Quick Guide to Martin Ukulele Styles

Martin ukuleles are probably the most sought after brand of ukulele around. It’s many ukers’ dream to come across a vintage Martin ukulele at a car boot sale for a tenner. You’ll often see the ukenoscenti throw around the names of different styles of ukulele, so I thought I’d knock together a quick and easy newbie’s guide to telling different styles of Martin apart so you can tell what’s what.

I’m certainly no expert on the subject. The values are just VERY vague guesses and meant as a loose guideline only. If you want full specs and a detailed history this site is a must read. I’d also recommend you take a look at the above video of ukulelezaza playing four different styles of Martin (0, 1, 2, 3).

martin style 0 ukuleleMartin Style 0

The style 0 Martin is the simplest ukulele they made. The only bit of decoration is the simple ring around the sound hole. The 0 was made in mahogany only. A Style 0 ukulele in top condition might be worth around $800.

Martin Style 1

Style 1′s are very similar to style 0. The quickest way to tell them apart is to look at the fretboard. A Style 1 ukulele will have a double dot at the seventh fret, while a Style 0 will have only one. Also, Style 1 Martins were produced in koa known as (Style 1K) as well as in mahogany (sometimes called 1M but usually just referred to as 1). Koa wood is much lighter than mahogany.

A mahogany style 1 will be worth a little more than the style 0, but a 1k could be worth more than $1,000 in good condition. musicguymic has one for sale at the moment for $1,200.

martin style 2 ukuleleMartin Style 2

The Style 2 is a little more fancy. You can recognise it immediately by the thick white binding around the body of the uke.

The Style 2 was available in mahogany and also in koa. A mahogany version will take you into four figures, and a 2K should see you well over $2,000 and closer to three if it’s in top notch condition.

Martin style 3Martin Style 3

Style 3 Martins were originally made for professional ukulele players and are, therefore, really fancy-schmancy. There are plenty of distinguishing features: a thick white binding around the soundhole, the distinctive design behind the bridge, the fretboard reaching up to the soundhole with a line down the middle. Value roughly $2,000 for the mahogany and $3,000 or over for an early 3K in top condition.

Martin Style 4

There is, apparently, no such thing. I have no idea why.

Martin style 5k ukuleleMartin Style 5k

If you find one of these in a junk shop, count yourself very lucky. They are the Mac-Daddy and, indeed, the Daddy-Mac of ukuleles. They have the fancy filigree on the headstock and no line down the centre of the fretboard to immediately distinguish them from the style 3. You can see a 5K in action in a number of Brian Hefferan’s videos.

The 5k is very sought after and valuable. There was one on eBay with the quite staggering asking price of $50,000. That strikes me as over-valued. If you find one, you’ll probably get five figures for it. The Antiques Roadshow recently valued one at $10,000 to $12,000. And who could disagree with David Bonsey?

Martin did briefly make a mahogany version of the Style 5. But they’re very rare.

Martin have recently started making Style 5′s again and you can find them for sale on Elderly. They have also made (in Mexico) other modern ukuleles such as the S-O and the HS-O. These tend to be not so highly regarded.

Happy hunting.

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57 Comments

  1. Nelson February 22nd, 2008 4:07 pm

    I actually accidentally stumbled across this awhile ago…thought it was a bit odd.

    http://www.guitarcenter.com/Martin-5K-Ukulele-513305-i1170511.gc

  2. Nelson February 22nd, 2008 4:08 pm

    Oh forgot to ask, sorry for double posting, does anyone know if Cordoba makes a good uke?

  3. Woodshed February 22nd, 2008 5:40 pm

    Yeah, that’s one of the new 5Ks. They’ve been getting a pretty good reviews. You can read a couple of people’s take here and here.

    Don’t know anything about Cordoba, I’m afraid.

  4. Jerry McNeil March 3rd, 2008 4:24 pm

    I have an old Martin Uke. I have no idea of age. Can you tell me how to age it? Can I find out an approximate value?

