In 1970, guitar maker C. F. Martin & Company started selling a line of inexpensive imported guitars. They named the line Sigma, after the Greek letter, which, when viewed sideways in guitar-playing position, resembles the letter "M," implying Martin.
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The first Sigmas were made in Japan, where plenty of seasoned wood was available to manufacturers. These guitars, produced from 1970 to 1979, were constructed of solid wood and not laminate, thereby enhancing their sound. They had headstock logos that featured the Greek letter above the word "Sigma." Inside the early Sigma guitars were paper labels on which were printed serial numbers, as well as model numbers that indicated wood quality.
Beginning in 1980, the backs and sides of Sigma guitars were made of laminate, with high-quality veneers. The tops remained solid wood. Instead of paper labels, these guitars had stamped back braces showing their serial and model numbers. The headstock logo changed, spelling out "Sigma Guitars" and removing the Greek letter. Sigmas were constructed in Japan until 1984, when their manufacture was moved to Korea.
In 1993, production of Sigma guitars relocated to Taiwan. Many of these guitars were designated by their model numbers as being of low quality, though people kept buying and playing them. To this day, Sigmas are recommended as good bargain guitars for beginning players. Sigma ceased production in 2007.
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