A unique maple-back Martin dreadnought that projects like no other

Hey Zach:
Hope you can help me out. I bought this Martin several years ago from one of my favorite guitar stores: Dave’s Guitar Shop in LaCrosse, WI. The label inside the guitar indicates that it is a 1996 Limited Edition D-40QM. I can’t seem to find out much about it—the materials in the guitar, how many were made, etc. Do you think the maple back adds a premium, or would most Martin collectors prefer the traditional mahogany or rosewood back? Any information you can give me would be appreciated.
Thanks, Steve
P.S.: This guitar is really loud for a dreadnought!

Hey Steve,
This is a really cool guitar, and I know how amazing a maple-bodied dreadnought can sound! I enjoy researching Martin guitars because everything is so straightforward. Serialization started in 1898 and has run consecutively ever since, making dating a breeze. Guitars built since the 1930s have the model name/number stamped inside the body, which makes identification easy as well. Martin also does a great job of cataloging each model and including it in their semi-annual price list. I have every catalog and price list for Martin going back to 1991, so providing you with some information on your D-40QM seemed elementary. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy! After some initial research, I found that the D-40QM was not listed in any of Martin’s price lists or catalogs, nor was it listed in any of the Martin books in my library.

While Martin always built a few custom guitars that steered away from the traditional modes of standard production, they never truly offered a custom guitar until Martin opened their Custom Shop in 1979. With the Custom Shop, players were able to order a custom Martin guitar built to their features. Martin noticed that players liked custom-built guitars, but it was difficult to pick compatible features. In October 1984, Martin started their Guitar of the Month (GOTM) program, which was really the start of Martin’s limited edition program. GOTM offered players a custom guitar designed by Martin, but built in limited edition numbers. This continued through 1994, when Martin started offering annual and semi-annual limited editions. However, it wasn’t until late 1996 when any of these limited editions was published in a Martin catalog or price list. There is a period between 1994 and 1996 where none of Martin’s limited editions were published in their literature. As far as I can tell, the D-40QM falls into this period, which explains why there is very little information about it. By 1997, Martin was more organized, and they were publishing every limited edition guitar in their semi-annual price list—a tradition that continues today.

Most Martin guitar enthusiasts already know that Style 40 appointments aren’t exactly the most common. Style 40 appointments were most often used on Hawaiian guitars in the 1930s, but they have made a comeback on D-40 models (produced 1997–2005) and are currently available as standard production Jumbo models (J-40). All Martin Styles 40 and above have extremely high appointments, and it can be confusing to notice the small differences among them all. The Style 40 does not have abalone top purfling, but it features hexagon inlays. The Style 41 has top abalone purfling, but it does not go around the fingerboard. The Style 42 has abalone purfling that goes around the fingerboard and features snowflake inlays. The top-of-theline Style 45 has abalone purfling around the fingerboard and hexagon inlays.

Where Martin came up with the idea of a quilted maple dreadnought with Style 40 appointments is beyond me, but this is the concept—and part of the fun of their limited edition series. The D-40QM features a solid Sitka spruce top, solid quilted maple back and sides, an ebony fingerboard and bridge, and other standard Style 40 appointments. I was unable to find an original retail price on this model, but I did find out that they made 200 of these guitars, and each one is individually numbered (Martin also does a great job of publishing how many of each limited edition is built and if they are individually numbered or not).

Martin rarely uses maple for back and sides on their guitars. Mahogany is the popular choice for lower end guitars, with rosewood for the higher-end models. Most players like the warmth and broad usage that mahogany and rosewood offer. Like you’ve noticed, maple is a very loud wood, but it is a niche market. If you have a maple-bodied guitar like the D-40QM, more than likely your collection will include other loud/large pieces, such as J-200s and 19-inch archtops! Collectors really haven’t taken a special interest in these guitars, so you won’t see a premium added to them. I’d value this guitar between $2,500 and $3,000 in excellent condition. Martins are great-playing guitars that are built by a family-owned business for more than 175 years. I see this guitar being a treasure for years to come.

Zachary R. Fjestad
Zachary is the author of the Blue Book of Acoustic Guitars, Blue Book of Electric Guitars, and the Blue Book of Guitar Amplifiers.

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Minneapolis, MN 55425

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