Eric Clapton's Martin 000-28EC Prototype - To be sold 11th June 2024


17th May 2024

We are delighted to offer Eric Clapton's 1995 Martin 000-28EC Prototype acoustic guitar in our forthcoming auction on 11th June 2024.

Eric Clapton - artist owned and played prototype 1995 Martin 000-28EC Eric Clapton Signature acoustic guitar, built and delivered for artist’s approval, made in USA, ser. no. 563664; Body: hand selected East Indian rosewood back and sides with central back stripe, 1935 sunburst finished sitka spruce top with herringbone banding and rosette, heavy buckle scratches to back, pick wear to top and other dings; Neck: mahogany with vintage style volute; Fretboard: ebony fingerboard with abalone cut diamonds and squares, abalone Eric Clapton signature is set into the penultimate fret,  signs of play; Hardware: Martin branded Grover Sta-tite tuners, internal prototype label with facsimile Eric Clapton signature also signed C.F. Martin IV; Case: original hard case with plush green velvet interior, enclosing two 1998 Eric Clapton Lexus US tour picks; Overall condition: good

"This new 000-28EC model is the best-sounding acoustic guitar I’ve ever played.’
Eric Clapton, 1995"

One of four 000-28EC prototypes made, one of two sent directly to Eric Clapton himself, this unique guitar, thought to be the only prototype with shade top, was approved by Eric Clapton and is significantly the genesis of Martin’s best selling signature model of all time, with over 20,000 units shipped to date.

This guitar is documented in Martin Guitars’ records as one of the prototypes built by them in 1995, to follow through the instant success of their earlier and very limited edition 000-42EC with a more affordable model. According to their records only four prototypes were produced, of which this guitar is the fourth of consecutive serial numbers. Two, including this one, are marked as ‘A/R Write-off’, indicating they were sent for Eric’s approval.

There is no further detail to hand from Martin’s records, other than Dick Boak’s personal recall in the 2003 Martin Guitar Masterpieces Book: “The fact that there was tremendous leftover demand for more Eric Clapton signature model acoustic guitars caused us to consider adding an Eric Clapton stock model to the line, but our policy required that any such offering be significantly different from the previous edition model. Eric responded well to our suggestion of a more affordable model, the results of which yielded some exceptional prototypes of the proposed 000-28EC guitar. This was in effect identical tonally to the 000-42EC model, but without all the pearl and glitz. Simple, classic herringbone rosette and body trim were blended with ivoroid bindings and vintage Style-28 appointments. We sent one of the prototypes to Eric in England and he sent me these exact words back through Lee [Lee Dickson, Eric’s guitar tech] : ‘Don’t get me wrong. I love my 000-42EC Martins. The craftsmanship and detail are superb. But this new 000-28EC model is the best sounding
acoustic guitar I’ve ever played.’ … We took the 000-28EC to the Nashville NAMM Show in July of 1996 and returned home with a slew of orders. Eric had added the 000-28EC to his cache of performance guitars and he continued to be surprised at how a lower-cost instrument could stand up to the top-of-the-line guitars.”

The above extract suggests that only one prototype was sent to Eric; in which case his very vocal enthusiasm would have been directed at this particular guitar, #563664, and if not, then at the only pair of prototypes allocated to him – this one, and its companion, #563663.

Martin’s records do indicate that two prototypes were allocated to Eric; certainly, contractual obligations required two to be delivered. In recent emailed conversation between the vendor and Dick Boak (early 2024) he felt that two might have been sent – certainly Eric requested and received several production 000-28EC guitars over the years – but at this point the whereabouts of the second prototype is unknown, as indeed are the whereabouts of the other two (#563661 and #563662) listed in Martin’s records. So right now, until the other three make themselves known, this shade top is seemingly the only acknowledged prototype of Martin’s most successful limited-edition guitar, launched at NAMM a year later in 1996 and since selling upwards of 20,000 guitars.

Since Eric’s ownership, the guitar has remained virtually untouched and is in good condition – other than for the very distinctive belt buckle scratches on the back and obvious signs of use to the top. Sent to Eric for approval, he went on to do precisely that, as quoted above, and very vociferously via Lee Dickson: “… but this new 000-28EC model is the best-sounding acoustic guitar I’ve ever played.” The substantial scratch marks amply testify to that; this is clearly a guitar Eric played and enjoyed greatly, and over a considerable period. Nor is it possible to discount the likelihood, owing to the extent and positioning of this marking on an otherwise perfect guitar, that as Dick Boak also wrote in Martin Guitar Masterpieces, Eric went on to add this to his roster of his performance guitars.

Regarding the belt buckle scratches, again, this from Martin Guitar Masterpieces: “…. We took the 000-28EC to the Nashville NAMM Show in July of 1996 and returned home with a slew of orders. Eric had added the 000-28EC to his cache of performance guitars…” The prototype on offer, as delivered to and formerly owned by Eric, has not only been played by him for his personal approval, at least, but also clearly played hard; it’s been put through its paces, and over a considerable amount of playing time. The resulting scratch damage on the back is by no means insubstantial. Despite having no photographic evidence, nor any further documentation other than that intimated in Dick Boak’s text as quoted above, it would not be beyond the bounds of  possibility to reach the conclusion that this guitar had also been played live on stage  – the nature and position of the buckle scratches point to the distinct likelihood of that being the case. Sitting in the comfort of living room or studio with any guitar, new or ageing, would never create marking to this extent.

Since the launch of the 000-28EC model, two significant examples from the production run have hit the auction block:  Number #1 of the production edition, natural top, serial number #576553 (1996) was sold at Christie’s in New York on October 10th, 2008 for $11,250. Christie’s note on the lot reads: ‘The relationship between C.F. Martin and Company and Eric Clapton extends back to 1995 with the introduction of Martin’s 000-42EC. This was the first Signature Edition guitar to follow on the heels of the Gene Autry D-45. Since that date Clapton and Martin have collaborated on no fewer than 7 different signature models. The most enduring of these is the 000-28EC. Built to Clapton’s exacting specifications these guitars have been in production since 1996. Inscribed on the label #1, this is the first guitar of the edition.’

A further production model of the edition, owned and played by Eric during 1996-1997, serial number #589132 (1996) was sold at Bonham’s in London on December 15th, 2011 for £27,500.

Provenance: The vendor, an artist who worked closely on various projects with Eric Clapton, Eric’s former manager Roger Forrester and later with Dick Boak, took ownership of this guitar on 27th November 2003. Purchased directly from Roger Forrester, it had been kept at his offices in Harley House, London, between then and Eric parting with the guitar. A copy of a document is provided as evidence of transaction. (Originals retained by the seller to protect personal details). Emails between the vendor and Dick Boak confirming facts regarding this guitar are available.

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