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Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

By Mandolin Cafe
April 10, 2011 - 8:00 pm

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Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941 is a new book from Hal Leonard Publishing intended to serve as a reference guide for those interested in the state of Gibson's early manufacturing activities.

Historian and genealogist Joe Spann has put together a collection of information that is a different kind of look at Gibson history.

"My new book is not another company history. That ground was sufficiently covered by Walter Carter and others in Gibson Guitars - 100 Years of an American Icon. This book a reference guide to what the company did," said Spann.

"If you are interested in knowing what is was like to work at Gibson, the names of the employees, where the wood came from, who made the lacquer, or even the type of gun used to spray the lacquer, then this book is for you!

"What makes this book different from all the others about Gibson is that the observed knowledge from the mandolin community, the guitar community, and banjo community has been gathered together in the presence of the original company records. So for the first time, there is a significant amount of data available, enough information making it possible for valid conclusions to be drawn.

"As if that wasn't enough, I was able to interview about two dozen eyewitnesses, former employees and their children. There's been nothing exactly like this ever before."

Contents:
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Chapter 1 - The Factory
Chapter 2 - The Employees
Chapter 3 - Vendors: 1925-1931
Chapter 4 - Factory Order Numbers
Chapter 5 - Serial Numbers
Chapter 6 - Dealers & Wholesalers
Chapter 7 - Teacher-Agents
Chapter 8 - Artists & Endorsers
Chapter 9 - The Instruments
Appendix A - Gibson Banjo Models (1919-1941)
Appendix B - Gibson Production Totals
Appendix C - 1941 Production Costs
Appendix D - Gibson Ephemera
SourcesPage 295

At the end there are eight pages of color photographs which show a small portion of Steve Huber's collection of rare Gibson ephemera.

There are 24 charts included in the book:

Gibson Employees: 1915 - 1945
Factory Order Numbers: 1902 - 1916 Series
Factory Order Numbers: 1917 - 1923 Series
Factory Order Numbers: 1924 - 1925 Series
Factory Order Numbers: 1925 Banjo Series
Factory Order Numbers: 1925 - 1931 Series
Factory Order Numbers: 1927 - 1928 Banjo Series
Factory Order Numbers: 1931 - 1933 Series
Factory Order Numbers: 1934 Series
Factory Order Numbers: 1935 Series
Factory Order Numbers: 1936 Series
Factory Order Numbers: 1937 Series
Factory Order Numbers: 1938 Series
Factory Order Numbers: 1939 Series
Factory Order Numbers: 1940 - 1945 Series
Numerical Serial Number Index: 1905 - 1947
Letter Prefix Serial Number Index: 1938 - 1940
Gibson Dealers: Circa 1935
Gibson Teacher-Agents: Individuals
Gibson Teacher-Agents: Schools & Studios
Gibson Endorsers: 1917 - 1942
Gibson Brand Instrument Models: 1903 - 1941
Kalamazoo Brand Instrument Models: 1933 - 1941
Recording King Brand Instrument Models 1929 - 1940

Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941 is expected to be available sometime during the first week of May.

Additional information:
Autographed copy: see information contained within this Forum discussion
Pre-order: From Elderly Instruments
Pre-order: From amazon.com

---------------------------

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Reader Comments

Mike Black
April 07, 2011 02:53 PM
Very cool! I want a copy. Sounds like a good birthday present doesn't it Scott? smile Thanks for the heads up.
Scott Tichenor
April 07, 2011 03:44 PM
Indeed, Mike, you who shares the same birthday. You can get mine from Elderly smile. Hmm, somehow I temporarily closed the thread there for a bit. Didn't mean to do that.
Jim Garber
April 07, 2011 04:33 PM
Very interesting and thanks for the alert. Now, if they can solve the Handel tuner mystery...
Darryl Wolfe
April 08, 2011 06:41 AM
Very cool....he really knows his stuff and has a much broader interest in all things Gibson. He posts on the Martin Guitar Forum and is very respected. The Martin Forum has a vintage section that addresses all things with strings with the expected emphasis on Martin Guitars
Joe Spann
April 09, 2011 06:32 AM
Hello Everybody,

Thanks for the kind words about my soon-to-be book. The publisher (Centerstream) tells me that we should have copies available for sale by the first week of May. Distribution is through the Hal Leonard Organization, so almost every music store on the planet should be able to order them.

Additionally, I will be selling a limited number of autographed copies directly. The price will be $39.99 plus shipping. At this time I'm simply compiling a list of people who would be interested. If you would like to have your name added to this list, please send me an e-mail to banjospann@msn.com and I'll let you know when the books arrive!

Joe Spann
Gary Watkins
April 09, 2011 08:22 AM
Email sent. Count me in!
evanreilly
April 09, 2011 08:34 AM
[SIZE="2"]Ahhh...
The mysteries of the FON revealed!!!!![/SIZE]
f5loar
April 09, 2011 11:23 AM
Bobby Osborne is going to be p***ed when he finds out his 1925 Fern is not a 1925 Fern!!!! Oh my!!!!!!!
Bill Halsey
April 09, 2011 11:51 PM
Tom, do you mean Bobby's '26 Fern (84251)? As of a year ago, he had a complete pedigree on that one -- and on his Loar, as well.
f5loar
April 10, 2011 02:09 AM
Every interview I have seen of Bobby's he consistantly has always called his Fern a '25 including the one he just did for the cafe.
The Loar has a dated sticker of Dec. 1, 1924, no arguments there but his Fern is well past the '25 numbers and his FON will put it past '27. Grisman has a '25 Fern.
This new book is going to change lots of old dates that they thought they had.
Joe Spann
April 10, 2011 05:41 AM
The discussion about Bobby Osborne's F-5 (serial #84251 - FON 9140) provides an opportunity to demonstrate the kind of information available in my new book.

In chapter 4, there are detailed charts showing the chronology of the various series of Factory Order Numbers (FON's), along with an explanation of what they mean and how they were used. Batch #9140 was a group of F-5 mandolins which were produced in the latter part of 1928, say maybe September.

In chapter 5, there is a new, corrected index for numerical serial numbers, along with an explanation of how and when serial numbers were used. A serial number of 84251 means that Bobby's mandolin received it's final inspection in January 1929, had the paper label applied and was shipped.

So, my book helps us to understand that the mandolin was produced late in 1928 and shipped very early in 1929.

