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1938 Martin 00-21S Vintage Guitar 14 fret Rare Original

1938 Martin 0021S original

Comparison of 1933 OM-18 vs 1938 OO-21S


1938 Martin 00-21S 14 fret

Here is a rare and much sought after 14-fret 00-21 from the 1930s.  Serial #71,667 rare special order 14 fret model, Brazilian rosewood, original finish, has a T bar, structurally sound, original open back Grover G-98 tuners (which appear to have never been off), original fretboard and frets etc, recent neck set, bridge has been replaced but bridge plate appears original
A total of eleven 00-21S guitars were sold between 1935 and 1938. All were sold to dealers in the Chicago area. Ten went to Lyon & Healy and one to William Lewis & Son., Four 0-21S guitars were made between 1930 and 1940. Beautiful tone, low action and plays so sweet.

Vintage 1930’s Martin 00-21

Almost all 00-21 guitars from the period were 12-fret models but between 1935 and 1938 a total of twelve 00-21 guitars were made with 14 fret necks, all were sold to dealers in Chicago but all but one was ordered by just one dealer. This particular guitar is the second last example made.

The S was added on the end of the 00-21 (00-21S) because it was a 1930’s special order Martin guitar.

Like all style 21 guitars it has a herringbone sound hole ring and herringbone back-stripe.

Back and sides: Brazilian rosewood

Top: Red spruce (Adirondack)

Not for sale, just for info purposes,

1933 Martin 00-21S

1938 Martin 00-21S  original G98 open back Grover tuners

1933 Martin 00-21S original

1938 Martin 00-21S  Brazilian rosewood back

1933 Martin 00-21S original

1938 Martin 00-21S

1938 Martin 00-21S original

Check out the Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum to see a posts about this instrument:

Comments from the post below:

“I think if I had to identify my proverbial “Holy Grail”, this might be the one.  I love the 14-fret 00 body size above all others.  I’ve had my share of great ones over the years, too.  But, they have all been mahogany.  I imagined Martin might have made a few custom orders in rosewood, but I’d never seen one.  Until now.  Below are a couple of links to long-gone examples of what must be a fabulous guitar.”

“The one Mark had at Folkway is labeled 00-21S and he says only 11 were made.  I can’t find anything in my reference material to collaborate that, though I don’t doubt his word.   I don’t find this model in the price guide or in Gruhn’s book.  There’s no mention of it in the Walter Carter book.  Nothing in the original Longworth or subsequent modern edition.  Gruhn indicates it is simply a 14-fret 00-21 with no mention of the ‘S’.  Did the ‘S’ at that time designate a ‘special’ build?  Kind of makes sense, but I don’t know that for sure.

I doubt that one comes my way anytime soon, and even if it did, I’m not sure I could afford it.  So, I decided to do the next best thing.  I’ve ordered a 14-fret double-aught in EIR from our friends at Pre War Guitar Company.  I was fortunate to procure a build slot due in October of ’22, so I significantly reduced the 26 month wait.  But, if one of the originals would somehow miraculously become available to me…well, I know I’d have to make the effort.”

“Gone but not forgotten. 1938 Martin 00-21S, acquired from the sister of the original owner. Twelve made in total, special orders from several dealers in the Chicago area. What a cool guitar. The pic is of the young man who was the first owner, so proud of his new guitar that he posed with it in a professional photographer’s studio with it. It was a great find, and one that I wish I’d held onto. According to Greig Hutton this was the second to last in the 12 production run.”

“As a 00 fanatic, a 1930’s 14 fret 00-21 is on my bucket list.  Seeing the Gruhn one brings back painful memories.  It was a long time ago but I want to say Gruhn wanted 8K for it.  At the time I thought that was too much for a refinish and hemmed and hawwed for a few hours.  I finally decided to pull the trigger but it was already gone when I called.

I recently finished up a 14 fret 00-21 kit build.  Turned out way better than it had any right to given the skill level of the builder.    ”

“We’ve heard various things about the “S” over the years, that it stood for “Standard” on a 12 fret body, or “Slot head”, etc.  I’ve asked Martin historians and longtime employees about this.  From their research, it always stood for “Special” when stamped on the neck block, as in something special about the order that made it different from regular production.  That was true even with the postwar 12 fret “S” guitars even though they eventually became catalogued items.  In shop notes it was used for all sorts of different things including “Spruce” on a guitar that normally had a mahogany top, or “Spanish” on guitar that was normally setup for Hawaiian playing.”

