Holy Grail of guitars: What's it worth?

Holy Grail of guitars? The Martin OM-45 Deluxe is the 'Holy Grail of guitars,' says Guernsey's auction house. Only 14 were ever made.

By , Associated Press

The "holy grail of guitars" is among the hundreds of rare and vintage acoustic guitars going on the auction block in New York next month.

California collector Hank Risan is offering some of his musical instruments for auction by Guernsey's on April 2 and April 3. The 265 pieces from his collection are considered among the finest of vintage guitars to come to auction in terms of rarity, original construction and condition, the auction house says.

A wide range of makers are represented, including Gibson, Gretsch, Washburn, Stromberg and D'Angelico.

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The earliest instrument in Risan's collection dates to 1840; the newest is a 2000 re-creation of a 1930 Martin masterpiece, an OM-45 Deluxe. Both the re-creation and the original will be in the auction.

"The OM-45 Deluxe is the holy grail of guitars," Guernsey's President Arlan Ettinger said. Only 14 were ever made.

The C.F. Martin company sold the OM-45s for $225 each in 1930. At the time, they were the most expensive guitars on the market.

According to Imagine Guitars, the original 14 OM-45s were "all identical, with the exception of one instrument - the one that would be played by Leonard Slye (aka Roy Rogers), which had its own special details, including a more ornate pickguard inlay and headstock motif.
 
 In 1998, an additional 14 OM-45 Deluxe guitars were made, under the model banner "Limited Edition OM-45 Deluxe Golden Era." This faithful-to-original model featured an Adirondack spruce soundboard with matching braces, an abalone inlaid tortoise color "teardrop" pickguard, hand-engraved banjo tuners with genuine Mother-Of-Pearl buttons, and a replica of the old style 45 mosaic back inlay strip. This release was fairly well publicized, but with a still very limited release of 14 guitars, it's safe to say this model remains quite hard to come by."

Among other highlights of the auction are a 1900 Manuel Ramirez Flamenco and a 1939 D'Angelico New Yorker.

John D'Angelico was a guitar maker with a studio in Greenwich Village during the first half of the 20th century; his guitars have been described by some "as the Stradivarius of guitars," Ettinger said.

Pre-sale estimates of the instruments were still being worked out Friday. But auctioneers estimate some of the guitars could sell for "six or seven figures."

Several previously celebrity-owned guitars also will be auctioned off: a 1941 Gibson SJ-200 played by Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; a 1967 Gibson SJN Country Western used by Mick Jagger on his 1987 album "Primitive Cool"; and a 1959 Gibson J-200 that Eric Clapton once owned.

The sale also includes a handful of mandolins, including a late 1920s Style 2221 Regal Superior crafted from Brazilian Rosewood with inlaid pearl vine inserts.

"These are not simply handsome-looking, finely crafted objects. They are, first and foremost, musical instruments and were created to be played,"

Risan, of Santa Cruz, is founder of the virtual Museum of Musical Instruments and CEO of Media Rights Technologies Inc. According to his website, his first guitar was a vintage Martin purchased when he was 16.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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