Joe
Bill Halsey
April 10, 2011 09:31 AM
Terrific!
f5loar
April 10, 2011 10:39 AM
He's going to be really p###ed now ! I already knew this but it's a shocker to someone who believes something was one date after having it for over 50 years.
Bill Halsey
April 10, 2011 04:00 PM
I'd sooner think that the exact year would matter very little to the owner of such a fine sounding instrument. Bobby's a player, not a collector nor a speculator -- it is what it is, and always has been.
~o)
f5loar
April 10, 2011 04:45 PM
Well if I had bought and paid dearly for what I thought was a nice '57 Chevy BelAir and it turned out 50 years later I had bought a '62 Chevy Nova it would make a difference no matter how fast it ran. Back when Bobby got his Fern from Charles Bailey about all he knew was it was not like Bill's cause it had more fancy pearl up there and didn't have that other label signed by some dude at Gibson with a date on it. He bought it on how it sounded and performed in his hands and he made a life long choice back then.
Ken Waltham
April 10, 2011 08:25 PM
I've always felt that Bobby's Fern was a 1927, but, shipped in 1929 you say?? Built in late 1928??
What year are all the '29's then???
I am a little suspect here. Are they from the 30's?
I don't think so, myself.
Ken
f5loar
April 10, 2011 09:37 PM
Ken, If you go back to those older vintage guides by Gruhn/Carter and others of the 20's/30's serial nos. they said they were only estimates using only approximent last numbers. It's only been in the past 6 years or less that documentation with dated receipts have changed those estimates both in banjos and mandolins. I've known for some time confirmed by Gibson that F5 no. 83660 shipped new in August of 1928. That number is before Osborne's which would put Osborne's in there around early 1929. What I am seeing is they made far less instruments during the great depression and before and after it then was first estimated. You got to admit those are some lean years for F5 production. Even the Great Yoda said "Few and far between the F5 they were."
So yeah, those we use to think were '29's are more like '32's and '33's. No doubt those luthiers making the signed Loars were still around in early 30's. You don't see a big change in the F5 until around early 1935 which also was a time begining in 1935 the FON were much easier to date. IMO the really good F5 luthiers had all retired by 1935 as you don't see any Loar like qualites after 1935.
Just as the Jim Mills book opened up new revelations on dating banjos this book by Joe will do the same.
Bill Halsey
April 11, 2011 12:03 AM
Quote from f5loar: Well if I had bought and paid dearly for what I thought was a nice '57 Chevy BelAir and it turned out 50 years later I had bought a '62 Chevy Nova it would make a difference no matter how fast it ran. Back when Bobby got his Fern from Charles Bailey about all he knew was it was not like Bill's cause it had more fancy pearl up there and didn't have that other label signed by some dude at Gibson with a date on it. He bought it on how it sounded and performed in his hands and he made a life long choice back then. End Quote

Agree -- darned good choice, too. I imagine that $350 may indeed have been a dear price for a Fern in 1954, but I think he got his money's worth.

BTW, Bobby said it was people at Gibson who told him that, judging from the serial number, it was a 1925 Fern with a dot on the 3rd fret. He also said that a couple of years ago George Gruhn had eventually changed his own opinion from 1925 to 1926 on this instrument. But, that was then.

It takes a great deal of experience and self-confidence for a heavyweight appraiser to change his own long-standing opinion on a well-known instrument. At that level they know they must never stop learning, and that opinions are just that. This was one of Dario D'Attili's great strengths -- he'd never try to cover if he had to revise an opinion. He may have had to eat crow now and then, but he certainly had the highest respect of everyone in the industry.

It seems unlikely to me that subtle historical date changes within such an enormous body of work as 39 years of Gibson production will have much effect on the valuation of most of the individual instruments of that period. Many pieces from those years may get moved around a little bit, but we will be richer for coming closer to knowing what the instruments have always known.
f5loar
April 11, 2011 01:44 AM
The good people at Gibson, bless their hearts have been giving out wrong vintage dates for decades. They can't figure out a 60's from a 70's as numbers were used over again. They know less about their past then their future. I suspect George will be re-writting quite a few of his $50 appraisals after this book comes out. But does he get another $50 for going back to correct something he did wrong?
Darryl Wolfe
April 11, 2011 12:02 PM
Joes work fits perfectly with what I have been suspecting for a long time. Instruments did not simply change overnight with regard to parts, inlay and finish when Loar left ....and they spent several years ridding themselves of backlog instruments before bulding completely new ones of certain types. We all along had validated proof that many Loar signed instruments were shipped new up into 1926. That fact alone puts many (what we thought) 1925, 1926 1927 instruments as suspect regarding their true date of manufacture

Great work Joe
thistle3585
April 11, 2011 12:13 PM
Quote from f5loar: The good people at Gibson, bless their hearts have been giving out wrong vintage dates for decades. They can't figure out a 60's from a 70's as numbers were used over again. They know less about their past then their future. I suspect George will be re-writting quite a few of his $50 appraisals after this book comes out. But does he get another $50 for going back to correct something he did wrong? End Quote

I don't think he did anything wrong. He made the best appraisal with the best information available to him at the time. Do we expect values to change all that much? Well, seeing how Bobby's mandolin went from a '25 to a '29 then I wonder if mine will jump in to the Loar era.

I just feel bad for whomever is going to have to go back and update the Mandolin Archive. smile
Bill Halsey
April 11, 2011 12:29 PM
As Andrew said...

I believe the point here is that Gruhn's appraisals were not wrong when he wrote them. He was going on his lifetime of experience, based on the information available to him at the time, in the way he gathered it. Connoisseurship is an ongoing process, and it is public faith in an appraiser's integrity that gives his work value. If he accepts more recent work by another to be trustworthy, then it's up to him to call the shots on his own opinions.

Relatively, this is nickel-dime stuff. To give this a little perspective, let's consider that the fact that 84251 is a Gibson mandolin is unquestioned. We are only looking at a few years difference in it's year of manufacture, which is not likely to alter its market value. The fact that it has been a famous musician's instrument of choice for over 50 years may have as much to do with its value.

Instruments of the violin family may have great potential market value, but with so many imitations and counterfeits made over several centuries, provenance becomes of central importance in those appraisals. Thus, an appraiser's opinion can make or break the value of a given fiddle or bow. These papers are often issued by dealers at a percentage of the instrument's appraised value (sound like a conflict of interest?), and can cost thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars, since it is the appraisal that establishes the market value. This is one factor that distinguished D'Attili as a professional appraiser following his retirement from the Rembert Wurlitzer shop -- he was not a dealer, no longer represented one, and had no vested interest in any particular instrument.
Darryl Wolfe
April 11, 2011 12:46 PM
I'm with Andrew and Bill on this one. We know a bit more about Mars now than we did in 1970 too. The facts at the time are the facts at the time. The more info we get the more we know and adjustments get made

It was not that long ago that we had one single 1922 F5 being known of and then nothing else before February of 1923, and there were only three prototype "1924 Fern Loars"
danb
April 11, 2011 03:14 PM
Quote from thistle3585: I just feel bad for whomever is going to have to go back and update the Mandolin Archive. smile End Quote

It's bad enough trying to keep up with submissions smile

I'm really looking forward to the information here. The big motivation for me to do the archive was always to collect more primary evidence to see what we could find out.

