One of the world’s greatest collections of guitars is right here in Lehigh Valley at the Martin Guitar Factory, Museum, and Visitors Center! More than 100 priceless guitars are behind glass, including stage-used instruments from music legends, one-of-a-kind works of art, and models from every era of the company’s groundbreaking history.
Everything in the museum tells a story, but there are some real showstopping six-strings you just have to stop and stare at for a while. These are our six favorites worth giving a standing ovation…
1. NASA Moon Landing Guitar
One small note for man, one giant chord for mankind! This out-of-this-world guitar celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing in 2019. The rocket inlay goes the entire length of the fretboard, and the headstock features classic mission logos. But it’s what’s on the inside that’s a real blast. The interior plaque is made from the wood of a damaged “moon tree” in Florida, a tree which grew from a seed that germinated on a space mission.
2. Stauffer Style Guitar by C.F. Martin, Sr.
There’s nothing quite like the original. This is the oldest guitar in the collection crafted by C.F. Martin, Sr. himself, a year or so after the company’s founding in 1833. The gorgeous Stauffer Style Guitar is influenced by the Viennese Stauffer workshop, where Martin once apprenticed. It’s constructed with flamed maple wood, and includes ebony and ivory inlays.
3. Hank Williams’ D-18 Martin Guitar
Likely purchased by the legend himself in his home of Alabama, Hank Williams’ D-18 Martin Guitar has its own special display, located right next to the entrance for the Martin Factory Tour. One of the most influential singer-songwriters of the 20th Century, Williams used this guitar during the height of his tragically short career.
4. One Millionth Martin Guitar
This guitar is literally one in a million. To celebrate the construction of the one-millionth Martin guitar, this functional piece of art was developed by Chris Martin and inlay artist Larry Robinson. With everything crafted by hand, it took two entire years to finish in 2004. The two-millionth guitar is also nearby, featuring an exquisite clock motif.
5. Kurt Cobain’s “Grandpa” D-18
While it’s not the grunge legend’s Martin D-18E which sold for a record $6 million, you’ll still be in awe of this Kurt Cobain-used guitar. Originally purchased by Cobain’s girlfriend Mary Lou Lord in 1991, it was used during Nirvana’s rise to fame during the “Nevermind” tour cycle. Affectionately named “Grandpa” by the Nirvana frontman because of its appearance, the worn-and-weathered guitar was returned to Lord after Cobain’s death. Mary Lou Lord toured with rocker Elliott Smith, who also played live with the guitar.
6. D-42JC Johnny Cash Signature Edition Prototype
Naturally, the first-ever black-colored Martin guitar was requested by “The Man in Black.” One of the best-selling musicians of all time, the legendary Johnny Cash trusted Martins throughout his entire career. This specific Dreadnought model was played on stage by Cash for a short time while his favorite D-35 stage guitar was being repaired.
See these historic guitars in person
Want to see these beauties in person? The museum is free to visit, but you’re kindly encouraged to make a $5 donation to the Martin Charitable Foundation. You can also learn more about the greatest Martin Guitar artists, past and present!
So come see these epic guitars for yourself in the Museum, then try strumming multiple models in the gift shop’s Pickin’ Parlor. You can also engage with Martin Guitar in person throughout the area. The brand gets involved with the community at events like Musikfest® where they sponsor Martin Guitar Handwerkplatz (home to incredible artisans) and the Martin Guitar Stage (with acoustic performances and open mic)! They’ll also be part of the 2022 U.S. Senior Open at Saucon Valley Country Club, running the C.F. Martin Guitar Stage at the 19th Hole experience.