Woman unearths dusty old acoustic guitar in her back room – and discovers it’s a Martin from the 1870s

1870s Size 2 Style 34 Martin acoustic
(Image credit: Studio 1 Vintage)

For around 60 years, an 85-year-old woman based in New Zealand lived with a dusty Martin acoustic guitar that she purchased from an old music teacher in the 1960s – before finding out earlier this year that the small-scale six-string was worth $15,000.

Margaret Simpson, who first bought the guitar for a trivial sum from the head of music at Motueka High School, initially took the old acoustic to a vintage instruments dealer in a bid to raise money for her 51-year-old daughter, Jo, who is undergoing chemotherapy treatment for terminal breast cancer.

With the treatment costing $5,000 per month, the Simpson family sought to raise funds, with Margaret reaching out to Studio 1 Vintage Instruments to discover whether the old Martin was actually worth anything.

1870s Size 2 Style 34 Martin acoustic

(Image credit: Studio 1 Vintage)

Once it was appraised by the dealership’s founder Garrick Wynne – and verified by multiple US experts and Martin historians – Simpson was told the Martin was worth far more than anyone had anticipated: an eye-watering $25,000 NZ dollars ($15,000).

“I must confess I never thought [a guitar with] a name like Martin would have anything special,” Margaret joked to Stuff (opens in new tab).

The guitar was dated as an 1870s model, and its specs include ivory binding, colored herringbone purfling and back stripes, an abalone rosette inlay and Brazilian rosewood back and sides.

Identified as an incredibly rare Size 2, Style 34 model, the guitar also has a custom-fitted ebony bridge, which took the place of the model’s usual ivory alternative.

1870s Size 2 Style 34 Martin acoustic

(Image credit: Studio 1 Vintage)

Jo Simpson said the guitar’s sale will help fund her chemotherapy treatment, and that she hopes the money generated from the sale will allow her to spend more time with her children.

The Martin parlor guitar has been listed by Studio 1 Vintage for sale, with the company inviting tenders before the sale closes on November 3. All the money generated will go to assisting Jo Simpson.

A Give A Little page (opens in new tab) has also been set up for Simpson to receive donations. To find out more about the rare guitar, head over to Studio 1 Vintage (opens in new tab).

Last year, a similar story occurred in the UK, when an unnamed resident found an old 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard that they sold to Joe Bonamassa for a reported $190,000.

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Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.