  5. Jerry McNeil March 3rd, 2008 4:26 pm

    I have an old Martin Ukulele. Can you tell me how to age it and how I can find out an approximate value. I would like to sell it.

  6. Pascal Mettey January 5th, 2009 1:07 pm

    There are some nice pics of a vintage Martin 5K ukulele here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/uketeecee/sets/72157605853651316/

  7. Woodshed January 6th, 2009 5:40 pm

    Pascal: Thanks for the link. Sweet!

  8. Nancy Seymour June 10th, 2009 6:09 pm

    I have an Martin ukulele I would like to know the value of it. It belonged to my father in law. It has 18 bars and one white dot then further up twp , then one. Thank you

  9. Rispens July 4th, 2009 7:16 pm

    I just discovered I have a Martin 3 probably bought in Hawaii in 1930-31 in excellent condition. In original case with blue felt lining. Where do I start to get this appraised/sold? Live in the Chicagoland area.

  10. Isabell Elliott August 8th, 2009 4:24 pm

    I have a Martin ukulele with a double dot on the seventh fret w/the original case How do i go about finding the value of the ukulele the markings states Martin & Co, est 1833

  11. John Blackwell August 20th, 2009 9:44 pm

    I have a type 0 thats probably from the forties. but the mahogany back has been replaced. does this make it pretty much worthless?

  12. Patrick Pillsbury September 5th, 2009 10:45 pm

    I’ve a Martin Ukulele in near new condition, believe an type O, I’d like to sell, any ideas?
    Thank you,

  13. Woodshed September 13th, 2009 8:43 am

    Patrick: Your best bet is eBay. But it’s not the best time to sell – a lot of people seem to be off-loading bits of their collection at the moment.

  14. JEFF PURSLEY October 29th, 2009 3:12 am

    Do you remember The late Johnny “Ukulele” Ka’aihue who died November 1971
    at the age of 70. He was the Father of the grate Mary Kaye, I am the youngest son
    of Mary.

    For Sale! to the highest bidder:
    I have my Grand fathers Martin & Co Ukulele # 4 EST 1833
    he used from 1916 to till he past in 1971.

    So far bids are in, 23 in all, is at ?? was
    the last highest bidder.

    A cash buy it now price is set at : $??
    will include Family photos of Johnny Ukulele
    and Mary Kaye.

    Will need to special deliver and insure before
    shipping will take place of the Ukulele. or will
    need to be hand deliver by Johnny Ka’aihue’s grand
    son Jeff Pursley.

    I am selling it for a highest bidder price that hasn’t been determined
    yet, the Martin & Co Ukulele # EST 1833 is already a grand collectors
    item and that’s without being owned and Played by the late great
    Johnny “Ukulele” Ka’aihue since 1916, it is true collectors dream.
    It has my Grandfathers trademark were & tear from hard playing
    in performances all over the planet. If you know the history of my
    grandfather you knew he was the Best friend of Olympic swimmer
    and Surfer “The Duke”. It is a private bid and all moneys will go
    to doctors bill in support of a family member that has fallen sick and
    is directly related to Johnny Ka’aihue.

    >From Exotica cult favorite:
    Johnny Ukulele was born John Ka’aihue in Kalani, Hawaii on November 8, 1901 — the son of Prince Koeheo Ka’aihue,
    at 15 he signed on a band assembled to back surfing pioneer Duke Kahanamoku during his surfing demonstrations across
    the mainland U.S. When Kahanamoku returned to Hawaii, Ka’aihue remained stateside, touring the Midwest vaudeville
    circuit — he was a particular favorite of Chicago’s organized crime families, and according to the website http://www.spaceagepop.com,
    he stayed for free in hotels owned by Al Capone’s brother Ralph. Ka’aihue also regularly appeared in competitive swimming
    meets against the likes of Buster Crabbe and Johnny Weissmuller before settling in St. Louis to begin a family he became the
    Hawian swimming Champion gaining the respect from pro swimmers all over the planet including olimpic champion “The Duke”,
    he then went on to play local clubs and operating an instructional school teaching Hawaiian music. Shortly after World War
    II ended he joined up with bandleader Harry Owens, remaining with his Royal Hawaiian Orchestra for 15 years, including
    a nine-year stint on CBS television’s The Harry Owens Show — during this time, Ka’aihue also adopted the stage name
    Johnny Ukulele. In addition to playing on a series of Owens’ LPs, in 1958 he issued a solo effort, the Capitol label proto-lounge
    classic Favorite Selections by Johnny Ukulele — three years later, he returned to Hawaii for the first time in nearly half a century,
    headlining a triumphant homecoming gig. When his children Mary and Norman became mainstays on the Las Vegas Strip with
    their Mary Kaye Trio, Ukulele migrated to Sin City himself, playing casino nightclubs throughout the 1960s — at one point, his
    backing group included budding country-pop superstar Bobbie Gentry. He died in Hollywood on 1971.

