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Thread: Help: Sears & Roebuck Supertone Mandolin

  1. #1
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    Question Help: Sears & Roebuck Supertone Mandolin

    Hey folks,

    As the subject says, I've got a Sears and Roebuck, Supertone mandolin. The series number on the inside says F13411. I received it when my grandfather, who was born in the 1910s, passed away. My family members told me that it was given to him from his father or grandfather, however the little bit of research that I have done dates the Supertone brand to the earliest possible date being 1915.

    If needed, I can provide some pictures. But, I'm wondering if someone can tell me what time period this mandolin dates to, what type of woods that it's made from (it looks as if there may be two or three different types judging by the grain patterns) and any other interesting things that I ought to know. And if you have any idea how much it might be worth, that'd be awesome too. I'd find it hard to believe that I've got a one of a kind piece, but I've Ebayed and Googled without any success. Apparently there is a type of Hawaiian parlor guitar with the same serial number from the 40s or 50s because Sears and Roebuck eventually started recycling serial numbers, that way ya'll don't think I'm some kinda' goofball with a guitar and calling it a mandolin.

    Thanks.
    -Brock W.

  2. #2
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help: Sears & Roebuck Supertone Mandolin

    That's not a serial number, it's a catalog number. Sears didn't make these they farmed out the work. For a period of time they owned one manufacturer but they still outsourced to other makers. You really need to post some pictures if you want any real information.

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    Default Re: Help: Sears & Roebuck Supertone Mandolin

    Alright...

    Here are some photos... I hope...

    http://s956.photobucket.com/albums/ae44/BWyant1/

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help: Sears & Roebuck Supertone Mandolin

    Time period, between 1900 and 1930, probably in the earlier part of that range. The top is most likely spruce, the back and sides appear to be mahogany. It's missing the tailpiece cover. The value is a between $100.00 and $300.00 dollars on a good day.

    This should look familiar.

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    Default Re: Help: Sears & Roebuck Supertone Mandolin

    Hmm...

    Not the 10,000$ I was hoping. =P

    Nah, that's pretty cool though. I wish I knew more about what my grandfather was doing with this thing. Never mentioned every playing any sort of an instrument, although according to one website I read through, mandolins became more popular as a cheaper alternative to banjos in the early 20th century.

    Is this something that would increase in value with time or maintain itself? I'm obviously not going to haul it off to a pawn-shop, but it doesn't have a whole lot of sentimental value to me. How common is this model?

    Would strings have been made from a different metal than they are now? To be honest, those things feel like they could cut skin. Would the long leftover pieces at the top have been result of the instrument being restrung? I can't imagine it being shipped that way.

    I appreciate all the info and time... I think that's all the questions I've got... For the time being.

    EDIT: Yep, that one sure does. Looks to be in better condition than the one I've got... The wood on mine looks more orange than yellow (any idea what would cause that?). And now I know what you meant by missing tailpiece cover. Looks like the one they've got may be missing the label on the inside... I guess we'n give them the catalog number now though, eh?

    EDIT#2: One more question. The one Elderly's has is strung differently from mine (thick on right vs thick on left). Would that be a result of them being different handed, mine being strung improperly, or something else?
    Last edited by BrockW1; Jan-26-2010 at 5:22pm.

  6. #6
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help: Sears & Roebuck Supertone Mandolin

    Change the strings... no need to give yourself tetanus. Get yourself some light gauge -- Daddario J-62 or GHS or Martins mandolin strings.

    Your grandad prob plunked away at this playing the tunes of the day. This was prob a mail order instrument. it is a nice thing to have and Mike is right on on the value. Enjoy it. It is worth more to you sentimentally and won't be a worth that much more any time soon.
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    Default Re: Help: Sears & Roebuck Supertone Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by BrockW1 View Post
    ...according to one website I read through, mandolins became more popular as a cheaper alternative to banjos in the early 20th century....Is this something that would increase in value with time or maintain itself?...How common is this model?...Would strings have been made from a different metal than they are now?..Would the long leftover pieces at the top have been result of the instrument being restrung?...The wood on mine looks more orange than yellow (any idea what would cause that?)...The one Elderly's has is strung differently from mine (thick on right vs thick on left). Would that be a result of them being different handed, mine being strung improperly, or something else?
    1. Your website was wrong. Mandolins became popular in the last quarter of the 19th century, initially due to concerts by touring European groups and increased immigration from Mediterranean countries. They were no cheaper than banjos; catalogs featured run-of-the-mill banjos and mandolins for less than $10.

