Re: A Queston About Antique Mandolin Prices
You might want to check out this current thread, discussing recent possible downward trends in the vintage mandolin price structure.
I think that the increase is almost entirely related to increased demand vs. a limited supply. When I started playing nearly 40 years ago, there was not the interest in mandolins among the people I knew. I came out of a "folk revival" background, got interested in bluegrass, found I'd inherited a Gibson A-1, and went on from there. Very low production of mandolins in that period, very few being imported, and as interest started to increase, the finite number of "vintage" instruments came under more and more demand pressure. Add to that the "reputational premium" attached to mandolins from the supposed "golden age" of American acoustic instrument production, and you had a situation where prices escalated rapidly.
And, in accordance with the classic economic model, the increase in prices drew new suppliers into the market. Good-quality mandolins started being made in Japan, Korea, China etc. and imported into the US. New domestic manufacturers like Flatiron entered the market. Individual builders started making exceptional instruments for the top-end user.
But the fact remained that vintage mandolins, especially Gibsons, were still seen by many as the "gold standard," and there were more and more dollars chasing them. Prices on the most coveted instruments, such as Lloyd Loar F-5's, have gone up ten to twenty-fold since I first started noticing price levels. And contrary to one of your possible scenarios, the price increases have in fact drawn more and more mandolins out of closets and attics, so I would estimate that there have never been more vintage instruments on the market than there are now. The fact that there exist wonderful new alternatives to these older instruments, doesn't stop them from being desired and purchased.
I bought my first "good" mandolin, an early '20's Gibson F-2, in the mid-'70's for $450. My current F-5, a 1954 model, cost me $1,500 in the early '80's. It's pretty clear that prices for good vintage instruments have outpaced inflation. IMHO, it's a case of supply and demand, just what they taught me in Economics 1 many many years ago.
Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
Natl Triolian Dobro mando
Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
Stradolin Vega banjolin
Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
Flatiron 3K OM