Information we've had to work with has always been patchy- filling in the holes with more documentation and evidence is really the best way forward. I fully expect information to crop up almost weekly that challenges theories and assumptions I've made. I'm looking forward to seeing what's been uncovered, even if it does mean writing some programs to update the estimated date to serial to FON correlations!
mrmando
April 11, 2011 04:29 PM
Quote from thistle3585: Well, seeing how Bobby's mandolin went from a '25 to a '29 then I wonder if mine will jump in to the Loar era. End Quote
I don't think so, but I might be wrong. In terms of serial numbers, we can define "Loar era" as any serial number that falls between the earliest and latest signed Loar instruments. IIRC, yours is well before the Loar era by that measure. Joe can tell us whether his book contains information that compels us to redefine the Loar era, but it would have to be a different kind of information than the revelation about Osborne's Fern.
thistle3585
April 11, 2011 04:37 PM
Well, it was wishful thinking. Although when I did a search on my FON, I found another mandolin listed at Elderly that shared my FON but was from the late twenties or early thirties. I'll need to go back and check. I assumed they reused them like serial numbers?
mrmando
April 11, 2011 04:42 PM
Now that's interesting. I don't know the answer to that. Yours is a Cremona brown "reissue A2," 1919ish, right? I do not think FONs were reused, but I guess we'll have to read Joe's book for the definitive answer.
thistle3585
April 11, 2011 06:15 PM
I don't know what the "re-issue" means but yes it is a 1919 A2 with a FON of 11149. There is a 1924 Mandola in the Archives, 78263, which shares the same FON. Sorry, I don't want to hijack the thread. I look forward to the publication of the book and the discussion to follow.
Ken Waltham
April 11, 2011 06:30 PM
Just in from work, and Tom, I find that quite interesting. I have to get a hold of this book, and learn more.
I am puzzled though. I do not doubt the validity of this research, I just wonder... are there any 1925's then?
I mean, there are definately 1924 F5's, you only have to look at the label. When are the next ones made? I have had two or three 1927 Ferns, but, now they are 1929's? I can handle that, but, which ones are post Loar? I mean the very next ones? Only the unsigned Loars??
Joe, if you are out there, I have to have this book.
Ken
Joe Spann
April 11, 2011 07:11 PM
Hello Ken,

I'd be happy to sell you a copy of the book!

To answer one question, Gibson used the factory order numbers (FON's) over and over and over and over again. After a specific batch of instruments was produced and shipped there was no reason not to use that same number again. At Gibson the factory order numbers were used to track the amount of raw materials, sub-assemblies, and labor which were used during the production of any particular batch. This allowed the accounting department to accurately calculate costs, management to assign wholesale and retail prices, and the procurement department to re-order everything needed to build the next batch.

Joe
MikeEdgerton
April 11, 2011 07:15 PM
So the process of dating an instrument by FON can't be considered accurate? Were there unique FON's?
f5loar
April 11, 2011 07:30 PM
Dan, don't forget Darryl is still about 300 photos behind of just the '22 through '42 era F5s.
Joe Spann
April 11, 2011 09:53 PM
Hello Mike,

A Gibson FON is still the most accurate method of determining a production date. However, because Gibson used the same numbers over and over again, you will need the charts in my book to determine the production year. It isn't a straight-forward process and before I created the FON charts it was nearly impossible.

A Gibson serial number is the most accurate way of determining a shipping date. This is because serial numbers were applied at the time of final inspection, just prior to shipping.

Joe
f5loar
April 12, 2011 12:15 AM
And the problem with that is many prewar banjos only had FON and no serial nos. and the same for many low end mandolins and guitars. The F5,F4,F7,F10,F12 and some A model mandolins did have serial nos.
Even with repeat FON you still need to know some knowledge about model changes and parts and when that came into being.
Joe Spann
April 12, 2011 05:13 AM
The situation is further complicated by evidence that some instruments like the Loar F-5's and the earliest Nick Lucas Special guitars may have had numerical serial numbers reserved in advance of production.

All pre-war Gibson instruments were produced under a factory order number, but only some of them also received a serial number. The FON may or may not appear on the instrument. If no FON appears, then as Tom says, the best method of determining a production date is by examination of constructional features. Determining a shipping date for an instrument built prior to March 1935 (when the shipping ledgers begin) is impossible if the instrument has no serial number.

It is important to make a clear distinction between the production date and the shipping date. Some instruments were built and shipped immediately, showing a FON and a serial number in close chronological agreement. Other instruments were produced and hung around the factory for years. These instruments reveal early FON's and later serial numbers.

Joe
danb
April 12, 2011 05:50 AM
Quote from f5loar: Dan, don't forget Darryl is still about 300 photos behind of just the '22 through '42 era F5s. End Quote

Yes Sir, I am ready and willing to get them in. It takes a lot of time to collate them all- one of these days I will need to get over for a visit so we can all have an information snyc-up!
Andrew B. Carlson
April 12, 2011 08:15 AM
I don't know why we're celebrating the arrival of this book. It could mean the end of half the discussion in this forum. We'll have too many answers! Ignorance and speculation is bliss people! ;)
Darryl Wolfe
April 12, 2011 10:11 AM
Quote from Andrew B. Carlson: I don't know why we're celebrating the arrival of this book. It could mean the end of half the discussion in this forum. We'll have too many answers! Ignorance and speculation is bliss people! ;) End Quote


Come on Andrew....there will always be something to argue about smile)
thistle3585
April 12, 2011 10:18 AM
Quote from Andrew B. Carlson: I don't know why we're celebrating the arrival of this book. It could mean the end of half the discussion in this forum. We'll have too many answers! Ignorance and speculation is bliss people! ;) End Quote

The Bobby Osborne issue aside, I feel sorry for Joe because you know that he's going to get challenged on something that someone isn't going to want to hear about their mandolin. smile
Darryl Wolfe
April 12, 2011 12:29 PM
I take no credit for any of this, but the issue has been festering for several years now. This is the answer to all the "sent back to the factory" crap that I have been challenging for a while now. When we see the data, It should all become clear. We have focused on mandolins, but Joe's research includes all things Gibson and that is the trump card in the deck
MikeEdgerton
April 12, 2011 01:00 PM
Quote from f5loar: And the problem with that is many prewar banjos only had FON and no serial nos. and the same for many low end mandolins and guitars. The F5,F4,F7,F10,F12 and some A model mandolins did have serial nos.
Even with repeat FON you still need to know some knowledge about model changes and parts and when that came into being. End Quote

The no serial number thing was what concerns me, we get messages posted frequently about instruments with no serial numbers. The production specs are always helpful but numbers always seem to point you in the right direction. I can't wait to see the book.
JeffD
April 12, 2011 02:19 PM
The way this is going, someday we will be able to look at those old mandolin orchestra pictures and string band pictures and know where those instruments are today. Its kind of oookie to think about it, but every single one you see, if it hasn't been destroyed, is out there somewhere. I would love (LOVE) to get a picture of a band or orchestra from the late 20s, and know that in my hands is the second row third mandolin from the left.