    I only have old LP’s that my sister has, I will transfer them to MP3, and am also looking on line, He was also known as the
    fastest UKE player ever, in fact if you look at all his Uke’s they all have serious pick where in the motion areas and was a
    trade mark of his playing, his Uke would be smoken after a jam, he had a few uke and I had the one that he played the most
    Martin & Co Ukulele #4 EST 1833 the others would be for show and the one I have was the one he loved the most, in fact
    my mom also used played it after my Grandpa past, the reason im selling it is that it will yield the most and I will keep all the
    rest in show case.

    If you are interested or know someone who would be then please feel free to contact me, The uke is one of a kind and only
    one owned by Johnny Ukulele will ever be made available, only a few will ever know it was for sale and all hand selected by
    me, only people that would appreciate the history of the Ukulele will be given the golden opportunity to own it, I am sure allot
    would have loved to own it at any cost.

    You can contact me at 818-390-7349 my name is Jeff Pursley
    and I am the Grand son of Johnny Ka’aihue and yungest son of
    The late Mary Kaye from the Mary Kaye Treo.

    I would like to send you photos!!!

    More on Johnny “Ukulele” Ka’aihue

    http://www.spaceagepop.com/ukulele.htm

  15. Robert Hibbard November 13th, 2009 3:39 am

    I have a Uke that belonged to my dad, not a style 1 or 2 the fret board extends to the sound hole. 2 thin white bindings around sound hole, single thin white binding around body also with a martin installed pick up. Like new, with a case that came with the special ordered unit in late 60′s as a present to my dad by one of my brothers. I have been offered $3000.00 for it. A musician friend said he thinks it is one of a kind. ??? What do you think it is worth. Robert

  16. Bill February 15th, 2010 4:32 pm

    I need to buy a new case for my Martin 3k uke. Suggestions?

  17. Pascal Mettey March 22nd, 2010 1:31 pm

    There’s a BEAUTIFUL vintage 5K ukulele being played on YouTube here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESTm0LnOd_o

    Sounds superbo!

  18. Jeannie McDermid June 27th, 2010 5:40 pm

    I have a few Martin Ukus but I have areally nice one from the 1940′s that is Nobility. I can not
    find anything on it. Have you ver heard of that.

  19. Jackie June 27th, 2010 8:03 pm

    I found an old Martin ukulele in my Grandma’s attic. It was given to her in between 1943 and 1946 by a guy who wanted to date her. She kept the ukulele and turned the guy down. I think it’s a style 2, judging from these posts. I’m thrilled to have it.

  20. Woodshed June 27th, 2010 9:11 pm

    Jeannie: Sorry, I’m not familiar with Nobility at all.

    Jackie: That’s disgraceful. You should put out for a Martin.

  21. Brian July 1st, 2010 2:24 am

    I hate martins. Don’t get me wrong i love the sound and would easily pay $200-300 for one, but when it comes down to it, they are extremely overpriced. They are good ukes, but they’re not terrifically made either. almost all the vintage ones have cracks, even one’s that have sat in a box for 60 years. Compared to ukuleles from Hawaii that have none. I will still look for martins, but i refuse to pay a ridiculous amount of money for one. In reality the only reason they are so expensive is because they are very popular and vintage. (again, not saying they aren’t good ukes, they are just overpriced.)

