“John, I’ve got this insured for a million dollars. These are the Stradivari of guitar collecting”: Watch Matt Swanson introduce Blackbird Studios’ John McBride to his 1930 Martin OM-45 Deluxe

John McBride and Matt Swanson
[L-R] John McBride and Matt Swanson (Image credit: Blackbird Studios / YouTube)

Here is a little something to give all the guitar collectors and high-end acoustic guitar aficionados out there a serious case of GAS – a rare sighting of a 1930 Martin OM-45 Deluxe in the wild, in pristine condition.

The 1930 Martin OM-45 Deluxe is the stuff of legend, principally because for all intents and purposes it is a legend. Accounts on exactly how many were made vary. When Martin released a historic accurate reissue in 2015, the figure was quoted as 11, and Martin duly made 11 of the 2015 reissues, each of them priced a cool $99,999. Other sources at the time said 15 OM-45’s were made in 1930.

But Matt Swanson, the collector lucky enough to own this one, puts it at 14, all made when Martin fulfilled a custom order for for the Sherman, Clay & Co music store in Oakland, California. And according to Swanson, only nine are now known to exist currently (surely someone somewhere has one in the attic), and he dropped by Blackbird Studio in Nashville to show his off to the studio owner John McBride for a video segment on the excellent Inside Blackbird YouTube channel.

It really is a peach. Adirondack spruce on the top, book matched Brazilian rosewood on the back and sides. Martin stopped using Brazilian rosewood in 1969, and looked to India for alternative sources.

“You can find little bits here and there but not that looks like this because what they really prize is the straight grain,” says Swanson. “And a lot of it now is very swirly, and I am not saying that’s bad, I don’t know if you can hear a difference, but it’s rare.”

The neck is mahogany, V-profile. Swanson says it is the tone woods allied to Martin’s search for perfection that make these instruments so special.

“Martin made these guitars in this era and they didn’t know it,” he says. “They didn’t know at the time they were making the greatest guitars in the history of the world, because they were just on this path of making improvements. These were handmade, limited production, and they are a feather – this guitar weighs like three-and-a-half pounds. It is super light.” 

And then there’s all that binding and extra inlays. The 1930 OM-45 Deluxe could never be accused of being under-dressed, and yet it wears its livery well. 

There are 45-style diamond and snowflakes on the bridge, and then again, more snowflakes and diamonds counting out the frets on the ebony fingerboard. The pickguard is tortoiseshell with an abalone floral detail. 

The banjo style tuners are another talking point, finished in gold with solid MOP buttons, while the Martin ‘tortch’ inlay on the headstock really distinguishes it.

Its dimensions make it perfect for a fingerstyle player but whatever you play on it is going to sound like music. And if you want one, it’s going to cost you. McBride doesn’t want ask but there’s no getting around it. If a 2015 reproduction was priced $99,999 straight out of Nazareth, PA, what would a 1930 original cost?

“John, I’ve got this insured for a million dollars,” says Swanson. “These are the Stradivari of guitar collecting.”

To think that these once sold for $225. But then, that was big money in 1930. The most famous of all 1930 Martin OM-45 Deluxes belonged to a young man by the name of Leonard Franklin Slye who picked one up second hand for $30 bucks. He would become Roy Rogers, of film, stage and screen, and Rogers' OM-45 Deluxe would sell for near on half-a-million dollars in 2009.

Martin released a 2006 commemorative edition of Rodgers’ OM-45 Deluxe. You can find them on Reverb listed for over £17,000, which all things considered, seems cheap for any version of the 1930 Martin OM-45 Deluxe – a holy grail, if ever there was one.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.