OK, one can dream, can't he?
Glassweb
April 12, 2011 02:35 PM
Quote from Darryl Wolfe: Come on Andrew....there will always be something to argue about smile) End Quote

Amen to that Darryl!
brunello97
April 12, 2011 10:50 PM
Jeff, I like where your post is heading. I think Jim Garber was able to track the production of his Embergher to the actual workbench of the guy who was sitting next to Luigi himself. This obviously led to discussion as to whether the maestro got his hands on this mandolin as well. As you say it is amazing to start linking up these databases between the factory, the historical image and the (still with us) mandolin itself. I've got a 1916A and you bet I'll be getting a copy of Joe's book with your very question in mind.

Mick
thistle3585
April 13, 2011 07:48 AM
I know that tradesmen from that era in other fields would often discreetly put their initials or a "mark" to show that they did work on a project. Has anyone ever seen that in an instrument? Also, does anyone know if an employee worked and instrument all the way through the building process or was it more like a production line where a worker was responsible for completing a couple tasks?
MikeEdgerton
April 13, 2011 08:34 AM
Quote from thistle3585: I know that tradesmen from that era in other fields would often discreetly put their initials or a "mark" to show that they did work on a project. Has anyone ever seen that in an instrument? End Quote

Sim Daley when he was at Gibson come to mind.
Scott Tichenor
April 14, 2011 06:23 AM
Fretboard Journal is reporting on their Twitter feed that they've done an audio interview with Joe and will be publishing it today but didn't say when. I don't have a link to that at the moment but will try to add it at some point.
Joe Spann
April 14, 2011 09:35 AM
Quote from Scott Tichenor: Fretboard Journal is reporting on their Twitter feed that they've done an audio interview with Joe and will be publishing it today but didn't say when. I don't have a link to that at the moment but will try to add it at some point. End Quote

Yup.
MikeEdgerton
April 14, 2011 08:35 PM
I pre-ordered my copy today. I took a look at the Amazon site where they are showing the preview and it looks great. A valuable addition to the reference library on vintage instruments.
Lowell Levinger
April 20, 2011 01:55 PM
Besides Amazon, etc. You can also order directly from Joe.
Scott Tichenor
April 21, 2011 11:35 AM
For those of you that haven't listened to the Fretboard Journal podcast interview with Joe Spann--I'm just getting around to it today--it's marvelous. If you're following this story, it's a must hear.
Joe Spann
April 22, 2011 10:58 AM
Thanks for the kind words about the Fretboard Journal podcast Scott.

The pre-orders for "Spann's Guide to Gibson 1902-1941" are very strong.

I appreciate all the interest shown here at Mandolin Cafe and at other websites around the 'net.

Joe
Mike Black
April 22, 2011 11:34 AM
Quote from Scott Tichenor: For those of you that haven't listened to the Fretboard Journal podcast interview with Joe Spann--I'm just getting around to it today--it's marvelous. If you're following this story, it's a must hear. End Quote

I agree...Great podcast. Really makes me want to get my hands on the book.
Utility Picker
April 23, 2011 09:26 PM
I've got two numbers on my Gibson F-2. One on the label, and one on the wood where the neck joins the body. The number on the label is 36910. The number on the wood is 3420. Which one is the serial number?

Thanks. UP
f5loar
April 23, 2011 10:29 PM
The label carries the serial number always. The FON is stamped elsewhere usually on the neck block in round holes or on the back as seen through the lower F hole in F models.
Utility Picker
April 23, 2011 10:58 PM
Quote from f5loar: The label carries the serial number always. The FON is stamped elsewhere usually on the neck block in round holes or on the back as seen through the lower F hole in F models. End Quote
Thanks f5loar. I wasn't sure which was which. The F-2 I have has the oval soundhole.
Joe Spann
April 24, 2011 06:26 AM
The information provided by Utility Picker gives an excellent example for illustrating the differences between Gibson serial numbers and factory order numbers.

The factory order number (FON) is linked to production. It is the best indicator of when any pre-war Gibson instrument was produced. In this example the FON 3420 indicates that the F-2 was manufactured around April of 1916.

The serial number is linked to warranty issues. In the absence of shipping ledger information, it is the best indicator of when a pre-war Gibson instrument was shipped. In this example the serial number indicates that the F-2 was shipped around October of 1916.

So, it would seem that Utility Picker's F-2 mandolin hung around the factory for a while before being sold.

This is an example of the type of information that can be derived from the charts in "Spann's Guide to Gibson 1902-1941."

Joe
Bob Sayers
April 24, 2011 05:36 PM
I'm really looking forward to Joe's book, too. But I already have a couple of questions based on the discussion in this thread. If the FON is linked to the date of production and the serial number is linked to the shipping date, does this mean that the serial number was added after production (e.g., was penciled in through the soundhole or, alternatively, the label was pasted in through the soundhole)? This seems pretty awkward. But maybe I didn't quite understand the foregoing comment.

I also noted Darryl's comment that speculation about mandolins being "sent back to the factory" for refurbishing would probably subside when we see the data. But there's another possibility that I gleened from the Amazon.com preview of Joe's book: namely, that Gibson instruments might have been sent back to the factory after they'd hung around a dealer's showroom for awhile without being sold. Mandolins, especially the expensive models, probably weren't selling like hotcakes by the late 1920s and 1930s and this seems like a real possibility. Has anyone raised this point before?

Excuse me if I'm rehashing something that's already been discussed. But I suspect we'll see alot more questions of this sort once we have our copies of Joe's book.

Bob
Joe Spann
April 25, 2011 05:08 AM
Hello Bob,

Your understanding of FON vs. serial number is correct. The paper serial number labels were applied during "final inspection" just prior to shipping. Completed instruments sometimes sat around at the factory for long periods of time before being shipped, thus creatng a disparity between their FON (production date) and serial number (shipping date.) This statement is based on eyewitness testimony.

Having said that, there is MUCH observed evidence that some instruments like the Loar period Master Models (F-5, L-5, etc., etc.), and Nick Lucas Specials had serial numbers reserved in advance. I have no problem with that. But the paper labels were still applied during final inspection.

Joe
thistle3585
April 25, 2011 07:40 AM
I would assume that the the numbers reserved for the Loar instruments would have been sequential, or somehow different than any other number, so will that tell us how many Loar instruments were shipped? Would they have used the same style of number on an L-5 as an F-5?
Joe Spann
April 25, 2011 08:04 AM
Quote from thistle3585: I would assume that the the numbers reserved for the Loar instruments would have been sequential, or somehow different than any other number, so will that tell us how many Loar instruments were shipped? Would they have used the same style of number on an L-5 as an F-5? End Quote

The serial numbers used on Loar instruments were the same as any other in use at that time, which is to say they were a simple numerical counting number. No alphabetic letters, prefixes, suffixes, etc., etc. The serial numbers used on Loar instruments also appear to be sequential and grouped together. This is not to say the occasional "lone wolf" didn't occur.

