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The Martin D-45 is a steel-string acoustic guitar made by C. F. Martin & Company. The model has been manufactured from 1933 to 1942, and again since 1968. The guitar was originally made of Brazilian rosewood. Martins are ranked among the highest-quality as well as among the most expensive guitars, and the D-45, regarded as one of the first "luxury guitars," was listed in 2011 as the most valuable production-model guitar.
The first D-45 was a dreadnought guitar based on the D-28 with luxury ornamentation (the "45" designation), made especially for Gene Autry, who in 1933 ordered "the biggest, fanciest Martin he could." This guitar is now encased in glass in the Gene Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles, California. The next year, one was made for Jackie "Kid" Moore, a "12-year old singing cowboy from Milwaukee, Wisconsin." These first two had a 12-fret neck; most others (except for the 6th, made in 1937) made afterward had a 14-fret neck. Two more were made in 1936 and two again in 1937; the D-45 wasn't catalogued until 1938. Other versions included a D-45S (with a special neck, 1939) and a D-45L (left handed, 1940). The D-45 was the top model of the dreadnought line, which also included the D-28 and D-18 models, priced much lower.
In 1942, as a result of World War II, production of the D-45 (as well as other Martin models such as the archtops) was officially discontinued, though half a dozen units were made in February 1943. In this first series of D-45s, only 91 instruments were made.
The luxurious D-45 resembled the more pedestrian D-28 model enough to entice entrepreneurial guitar builders and craftsmen to modify the latter to look like the former by adding a pearl border and changing the stamps on the neck block, so they could sell them as the more expensive model. One of those craftsmen was Mike Longworth, a banjo player from Tennessee, who was hired by the Martin company specifically to bring the D-45 back. The new D-45, released in 1968, cost $1,200 and was the most expensive flat-top steel-string guitar made in the United States. By 1969, Martin sold twice as many D-45s as during the entire 1933-1942 run; customers included David Crosby and Jimi Hendrix. In 1971, a 12-string model was made, and in 1973, another one.
Longworth also designed a more affordable model, the D-41, making sure that the pearl inlays were done in such a way that the guitar could not be modified to look like a D-45.
Since 1968 Martin has produced a number of special versions, including the C.F. Martin Sr. Commemorative D-45 (200 guitars in 1996) and the C.F. Martin Sr. Deluxe D-45 (91 guitars in 1996).
Models produced between 1933 and 1942 (also referred to as "pre-war Martins") are among the most expensive production-model guitars ever made. A listing for $135,000 was noted in a 2005 publication, and in 2011, a Vintage Guitar ranking of valuable guitars saw the D-45 (models made between 1936 and 1942) in first place, worth between $250,000 and $400,000. George Gruhn remarked that pre-war D-45s fetch "more than 20 times as much as a recent issue D-45, even though there is relatively little difference in design."
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