Local to strum #036;100,000 guitar

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A $100,000 home is pretty common these days, and a $100,000 luxury car isn't a rarity either. But a $100,000 guitar? While it's not exactly run-of-the-mill, one has ended up in Lawrence County.

For more than 170 years, The Martin Guitar Company has been manufacturing guitars that are thought of by many as some of the finest in the world. When the time came to celebrate their millionth guitar, they truly took out all the stops.

The millionth guitar contains mother-of-pearl, abalone, fossilized ivory, diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, aquamarine, copper, platinum and white and yellow gold.

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The only problem was, too many people wanted to buy the guitar Š which retailed for $1,000,000.

Enter the D-100 Deluxe, the spiritual successor to the millionth. It doesn't have as many bells and whistles, but is still the most expensive guitar that Martin makes. The D-100, of which only 50 will be made, retails for $100,000.

The story of how this guitar ended up in Lawrence County starts with a man named R. Simpson, a Huntington, W.Va., native now living in Lawrence County, meeting Adam Bond, the owner of Chris' Guitar Shop in Ashland, Ky.

Simpson had been taken with the story of the younger man, now 22, who had begun to build his business from scratch at 19 years old.

&#8220I remember I was starting in business when I was 19. It kind of rung a bell with me. I knew it was hard to get started,” Simpson said. &#8220It makes it tough on you to get your feet on the ground.”

Simpson decided that he was in a position to help Bond out; namely by purchasing one of the D-100s that caught his eye. Although the shop's owners had a hard time believing it, they were eventually convinced that, in fact, Simpson was a serious buyer.

&#8220I thought it was a joke, I thought it was a prank call,” Bond said. &#8220To be a part of that whole distribution, to be a part of history, it's pretty amazing.”

The sale has also netted the guitar shop quite a bit of attention from the industry giant, which can be a huge boost for a small business.

&#8220Martin, they're ecstatic about it, a small guy like me selling a guitar like that,” Bond said. &#8220That's as good as it gets.”

Of course, the craftsmen of Martin weren't the only ones who were excited about the sale.

&#8220I lost sleep about it, wanting to see that guitar,” Bond said. &#8220When we were finalizing the deal, trying to tie it up and stuff, I couldn't get any sleep I was so excited about it.”

Not surprisingly, Simpson didn't relish the idea of having his new baby shipped. He traveled 500 miles to Nazareth, Pa., to pick up the instrument, where he was treated to a four-and-a-half-hour tour of the Martin factory before receiving his prize.

&#8220I saw the picture of it, but I was still shocked by how beautiful it was,” Simpson said. &#8220When I saw that work, I was Š shocked.”

The guitar that Simpson received is number 21 in the series of 50. The series still won't be complete for over two years, as the incredibly intricate guitars take more than a month to construct.

It may seem like a long time for one instrument, but as Simpson gingerly pulls the guitar from its crushed velour case, all the time makes perfect sense.

The front of the guitar is striking, to be sure, with the fingerboard, headplate and bridge featuring glistening, select pearl. But it's the back that's really the centerpiece, featuring a Baroque design of fossilized ivory and mother-of-pearl inlay that even includes a picture of company founder C.F. Martin I.

He hasn't played the guitar much, but he will occasionally pluck a string to listen to the sustain of the bass, a trademark of a Martin, a low hum that seems as if it could continue on for hours.

Although the guitar has been projected by Martin to grow in value by $1,000 every year, Simpson said he wasn't that interested in the investment potential. He said he just loves guitars and aiding others when he can.

Simpson still hasn't stopped trying to help out the young Bond. He's already purchased another guitar from him, and is currently trying to attempt others in a 15-part band he's a member of to do the same.

&#8220Only one of them has a Martin, and I intend to sell those guys Martins,” Simpson said. &#8220I like to see everybody do good.”