View Full Version : 1906 Gibson F-4 "tree of life" mandolin

Charles E.
Oct-18-2020, 5:41pm
I saw this in the classifieds today and had a couple of questions...


It is obviously a beautiful example of an early Gibson F-4 but is the price a fair market price for this type of mandolin? I am not trying to flame or troll, I simply do not know.
Is it that rare that only a handful exist and the potential buyers would be mainly collectors?

Thanks for any thoughts to enlighten me on early Gibson's.

jim simpson
Oct-18-2020, 6:30pm
The condition and tree of life make it fairly rare. I'm not sure of the price either.

Oct-18-2020, 6:55pm
Is it a fair market price?
I suppose it depends on your point of view.

It is a rare version of an F-4, but to me, the answer is no, and I think 3 point torch and wire F-4's are very attractive.
For that amount of money, you can buy three or four 2-pointers in good shape, plus a 3-pointer without the tree-of-life.

Someone who makes a couple of million bucks a year might think otherwise and buy it.

Oct-18-2020, 9:56pm
"Fair market price" is what some buyer will pay for it.

Not many 3-point F'4's listed as for sale that I could find, and none near the asking price for this one. To be fair, none as nice as this one, either. There's another 3-point with the inlaid pickguard, (https://reverb.com/item/17779239-gibson-f-4-three-point-mandolin-1907-spruce-curly-maple-natural) but just dots on the (replacement) fingerboard and a repaired heel crack, for sale for about a quarter of the asking price of this one.

The market will determine its price, and our opinions won't matter, I guess. More than I'd pay.

Dave Reiner
Oct-18-2020, 11:03pm
Torch & Wire headstock, Tree of Life fingerboard F4's are very rare. They seem to mostly date from 1906, and can be not only beautiful but also very playable (mine is). Probably no one buys a T&W/ToL mandolin for day to day touring (which we all hope will return soon); it's an elegant and rare collectible.

Speaking in general, and not about this specific instrument, I'll mention a few points. Collectors who look for all original parts and fine condition may or may not be willing to relax their standards on really rare mandolins. There is an impact on desirability and price from various "issues," such as a non-original label, a reconstructed inlaid pick guard, headstock repairs, high action, pick scratches, refinishing, signs of wear (like worn spots, belt buckle rash, nicks, chips, etc.), no original case, and so on. Conversely, the cleanest and best examples get priced higher. And the price may also depend on how much the seller has "in it," how fast a sale is needed, and how negotiations go.

Oct-19-2020, 1:13am
I was tempted by the Reverb instrument when it was at Gryphon. But I had taken the pledge. The cracked heel made it easier to resist.

I prefer a dot fingerboard to a tree-of-life-- the tree can be really confusing to the eye when you're trying to play outside of the first position.

I do like the inlaid moon and stars guards. That makes it harder to resist.
The no-return policy and lack of a serviceable case makes it easier to resist.

If business was better, I might be in trouble.
I suppose I could build one, but I'd prefer to purchase a pre-inlaid head plate.

jimmy powells
Oct-19-2020, 12:55pm
Dan Beimborn's one was about a third of the price of this one although not quite so elaborate as I remember. It's like a painting in a way. People pay massive amounts for something which tickles their fancy every time they look at it or even show it to fellow art world collectors. This mandolin is such a piece with the added benefit of actually being able to play music with it. I wouldn't be surprised if someone bought that.

I have to say I prefer the one with the dots although I do like the headstock and the Handel tuners. Its a bit like trying to sell a Loar. They dont all sell as soon as advertised but eventually someone with loads of disposable income just makes the decision and buys it.

Oct-19-2020, 4:38pm
More likely to appeal to somebody who’d rather look at it than play it.

j. condino
Oct-19-2020, 7:37pm
<violates forum posting guidelines>

Jim Garber
Oct-19-2020, 8:22pm
That is approaching a 30s F-5 retail. I think James (above) hit it.

I suppose I could build one, but I'd prefer to purchase a pre-inlaid head plate.

Here ya go (https://luthiersupply.com/Mandolin-Mandola-Inlays.html).

Maybe not the very highest of quality...?


And for posterity: