View Full Version : old gibson A50

John Rosett
Sep-26-2006, 9:53pm
i've come across an old A50 gibson that has some odd features. it has a 50's gibson decal, but i suspect that it's not original, as you can plainly see the edges of the decal under the laquer. it has an ink stamped. 4 digit serial number (first letter or number is unreadable), followed by "-15" written in red pen. it has a tapered peghead, quite a bit thinner at the end.unbound ebony fingerboard with a dot at the third fret. one piece mahogany neck. dark brown maple sides and back. it's bound top and back. the two halves of the top are very different-the bass side is very tight grained, and the treble side is very wide grained. the sunburst finish on the top is very dark brown to black. it also has a label inside the bass F hole that reads "MADE IN U.S.A.
# # # # # # # # # # # #by GIBSON inc
# # # # # # # # # # # #kalamazoo, mich
# # # #

it's in pretty beat up condition, with old, poorly repaired cracks going up from both of the F holes and LOTS of play wear and checking. it's easily the best sounding A50 type gibson that i've ever played.
so what do you think? the "made in usa" label makes me think it was made for export, but it really looks like a WWII era mandolin that had the peghead redone at some point. i know that there's not nearly the interest in these mandolins as there is in teens and twenties gibsons, but it's still a really good sounding old mandolin.

Sep-27-2006, 1:57am
A50 I have, has a rosewood fingerboard. white binding [A40 was unbound] paddle head #headstock IS a bit tapered in thickness , intellitouch tuner just barely grips it at its end.
front and back binding # #they used other wood in addition to maple on older As.
Birch, seems good too, just slightly different #tree.
I had an A40 in the mid'70's->'90's #mahogany back was formed arch of plys of mahogany veneer.
I think the plys were mold laminated in the arch shape . as there is no back binding the 3 plys are visible edge on.

Paul Hostetter
Sep-27-2006, 2:14am
The A-40 was made with a laminated mahogany back, the A-50 was made with laminated maple. But there were exceptions in solid woods once in awhile. I never saw a variation in either model from the usual designated woods - A-40s were always some kind of mahogany, solid or ply, and A-50s were likewise some kind of maple. Tops were always solid, of course. I've played a few of each I thought were extremely successful mandolins.

Sep-27-2006, 9:04pm
A front and back photo would help on this one. If it has a label it should have a serial and model number on it. The lower F hole number is the FON and the first 4 digits or a letter and 3 digits would help date it. The "15" in red means it was the 15th one of this batch. Try taking the mandolin into a dark closet with a really good flashlight and shine in the hole to make out those 4 digits. They may have lots of dust over them too so try wiping them off with a paper towel. I'm leaning towards a late 30's A model not the A50.

Paul Hostetter
Sep-27-2006, 11:13pm
Starting in 1946 the A-50 had a yellow silkscreen peghead logo (exept for the banner headstock guitars, Gibson didn't use decals), IOW no peghead inlay or decal, and they had those tacky laminated beveled-edge pickguards. Other than the two really rare Loar A-5s, there were no f-hole A's earlier than the A-50. If it has f-holes at all, and it's maple, it has to be an A-50. The A-40 wasn't introduced until 1948.

An unbound ebony fingerboard with a dot at the third fret can't be original. Gibson simply didn't do this, ever.

Red pencil number pairs after the FON were only used between 1942 and 1951.

A label reading "MADE IN U.S.A.
by GIBSON inc
kalamazoo, mich" also does not ring any sort of bell. Here are the choices:

http://www.provide.net/~cfh/whlab2.jpg . http://www.provide.net/~cfh/unionmad.jpg

Even the earliest labels said USA. The mention had nothing to do with export:


Some photos would be very helpful.

Sep-28-2006, 4:08pm
Two Loar A5's? Where's the other one?

Paul Hostetter
Sep-28-2006, 4:36pm
Maryland, last I heard. Tom Espinola owns (or owned) it.

John Rosett
Sep-28-2006, 5:52pm
well, i cannot for the life of me post a picture here, so here's a link to a picture http://groups.msn.com/rosettp....oID=209 (http://groups.msn.com/rosettpics/shoebox.msnw?action=ShowPhoto&PhotoID=209)
the label inside is just a plain rectangular piece of paper that says what i wrote above, nothing more. i notice that the labels pictured above say "u.s.a." not "made in u.s.a". that's what makes me think that it was an export instrument. thanks, john

Paul Hostetter
Sep-28-2006, 7:30pm
The label is obviously not real in any way. The unbound rosewood board is a fair giveaway that it is an A-40, not an A-50, but one small sideways photo is not a lot of help. Nevertheless, that headstock logo would have been screen painted, not a decal.

I turned this upright for you.


John Rosett
Sep-28-2006, 8:25pm
yeah, sorry about the lack of photos. i took more, but i'm having computer problems, and wasn't able to get anymore online. i'll try again tomorrow.

John Rosett
Sep-28-2006, 9:11pm
also, the back and sides are definately maple, and the back is bound. you're right about the fingerboard, paul. it was just so dirty that it appears solid black.

Paul Hostetter
Sep-28-2006, 9:34pm
Hmm, it appears solid rosewood to me.

What are you hoping to find out about it now?

John Rosett
Oct-07-2006, 12:59pm
sorry i haven't posted more photos. it's been a very hectic week. elderly has a mandolin that looks just like this one, with the exception of the headstock decal. http://www.elderly.com/vintage/items/90U-4468.htm
maple back and sides, bound front and back, but not the fingerboard. i'm thinking that it started life as a late 30's A1.