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).
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.
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.
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.
Style 3 Martins were originally made for professional ukulele players and are, therefore, really fancy-schmancy.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.
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.