  22. JD July 1st, 2010 11:52 pm

    All the ukuleles shown are sopranos. It should be noted that Martin also made concert, tenor and baritone ukes. The uke played by Bradda “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole in most of the pics and videos I’ve seen appears to be a Style “0″ or “1″ tenor, probably from the 40′s or 50′s. I’ve played a few of these, (including the one owned by Robyn Kneubuhl of the Hula Honeys) and they are quite nice. I’ve also played a Martin concert (rare), and one of the coolest ukes I’ve ever played is an 8-string concert-sized Martin “taropatch”, probably from the 20′s and probably worth $20K or so.
    The Mele mahogany and koa ukuleles are pretty faithful replicas of the Martins in most aspects, and should be checked out when uke shopping as they’re the least expensive entirely handmade solid wood ukes on the market, as far as I can determine.

  23. Woodshed July 3rd, 2010 12:33 pm

    Brian: I do have a lot of sympathy for your arguement – particularly with the Martin koas. Looking at them purely as ukes, the price isn’t really justified.

    But I don’t think you can dismiss the more sentimental reasons for buying one. It feels good buying into the history that Martin has.

    JD: Thanks for the info.

  24. Dano July 3rd, 2010 3:53 pm

    I like Martins but will agree that there are other ukes out that are as good. The thing is that if you like Fords you like Fords. I own a Martin guitar that I play everyday. I love it. So I bought a Martin uke. Its the one not mentioned. Yep an SO Martin. Now I did it, people are really going to start talking. The SO is the newer Martin that a lot of people dont like. I got it used for a very good price. I play the heck out of it and it sounds good to me.
    Everyone is different. Thats why they make different sizes too.
    Keep playing
    Dano

  25. Woodshed July 8th, 2010 9:11 pm

    Dano: I haven’t tried an S-O myself. But reading the reviews I’m not surprised you got it for a good price.

  26. Dano July 8th, 2010 9:59 pm

    Woodshed, Ya know this is just my opinion but. It is well built and plays well. Its not made in the USA but not a lot is. It is the cheapest Martin and if ya want a better one you can buy one for about 1,500 or more. I dont want to spend that kind of money on a second instrument. ( I play guitar )
    Martin insterments are very well built and always have been. Thing is they mostly make guitars not ukes. and are a guitar company. I would think that if Kala made one or two guitars, guitar players would feel like uke players feel about the
    Martin ukes.
    Bottom line is everyone is different and its nice to have choices.
    Dano

  27. JD July 14th, 2010 10:27 pm

    If Kala made guitars, they would be exactly like dozens of other brands of mass-produced Chinese-made guitars that you can find at almost any music store (not that that’s a bad thing!).
    Mike Upton, who owns Kala, is the guy who designed the Lanikai ukuleles when he worked for Hohner, so it’s not surprising that the two brands are very similar. Chances are they roll off the same assembly line.
    Comparing a new (Mexican) Martin to an old Martin is a lot like comparing a Takamine to a Taylor; both decent guitars bot not exactly in the same league.

  28. eric woody July 23rd, 2010 10:26 pm

    I have a Martin Uke that belonged to my wife’s grandmother that was given to me,,,, it has double dots @ the 7th fret. But has no serial # … how can I tell if it’s a tenor,baratone or whatever..
    the body is 12″ in lenth and it’s 9″ across at it’s widest point…body connects @ the 12th fret..
    I’d like to get a case for it,,, thanks

  29. dano August 5th, 2010 7:30 am

    eric just take it to a good music store. They can fit it in a good case and tell ya what size it is.
    Dano

  30. JD September 10th, 2010 2:40 am

    Eric: I think you must mean 21″ long, not 12″, because that’s the typical length of the smallest (soprano or standard) ukulele. Typical width would be 7 or 8 inches, so 9″ is not inconceivable but it is wider than some soprano cases, so like Dano said, take it to a good music store and see what fits.

