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View Full Version : My unique Dobro mandolin from 1975



nmiller
Jan-23-2016, 1:18pm
OMI, which owned the Dobro name from 1970 to 1993, was actually started by the same Dopyera brothers who founded National and Dobro in the late 1920s. In 1975, at the sprightly age of 80, Rudy Dopyera decided to commemorate the US's upcoming bicentennial by having the OMI factory build a run of resonator mandolins. Unlike their standard Dobro Ampliphonic mandolin model, these mandolins would bear the Safari brand name, they would be decorated with extensive engraving, many would have chromed brass bodies instead of wood, and they'd be limited to just 21 instruments. If you're wondering what any of these details has to do with the nation's bicentennial, I'm as confused as you are.

I recently found one of these Safari mandolins and snatched it up, having previously acquired a wood-bodied Ampliphonic from the same year (1975). Unusually, mine only bears the Dobro name. Between this and a few other features not normally found on the Safaris (adjustable truss rod, 3-piece neck), I suspect that mine was a prototype for the rest of the series. Even if that's not true, it's a very cool and unique instrument. It has slightly less volume than my Ampliphonic, with a mellower tone as well. Still, it's louder than the average conventional mandolin. These spider-cone resonators lack the raucous punch of the biscuit cones used by National, but they make up for it with a very sweet tone and superb sustain. The metal body also imparts a bit of natural reverb, kind of like my tricone lap steel. The intonation is slightly off, as if the fretboard were meant for a longer scale (another indication of a prototype, perhaps) but since there's really only access to the first 11 frets, it's not particularly noticeable. The translucent logo in the headstock veneer has crumbled but the pearl underneath has remained, so I'm going to try and replace it by printing a new on on a transparency sheet.


143025 143026 143027 143028 143028 143029

With the Ampliphonic, just 24 serial numbers apart:


143030

Tavy
Jan-24-2016, 4:40am
Really nice piece of history!

Barry Wilson
Jun-03-2016, 7:32pm
I was looking at one like the one on the right today. It had the headstock repaired (crack is barely visible). very interesting sound. chop chords sure sang out... I am debating whether or not to buy it. $600 cdn with a case. has a small dent on back. Also has a pick up. Sorry to babble but I get all excited when I am looking at purchasing new toys.

Steve Sorensen
Jun-04-2016, 1:35am
Really cool.
Steve

mstoffel@mac.com
Apr-26-2018, 9:53am
Hello! I have a one of those mandolins, I bought it a long time ago, it's a very unique mandolin, but I don't play it anymore. Would you know what these things are going for these days? I had to please to meet and hang out with John Dopyera jr, who unfortunately passed away a few years ago, at the "Dobro Festival" in Trnava, Slovak Republic, in the late 90s. He confirmed that his uncle, Rudy Dopyera, built this one, and he even build the wooden case for it (it looks a little home-baked!), which I find pretty interesting! Anyway, thanks for your post. I realize it's been a few years, but this is the only result that came up in my search for these unique instruments.

167112

nmiller
Apr-26-2018, 10:30am
It's fairly tough to appraise these. On the one hand, they're unique, nifty, playable pieces of history; on the other hand, there isn't a huge market for resonator mandolins in general, and these rarely come up for sale so there's little precedent to go by. I probably paid more than mine is worth, but I didn't mind because I love it both as a mandolin player, a collector, an instrument historian, and a fan of the Dopyeras in particular. I suspect you'd get more from a Dobro or National collector than a practicing mandolinist, though I have noticed standard-model Dobro mandos from the '70s going up in value lately.

There are any number of instrument dealers that could give you an appraisal, but I recommend RetroFret in NYC if you want someone to put together a detailed written document. They specialize in the obscure and oddball side of vintage instruments, and this would be right up their alley.

Lord of the Badgers
Apr-26-2018, 10:43am
I love the look of these!

Bob Visentin
Apr-26-2018, 11:21am
I bought one new in '75. I still have it. I string it up like a 12 string with octave Gs and Ds. I don't play it much any more. It's the one in my avatar pic.

inventor00
May-22-2018, 6:31pm
Hello! I have a one of those mandolins, I bought it a long time ago, it's a very unique mandolin, but I don't play it anymore. Would you know what these things are going for these days? I had to please to meet and hang out with John Dopyera jr, who unfortunately passed away a few years ago, at the "Dobro Festival" in Trnava, Slovak Republic, in the late 90s. He confirmed that his uncle, Rudy Dopyera, built this one, and he even build the wooden case for it (it looks a little home-baked!), which I find pretty interesting! Anyway, thanks for your post. I realize it's been a few years, but this is the only result that came up in my search for these unique instruments.

167112


Here is a picture of our Safari Dobro. It has been played for many years..we call it the "banjo killer".
167899

Jim Garber
May-23-2018, 9:36am
It has been played for many years..we call it the "banjo killer".

With so many mandolins graced with that term, there must be a pile of banjo corpses or an entire banjo cemetary somewhere. :)

Teak
May-23-2018, 9:51am
With so many mandolins graced with that term, there must be a pile of banjo corpses or an entire banjo cemetary somewhere. :)

Yes sir!

https://s3.amazonaws.com/lowres.cartoonstock.com/death-bone_to_pick-resent-resenting-resentments-musicians-dto130111_low.jpg

inventor00
May-23-2018, 8:04pm
With so many mandolins graced with that term, there must be a pile of banjo corpses or an entire banjo cemetary somewhere. :)

We call it that because you can "almost" play as loud as a banjo...:mandosmiley: