OK, so I have read almost all of Joe Spanns Guide to Gibson and would like to offer some observations and give Joe the credit he deserves.
First and foremost this book is a groundbreaking achievement. Those of us who frequent this mandolin oriented forum, and us Gibson Mandolin gurus have been treated to a perspective that broadens the entire picture. Joe is a banjo fanatic and as such, has brought things to the table with his book that were not registering to us mandolinheads like myself, Dan Beimborn, F5Loar, and even the late Charlie D. The book also provides a wealth of information outside of the normal serial number, dates and FON discussion that can also be used to better formulate some new ideas and reinforce others.
To start off a bit of critique, I will submit that like us mandoheads, Joe is probably a Banjohead. Joe might just be a little bit post Loar leaning and banjo of the ‘30’s thinking. So this gives us an opportunity to discuss a few things and see if the outcome changes any. I do not believe it will change much, but some things might turn a shade of grey and some might just take on a new meaning.
Now I will stand on my own soapbox. Nothing Joe writes in his book comes as a complete surprise to me. This is because I have been preaching some of this to a deaf choir. Here are the more significant posts in a thread I started in September of 2009. The thread died with not much interest. It is with this information that I will totally agree with most of Joe’s info and also address what I believe to be the largest oversight in Joe’s book.
Issue No. 1
Gibson did not always have the same Business Plan/Model – They changed the way they did business sometime in 1923 or 1924. With this said some of the information and implications do not backflow from the later 20’s and 30’s into the Loar ear and before. I fully believe they overbuilt up until 1923, almost went bankrupt with all their dealer samples, credit plans, ridiculously priced Master Model line and general propaganda. The business model changed via new management and necessity and this changed the way they did serial numbers and FON’s and changed their priorities. I will address the 1925 FON’s with the “A” tagged on after this dissertation from my 2009 thread.
POST NUMBER 1
Gibson History, serial numbers, FON's and such
I encourage all Loar and Gibson aficionados to fully read this book by Walter Carter (Gibson - 100 Years). I have owned the book since it came out in the early 90's, however there were numerous chapters that I had only sped read or "I'm just looking at the pictures Mom"
Of particular interest are the numerous tales of "Board Room Wars" along with excerpts from minutes of meetings and such. We on this thread have discussed many things about Gibson and the Loar era, but, we have not fully explored the meaning of some of the facts presented in this book.
I will expand on this later as I assimilate my thoughts but here are a few pointers that come to mind:
Board meetings appear to be held on Monday about once a month or there abouts - they seem to coincide with many of the dates Loars were signed on.
L. A. Williams, a Loar associate left Gibson in a furor at the end of '23. Others left before the end of '24, with Loar essentially being the last of the old regime. Loar was more involved with the company than thought, he signed paycheck and did a number of things that imply board member/stockholder
Harry Ferry entered the equation in later '23 and turned the company around to make a profit in '24
Some of his goals were to a) cut the number of models and to B) change from teacher/agent agreements to Music store/dealership agreements.
The cut in production experienced in 1925 was so great that it could not have been from a shift in interest from mandolins to guitars and banjos and the economy simply was not that up and down. Production dipped 60-70%, immediately meaning that they overbuilt and spent the next several years selling 1924 era new instruments. They were building 4-5000 instruments a year and then built about 1200-1400 for the new 3-4 years. Impossible. This is why 1925 instruments may not even be 1925's at this juncture. We note how so many things changed immediately, but this may not now be true. I believe they spent several years finishing instrument started in 1923 and early 24 on an as needed as sold basis (which was one of Harry Ferry's initiatives also)
Some of this seems to explain how Eugene Claycomb special ordered a "red" F5 in mid 1926 and received a red '24 Fern Loar.
More to come
POST NUMBER 3
As Dan implied in his post on the LOPD thread. We may be learning something new here. There is always new info to be digested and new theories to go with it. Here is more evidence. Below are my
1925 A4 82619 FON 8932
1925 A2 marked A 81546 FON 8510
These both have this oddball pretty "The Gibson" logo not seen on any true 1923 and 1924 instruments. Both have the new lacquer finish. Both have modern worm over tuners. The sunburst on the A4 is brighter and less hand done looking, and the FON's are miles from anything we see with a Loar label on it. These were built for need, not part of an overbuilt stock of instruments awaiting an order. With this in mind, they may not be 1925 instruments. They may have spent the next year and a half finishing up all those others and developing faster drying finishes and other things
POST NUMBER 9
FON’s - I can almost see two old thick carbon paper order books with a number in the upper right corner. The five digit one got old and ran out and they continued with the other one
POST NUMBER 24
Here is a copy of a Gibson invoice dated June 1933 showing that F5 mandolin 89516 was delivered. We universally refer to the 89xxx mandolins as 1929. This is just another shred of evidence that the thick lacquer finish on some "1929" mandolins is really 1933-34 and that 89xxx just may be 1933-34