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Author Topic: Martin's Sigma Guitars?  (Read 17234 times)
Ngerty
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« on: May 13, 2010, 07:42:00 PM »

I've been perusing the eBay guitar auctions looking for super cheap (good deals) guitars. This has been partially for fun, but I've thought to myself, "If I see something that is ridiculously cheap and looks to be in good condition, why not get it? (I could always sell it again for more than what I got it for...)"

Well, looking up Martin guitars in the 100-1000 price range, I came across a million little backpacker guitar things, and a few Sigma guitars for 200-300 bucks. If they're essentially Martin guitars, why so cheap? Are they bad guitars, or do they just have awful resale value?

Thanks.
 

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ffinke
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« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2010, 08:21:17 PM »

Sigma was (is?) made in Asia (not sure where, Japan, Korea?). They were not built in Nazareth but Martin got some low end coin out of the deal by selling them. It's like a Porsche 'Yugo'. OK, bad analogy but if you want to play guitar get a good one; if you want to turn a profit work on Wall Street. If you're looking to turn a profit you'll probably have to stand in line as everyone else is trying to do the same thing. That's why the prices are so low.

In defense of the brand I know a professional who plays one.

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« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2010, 08:50:40 PM »

I'm going with my foggy memory here.  Sigmas were introduced by Martin in the 1970's to compete with the many cheap Asian knock-offs of Martins then flooding the market.  I believe there were a few different distinctive eras between their introduction and discontinuation in the late 1980s.  At first I think they were imported from Korea or Taiwan and assembled at the Martin plant.  These first guitars had the headstock logo "Sigma by Martin".  If I recall correctly they had a solid top and laminate b/s, hog neck and rosewood fingerboard.  Sigmas from this era are reputed to have excellent build quality and in good shape are the highest resale values in Sigma.  Something in the range of $400-$700 that I've seen.  Then Martin gave up on assembling in the states and imported finished guitars.  The name of the Asian factory I've heard but can't recall.  For a short while some had solid tops.  At some point the headstock logo was changed to just Sigma in a Martin type script.  By the late 70s the guitars were all laminate.  Not sure of construction details but many have stood the test of time.  There was a 10th anniversary edition in all solid wood built that is highly prized and hard to find.  The quality of these are reputedly Martin thru and thru.
I actually had a mid 80s Sigma that was a good beater until my toddlers beat it too hard.  I think that Sigmas found on eBay and other places are mostly just Asian laminates like many other similar brands.  But these old laminates seem to have been assigned the distinction "Vintage" along with others such as Lammy Yammies and have enjoyed an increase in resale value.  What one could find in a pawn shop a few years ago now can auction above $400.   That being said though, if a good deal can be found it might be fun to fix them up and have a great campfire guitar or if you find one that has that certain mojo a truly interesting instrument.  As I said my memory of the details about Sigmas are hazy,  maybe out of sync in places, wrong in others.  They can be great little gits but are not Martins in the true sense of the name.
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teh
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« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2010, 04:07:39 AM »

Sigma Guitars were in fact made in Asia in the 1970s to compete with other low end models and to get Martin through the turbulent period of the late 70s after Martin had bought a banjo company, drum company (Fibes), Swedish Guitar company (Levin) and a string company. In the mid 80s, Martin began importing Shenandoahs (a kit that was made overseas and shipped to Nazareth for assembly and finishing). Source: The Martin Book, a Complete History of Martin Guitars by Walter Carter.

There are good and bad Sigmas and Shenandoahs but I would be careful on the amount I would pay for either.
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« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2010, 04:34:34 AM »

I've been perusing the eBay guitar auctions looking for super cheap (good deals) guitars. This has been partially for fun, but I've thought to myself, "If I see something that is ridiculously cheap and looks to be in good condition, why not get it? (I could always sell it again for more than what I got it for...)"

If you're really interested in seeing what's in the mid $xxx range try what I did. I had a wtb in the AGF classifieds a few weeks ago for a $500 solid wood Martin guitar. I caught some heat from a few folks both on my thread and backstage who thought I was trying to lowball someone, but I was also clear that I wanted a "player's" guitar and didn't mind some wear. I got some neat offers and ended up with a `99 OM-1 (ok, laminate sides, but solid back) with hsc and pup installed. Shipped here it was very, very close to the number I named & now I have a great little gigging guitar at a time when I really needed one!

The offers I got via the wtb ad were much more interesting than the eBay listings I could find. I think looking for bargain guitars is a fun game too, and since I do children's music I actually have a need for those kinds of instruments from time to time.
 
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« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2010, 07:57:34 PM »

Here's a funny coincidence. I picked up a Sigma DR12-7 this morning at a garage sale. I don't even like going to garage sales, but my 5 year old daughter has been bugging me to take her to some.

I'm solo parenting for a few days  so I've got my hands full, but asap I'll get some new strings on it and clean it up a bit. It's all laminate, but really solidly built. Not a bad looking guitar. The action seems to be pretty good - could use a tweak maybe. No bridge lift or top bellying. Looks to be a MIJ from the early `80s. So we''ll see...

