European Alpine spruce top, figured European curly maple back and sides, mahogany neck, rosewood (possibly Brazilian) fingerboard, bridge, and peghead veneer, X-braced, sunburst gloss finish. The Herman Carlson Levin Musical Instrument Factory was established by Herman Carlson Levin in Sweden in 1900. Carlson had apprenticed as a woodworker in Sweden and eventually became a journeyman, at which time he took a third name as was the custom then. He chose Levin and then moved to New York City where he found work in a guitar factory.
Levin soon started his own instrument company in America, but eventually moved back to Sweden to establish a new instrument company. Over the years, the Levin company made hundreds of thousands of instruments. In the 1950s, the Hershman Musical Instrument Co. of New York wanted to market Levin guitars in the US. They eventually sold guitars made by Levin in Sweden as Goya guitars (after Francisco Goya, the Spanish painter who sometimes included guitars in his work). Many Goyas were new models, but some were the same as Levin models with different numbers. This one is a Goya N-26, which is the same as the Levin LN-26 and about the same as the earlier Levin M-26. I recently was able to purchase this guitar, and the serial number dates it to 1965 or 1966. It was near the top of the line.
In the early 70s, Martin guitars of PA were having quality issues and Goya guitars had become fairly popular in the US. Martin bought the Levin company in 1973. They shipped a lot of the high-quality woods from the Levin factory to the US (as read on a Levin forum), but guitars were still made at the Levin factory as Levins. In 1978, about 200 Martin D-18s were made by Levin in Sweden. They have LD-18 stamped on the neck block and have CFMartin Made In Sweden labels. Apparently very good guitars. In the late 70s, Martin ended production of Levins in Sweden, so the Levin factory, in existence for about 80 years, folded. Martin had the Goya brand (but not Levin) made in Japan and later Korea as a lower end guitar soon after the acquisition of Levin and Goya in 73 (possibly 74 or 76, source information is inconsistent) probably to eliminate competition with Martin guitar sales in the US.
The guitar I bought shown above was made in Sweden by Levin before any change of ownership occurred. Appears to be original except for the replaced pick guard (which is very similar to stock) and possibly the bridge pins (which were also white with black dots). The truss rod cover is also from an earlier vintage Goya. The N-26 is well respected, but not many people know much about Levins or Goyas. This model is unusual for being a dreadnought size but made out of figured maple instead of the more commonly used mahogany or rosewood, although Levin used maple in many of their models. Maple is often used in larger jumbo guitars, such as the famous Gibson J-200, and is used in virtually all violins and mandolins. Although the top wood and construction have the biggest impact on tone, maple bodies tend to impart good articulation and projection, so the wood pairs well with larger guitar bodies that can be bass heavy and mushy because of the larger size. This guitar does have nice definition of individual notes, but chords ring and sustain with rich harmonics the way a piano does. It sounds wonderful. Has had the neck reset and plays nicely. Have enjoyed playing it of late, so thought I would make a portrait. It is in wonderful shape for a 50-year-old guitar, better than I am ;^).
Good website for history and details www.vintage-guitars.se/Levin/Levin_history.htm
I should add that I bought this at Main Street Music (formerly Carrboro Music) in, wait for it…mighty Carrboro, NC. Run by John Pardue (?, correct if needed), who is a nice guy and always has an interesting selection of instruments and amps of the older, unusual, lower-priced variety in addition to supplies.