Unfortunately, I need to sell it and it will be on eBay tomorrow.

  41. I built an E-18 from a kit purchased from the CF Martin 1883 store in 1981, s/n 190. It came with Dimarzio Super II pickups and I actually talked to Mr. Dimarzio himself on how to split the pickups. I added two micro switches and you can set each pickup to dual-coil, single-coil or reverse coil. It is still my favorite guitar. Other players have referred to it as a “tone monster”!

  42. I have a 1981 E-18 with the number 2855 on the neck. What does the 2855 represent?

  43. Hi Austin,

    As with most things, it depends on condition, originality etc. How do you know it’s an ’81 by the way?

    An E-18 sells for between $500 and $1100, usually averaging out around 7-800 for most that you see.

    Regards

    Andy

  44. Hello,
    I’ve gotten my hands on a ’81 E-18. I was wondering what the value was of these when they were new or what they’re worth now with original hardshell case.
    Thanks!
    -Austin

  45. Hi Tim,

    You should try and get your hands on an EM-18 – even if you get it shipped from the US,

    Andy

  46. hi, i have a EB18 down here in new zealand.
    picked it up about 12 years ago for $900 kiwi dollar. excellant quality instrument,great fat tone.
    always looking for a six string to match of the same but have never seen another at all down here.

    thanks for your research, didn’t realise so few were produced.

    tim

  47. How do I tell if I have an E-18 or an EM-18?

  48. My husband has an e28 that is gold plated. I have search every where and cannot find very much info about them. If any knows anything that can help, please let me know! Thanks ❓

  49. Linda, what model of guitar does he have?

  50. I would like to find out the value of these guitars. My husband has one he has owned since 1981 and he sayes it is the best electric guitar he has ever played.

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