Best,
Chuck
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« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2010, 09:49:59 PM »

I hope this isn't too terribly off topic, but I was in Sam Ash last weekend, and they had the bottom of the line Epiphone dread sitting out - all laminate, plastic looking saddle and nut, etc.  But it otherwise looked decent (finish and appointments-wise) and I played it and was impressed with the tone and ease of playability - and only $99.  Now I figure that it probably impressed me because I walked up to it with very low expectations, but I seriously thought it might be nice to have something like this to knock about with, something to keep out even when humidity goes over 60% or under 35%, when normally I would be putting my Larrivees away in their cases.  And there is just something about that Epiphone headstock that I love.   
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« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2010, 03:22:02 PM »

A friend of mine has one of the 70s-early 80s sigmas, and it is really a killer guitar.  It sounds awesome and plays great, plus it has picked up a lot of wear over the years so it looks really cool.  For spending less than 800 or so, I dont think you can do any better.
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« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2010, 04:25:19 PM »

...For spending less than 800 or so, I dont think you can do any better.


...unless it's a used -03 and for that kind of money it would only be a few years old. You can put your own MOJO on it!

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« Reply #9 on: May 21, 2010, 07:07:19 PM »

I also have a firend who has a '70s Sigma DM-3, he was told by a local Guitarsmith that it is solid wood.  He also just bought an '80s DR-1, that one is rosewood lami or so they say - looks to be solid back and top to me.  From what I have read on the internet some of these things were solid wood (in the early days) and some are lami.  The guy at the guitar shop told us he used to sell them and that the rumor was they were built in Asia and inspected by Martin in the USA.  I think they are hit and miss - he has two good hits on his hands, they sound great and look amazing, but I guess you put a bone nut and saddle on anything and it will sound good.

For $200.00 why not, its going to be better then anything new in that price range for sure - but if you get close to $800.00 you could buy a real Martin or Larrivee used, and for $300 you could get a nice Seagull S6

Just a note - My D-03R puts both his Sigmas to shame all day, I think my S6 does to but that is up for debate

Cheers
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« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2010, 04:50:41 AM »

I had one years ago and it was definitely mediocre.  I would suggest spending that same money on a Seagull or Art&Lutherie guitar or even a Washburn.  If you want a Martin, get  a "Martin".
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« Reply #11 on: August 06, 2010, 06:31:04 PM »

In response to Wally's post, I'm not sure your memory is all that accurate....1st of all, in the 70's (at least the early 70's) they were made in Japan, the Korean ones came later and were not as good.  The original Headstock Logo was SIGMA with a sideways capital M above it.  Inside on the label, it said Sigma and beneath that CF Martin and Company.  Originally, they had solid rosewood back and sides and a solid spruce top.  It wasn't until the late 70's early 80's that they began using laminates and making them in Korea.  The early models were extremely well made and probably the best guitar to ever come out of Japan (acoustically speaking).  The quality woods and craftsmanship, though not up to true Martin Standards, were higher than many of the more expensive american made guitars of the time.  I have one from I believe 1972 (though I partied a lot back then and it could have been anywhere from 70 to 74) :)  It has unbelievable rich tones, resonates incredibly, and has extremely good action.  The early models had an adjustable bridge which was actually a nice addition.

From Wally:
"I'm going with my foggy memory here.  Sigmas were introduced by Martin in the 1970's to compete with the many cheap Asian knock-offs of Martins then flooding the market.  I believe there were a few different distinctive eras between their introduction and discontinuation in the late 1980s.  At first I think they were imported from Korea or Taiwan and assembled at the Martin plant.  These first guitars had the headstock logo "Sigma by Martin".  If I recall correctly they had a solid top and laminate b/s, hog neck and rosewood fingerboard.  Sigmas from this era are reputed to have excellent build quality and in good shape are the highest resale values in Sigma.  Something in the range of $400-$700 that I've seen.  Then Martin gave up on assembling in the states and imported finished guitars.  The name of the Asian factory I've heard but can't recall.  For a short while some had solid tops.  At some point the headstock logo was changed to just Sigma in a Martin type script.  By the late 70s the guitars were all laminate.  Not sure of construction details but many have stood the test of time.  There was a 10th anniversary edition in all solid wood built that is highly prized and hard to find.  The quality of these are reputedly Martin thru and thru.
I actually had a mid 80s Sigma that was a good beater until my toddlers beat it too hard.  I think that Sigmas found on eBay and other places are mostly just Asian laminates like many other similar brands.  But these old laminates seem to have been assigned the distinction "Vintage" along with others such as Lammy Yammies and have enjoyed an increase in resale value.  What one could find in a pawn shop a few years ago now can auction above $400.   That being said though, if a good deal can be found it might be fun to fix them up and have a great campfire guitar or if you find one that has that certain mojo a truly interesting instrument.  As I said my memory of the details about Sigmas are hazy,  maybe out of sync in places, wrong in others.  They can be great little gits but are not Martins in the true sense of the name."
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JohnM2001
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« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2010, 02:48:06 AM »

A friend of mine has one of the 70s-early 80s sigmas, and it is really a killer guitar.  It sounds awesome and plays great, plus it has picked up a lot of wear over the years so it looks really cool.  For spending less than 800 or so, I dont think you can do any better.

Are you talking about spending $800 for a Sigma?  Say it ain't so!  Any used Larrivee 02 or 03 guitar would absolutely blow that ot of the water all day long for $500-600.
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