View Full Version : shotguns, tandems, and undervalued mandos

Jan-27-2004, 11:51am
Hmmmmmm. #Where to start. #I'm wanting to buy a mandolin and I need you folks to translate my shotgun, car, guitar, and tandem bike frames of reference into mandolinese. #Perhaps it can't be done, but... #

I want a mandolin like my shotgun. #Not a cheap Chinese thing that depreciates in value the moment you buy it, but neither do I want an English custom-made gun that will appreciate in value. #Well, I suppose I'd like one, but it's not terribly realistic given my salary, piles of children and such. #I want a mando like my Ithaca pump action. #It will kill ducks all day, it's well built, and it will probably never be a collecters item, but it will hold its value. #I want a mando that holds its value.

I want a mandolin like my car. #Yes, I'd rather have a Porsche or a Rolls, and I certainly don't want a Yugo or a Trabant (East German/Russian make, I believe). #I want a Chevyesque vehicle; solid, dependable, reasonable. #Of course, I'd be happy to get a Chrysler instead of a Dodge or a GMC instead of a Chevy if I can. #I want an affordable mandolin. #

I want a mandolin like my guitar. #Form follows function. #It's a no-frills Guild. #No fancy appointments, but a solid top (this really seems to matter in guitars), good tuners, well-made, and it sounds nice. #I'm sure Phil Keaggy could make it sing. #I want to know the "must haves" in a mando (I've learned, for instance, that A style will probably suit me).

I want a mandolin like my tandem. #Tandem owners get pretty snobby about brands too, but we bought a used Trek because it is a great undervalued tandem. #It's underapprecieated because it was factory made, sold in "regular" bike shops (as opposed to tandem specialty shops) and not custom sized. #It's undervalued because they were manufactured with quality components and fine worksmanship. #It has no snob appeal, but my wife and I go fast, have fun, and ride comfortably. #Undervalued usually means used, but if this isn't true with mandos, let me know. And I won't rule out Asian, if you think a case can be made. I've noticed that the once scorned Japanese Martin guitar knockoffs are now collectible/desireable. #I want a mando that is better than most people think.

In sum, what are the undervalued mandos that will last, hold their value, and sound good? #


p.s. #I'm learning (I have an old potato bowl mando), I probably won't spend more than $500 (if I want to keep my wife and I suppose I do), I'm happy to buy used, I play mostly folk, bluegrass, gospel, and nobody will ever mistake me for Chris Thile.

Jan-27-2004, 12:38pm
Those are good analogies. I know what you're looking for from what you've said. I don't have any specific recomendations, but I'm sure they'll be coming in soon.
I'm actually a builder of mandos, not a player. I play banjo... *ducks and covers*... I have a banjo that I spent a lot of money on; an old mastertone. I have a used car that I spent very little money on. The car was undervalued, but the banjo certainly was not.
If I total up what I paid for my banjo and my car, it's not much different than what a lot of others paid for their banjo and their car in that time period. The difference is, if I had bought both new, the current value would be much less. As it is, I could sell the banjo and buy a new car...AND another banjo.
I guess what I mean by all this is, If you place a high priority on your instrument, (as I do) you can economize somewhere else in your life, spend the same amount of money, and come out ahead overall.

Jan-27-2004, 1:09pm
I have a mint Tacoma M2 that will fill your needs very nicely. Shoot me a message if you're interested.

Jan-27-2004, 1:20pm
get a flatiron. #like the ithaca, it is a now defunct company that holds it's value. #like your vehicle, they are american made and affordable. #like your guitar, you can get a flatiron with good components, no frills, and sounds great. #like your trek, while flatiron was built at gibson it was an undervalued instrument, well for that matter, even while they were built in montana. #get a flatiron and join the family.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws....y=10179 (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3700033288&category=10179)

Jan-27-2004, 1:22pm
BRW...One of the best values out there!

BTW...Ithaca is back in business and charges a pretty penny for all their shotguns!

Eric F.
Jan-27-2004, 2:13pm
For less than $500, you aren't going to find a BRW and you'll be lucky to find a Flatiron flat top in good shape. Lee's offer would be worth considering. Tacomas have great playability. Some like the sound, some don't; I won't weigh in on that. Another possibility would be a Mid-Missouri, which is an all-solid wood, flat top oval hole, undervalued American-made instrument.