We still don't have a complete accounting of the Loar instruments because the shipping ledgers for that period (1919-1924) have not been located and to my knowledge no original Gibson-generated registry of serial numbers exists. What we do have is various compiled lists of numerical serial numbers, produced from observed examples. The numerical serial number series appears to have run from about 2,500 through 99,999. My own personal, compiled, numerical serial number list contains 20,000 examples...about 20% of the total numbers issued.

Joe
thistle3585
April 25, 2011 08:25 AM
Thanks. Joe. Were you able to gain access to and any information from Gibson's archives? I had wondered if any of that information was lost in the flooding.
Joe Spann
April 25, 2011 08:34 AM
Quote from thistle3585: Thanks. Joe. Were you able to gain access to and any information from Gibson's archives? I had wondered if any of that information was lost in the flooding. End Quote

No. I did not request any input from the present-day Gibson company in researching my book. My sources were the original employees and their children, pre-war company documents in private collections around the world, compiled sources like my serial number and FON lists, and publicly held records like the federal census, city directories, newspaper obits, etc., etc.

Joe
JeffD
April 25, 2011 10:08 AM
This stuff is so cool.
Joe Spann
April 30, 2011 02:17 PM
I'm hearing that copies of "Spann's Guide to Gibson 1902-1941" ordered from Elderly Instruments or Amazon are arriving.

Personally, I do not have any copies of the book at this time.

Those of you who asked to be placed on my waiting list will receive an e-mail with payment instructions as soon as I get the books.

Thanks for waiting patiently.

Joe
MikeEdgerton
April 30, 2011 02:40 PM
Amazon sent my shipping notice today.
bones12
April 30, 2011 07:46 PM
Mine arrived from Elderly today; after yardwork I settled into a porch chair with a cold beer and this fine fine book. There is a lot of information here. From my time living in Kalamazoo 35 years ago, I recognize many names, faces and places. This is a great tome and a labor of love. Doug in Vermont
Utility Picker
May 01, 2011 12:31 AM
Joe - - - I was negligent to thank you for mentioning my post, with the query about the fon number and the serial number. I appreciate having your input on the mandolin that I've got, and an accurate dating of when it was made/ shipped/ etc. I had been told (when I bought the F-2) that it was made in 1917 or 1918. The seller wasn't sure of which, but he's a pretty knowledgeable guy when it comes to mandolins and such. I think I'll buy a copy of your book, and have it sent to him so he can get his (already pretty accurate facts) straight in the future! smile

It's nice to know my mandolin is older than I thought it was. cool

UP
Charles Johnson
May 01, 2011 12:53 AM
Joe,
Will this be available as an E book? That information would be very handy to have in an easily accessible/portable electronic form.
Thanks,
Charles
Joe Spann
May 01, 2011 06:14 AM
Hello Charles,

There are provisions in my publishing contract which clear the way for the creation of an e-book version, but that will be up to the Hal Leonard Organization. I agree that an electronic version would be particularly helpful for people like yourself. Enjoyed meeting you at the recent Orlando Vintage Guitar Show.

Joe
Annette Siegel
May 02, 2011 07:40 PM
I am enjoying my book...very much...just one thing...I can't seem to find any mention of Handel tuners???
Joe Spann
May 05, 2011 11:20 AM
Quote from Nettles: I am enjoying my book...very much...just one thing...I can't seem to find any mention of Handel tuners??? End Quote

Hey Nettles,

I am not an expert on Handel tuners, but my resources indicate that Gibson used them from 1906 through 1918. Is that what is commonly believed?

Joe
Annette Siegel
May 05, 2011 11:35 AM
Quote from Joe Spann: Hey Nettles,

I am not an expert on Handel tuners, but my resources indicate that Gibson used them from 1906 through 1918. Is that what is commonly believed?

Joe End Quote

Thank you for your reply! I'm not an expert either on Handel tuners....and I also have heard that Handel tuners were used from that time period as well and discontinued because of the war? Just thought I might have been missing something...no disrespect to your hard work on this book.
thistle3585
May 05, 2011 11:44 AM
Quote from Joe Spann: Hey Nettles,

I am not an expert on Handel tuners, but my resources indicate that Gibson used them from 1906 through 1918. Is that what is commonly believed?

Joe End Quote

Here are some interesting dates in regards to Handels. I have them being used from 1904-1915 but they do appear as late as 1918 on instruments. Also, Handel did not incorporate until 1911 and continued in business until 1946. The Handel "factory" was cleaned out about 1964, several years after Louis' death, and just about everything was thrown away by the family.
Backlineman
May 05, 2011 12:38 PM
Got a pre-order copy from Amazon today. This is right up my alley. Really looking forward to using this book as a research tool for my ongoing family history project, as my great grandfather was a Gibson teacher/agent in the teens and twenties. Thanks to the author and contributors for all the hard work. smile
MikeEdgerton
May 05, 2011 05:05 PM
My Amazon copy arrived today as well. It will take me a few weeks to get through it. It looks to be a worthwhile addition to the library although I have a question about the Jos. B. Rogers information. I live a few miles from where they had their factory and I'm nowhere near the location listed.
Joe Spann
May 06, 2011 05:02 AM
Quote from MikeEdgerton: .....I have a question about the Jos. B. Rogers information. I live a few miles from where they had their factory and I'm nowhere near the location listed. End Quote

In his concerts Chet Atkins used to say, "I have to throw in a few mistakes so you'll know this isn't a recording." Mike, I'll check on my source for the location of the Jos B. Rogers factory and get back to you. It's very possible that the difference is the location of the Administrative Offices and the Factory itself. In that day and time they were often two different places.

Joe
Joe Spann
May 06, 2011 07:39 AM
Hey Mike,

My source for the location of Joseph B. Rogers Jr. & Son is Gibson's original pre-war financial records.

Here's what they say....

In April of 1925 Gibson owed them $146.92 and the payment was sent to Joseph B. Rogers Jr. & Son, Farmingdale, New Jersey.

In April of 1927 Gibson owed them $1.69 and the payment was sent to Joseph B. Rogers Jr. & Son, Farmingdale, New Jersey.

In April of 1931 Gibson owed them $118.50 and the payment was sent to Joseph B. Rogers Jr. & Son, Berlin, New York.

In my book, I used the Berlin, New York location because it was the most recent one. I'm not an expert in the history of the Joseph B. Rogers Jr. & Son Company. Did they move between 1927 and 1931? Was the administrative office in one location and the factory in another? Were they purchased by another company with offices in the Berlin, New York location? Did the stock market crash of October 1929 precipitate a change in location? I'm certain there's a story here....

