Re: First Mandolin
I can only stress that setup is critical on mandolins. It is on guitars too, of course, but generally, mandolins need quite a lot more of it..... if you buy only on the basis of lowest price, you could end up with a totally unplayable instrument arriving. I thinking of the 'box shifters' in particular here. Mandolins are not refrigerators or washing machines.........
This might give you a better idea of what a typical 'The Loar' 'burst is like. This is an LM-300 VS that was purchased from Germany. It was absolutely unplayable as delivered and required a substantial amount of work: frets, nut, bridge and a few other things.
I would say that if you are really critical about finish, and details of colouration, you really are going to have to take a trip or two and check some makes/models in person. Photos can only tell you so much. A bit of time spent with some 'serious' mandolins (as at Trevor's) would really make sense for you. You will learn a lot.
Gibson F5 'Harvey' Fern
Gibson F5 'Derrington' Fern
Distressed Silverangel F 'Esmerelda' aka 'Maxx'
Jim Triggs 23 F5, Northfield Big Mon #127
Silverangel custom 'A'
'39 D-18, 1950 D-28.