  31. JD September 10th, 2010 2:46 am

    Oh- I see- you meant body length, not overall. That’s a tenor. OOPS! Depending on where you live, you might be better off ordering a tenor case on line than trying to find one locally. Most any tenor case should fit.

  32. STRUMSILLY October 25th, 2010 1:41 pm

    I didn’t know what the big deal was about vintage Martin ukes was until I got one. they are light, solidly built, and have a beautiful clear tone, the less fancy ones can be had for $5oo or less on ebay or uu marketplace. I own 5 soprano ukes, some more expensive than my 2 martins, but the martins sound the best imho.

  33. Tim November 26th, 2010 6:20 pm

    I just purchased a 1927 Martin ukulele, Style 0, at an estate sale. It is in great condition except it is missing two of the friction tuning pegs. Any ideas on where I can get replacement pegs?

  34. mo gillis-coates December 3rd, 2010 1:46 pm

    Hi, I definitely have a 5k uke, was given to me by my father, it’s well played and is in pretty good condition, but has a few of the pearlings missing from the fret board,

    Anyone got any idea where I should sell this? Also I’m not too sure but it may be a mahogany one…

    any advice?

  35. Jerome Smith February 1st, 2011 1:53 am

    I have a Martin type o.Bought it around 1952.Inside it says MAZARETARAN.
    great shape for the years but there is a small
    crack just starting on one side about11/4 long.
    I have long ago stopped playing it and would like to sell it ,
    anyone interested contact me at my e-mail address
    hatborojerry@aol.com

  36. Ben Werneke February 10th, 2011 11:42 pm

    I am pretty sure I have a Martin Style 0 but it is missing a string. I am pretty sure the original strings are still on it, but one is missing. I simply need to know how to change a string.

  37. June February 28th, 2011 1:51 am

    I have a so Martin ukulele, Whats it worth and any info is welcom Thanks

  38. jerome Smith February 28th, 2011 2:13 pm

    viewing various Ukulele websites ans there are many,

    I ahve seen a few on strings,replacing them and where to buy them.

    just google “ukulele and I am sure you will find what you are interested in

  39. Fi from NZ October 16th, 2011 9:27 pm

    I have a Martin SO uke which I love because it’s louder than any of the other ukes I own. The only thing I don’t like is not having fret markers….oh well.

  40. Erica November 8th, 2011 8:29 pm

    My nephew was gifted a Martin uke which belonged to his great-grandfather. They’ve had it restrung, but according to his mom, it sounds terrible. Maybe it was re-strung with the wrong strings? Anyhoo, I haven’t seen it nor do I know what style it is other than that, in the soundhole, it reads “C.F. Martin & Co. Nazareth PA. Made in USA” – it’s greater than 50 years old.

    Do you know anyone in the bay area (San Francisco area or even out of state) that you would recommend on repair?

    Thanks!

  41. Woodshed November 8th, 2011 11:26 pm

    Erica: I got this response to your comment via email:

    go online toMartin and there will be a site that tells you how old and how rare the Martin Uke is.Usually by the decorative lines around the sound hole etc.

    A good set of strings mayhelp.one string at a time .make sure you are doing the right string when you replace them.There are numerous sites under Ukelele on Google.If you dony have a computer ,go to the library.They will help you find the right site.Usually Ukelele will bring up all yopu need to know.Unless the Uke is damaged it should sound half decent when strung properly
    I had a Martin I bought in 1951 and it cost $20.It had onee circle aroundthe sound hole.My son bought it off me for his daughter for $500.It was in perfect codition and sounded great,better than the one I bought cheaply to replace it.Check but be sure of who you deal with.If not satisfied,go somewhere else.Nowadays there are Ukelele groups and orchestras in many cities.Check in yours.Theyshould help.

    lots of luck

  42. Richard December 8th, 2011 3:47 pm

    I have owned Koalohas, Sceptres and Pineapple Sundays and bought a Mahogany 1948 Style 0 and it is the sound I dreamed of. It has such a percussive resonant mellow sound that takes me back to all the old Black and White movies I used to watch as a kid. It melts chocolate at a mile!. I have now just bought a Style 1 as well. I think I prefer the mahogany tone based on my adoration of the vintage Martin. I think the older the wood , the richer the sound too. I have friends who have copy Martins made by designer luthiers and they just don’t come close on tone. Admittedly they look nicer but surely tone is where its at. Just an honest view from a costly process of buying and selling.