“A 1937/38 14-fret 00-21 is at the top of my wish list too. There are so few and seen for sale so infrequently that I’ll likely never own one.  So I’ll just have to enjoy the two 14-fret rosewood 00s that I currently have:
– A (Guitar Center spec’d) 2012 Martin 14-fret 00-21 custom (1 3/4 nut/Madi/Adi/Ebony/Koa binding/pyramid bridge/Hide glue/T-bar)
– A 2020 Pre-War 14-fret double aught (1 3/4 nut/Adi/Braz/Ebony/belly bridge/hide glue/adjustable truss rod).  ”

A 2020 Pre-War 14-fret double aught (1 3/4 nut/Adi/Braz/Ebony/belly bridge/hide glue/adjustable truss rod).

I bet this is a sweet one.  I have essentially the same guitar ordered (due in Oct. ’22) with EIR.  I agree with all you said, and I think it’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to the real thing myself.  Not a bad consolation, though, if it’s anything like my PWGC OM-28.”

“I like the Pre-War 00 so much that it has been my number one go-to guitar since getting it and I’ve been very tempted to get a PWGC OM companion for it!  I’ve been resisting as I already have two fine Martins OMs (an OM-28A and an OMC-28B LJ), I do have to keep reminding myself I should be in divesting mode rather than accumulating mode at this point in my life…”

“I made and posted the YouTube clip above of Kenny Sultan from a lesson of about 10 years ago, showing me a bit of Blind Blake. The guitar is an incredibly sweet sounding, resonant instrument with all the charm of a great 14-fret 00 and the heft of BRW. At the time it belonged in Kenny’s care, and shortly after he passed it along to mine. I recorded a whole album of instrumental solos in 2016 with it almost exclusively.

I believe all 11 specimens of these 00-21S models went to just two shops in Chicago in 1937 & 38. All but a couple of those, including mine in June of ’37, went to Lyon & Healy. Why other music stores or their customers never asked for more is a mystery to me. Martin seemed determined to keep the small bodies and rosewood apart from the dominant demand for 14-fret guitars.  That, of course, begs the question: Why didn’t they care about 000 and D sizes? Did 0 and 00 rosewood guitars deserve “protection” from the volume-seeking rabble?  Who knows. But there must have been a demand. ”

“the best guitar i have yet to play has been my 1938 00-21…..would love to find a 14 fretter, but that is never happening”

“In my records, I have mention of three (3) 00-21s made with 14 frets in 1937.  However, this isn’t listed in Martin Guitars: A Technical Reference.  There were (3) 0-21s with 14 frets made in 1930 but I’ve never seen them actually show up anywhere.  In 1938 Martin changed the 000-21 to 14 frets.  So there are some options out there.  Of course, most of them are very rare. ”


  • David Wal says:

    Hello Mark. Just came across your webpage here. Wow, these are some amazing guitars! Are younm interested or would you ever entertain parting with any of them? What an honor to even see those! Thanks for sharing the info and beautiful pictures. Thanks! David

    • says:

      Thanks for the kind words David. Most of them are gone unfortunately. Still have a couple. You could always send me an email or call.

  • Tom Lester says:

    Mark- I’ve missed two of the 00-21s guitars. One, years ago that Jon Lundberg was selling at his shop in Berkeley Ca. back in the 60’s (I bought a ’31 shade top OM 28 instead. I also passed on a Martin 000-45 12 fret which at the time was around $5k, an astronomical price for a grad student back in the 60’s.

    And the second was for sale at Folkway music in Toronto several years back. They are simply magnificent guitars and as you say, exceedingly rare. That said, my ’31 |OM-28 ain’t too shabby.

    • says:

      Nice Tom! Love the 30’s 00-21s guitars. How bout that. Ive got a 33 OM-18. Very sweet instruments!

  • Tom Lester says:

    A few years back I bought a Larson Prairie State chocolate topped guitar. As it turns out, it was signed and dated inside by Augustus and Carl Larson (1/7/34) which made it the first known 14 fret, chocolate topped guitar the Larson Bros. made. I ended up trading it to Fred Oster for a shade top ’31 OM-18. Took it to my luthier in Vancouver where we compared it to another OM-18 from the same year (57,XXX). Mine had been well played and taken care of, the other had sat in a closet for years. My guitar sounded open with incredible sustain and resonance while the closeted OM sound closed and muted by comparison. Just goes to show you how environment and playing history can affect the overall sound of virtually identical guitars.

  • Tom Lester says:

    Question. Do you know whether the bracing on the 00-21s is 1/4″ or 5/16″?? Also, is it standard or forward shifted bracing (as was the case in some pre-war Martins)? Thanks in advance for your reply… Tom

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