The Guitar Collection: Eric Clapton’s 1939 Martin 000-42

October 26th, 2011

This fall, Epic Ink will unveil The Guitar Collection, a lavishly oversized tome showcasing the most culturally important, historically significant, and visually stunning guitars ever made, from Billy Gibbons’ “Pearly Gates” 1959 Gibson Les Paul, to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Number One” 1962 Fender Stratocaster, to Eric Clapton’s “Crossroads” 1964 Gibson ES-335TDC. Presented in a custom-made leather guitar-style case, this package is a superb collector’s limited edition that is a fitting homage to these instruments from the world’s most exclusive public and private collections.

Guitar Aficionado’s new Nov/Dec issue, on stands soon, contains an in-depth story on the making of this ambitious new tome as well an excerpt of the guitars featured within. As an added bonus, we’ll be spotlighting one more legendary instrument from the Collection here every Wednesday.

Copies of the book are available at as well at select high-end retailers like John Varvatos.

And now, without further ado…

1939 Martin 000-42 played by Eric Clapton

From a private collector, courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Although Eric Clapton’s prowess on electric guitar inspired his early fans to spray-paint “Clapton is God” all over London, his influence as an acoustic guitarist was negligible until he appeared on MTV Unplugged on January 16, 1992. Playing this 1939 Martin 000-42 through most of the show, which was highlighted by a softer and slower version of his rock anthem “Layla,” Clapton not only gave his own career a boost but also turned the attention of the entire guitar market to smaller-bodied electric-acoustic guitars.

Brazilian rosewood back and sides give this guitar an appealing tone, and the wear around the sound hole indicates that it was played often. Delicate “snowflake” inlays on the fingerboard illustrate the understated elegance of Martin guitars at a time when guitar makers were putting large pearl blocks or even gaudy celluloid veneers on fingerboards. Style 42 featured abalone pearl inlay around the top border and sound hole. Only Style 45 was fancier, with pearl borders around the sides and back as well as the top.

Clapton’s choice of this non-dreadnought Martin brought the 15-inch 000 size and other, smaller sizes out from the shadow of the long-dominant dreadnoughts. The importance of this guitar was underscored when it was sold at auction in 2004 for $791,500, the highest price ever paid for an acoustic guitar.

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  1. Posted by MERBAU on October 29th, 2011, 12:00 [Reply]

    Nice post and good guitar

  2. Posted by Robert on January 24th, 2012, 01:55 [Reply]

    I have the other 1939 000-42. Does anyone know who the auction house was that sold his guitar? i would love to get in touch with them.

  3. Posted by Newswede on October 16th, 2012, 18:24 [Reply]

    Robert, was the auction house.

  4. Posted by William White on March 12th, 2014, 20:15 [Reply]

    This guitar normally resides at the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio but for the next few months you can see it at the MET in NYC as part of the Martin exhibit.

  5. Posted by ipmala on July 12th, 2014, 19:15 [Reply]

    And I’ve got 1 of only 2 0000-42 custom
    shop Martins–with hand picked Madagascar
    [tap toned] by George Gruhn with a 1 3/4″
    nut and beefy modified ‘V’ neck. The
    other 0000-42 is the same, except with a
    special custom Martin sunburst. The only
    2 in the world. Clapton would kill for
    one these.

  6. Posted by John Gaudet on January 3rd, 2015, 21:49 [Reply]

    I have a 1941 Martin 0042 serial # 78682 that my Dad left me when he passed away in 2012. It was played every saturday by him on his porch. It is in great shape and was told that it has an exceptional sound.I know its a very rare find. Was wondering what its worth today. I have no intentions to sell at this time. The sad thing is that my Dad died having no idea what he had. He just enjoy playing his guitar and was very good at it.The guitar was given to him many years(1970’s) ago by a friend. Thanks for any info.

    • Posted by Boone on October 21st, 2015, 22:13 [Reply]

      You can contact Martin guitar thru their website, or call them, and based on the serial number they can tell you specifics of construction, whether it was custom ordered, etc. Also I recommend you do not publish the serial number on the Internet. Edit the above post to remove the serial number if you can. Treat the serial number as you would your bank card number. Good luck.


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