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Thread: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

  1. #1
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    Default Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    I have an antique Gibson mandolin, which was a pre-wedding gift from my maternal grandfather to my maternal grandmother. They married in 1913, so that dates the mandolin as at least 97 years old.

    It has an all-black tear-drop shaped body. On the inside under the sound hole are these words:

    "Patented Feb. 1 '98
    March , '06
    Gibson mandolin Style Q-4
    Number 11972 is hereby
    GUARANTEED
    against faulty sworksmanship or material. Should
    this instrument, with proper care and usage, go wrong, e agree to repair it free of charge at our factory or to replace it with another of the same style or value.
    GIBSON MANDOLIN-GUITAR CO.
    (manufacturers)
    Kalamazoo, Mich. U. S. A."[/CENTER]


    I have some questions about this mandolin, after seeing a newer (by at least 11 years) mandolin assessed at at least $100,000 on Antiques Road Show tonight:

    1) My mother made the mistake of storing the mandolin in its original case in her attic. Now, the case smells of mildew. Is the mandolin, with a damaged case more valuable than a new replacement case, if one is available?

    2) How can I find the vintage of this mandolin?

    3) Can something be used to either mask or erase the smell?

    4) Is the value of this mandolin lessened by the damaged case? I have kept the mandolin out of the case to minimize the likelihood that it would absorb more of the case's odor.

    5) How much would I expect to pay for an appraisal, and would a local music shop be an appropriate place to get an appraisal?

    6) As a guitarist, I have little experience playing mandolins, or caring for them. Can anyone suggest how to clean the mandolin or the case, and what cleaners can and what cleaners must not be used?

    7) Would having the case relined destroy its value, or has the mildew done that permanently?


    Thank is advance for any advice.

  2. #2
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    Could it possibly say A4?

    Not likely to be worth life changing amounts of money. Even in pristine condition. Take a look at the classifieds that are part of mandolin cafe. Look around for something that looks close, that is a vintage Gibson of a year close to it. Those are the kinds of prices it is more reasonable to expect.

    The F5 on the road show is not typical. It is first of all an F-5. Secondly it is a Master Model. Third it was made when Lloyd Loar was working at Gibson. And lastly it was actually signed by Lloyd Loar himself. All these things add increasing value, the last one adding a lot of value.

    The original case existing is great, but the condition of the mandolin is the main thing.

    Pictures would be great.

    There are various things that can be done about the case smell. I don't think that is going to be a difficult problem to solve.

    Hope this helps.
    Last edited by JeffD; Jan-09-2012 at 11:30pm.
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    Registered User John Rosett's Avatar
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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    The serial number (11972) dates it to 1912. It's probably a style A-4. That part was often written with a cursive A, which looks like a Q. Does it look like this one: http://www.mandolinarchive.com/gibson/serial/11641 ? The original case is valuable, but if it stinks, it's probably a good idea to keep the mandolin out. I had a friend who had a musty old Gibson case, and he never could get the smell out. Maybe someone here has some ideas on that. Definitely don't throw it away!
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    I bet a lot of people are taking a second look in their attics after seeing that Antiques Roadshow clip!

    This is a shot in the dark without photos, but in good condition with original parts and original case (provided that there's a way to deal with the smell), a 1912 A4 should sell for around $1500, maybe a bit more. A bit of a musty odor is completely normal with these old Gibsons, but you don't want the scent to be overwhelming. Of course I reserve the right to adjust an estimate like that one after seeing photos.

    This mandolin should have a fleur-de-lis inlay in the peghead, fancy inlaid tuners, top and back binding, and a soundhole rosette consisting of a wide center strip that matches the binding, surrounded by two herringbone strips. If it matches that description, it's definitely an A4.

    Whether your local music store is a good place for an appraisal depends on where you live and what store it is. There are lots of perfectly decent music store employees who don't really have much of a clue about vintage Gibson mandolins. Let us know where you live and someone can probably recommend a local expert ... or you can send photos to Gruhn, Elderly or Mandolin Brothers for a photo appraisal (the fee is in the neighborhood of $50 IIRC).

    If you are thinking about selling an old instrument that's been kept in an attic, it's always a good idea to have a qualified luthier check for loose braces, open seams, loose binding and other potential issues. The F5 on Antiques Roadshow had a bit of loose binding, and the case handle appeared to be pretty much gone ... I'm not sure if there were any other issues with it.
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    Registered User John Rosett's Avatar
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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    I'm not sure if there were any other issues with it.
    Probably a fixer-upper at the appraisal price...
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    There is a 1916 A4 at Vintage Instruments http://www.vintage-instruments.com/photos/27326z.jpg for reference.
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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    FWIW, the one that JeffD linked to is being offered for $3,000.00.

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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    To get the smell out, put some charcoal in a bowl or something in the closed case. It should suck some of that musty odour out in a few days. You could also try some baking soda. Maybe put it near a dehumidifier, as well.

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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    You cannot base anything by the appraisals on the "Antiques Roadshow". First, they give numbers that are qualified as in, "this mandolin would have an appraised value for insurance of $xxxx.xx." Or they may say, " This should bring about $xxxx.xx at auction". The use a number of qualifying statements with their appraisals.