    2. The Supertone should hold its value, perhaps increase slightly. It's not an in-demand vintage instrument, but if it's playable and undamaged, it's not likely to devalue. The Elderly one that Mike E linked, needed a refret and crack repairs, which is why they were selling it "as is" for $150. Note that Elderly didn't think it worthwhile to repair it themselves and sell it for more.

    3. Don't know how common this particular model is, but there are quite a few "trade" or catalog instruments around. They were sold by the thousands in the early 20th century. Large factories in Chicago turned them out under various labels. Lots were stuck up in the attic, and are being found and put on the market.

    4. Strings haven't changed that much: plain steel for the unwound treble strings, brass-wrapped steel for the wound lower strings. The leftover lengths of string do indicate the instrument was restrung.

    5. The finish on lacquered instruments can darken over time, especially if exposed to light. Some makers of new guitars put "aging toner" into the finish, to simulate vintage darkening. The effect is only cosmetic.

    6. If your mandolin was strung "backwards," with the heavier strings on the right as you hold the mandolin facing you, it probably means the person who played it was left-handed, and strung it to play that way. A mandolin like this is pretty symmetrical, other than the bridge compensation (if there is any), so stringing it that way would be OK.
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    Default Re: Help: Sears & Roebuck Supertone Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    1. Your website was wrong. Mandolins became popular in the last quarter of the 19th century, initially due to concerts by touring European groups and increased immigration from Mediterranean countries. They were no cheaper than banjos; catalogs featured run-of-the-mill banjos and mandolins for less than $10.
    That jives pretty well with the website I was reading from.

    http://www.seacoastonline.com/articl...NEWS-911270330

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    2. The Supertone should hold its value, perhaps increase slightly. It's not an in-demand vintage instrument, but if it's playable and undamaged, it's not likely to devalue. The Elderly one that Mike E linked, needed a refret and crack repairs, which is why they were selling it "as is" for $150. Note that Elderly didn't think it worthwhile to repair it themselves and sell it for more.
    This one has certainly been used. The edges have been worn down and rounded. However, it definitely still seems playable, although I don't have a clue how to do that or tune it. There's only one small crack that doesn't seem to have gone the whole way through the wood.

    I live in Huntsville, Alabama. So, any idea where I could go and how much it would cost to have this little piece of history restored? I'd be particularly interested in finding a tail-cover just so that it's a complete piece. I guess I could send it to Elderly's and let them have a look at it?

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    The leftover lengths of string do indicate the instrument was restrung.
    5. The finish on lacquered instruments can darken over time, especially if exposed to light. Some makers of new guitars put "aging toner" into the finish, to simulate vintage darkening. The effect is only cosmetic.
    6. If your mandolin was strung "backwards," with the heavier strings on the right as you hold the mandolin facing you, it probably means the person who played it was left-handed, and strung it to play that way. A mandolin like this is pretty symmetrical, other than the bridge compensation (if there is any), so stringing it that way would be OK.
    Appreciate the reply. That's a lot of information that I didn't know.

    It's pretty neat having an item that's almost like a portable time machine.

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    Registered User bigbike's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help: Sears & Roebuck Supertone Mandolin

    Well, a new set of strings-$8.00 and about 30 minutes of time to remove and install the new ones, then tune it up. Whalla you are in playable condition. And as has been stated-use lights NOT bluegrass mandolin strings on it.

    Since yours is missing the "Waverly cloud tailpiece cover" good luck in finding one, in any shape. They have not been manufactored for a long time and vintage instruments frequently have theirs missings.

    Only things you would need is a book or mandolin teacher and an electronic tuner and you would be in buisness. Oh and play what ever kind of mandolin music moves you-rock, classical, bluegrass, celtic etc. Learn you some chords and have fun. That would be a fitting tribute to your grandfather and his old instrument.
    If it ain't got at least 3 strings on it, it ain't worth playing.

    Just sittin back, pickin and grinnin!

    Thank you AMY RAY for giving me an interest in mandolin and bouzouki, as well as Bill M, and countless others!

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