Joe
MikeEdgerton
May 06, 2011 07:54 AM
Well OK, the answer is here. It was run in both places (actually the New York location is shown as a different town but I'm going to guess they are close to each other). The company was the pride of Farmingdale, New Jersey. The folks at Covington even have it wrong, they are saying Framingham, NJ. No such place to my knowledge.
Joe Spann
May 06, 2011 08:30 AM
Excellent Mike, and thanks for teaching me something today!

So, now we know that the factory was in New Jersey, but the tannery was in New York. It could be that Gibson sent payments to each location depending on what was being purchased.

Joe
Charles Johnson
May 07, 2011 07:53 PM
Joe,
Fantastic book! This has been needed for years.

I have a further question re: FON vs. serial number. My understanding is that the serial number is written directly on the back of the instrument and the oval label was later placed over it. Unless they were writing through the sound hole - possible I suppose but awkward - it would seem the serial number was written in at the time of production as well.

Your thoughts?

Again, great book!
Thanks,
Charles
Joe Spann
May 07, 2011 08:11 PM
Quote from Charles Johnson: I have a further question re: FON vs. serial number. My understanding is that the serial number is written directly on the back of the instrument and the oval label was later placed over it. Unless they were writing through the sound hole - possible I suppose but awkward - it would seem the serial number was written in at the time of production as well. End Quote

Charles,

It is true that some models have been observed with a numerical-type serial number written in pencil on the inside of the instrument. This is usually found when the paper label is taken out or falls off. On page 189, second paragraph of "Spann's Guide" you will see that these examples seem to be confined mostly to the most expensive models. Gibson naturally produced fewer of these and may have in fact reserved groups of numerical serial numbers in advance of production for them. Never say never with Gibson. Inconsistency was the word of the day...and the month....and the year.

Joe
MikeEdgerton
May 07, 2011 09:14 PM
Quote from Joe Spann: Excellent Mike, and thanks for teaching me something today!

So, now we know that the factory was in New Jersey, but the tannery was in New York. It could be that Gibson sent payments to each location depending on what was being purchased.

Joe End Quote

It could be that the accounting department moved back and forth with whomever was running the company and where they chose to live as well. Either way it's good to know that Gibson showed both locations in their records.
Charles Johnson
May 09, 2011 09:26 PM
Makes sense. Thanks Joe!

Never say never with Gibson. Inconsistency was the word of the day...and the month....and the year.

How true - even today!
Jack Roberts
June 21, 2011 11:08 PM
Well, I noticed that one of the instruments I have been caring for, the Jeanette Green F4, which I was lead to believe was from 1915, has had its date moved back to 1913 on the Mandolin Archives. I suppose the other instruments I have been entrusted with are older than I think as well?

I suppose I have to buy the book.
woodwizard
June 22, 2011 12:24 AM
My Gibson A4 was also moved back one year to 1918
f5loar
June 22, 2011 12:47 PM
one of mine went from 1926 to 1929 so it can go the other way too.
Jack Roberts
June 22, 2011 01:09 PM
I don't understand my own mind, but to have the F-4 go back to 1913 was a little shocking. Since high school I always though that modern history started with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, so maybe I'll have to move my thinking back to Woodrow Wilson's inauguration so I can still consider my instrument new enough to play, rather than a museum piece.

I have a new respect for Jeanette Greene's F-4, as it has "lived" through a lot of history and there are few people left as old as it is.

I've ordered the book from Joe.
Backlineman
June 22, 2011 05:55 PM
I've posted a review of the book on my Web Log Iversmandolinorchestra.blogspot.com

Anyone agree with my critique?
Dusty
June 22, 2011 10:37 PM
The un-mentioned thing thus far is how will the new dating effect pricing and valuation, especially, for the 26-27 Ferns that now show shipping dates of 28-29. Anyone in the know care to opine?
DerTiefster
June 22, 2011 11:17 PM
I would expect that rather than the instruments' being re-valued, the desirable dates would simply change to match the same instruments as were desired before. Seems consistent to me. No one said it was the stars' positions in the sky that made the instruments valuable to anyone. Oh, wait...there was that astrologer, somewhere.

Nah. I think that the desirable dates will change, and not much else.
Bill Halsey
June 22, 2011 11:41 PM
This F-4 #14883 got bumped back a couple of years to 1911, which makes more sense with its dark wine color, and the fingerboard detail at the 20th fret held over from the 3-pointers.

[ATTACH]73550[/ATTACH] [ATTACH]73551[/ATTACH]
f5loar
June 24, 2011 01:44 PM
In so much as the previous '28 to '29s are now really more like '31 to '32 it should not make in difference in the value. Those years mandolins are priced on sound and condition not the year made. Loars do matter as to the date. All it means is they made really good F5s longer then first thought likely due to the same guys were still making them after Loar left. It's when those guys died or retired out things begin to change in the F5.
Scott Tichenor
June 25, 2011 11:13 AM
Vintage Gibson geeks with an interest in Joe's book will want to check out the surprise interview we'll publish tomorrow evening. Watch the Cafe home page. No, the interview isn't with Joe, but I think you'll enjoy it just as much.
Jack Roberts
June 26, 2011 03:21 PM
Quote from Scott Tichenor: Vintage Gibson geeks.... End Quote

Vintage Gibson geeks! Well, I like that! Can I be a VGG without a Loar?
Bill Van Liere
June 26, 2011 03:59 PM
Quote from Jack Roberts: Vintage Gibson geeks! Well, I like that! Can I be a VGG without a Loar? End Quote

$1500 or so will get ya a 24 Jr.
Gary Hedrick
June 26, 2011 04:02 PM
Well I have always been looking for another three letter acroynm to describe myself ...this one fits me well though VGG.....I like the sound of it!!!

Better that POS, FOS, OTH, and the four letter OFWW ...
uncle ken
June 30, 2011 08:41 PM
I thought I'd share the story of my old Gibson F5 to help show the value to us VGGs of Joe's work. I would also like to add my thanks and my appreciation for all the research that he put into it.

When I bought my Gibson F5 more than twenty years ago, I thought that I was buying a well-worn 1929 Fern with SN 88144. Using the old serial number dating method, 1929 would have been the accepted year that it was made. I was told that the owner had bought it from Dave Apollon while playing in his Desert Inn Las Vegas band back in the 1960s. I'm sorry to say that I had never heard of Dave Apollon so it didn't much influence my decision to buy it. I did go and get a copy of the Dave Apollon compilation album soon after, so I became more familiar over time with who he was and his legacy. The mandolin had the Apollon telltales like a missing high fret and an aluminum saddle that was stashed in the case.

As I became more knowledgeable about F5s mostly by looking at and playing other people's old Loars and Ferns, I came to realize that the stain color on mine looked more like those made during the 1930s even though the serial number pointed to it being from 1929. I should mention that the first two digits of the serial number are very faded but appear to be 88 if you look real hard. The FON (1071) is clearly readable though. So when I heard about Joe's new book I was eager to find out more. As soon as I received a copy of the book I looked up the FON. It showed up as being manufactured in 1934, which is somewhat later than the original assumed date of 1929. I sent Joe a picture of the FON and asked if he had any records of F5s from this batch. He had records of three F5s with this same FON. He asked for the serial number so I sent him a photo of the number with the faded digits. The next day I got the following message:

Hey Ken,

Man, have I have some GOOD news for you.

I color manipulated the F-5 label photo you sent and was able to make out serial #91144.

Went to the shipping ledgers and BINGO! There it was.

Gibson first shipped this mandolin on 19 June 1935 as a "salesman's sample" and sent it to their New England representative Robert Anderson. It evidently didn't sell and was returned. On 6 September 1935 it was shipped again, this time to "DAVE APPOLLON." He evidently returned it for some work and Gibson shipped it a third and final time on
24 October 1935 to "D. APPOLLON."

How about that? You have a certified 1934 Apollon F-5 mandolin.

Congratulations!

Joe
DerTiefster
June 30, 2011 08:45 PM
What a marvelous story! Congratulation, and long may you play it. Thanks for sharing. I tried to get such history info about the mandolins I've been able to purchase, but the stories don't go back very deeply in the owner tree.
Joe Spann
July 01, 2011 06:24 AM
Thanks for the kind words Ken. I was happy to help you document your "Dave Apollon" F-5.

Joe
danb
July 01, 2011 06:54 AM
Quote from Bill Halsey: This F-4 #14883 got bumped back a couple of years to 1911, which makes more sense with its dark wine color, and the fingerboard detail at the 20th fret held over from the 3-pointers. End Quote


Hi Bill, does that F4 have a legible FON?
Joe Spann
July 01, 2011 08:35 AM
Quote from danb: Hi Bill, does that F4 have a legible FON? End Quote

I'm guessing the FON is 1789.
f5loar
July 06, 2011 11:48 PM
There are several "Apollon" F5 owners on the cafe. Almost like a car when ole Dave got a few hundred thousand miles on his F5s he got a new one and would sell the used one at the then current new price. He always kept at least two F5s during his long F5 career from 1923 to 1972. His last F5 from Gibson in 1962 was pearl inlayed in the headstock "Apollon Special by Gibson" so there would be no misunderstanding to whom it belonged to. In addition to removing the next to the last fret to hit his trade mark high "G" note he prefered the sound of the teen's Gibson alum. bridge top and he never used a strap while standing.
Bill Halsey
July 07, 2011 09:26 AM
Quote from danb: Hi Bill, does that F4 have a legible FON? End Quote

Yes it does, Dan -- Joe nailed it: FON 1789.

This one came back from England a few years ago (sorry, Dan...), but bears no export "Made In USA" stamp. Maybe it was not necessary then, or it may have been taken there by its owner.

Although its S/N 14883 would suggest that it shipped in 1912, there are a couple of hand-written entries on the back and label, indicating 1913 -- perhaps when it was received in England(?).

[ATTACH]74062[/ATTACH]

Also, interestingly, this one has ivory points (not dovetailed, but surely original).
uncle ken
July 07, 2011 03:37 PM
To F5 Loar - Maybe all the owners should get together some day for a DA mandolin reunion.
f5loar
July 07, 2011 04:12 PM
Perhaps at the next LoarFest in which all prewar F5s are welcomed to attend.
Eric Foulke
July 15, 2011 11:13 AM
This stuff is just fascinating.
I was just putting together an instrument description for my great-grandfathers Gibson A-4 for inclusion in the "Venerables" display at the upcoming GAL when I thought about this thread. I had always thought that this mandolin was a 1908 based upon information from Gibson, but looking at the Mandolin Archives I noted a similar A-4 with a later serial number, confirmed by the book to be 1906. So I am guessing that this mando is actually a 1906. SN 5512, Order No. 309.
I must buy this book!
Big Ed
June 30, 2012 07:52 PM
F5loar: You are an interesting fellow, have you written anything related to the mandolin?

Ed Dance
f5loar
July 01, 2012 07:19 AM
No mandolin stuff but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night.
f5joe
July 04, 2012 07:16 AM
Quote from f5loar: No mandolin stuff but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night. End Quote

You've moved up from Super 8's?
f5loar
July 04, 2012 07:19 PM
Joe you got that right. I stayed at a Motel 6 and thought I was in the Presidential Suite as there were peanuts and jelly beans all over the floor. I still have nightmares. There was I time as you well remember I had to go cheap on everything and then I got rid of my 2nd wife and now I can afford those fancy mandolins, cars and hotels!
Dale Pauline
March 16, 2014 09:45 PM
I just shipped my copy back to the States. Could someone tell me what Spann's says for serial number 80722? Should be an A model.
houseworker
March 16, 2014 09:59 PM
What year? What's the FON?
Dale Pauline
March 16, 2014 10:43 PM
It's a '26 and I'm trying to get the FON.
houseworker
March 16, 2014 10:48 PM
Spann's guide doesn't work like that. The FON is not tied to the serial number. The FON shows when it was made, the serial number shows when it shipped. You'll need to read the FON inside the instrument.
f5loar
March 16, 2014 11:24 PM
Spann's guide shows 80800 as the first serial no. for 1927 so yours is a real late 1926 but without that FON you can't find what model was made. Likely the FON is a 1926.
MikeEdgerton
March 17, 2014 11:03 AM
Look through the sound hole at the head block. Is there a number stamped there?
Dale Pauline
March 17, 2014 08:47 PM
Okay, the FON is 8471. I don't own this mando, it's for sale.
brunello97
March 17, 2014 09:04 PM
Well, a FON of 8471 would appear to place it in 1926. However, that FON doesn't show up in Joe's book (page 81.) You might want to give him a shout as I know he is interested in filling in some missing blanks in the compendium.

Mick
Scott Tichenor
April 22, 2014 08:11 AM
Happy birthday.

Spann's Guide celebrating three years in print today.

FL Dawg
April 22, 2014 02:27 PM
Time for the second edition smile

!!!
Joe Spann
April 22, 2014 03:08 PM
Time flies...I actually have enough new material for a second volume or an expansion of the first one.

But right now I'm busy compiling a series of Lloyd Loar's essays written in 1920-21 for publication. I think it's time he got to speak for himself...

