It’s a good question.
I acquired my first Martin electric guitar in the early 1990’s while I was living abroad, an EM-18 (see more in the E series sections of these pages). I’d never heard of Martin electrics before, although I’d owned a D-18 acoustic for many years, and I trusted the source, he’d sold me some fine guitars in the past.
When the guitar arrived, I was really impressed. It was so unlike the Gibsons and Fenders that I owned that I used it as my main electric instrument for quite a few years, and it never failed to draw comments from anyone who saw it. Of course this was at the beginning of the web, so finding any information was hard (and dial up), and I moved to England in 1997 for a few years. It came with me of course, and got played, but it was still just one guitar in a growing collection.
In late 2000 several things happened; I moved to eastern Pennsylvania, about 40 miles outside Philly, the web started getting richer in content, eBay and broadband connections were mature technologies. Several of my co-workers were guitarists and bought EM-18’s after seeing mine. Their reasoning was simple; where else could you buy such an interesting historical instrument 20+ years old, of such high quality from a respected US manufacturer at a reasonable price?
It was at this point, I think around 2003 the project really took shape – originally as a book on affordable collectibles. After a lot of research, the story in these pages unfolded. Over the next seven years I acquired all the instruments you see shown here, and previously unpublished and unknown information on the Martin electrics.
The starting point of the collection is the F series. Although Martin produced some flat top acoustics with magnetic pickups in the late 50’s (the D-18E, D-28E and OO-18E), I chose my starting point as ‘purpose built’ electrics, hence the F series. The end point of my collection and these pages is the end of the E-28 series in 1983, as I chose my end point as the demise of US and Japanese manufacturing operations. The instruments in the F, GT, E-18, E-28 US series and the Martin-Sigma and Martin-Goya Japanese series were all very small production runs and they are very collectible and for now, at least, affordable as interesting and high quality instruments.
Many sources contributed to this story. Martin allowed me access to their records, and Dick Boak of Martin (the creator of the E-18’s) and John Marshall of Martin (the creator of the E-28’s) were incredibly helpful and patient while I was researching these instruments. Several published works referenced parts of the story, including Mike Longworth’s invaluable reference work – however most of the story came from actually going out and buying an example of each of these instruments and looking at them. I believe this is the only account of the Martin electrics where all the main instruments of each series are actually owned by the author.
Over time, the intent is to publish all the information I’ve collected and amassed on these pages to serve as the definitive reference to these hidden gems. If you’d like to ask any specific questions, please feel free to post them as comments, or email me. If you own any of these instruments, send me their serial numbers for my database!