These oldest guitars are 2112 years old. Or at least they feel like it.
If you think Jimi Hendrix’s Stratocaster is an old guitar, then you won’t believe how long the times have been a changin’ for these instruments.
Truth be told, guitars go further back in history than you may realize. Guitar-like instruments such as lutes date back to 8th century civilization, and tools called “guitars” have been documented as early as 1200. Though these earliest acoustics have all but disappeared, a few standout guitars were miraculously built sturdy enough to survive for over a century. Below are five guitars that have quite literally stood the test of time.
5: The “Hateful Eight” Martin Guitar (RIP)
Alright, so when we said “survive” in the above paragraph, we meant that in a loose sense in the case of this ill-fated guitar.
For those who don’t know this infamous story, Quentin Terantino’s 2015 movie The Hateful Eight featured an authentic 145 year old Martin Guitar borrowed from the C.F Martin & Co museum. This guitar was specifically chosen to add to the authenticity of the movie’s post-Civil War setting, but during one scene in the movie, Kurt Russel’s character was supposed to smash a decoy of the instrument in front of actress Jennifer Jason Leigh. However, in a tragic miscommunication, Russel went ahead with the smashing before the decoy was swapped in, causing Leigh to genuinely shout in shock during the scene. Yes, the Hateful Eight features an actual scene in which a priceless artifact is destroyed. Tarantino is just too avant-garde for our plebeian minds to comprehend.
Needless to say, Martin museum director Dick Boak has said he will “no longer loan guitars to movies under any circumstances.”
4: The 1834 Martin Guitar
Fortunately, the guitar wrecked during The Hateful Eight wasn’t the oldest Martin guitar in existence. That honor goes to this 1834 guitar, made only a year after Martin himself began selling guitars in New York City.
Stevie Coyle may not be the owner of this amazing antique, but he can be found playing The Beatles’ classic “When My Guitar Gently Weeps” on the instrument via his Youtube channel. It really demonstrates the durability of Martin guitars when they’re not being destroyed on camera.
3: The Neapolitan Guitar
Guitars may be centuries old, but they’ve certainly changed a lot throughout the years. This Neapolitan guitar from 1774 is believed to be one of the first single-string guitars ever made, making it a key turning point in the evolution of the instrument.
We wish we could show you a real photo of this historic guitar, but its current whereabouts remain unknown. Writer Thomas Heck’s documentation of the guitar states it once belonged in the Heyer museum, but where it wound up following the museum’s closure remains a mystery.
2: The Sabionari Guitar
Antionio Stradivari is one of the most famous creators of musical instruments of all time. He’s so well known, in fact, that vintage violins carrying his name have sold for millions of dollars! Fortunately for guitar enthusiasts, his work also included a few baroque guitars that match his prestigious reputation.
Though this “Sabionari guitar” from 1679 could easily be the crowning achievement of any museum’s collection, it is actually owned by a private collector. However, the renown guitarist Rolf Lislevand can be seen playing the instrument here, proving to the world how incredibly beautiful an instrument can sound despite being hundreds of years old.
1: Belchior Diaz’s Guitar
It’s amazing to see the different time periods represented by all of these antique guitars. This guitar formerly owned by Portuguese builder Belchior Diaz has come a long way since it was originally created..
In this famous photograph taken in 1999, Frank Ford shows off his time with what we now refer to as the world’s oldest guitar. This baby dates all the way back to 1590, and it’s incredible to see just how good it looks after all these years! It just goes to show that, no matter how old or worn a guitar is, all it takes is a healthy dose of love and care to turn any instrument into a genuinely timeless classic. Even that Les Paul in your collection could wind up becoming a priceless artifact in a few centuries!
The melodies of guitars have been a reflection of the human soul for ages, and as long as a famous movie director doesn’t call for their destruction, there’s nothing stopping them from lasting forever.