Joe
Timbofood
April 22, 2014 05:23 PM
Fine thought Joe!
Loren Tilley
May 07, 2014 03:06 AM
Joe, thanks for the great book. It is a wonderful resource. Just in case you ever do any revision or second edition or what-not, I thought I would share that I have a Gibson L-12 with FON 431 (which is not listed in you book, but the surrounding FONs are all listed as 1933), and serial no. 89377, which the book seems to indicate would be a 1932 shipping date. It isn't a big deal, but I thought I would share the information in case it was of use to you.
JeffD
May 07, 2014 12:18 PM
Quote from Joe Spann:
right now I'm busy compiling a series of Lloyd Loar's essays written in 1920-21 for publication. I think it's time he got to speak for himself...
Joe End Quote

Wow. Now that is something I really look forward to. Is there a time line for publication?
Timbofood
May 08, 2014 07:38 AM
Joe, I really enjoy the fact that your book has been referenced so many times and has answered many questions which used to take months to sort out. Looking forward to any more work you throw yourself into!
Jim Garber
May 08, 2014 08:30 AM
Quote from Joe Spann: Time flies...I actually have enough new material for a second volume or an expansion of the first one.

But right now I'm busy compiling a series of Lloyd Loar's essays written in 1920-21 for publication. I think it's time he got to speak for himself...

Joe End Quote

Joe: We need some definitive information on Handel tuners... I hope when you get to revisions and expansion of the first one that you will have more info on that and other suppliers. I found those sections interesting.
mike b
October 07, 2015 10:40 AM
I found a Gibson A-Jr with OHSC in my attic. Can't read model #. No logo on headstock. Sticker on inside appears to be original. How can I identify? Have plenty photos.
allenhopkins
October 07, 2015 11:25 AM
Quote from mike b: I found a Gibson A-Jr with OHSC in my attic. Can't read model #. No logo on headstock. Sticker on inside appears to be original. How can I identify? Would like to sell it. Have plenty photos. End Quote

1. Not quite sure why you added to this thread, rather than starting a new one; this one's basically about the Spann book on Gibson serial/factory order numbers.

However --

2. The "model number" is "A Jr." The mandolin was made by Gibson for a few years as their "entry level" model.

3. If you look inside, up toward the neck, there should be a number on the neck block. That's the factory order number (FON), which was a number assigned for internal use during manufacture. That, along with the Spann book, can be used to assign a manufacturing date range, though not necessarily a shipping or sale date.

4. Yours is a "paddle-head" -- the headstock flares outward toward the top -- which might make it from the range 1919-1923. After that, A-Jr.'s were made with a "snakehead" headstock, tapering toward the top.

5. "Snakehead" A-Jr.'s bring a premium, selling at over $1.5K. "Paddle-heads" are listed at a bit over $1K. Yours looks in good shape, has what looks like an original case. I'd ask $1.2-1.4K for it and see what happens.
houseworker
October 07, 2015 12:07 PM
Allen's valuation feels pretty optimistic. Auction sales on eBay have been closing at under $600, albeit needing a bit of work.
MikeEdgerton
October 07, 2015 01:10 PM
There's no way this will ever sell for a grand. The way you determine the value is to go to eBay, check the completed auctions for the auctions that are listed in green. That means it sold. Gibson mandolins on eBay generally have prices that are in Hollywood and they stay that way for months until the seller finally figures out that it's not worth as much as they thought. Some might never figure that out. There's currently a similar vintage pumpkin top A with the tailpiece cover and for $800.00 or best offer with free shipping. That mandolin is head and shoulders above this model and it's been out there a while. A 1914 AJr in great shape sold for 542.00. You might be able to peruse these yourself with this link. There are several models that are higher Gibson models that sold in the $800.00 range in this list right now.
Jeff Mando
October 07, 2015 01:17 PM
As I like to say, it is a "buyer's market" for 100-year old Gibsons!
allenhopkins
October 07, 2015 04:18 PM
Appreciate the commentary. Mandolin Brothers had a 1924 "snakehead" here for $1,750; Folkway Music had a "paddle-head" here for $1,295 Canadian. Artisan Guitars listed this one as "sold" at $1,800.

Now, did they really get their asking prices for these? Dunno. There are trade-ins, and negotiations, and who knows? Private and eBay sales go for less, generally, but there's quite a distance between these dealer prices and the estimates above.

Just 'cause you ask $1K, doesn't mean you can't come down if the market won't support the asking price.
MikeEdgerton
October 07, 2015 05:12 PM
If they got those prices it simply proves Barnum's theorem. The snake maybe, the paddle, somebody could have done much better. You really can't compare the prices at a big retailer to the real world though. In the unknown condition this one is in he should do a happy dance if he gets close to $500.00.
houseworker
October 08, 2015 02:52 AM
I think that Allen is somewhat naive in thinking that list prices from well-known dealers equate to selling prices. Normally they don't. But dealers have a strong commercial interest in forcing prices up and their inflated list prices are part of that. Dealers aren't keen for you to know what they really let instruments go for since that would be deflationary.

Major auction houses have the same self-interest in preserving the illusion of high prices. They'll 'buy in' prominent lots that fail to attract suitable bids if they think it's to their long term benefit.

In the fine violin trade, discounts of between 20% and 40% on list are the norm. My experience of looking for a nice F-4 some years ago suggests that mandolin dealers are not too far out of line with the violin world.

eBay completed auction listings have a big advantage over dealer and auction house listings in that you know that the item has actually sold to a real world buyer for the price quoted. Because of eBay's reach, they can be taken as a fair guide to the true market value of an item.
allenhopkins
October 08, 2015 02:32 PM
Quote from houseworker: I think that Allen is somewhat naive in thinking that list prices from well-known dealers equate to selling prices. Normally they don't...eBay completed auction listings have a big advantage over dealer and auction house listings in that you know that the item has actually sold to a real world buyer for the price quoted. Because of eBay's reach, they can be taken as a fair guide to the true market value of an item. End Quote

Hmm...think I addressed this a bit in Post #134 above. Did Mandolin Brothers sell that "snakehead" A-Jr. for $1,750, as it was listed? No way to tell. Fact remains that a very reputable (although somewhat top-of-the-price-scale) dealer was asking that amount. And that they sold it, for what I would have to infer was a price at least based on the listed price. After prolonged negotiation? With a generous trade-in for another mandolin, or whatever? After coming down $1K? I don't know.

And, in fact, none of us knows. The number of A-Jr. mandolins listed for sale, on eBay or wherever, at any given time, is going to be quite small. Yes, dealers try to get top price for what they sell, and often negotiate downward from their "list price." I've been the beneficiary of that many times. On the other hand, dealers want to sell, not hold on to inventory; they also may be more informed than private sellers on auction sites, who may let items go at well-below-market prices (not so true any more, when anyone can review listings and eBay sales via Google).

Were I in mike b's position, I'd have no hesitation in asking $1K for the A-Jr., and being prepared to bargain. What it sells for in the end, depends on a whole host of factors that none of us can accurately anticipate, and that most of us will never learn when the transaction's complete.
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