c.1939 Harmony-built "Marwin Star" Archtop Guitar

Gotta love these old pre-war Harmony archtops... they're built so much better than what came after and have a great, punchy, reverb-hall tone, great for fingerpicking, gypsy jazz or swing, or big chop strumming. This one's stamped S-39 (Spring 1939) inside and has the features of a mid-grade archtop that I like to see: celluloid bound top and bottom with multicolored marquetry purfling, a comfortable D-shaped 14-fret neck, and original fittings: tailpiece, tuners, pickguard, etc.

My work included a fret dress, two hairline repairs (cleated behind) to the bass f-hole, and a little bridge adjustment. I'm not sure that the bridge is original, though it is period. I had to take out the adjuster screws and make a rosewood shim for the bass side foot to get the action where it should be (1/8" at the 12th).

Really nice, richly-toned sunburst. Looks great especially with the marquetry edging.

Flat, ebonized fretboard with inlaid celluloid dots.

Cool Marwin headstock stencil and original nut. Apparently the "Marwin" instruments were distributed by the Tonk Bros, according to the Harmony Database. However, this model doesn't confine to the parameters of the other "Star" model listed on that link. This one has a solid spruce top, solid birch back & sides with faux-flame on the back. IE, nicer than the one on the link.

Originally this purfling marquetry had bright red lines on the outer sides, rich brown middles, and teal and bright yellow details between the brown (I know because you can see it, minus sun damage, below the tailpiece mount.

Some washboarding below the pickguard -- maybe the previous owner had it off beforehand?

Faux-flamed, but solid birch. Back is arched, too. Some old Harmony archtops had flatbacks.

Solid neck joint.

Original tuners are in great shape, with bakelite buttons.

Bound top and back.

Overall, a nice mid-size (15 1/4" lower bout) archtop that's quite comfortable to play and is nice and super lightweight so you can haul it around at shows/sessions without breaking your back. The neck feels great, too, and has room for complex chords and fingering.


Brent said…
I've been looking on the net for awhile. When my grandfather passed away a fews years ago, I got his marwin 4 string. I have been trying to see how old it was and if I could find out where it was made. any ideas
Brent: email some pictures to me and I can tell you a lot more -- thanks, Jake
WifetoMike said…
My husband has a Marwin Super arch top guitar that we know nothing about. It came from his great grandfather. We'd like some more info on it, if you don't mind?
My Marwin Star is identical, but doesn't have the guard on it. The entire neck is worn off like yours is. However, I've managed over the years to get Leon Redbone to sign that part :)
mariajz1 said…
I have a neck from this style guitar which I'm about to put for sale on eBay. What is missing are 3 (of 6) bakelite tuning keys but otherwise in solid shape. would like to try to get some input here as to what it is worth. I have pictures to post if anyone is interested.Thanks!
Unknown said…
Looking to buy a nice Marwin archtop. Anyone looking to sell?
Unknown said…
I have one ericklena@gmail.com
Unknown said…
Looking to buy a Marwin archtop. I would like to pass it on to my guitarist son. Marwin is our ancestral surname, and I think it would make a lovely heirloom. Anyone looking to sell one?
Hi Jake,
I have a Harmony Marwin H1451,matchbook carved maple top and a beautiful flamed maple arched back,real not faux flame,metal tailpiece kluxon original tuners,I cant find anything on the internet about this guitar,have you ever heard of this model ?.I know you have a wealth of knowledge and absolutely love your website.
Thanks for you time Jake,
Kind regards,
Nigel .