Re: yet another newbie asking for buying advice
If you can spend up to $375 you can get a used Trinity College Octave Mandolin. You may also find some very decent used Mid Missouri (now Big Muddy) flat topped mandolins along with the advice others gave. I wouldn't recommend a Backpacker for a first mandolin either. They have no bottom end.
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There are two things to aim at in life: first, to get what you want; and, after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second. Logan Pearsall Smith, 1865 - 1946
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