  43. Richard December 8th, 2011 3:49 pm

    Just thought I would say that Worth CM’s sound best to me on vintage martins and Worth BM’s on newer mahogany soprano’s (add warmth) .

  44. Dale January 6th, 2012 8:44 pm

    Erica, Frank Ford, at Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto, CA is a highly respected luthier. His shop sometimes sells used Martin ukuleles, and he is tops at repair work.

  45. Justin August 10th, 2012 12:47 am

    Hi, I have a Martin ukulele that was given to me years ago, looks much like the ones posted on this page. However, it has no serial numbers or stamps of any kind anywhere on it. I have treated it with very little respect, thinking it was an old crappy ukulele. Can you help me identify its value? Thank you so much.

  46. Jon Everitt September 13th, 2012 12:27 pm

    Just seen an episode of ‘Cash in th Attic’ on UK daytime TV where a Type 2 was valued at £100-120 by the TV valuer and sold at auction for £400. A raging bargain! I was sitting on the sofa yelling at the telly. I really must check local auctions..

  47. Woodshed September 14th, 2012 1:46 pm

    Jon Everitt: Hahahaha!

  48. blueskies November 17th, 2012 8:16 pm

    I have a Cordoba Baritone Ukulele and absolutely love the sound of it. (It came with the ‘Aquila strings, but I want to change them to Worth Browns just to see (hear) what they sound like). (Laugh or hate all you want, Woody, I think it sounds great! But, I also think your stuff sounds great too!);-D. I got into playing baritone ’cause of my Dad joining up with the senior action group here and he got me to join. That’s all they play so to become a member, you have to get a baritone. I hadn’t a clue at first, never having played at all, but I am smitten now! ;-D

  49. Woodshed November 18th, 2012 8:49 pm

    blueskies: I’m not going to hate on Worth Browns. They’re just not to my taste.

  50. blueskies November 19th, 2012 4:47 am

    I was speaking of the ‘baritone’ ukulele. I seem to remember reading on this great site of yours (no fun intended…it really is a great site!), that you didn’t like baritone ukes….I was just trying to reply to the much earlier post of ‘does anyone use a Cordoba Uke’? Take care…D

  51. Woodshed November 19th, 2012 10:09 am

    blueskies: Oh, I see! Same goes for the baritone really. It’s not my thing. I don’t hate them.

  52. George Mandalou January 9th, 2013 12:47 pm

    Can someone tell me the date that Martin went from wooden peg tuners to friction tuners on their ukuleles? Thanks Geo.

  53. Woodshed January 10th, 2013 8:26 am

    George: I think 1926 was the last year wooden pegs were standard.

  54. George Mandalou January 10th, 2013 11:13 am

    Thanks Woodshed, I have a soprano Martin 2k in great condition with peg tuners. Your info will go a long way towards dating the Uke, thanks again, Geo.

  55. Woodshed January 10th, 2013 2:18 pm

    George: Hmm, they might have stopped the wooden tuners on the 2K earlier than that. I will consult the oracle on such matters. According to that the wooden pegs stopped in 1922. Which would mean you can narrow it down to 1920-1922.

  56. bb March 18th, 2013 5:14 am

    Noticed the guidelines for prices for the different styles were written in 2008. Would anyone be able to update them? Yes, I know we’re just talking vague guesses…

  57. Norm July 19th, 2014 5:26 am

    This is a great site. Just acquired a Martin S-1 at a bargain price. When I noticed it was made in Mexico I admittedly was disappointed. I know Martin has great standards so I assume they had good guidelines as this instrument plays well and has a great voice. It’s not my main instrument but i will pass this along to my granddaughter when it comes time. Thanks for being here, learning a lot.

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