    We do a lot of appraisals. The dollar amount on the appraisal is usually for insurance value. In other words, if this particular instrument were destroyed or stolen, what would it take in cold hard cash to replace it? That is what most people want. This includes a lot of things that are hard to determine in other kinds of transactions. There is a wholesale value. There is a retail value. There is an insurance value. These are all different depending upon what the purpose of the appraisal may be. If you want to sell it to a dealer, the wholesale figure will give you an idea what a dealer may pay you cash money for the instrument as it is. The retail value is for another instrument similar hanging in a store. The insurance value also adds the fact that this instrument is a particular instrument and may have reasons it is more valuable or less valuable than others similar. If it is rare in some way and not replaceable, that has to be factored in. If it has some provenance that may increase the value, that must be included.

    Your appraisal should include adequate photos for proof of condition. It should also include a signed appraisal form or statement that can be given to your insurance company or held in your possession until it may be needed.

    We always keep the photos, and the appraisal on our computer. We are able to do updates very easily as values change this way. In addition, should the owner loose or have his appraisal destroyed, we have a copy that can be provided. We send two signed copies to the owner. Usually one goes to the insurance company and the other to the safe deposit box or ???.
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Snyder View Post
    FWIW, the one that JeffD linked to is being offered for $3,000.00.
    Haven't these folks heard of the recession? It will take a long time to move at that price.

    The '16 A4 has the fretboard extension whereas a '12 A4 would not. There are some really nice '12 A4 photos on Mandolin Archive.
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    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    The original case with the original instrument adds some value. You could buy a new case for not a lot of $$ to store the mandolin in--and it should be stored in a case for safety. Save the original case even if you do not store the mandolin in it.

    I would not reline or alter the case in any manner. Using charcoal or baking soda is OK if it does not damage the the lining. Be very careful using any cleaners on the outside of the case. Also take care if you vacuum out the case that you don't pull the lining loose.
    Chronic MAS

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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    Plenty of A4's these days in the $1500 range. If indeed this one is an A4. A really sparkling loar era A4 on ebay just recently went for $2700. That is a high price these days on ebay. Everyday it seems lately a vintage A model of one sort or another sells in the $500 to $1000 range and that includes some A 4's. All Gibson's ain't equal and few are equal to the one that was described from the T.V show. A rule of thumb that I go by...it seems all that stuff out there is worth a lot of money---that is ,until I have it,then somehow it's not!

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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    Quote Originally Posted by barney 59 View Post
    Plenty of A4's these days in the $1500 range. If indeed this one is an A4. A really sparkling loar era A4 on ebay just recently went for $2700. That is a high price these days on ebay. Everyday it seems lately a vintage A model of one sort or another sells in the $500 to $1000 range and that includes some A 4's. All Gibson's ain't equal and few are equal to the one that was described from the T.V show. A rule of thumb that I go by...it seems all that stuff out there is worth a lot of money---that is ,until I have it,then somehow it's not!

    Roger that!...Welcome to the club.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    Haven't these folks heard of the recession? It will take a long time to move at that price.
    That is Fred Oster's shop. He is the appraiser on Antiques Road Show who checked out the fern Loar. I doubt he cares whether he moves it right away.
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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    Thanks for your quick reply.

    I didn't think it would pay off my condo, but, I can still dream.

    The case is still intact, but it does show its age on the inside.

    Would it help to preserve my mandolin by putting it in a plastic bag to isolate it from the case?

    Other than needing new strings, it was playable (before the strings broke.) I may take it to my local music shop to ask to have it restrung. I hate restringing my guitars, let alone an old mandolin. Once I get it restrung, I'll post pictures.

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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    Your pictures are almost eerie! Yes, that IS the exact model. Thanks for posting those beautiful pictures.

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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    No, it doesn't look like that one. The neck is straight across with 21 frets under all the strings.

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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    Thanks for the suggestion.

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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    It's worth more in the original case and in original condition than it is in a different case. You can buy another case for it, just make sure you keep the original. It's worth hundreds, not thousands. That doesn't mean it's not worth more than a thousand, it just isn't worth hundreds or tens of thousands of dollars.

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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    It does look like an A-4. I found a picture of a similar mandolin here:

    http://images.guitarcenter.com/produ...6990689_el.jpg

    Mine is different in that its top surface is more a flat black rather than a sunburst color like the picture shows.

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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    Thanks for the suggestions. I resisted putting any kind of polish, such as a guitar polish on the mandolin. What would you suggest I use?

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Cummins View Post
    Would it help to preserve my mandolin by putting it in a plastic bag to isolate it from the case?
    No. The celluloid pickguard needs to breathe. It will decompose if deprived of oxygen. As long as it's out of direct sunlight and in an environment where temperature and humidity are controlled, it will keep better hanging on the wall or sitting in a stand than it will in a plastic bag.
    Other than needing new strings, it was playable (before the strings broke.) I may take it to my local music shop to ask to have it restrung. I hate restringing my guitars, let alone an old mandolin. Once I get it restrung, I'll post pictures.
    I don't recommend restringing it until it is checked over by a qualified luthier. If you string it up while the transverse brace is loose, you risk ruining the top.
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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    Do NOT put it in a plastic bag. It is a good idea to keep the original case, but a new case to keep it in is a good way to preserve it without losing value. A gator or ultra lite type case would be sufficient and not expensive.
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    In case your tempted to put it in a plastic bag even after all this, read this first.

  25. #25
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Antique Gibson mandolin questions

    Yep, I have a couple of instruments with peculiar rashes on the back that appear to have been caused by plastic or vinyl. My National Triolian tenor was wrapped in bubble wrap for shipping, which reacted with the paint on the back. My Roberts Tiny Moore 5-string has an impression in the back that looks like it was made by one of those Slinky-type coiled audio cables.
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