The model 38 Marlin is a very unique action. It breaks open like a shotgun, and was not made for many years. I see these 38's going in the $150-$250 range, unless they are in excellent condition. The serial number is the best way to determine a firearms age. The serial number for your gun should be located on the side of the tang, observable when the stock is removed. The patent dates also indicate that this should be your serial number placement. Your gun will probably also be lacking the Marlin "Bulls eye" found in the later production 38's. As far as I can tell there more than 24000 Model 38's were manufactured from 1921 through 1930 and your 38 probably is among the first 11000 (the serial number will tell). An "A" prefix serial number is the subsequent series. The "A" prefix guns carry additional patent dates, external serial numbers and the "Bull's Eye". I do not know guns but here is what I see on my Marlin 38. External serial No. 10680 stamped just ahead of the trigger guard (without "A" prefix). Patent dates as in the above answers with additional dates through June 6, 1922. Bird's eye present on stock.
You are probably refering to a CALIBER .38/40 Marlin lever action. This is just one of many calibers offered in many different models of Marlin lever action rifles. It was originally a black powder cartridge that designated a .38 caliber (usually 0.357 inch diameter) bullet loaded in a case with 40 grains (7000 grains = 1 pound) of black powder. Marlin is still in business today and with the interest in Cowboy Action Shooting Marlin and other firms are manufacturing rifles that are nearly identical in appearance to their original models. Just do a search for "Marlin Firearms Company" and go to their website.
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