John Flynn
Jan-27-2004, 2:24pm
For the under $500 range, I agree with the Mid-Missouri suggestion, for a solid wood, American mando that will hold its value better than anything in that price range. For the under $1,000 range, you might consider either the Rigel A Natural or the Breedlove Quartz series. You can also find some good used buys on the classifieds on this site. What you do want to consider is set up. It's like getting a tune up on a bicycle or car: It makes sure everything is adjusted properly. It is more critical on mandos than guitars, IMHO. So plan on taking your new mando to a qualified mandolin luthier and have it checked out. He may say nothing needs to be done, or that you need $75 - $100 worth of set up work. Its a good investment.

Jan-27-2004, 3:20pm
Ithaca shotgun, Chevy car, Guild Guitar- you want an American made instrument. You want of a nice player that holds its value which - to me- describes a $1000 to $1500 instrument- used Breedlove, Rigel, Gibson A9, several Webers and more I haven't thought of. All of them can be had for $1k-$1.5k used so- Keep the wife, save more money, play the potato bug, and visit music stores hunting for your dream mando.
thats my 2 cents

Jan-27-2004, 3:33pm
Not $500, But A Dang Good Buy! (http://www.mandolincafe.com/cgi-bin/classifieds/classifieds.cgi?search_and_display_db_button=on&db_id=8492&query=retrieval)

Jan-27-2004, 3:39pm
Get in touch w/"sunburst" (see post above) and get him to make you an "A" style mando. You won't be sorry.

Jan-27-2004, 4:41pm
You're right Dale, that is a Dang Good Buy! If I had the extra cash I would purchase it myself!

John Ely
Jan-27-2004, 4:47pm
Those Breedlove Quartzes are excellent, mid priced mandolins. They are consistent with your description of what you want. Other Breedloves may range more into the Beretta or Browning territory, to borrow your shotgun analogy. Weber is another option, and they have a range of models and prices.

Jan-27-2004, 5:58pm
Fire a shotgun, the barrel begins to wear. Fire a quality mandolin, the instrument starts to define and get better. Shotguns and mandolins are apples and oranges. Don't speculate in mandolins based on your experience with shotguns.

Jan-27-2004, 6:09pm
It's clear to tell you're a newbie. The rest of us would have sold the gun and the bike a long time ago to finance a mandolin we no longer own.

Jan-27-2004, 6:40pm
[QUOTE]It's clear to tell you're a newbie. The rest of us would have sold the gun and the bike a long time ago to finance a mandolin we no longer own.

Boy ain't that the truth! #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

For the price point you are working with, I'd also recommend a Mid Mo or try to find a used Weber Y2K.

They are definitely not in the Campagnolo or Dura-Ace grouppo class but solid Ultegra performers.

That Breedlove Dale pointed out is indeed a great buy

Jan-27-2004, 7:57pm
Hey All,

My $0.02 Can...

rhetoric - man all I can say about your post is "Hank Williams you wrote my life"! I too want to know "In sum, what are the undervalued mandos that will last, hold their value, and sound good?" as I'm in the same quandry. I've been watchin threads similar to this for some time and have come to the conclusion there are basically 3 maybe four ways to go.

1. Buy used name brand mando like the Breedlove or the Flatiron or a Weber or a Riegel or a...
2. Have a "lesser known" builder build one.
3. Continually try to incrementally trade up.
4. Get Lucky and find one of those gems that occasionally show up for next to nothing.

Option 1 will likely "guarantee" me a mando meeting the criteria however setting aside enough pennies, nickels and dimes to buy one before I die of old age is a challenge with two kids and Canadian Pesos.

Option 2 also will likely get me a mando meeting the criteria, I'd get exactly what I want and I could pay for it over the time it takes to build it - probably not a problem however would it be a mando that hold it's own and holds it's value? I'm thinking builders like Morris, or Sucek, or...

Option 3 might get me to the goal however I suspect that it would be more hassle than I think I want to go through although it certainly would be educational. Might not be a bad thing to get educated. Course I would probably end up in the one step forward an two back category!

Option 4 I can always dream - right?!?

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage I have is that I live in outback Alberta and have very limited opportunity to play much less hear or see real quality mandos. The music stores in Edmonton either don't know good mandolins or just can't justify the inventory cost. Mostly with me it's the sound an playabilty issue that I worry about. Looks count too though I must admit. I realize that many (maybe most) sellers offer 48 hour trials but with me it would be a 15 odd day trial shipping over an international border - a hassle in and of itself.

Meanwhile I'll just sit here plinkin away on my KM 250s that I'm going to start sharing with my fiddle playing daughter who has expressed an interest - tryin to decide which way to jump.

Any feedback from those of you who have gone down one of these paths?

Take Care! -Ed-

Nick Triesch
Jan-27-2004, 8:46pm
Dale is right!!!! Buy the Breedlove! You just cant get a better mando for that price! Nick

Jan-27-2004, 10:02pm
How important is playing bluegrass? you listed variou styles of music in which you are interested and bluegrass is included. The Breedlove is a good buy and a mandolin with which you can play all styles including bluegrass. if you only were interested in bluegrass i think a used Gibson A9 would be a good buy. if you are not interested in bluegrass, go for an oval hole flat top like mid-mo or a used Flatiron Cadet for $350-$500. But for bluegrass, in my opinion, you will want an arched top, "f" sound hole like the Gibson A9, Rigel Natural or Breedlove.

Jan-27-2004, 10:04pm
How important is playing bluegrass?
How important is air?

Jan-28-2004, 12:03am
Crowder- You are on a roll today http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Jan-28-2004, 2:55am
$500 mandolin is like a , well, $500 single bike ( no tandems in this pricepoint, as you know,)
3X that will get you into a Gibson A9, and you will be #happy with it, I think. High 105~Ultegra.

Jan-28-2004, 10:59pm

Thanks for the thoughtful responses. #Allow me to answer everyone all at once.

Sunburst... I'm not a mando player either, really. #Guitar. #That's part of the reason I don't want to plunk down $1500. #Even if I really fall in love with mandos I'm still not likely to spend that kind of money. #Too many other interests (not just mine -- my wife's interests, kids, etc.) Incidently, if I sold my car and my "Harmony" banjo, I wouldn't have enough to buy a a $79.99 Johnson. #Do you really build your own mandolins? #That I could afford? Web page?

lee957? #Tell me more about your Tacoma. #stewartp@roberts.edu

Cragger -- lots of recs for a Flatiron and only a little more $ than I've got. #Or I could get a Gibson and tell Alexandra that she doesn't really need braces. #:-)

BenE -- pardon my ignorance, but what's a BRW?

Eric F -- I'll check the Mid-Mo

JG Woods -- I think you're right. #I'd prefer American made. #But I think I'll got to an awful lot of garage sales before I stumble across Weber for under $500.

LeftCoastMark -- Of course apples aren't oranges, but then all analogies are incomplete. Still, I think the way guns are valued is similar to instruments -- and they both wear out. Barrels are, in fact, alot more durable than frets, fretboards, and etc. #Still, I appreciate your point that a fine instrument improves with age. #I just want to know if that is only true of instruments that are $1000plus new. #Is there any hope for a Mid-Mo (for instance) as some have suggested? #

Crowder -- I might sell a couple of my kids to finance a mando, but not my gun or my bike. #Bluegrass? #My Mom's family is all from East TN and I grew up w/ fiddles and banjos and steel guitars and the whole nine yards, but as a kid I could have cared less. #I moan when I think of all the opportunities I missed. #So I've "recommitted my life" to the music and am learning to appreciate "air."

pickinNgrinnin -- I could live with Shimano for that matter.

EasyEd -- I suppose we could buy $3000 worth of woodworking tools and build our own mandolins! #How about YOU buy the equipment and I'll come over and borrow it? #I found my bowl back mando at a thrift store for $5. #Funny, my interest in a new mando is motivated by a daughter who is suddenly interested in her old man's music. #I take this as a very healthy sign.

mandroid -- I'd be unhappy with a $500 sports store bike, but then I'm not just starting out on bikes. #

Again, thanks for the tips. #I'll let you know when I make up my mind.


Jan-29-2004, 12:06am
Crowder -- I might sell a couple of my kids to finance a mando, but not my gun or my bike. #Bluegrass? #My Mom's family is all from East TN and I grew up w/ fiddles and banjos and steel guitars and the whole nine yards, but as a kid I could have cared less. #I moan when I think of all the opportunities I missed. #So I've "recommitted my life" to the music and am learning to appreciate "air."
Really? I'm an East TN boy myself.

Bob Borzelleri
Jan-29-2004, 2:30am

I wonder what kind of mando I can get if'n I sell my Ventana F/S Mountain Tandem? Interesting thought there...


Jan-29-2004, 10:56am
Born in Kingsport boy here....

I'll say this...I have worked in a couple of different hook and bullet shops and I have seen my share of fine shotguns and fly rods. #I have seen a lot of folks come in and buy the cheapest rod/gun they could buy...A few months later they would come back in and want to upgrade.....Lots of times this involved a trade. #(Never in the traders favor! #Ask any gun shop employee and they will tell you they make more money on used guns than new ones...I would imagine mandolins are the pretty much the same) Sure, they would go fishing/shooting...but in their off time they are reading magazines and websites about shooting/fishing...before you know it something new has caught their eye and they are always upgrading. #This whole process of continuous upgrading can get pretty expensive...Most every time you lose money in the process of the trade. #Your mandolin might be worth $500. #If you trade it to a dealer he will sell the mandolin for $500 (it's value). #In order for the dealer to make a profit he will offer you about $420 for your mandolin as a trade-in. #In the course of buying and selling in order to upgrade you could lose quite a bit of money before you found your "axe". #I think I have owned about 6 mandolins. #My first was a plywood mandolin named a Franciscan....My current is a BRW. #Did I lose money every time I traded...Yep!

I have gone off on a tangent in order to make a point.... If you are serious about playing the mandolin...Try and buy the best you can possibly afford...Hell, the few extra bucks that you spend now will be long forgotten down the road. #You already have a bowl-back so why not hold out a little....save your pennies and go shopping with a larger budget. #There are lots of great mandolins and builders out there and the more money you have to spend the more choices you have. #If I where in your shoes I would try and save some extra money and go looking for a good "made in the USA" A style mandolin. #There are several US builders offering an A style for between $1000 and $1500. #Yep, that is a big difference between your $500 budget and $1500...believe me...I know this as well as anybody! #Try and sell something on ebay or part with the old baseball collection. #There is usually a way to come up with the extra money without sacrificing the household and ruffling the wife's feathers. #It is all about choices. #My mandolin is the most expensive thing I owm...car included! #Some people think that is crazy....but I bet a lot of guys on the café are in the same boat....err car ;)

Feb-11-2004, 4:51pm
Don't know exactly where you're at in all of this. I think some people have recommended these already, but I'm selling a Mid Missouri Mid Mo 0. It's a great no-frills mandolin. They are hands down the best company to work for. If you want to stay around 500, American made, solid wood, these are the way to go. Even if you don't get mine. I'm not saying MAS won't settle in after a while on these. But they are great to get your feet wet, produce good tones for beginners, and are as unfancy as they come. Good luck to you,

Feb-26-2004, 12:12pm
Here is what I am doing in similar situation. I think you are about $300 to $350 short of realisticly getting a nice used american mandolin. If the tater bug is going to drive you crazy while you try to save the extra money here is what I recommed(also depending on how many kids you have the term "extra money" could approach the oxymoron classification)I think you need at least $800 unless you fall on a rare super deal. In the midst of tight budget and a host family obligations, I went from a chinese made Kentucky km-250 for a starter $160 from musicians friend. (played til my fingers bled! The bad set up helped) I then upgraded and spent $500 on a Korean made km-675 (off the Cafe')and played the dawg out of it for a year and put it on ebay around Christmas time expecting to get back $450 or maybe the $500 I paid. I was mobbed by people wanting the mando and sold it for $650. The Japanese and Korean versions have a collectable value and are good players, not near what the USA models are ,but still worthy instruments. I have also noticed that mandolins in this price range sell much more rapidly than the $1000 plus range so its not burdensome to upgrade. Getting my money back plus some put me closer to my target Breedlove! Depending on your playing level you might want to consider an asian made model as your inbetween step to the heavy Chevy with bike and gun rack!