View Full Version : Mystery Mandolin

Dylan Hatch
Jun-05-2006, 11:49pm
Hi folks-

I recently obtained this beautiful bowlback. It belonged to my wife's great-grandfather, so we're estimating its D.O.B. early 1900's or before. Sadly, I think I got to it too late- there's some serious warping on the upper half of the top... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif ...if that makes sense. There's also a couple of cracks on the top, and a couple of seperating seams on that beautiful back. Sigh.

However, I am still very curious, and that's where I need some help. I can't find a maker's mark on it anywhere. Is there any chance one of you fine folk recognize this kind/style/maker of mandolins?

Also, if you think there's any chance of this instrument being restored from it's current condition, I would just love to hear that!

Here's a couple of pics(if I post them right), and I'll try to get a couple of better ones as well.

Thanks for your time!

Dylan Hatch
Jun-05-2006, 11:52pm

Dylan Hatch
Jun-05-2006, 11:53pm

Dylan Hatch
Jun-05-2006, 11:54pm
Here's the painful part

Dylan Hatch
Jun-05-2006, 11:55pm

Jun-15-2006, 1:39am
Oh my, what are the chances of this !?!

I too am trying to learn more about our family heirloom mandolin. I'm hoping someone here at MandolinCafe can provide us with answers...or at least some clues about our mandolins!

I'm happy to say that ours is in good shape (with the exception of a few missing pieces of mother of pearl).
Recently we had the mandolin cleaned up and checked over...we got a glowing report as to the condition it's in.

My brother is an aspiring songwriter, and awesome guitarist (and singer)! #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif He's been recording and copyrighting his music. A good friend of his was thrilled to play our family's mandolin and accompany my brother on one of his songs. We were so excited to hear the rich tones of our "priceless" piece of family history. The strings have been backed down again...and the mandolin has been carefully placed back in it's place of honor on our Mother's fireplace mantel!

Attached are pics of my great grandfather's mandolin...I think they'll look pretty familiar to you! #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Jun-15-2006, 1:49am

Jun-15-2006, 1:51am
...and a close up!

Jun-15-2006, 2:46am
perhaps this is better...

Jim Garber
Jun-15-2006, 6:59am
Outside of the fact that these are both bowlbacks, the rosettes inlays are somewhat similar and the outser border is alternating pearl and ebonized wood, these are not necessarily by the same manufacturer. The pickguard is different as is the headstock. That doesn;t mean that they are not by the same maker but I don;t see that much similarity.


Jun-16-2006, 8:32am
So...I AM learning something then! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Apparently the particular makers use rather exacting specs - pick guard shapes and head guard ("top" of instrument?) shapes?!?

I noticed the inlay was very similar but not exact shapes...though both had circle inlays.

Do most of these old bowlbacks have the alternating ebony and mother of pearl edging?

My trip to the appraiser has been changed to next week. I plan on calling the local so-called "expert" that reported the bowlback in the newspaper was a Gibson. Interested to see what he says about that!

Thanks for your help!

Jun-18-2006, 11:00am
I have a mandolin that I have been trying to get information about too. #I posted my picture under the post a pic catagory and someone told me to try under this topic. #My mandolin I believe is circa 1920-1930's. #It belonged to my stepdad's father. #My stepdad was born in 1933, and he remembers his father playing this instrument when my stepdad was a child. #Here are a couple of pics of the mandolin. #There is a tag inside of it that says "Cortez, #190" #It is in pretty decent shape, but it is missing two strings, and it does not have any pearl inlay as some of the other mandolins I have seen. # I talked to someone at a Mandolin shop in NY, and he believes that it may be of Eastern European era. #My stepdad's father lived and grew up in Italy and then came to New York. #Not really sure when he came to New York, but my step dad was born there. #Any information on this instrument would be greatly appreciated. #Thanks


Here are those pics:



Martin Jonas
Jun-18-2006, 4:20pm
That mandolin is probably Japanese and younger than you think: I'd say 1960s. Cortez was a brand-of-convenience used by German distributors (and possibly elsewhere too) for imported Japanese mandolins, most or all of them made in the Suzuki factory. Suzuki has always been heavily influenced by Calace designs, and yours too has the Calace-style headstock, sleeve protector and scratchplate shape of the Suzukis of that era.

If the instrument is definitely older than the 1950s, then the Cortez brand must have been used before for non-Japanese instruments (like the different incarnations of the Washburn brand), but I'd be surprised.

It does look in pretty decent shape, though, and some of these Japanese bowls are pretty good. I wouldn't be too sad about the lack of pearl -- they are not an indication of quality (more typically the opposite, with some exceptions).


Jun-18-2006, 6:27pm
There is a reason I said the 1920s to 1930s, because my stepdad was born in 1933 and he remembered his father playing the instrument to him as a child. My stepdad's father was born and lived in Italy and came to New York before my stepdad was born. If the instrument is from the '60s my dad would have been in his 30's. My stepdad said that it was one of the only things of value he got from his father. I appreciate the info though. I might take it to antique shop for a close up evaluation.