View Full Version : any help with dating this Gibson (and advice)?

Sep-28-2006, 5:07pm
I have a chance to buy a vintage Gibson A for about $1200. The serial number is: 51129. Does anyone have any idea what year this may be based on the serial number?

I should have pics in a day or two as well and will post them here when I receive them. It's supposed to be all original except for the tuners. Is this a big deal (non original tuners)? I'll have more questions once I get pics.


Sep-28-2006, 5:58pm
Go to Gibson.com -- there's a PDF you can download which maps out the serial numbers. 51129 is 1919 or 1920 if memory serves.

Replaced tuners aren't a big deal unless you're a collector. If it has good tone and there aren't major repair issues, $1200 is a pretty fair price for one of these. Do you know if it's an A, A-, A1, A2 or A3?

Sep-28-2006, 6:18pm
Here it is. Any advice on model number and (based on the pics, price and what little info I have provided) whether it is something I should pass on or go for?



Sep-28-2006, 6:19pm
more pics:




Sep-28-2006, 6:19pm


Sep-28-2006, 6:57pm
Is this an Ajr, is it worth $1200? I know next about vintage Gibsons (other than the fact that I want one). Any Gibson experts able to provide feedback?

Ken Waltham
Sep-28-2006, 7:03pm
No, and no. Watch ebay, there's tons of them there, with original tuners.
It's an A, not an Ajr, and I bet you can one a bit cheaper, and more original.

Sep-28-2006, 10:15pm
If it has really exceptional tone it might be worth $1200. You would need to straighten out the bridge and replace the strings before you could tell, though.

Sep-28-2006, 10:27pm
Does the top look like it is sinking a bit, or is it just the angle of the photos?


Sep-29-2006, 7:10am
Interesting feedback - thanks very much!!!

I have an ad running locally (in Canada) looking for a Gibson A and this one turned up in my city. I have a Washburn F style (that I bought for way too much $$ on impulse due to scroll envy last year) and a 1966 Harmony Patrician archtop guitar that would have to be sold to fund a Gibson A style so I don't want to jump into anything just because it's available (hence my plead for advice).

As I have not examined the mandolin in person the top may indeed be sinking in (although the seller states: "In very good condition (colour not faded, no cracks or signifcant damage) and full sound.)"

I'm not going to waste my time going to look at it (and in turn sell my other instruments mentioned above) if those who know more than I about Gibsons tell me that it's no great bargin at $1200.

I assume it's an A0 or A1 as there's no script on the peghead.

I would appreciate any other advice before I make a decision.

Thanks again http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Sep-29-2006, 7:36am
It sounds like you are doing this in a sensible manner.

I got the Gibson A oval urge at a confluence in my life: I had a little extra cash and had just discovered ebay. I leapt, perhaps rashly, at a 1917 model that I got for comfortably under $1K. It is not without its issues, but it plays and sounds great and I am very happy with it. Only later did I realize that these show up regularly on ebay in all conditions and a variety of prices. Be patient and selective (it sounds like you are) and you will find something good at a fair price.


Sep-29-2006, 7:50am
Thanks Mick, I truly appreciate your thoughts on this issue. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

I currently have a 1930s Kalamazoo enroute from the US (via ebay) that should hold me over until I find a Gibson.

I don't know what i was thinking when I bought that Washburn - I saw the scroll and the antiqued finish and...

Sep-29-2006, 9:25am
It would not be an A0 with a SN of 51129. The A0 was introduced in 1928 to replace the Ajr. SNs would be in the 80s by then.

Sep-29-2006, 7:21pm
I told him I'd think on it and consequently he's dropped his price to $1000...hmmm...

Sep-29-2006, 11:30pm
So,,, is that $1000 Canadian or U.S.?
If it was Canadian I would certainly at least go and take a first-hand look at it if you can.

Ken Waltham
Sep-30-2006, 5:55am
If that is CDN $$, yes, go look. Does it have original case?
It has a strap button screwed into the neck heel, and, not a big deal, but, also a 50's endpin. Matches the tuners, I guess.

Sep-30-2006, 7:47am
$1000 CDN,

I emailed the owner - after further questioning appearantly the top is starting to sink (a bit). We can kind of see it in the photos. I assume this very negatively affects the value? I also assume that once it's restrung (at full tension) this sunken arch issue could worsen very quickly. I don't think it's been at full tension (or played) for a long time.


Sep-30-2006, 10:51am
any help with dating this Gibson (and advice)?

Take her out to dinner, but not a movie. Ask her lots of questions and make her feel special. Good luck http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

Sep-30-2006, 11:15am
If I were you I would go and take a look at it.
The issue of the top sinking "a bit" is the thing you want to look at closely.
Sometimes the tops on the old As do tend to flatten out just slightly in the bridge area.
"just slightly" is the key. Any more sinkage than an amount of flattening that you can just barely discern is probably too much sinkage.
Sometimes they sink more than that and the sinking stops and they hold up fine but it is not worth the chance unless you are getting the mando really cheap.
I would not pay $1000 Canadian for one that has more sinkage than a slight flattening.
The tops on these mandos only have one transverse brace just south of the soundhole. This brace is prone to coming unglued and is a simple fix if it has come loose or partially unglued.
That is the first thing you should check,,,, just stick your finger in there and apply pressure to each end of the brace and see if there is any movement or clicking or clacking going on. Re-glueing the brace wont neccesarily fix a sinking top but it will probably stop any further sinking.
It is hard to give you the definitive answer on the mando without seeing it.
As far as price goes,,, I would look at it this way,,,
If you were to buy one of these off Ebay for the going rate of $1000 U.S. plus ; shipping, exchange rate, GST, and PST it would end up costing you $1325 Canadian site unseen. ( And you might get a nasty suprise when you get it in your hands.)
So looking at it that way, if you paid $1000 Canadian on a private deal with no taxes #you would have $325 Canadian to spend on any repairs required and maybe changing out those tuners.
Is this enough? I don't know,,, you would have to guage that at the time of viewing.
The point that Ken brought up about the original case is a good one too.
An original case in decent condition is worth about $100 U.S. from what I have seen lately and some in very good condition go for a lot more than that.
I know for sure that if I were in Ottawa and that mando was in Ottawa that I would be getting over there to take a long first-hand look.

Sep-30-2006, 12:10pm
This is the photo that shows what could be top sink.

Do you know a good luthier? Have the seller get this checked out by a qualified repair person before any selling takes place.

Dan Adams
Oct-01-2006, 8:14pm
See note below. Dan

Oct-02-2006, 7:15am
It reads to me that this thread is kinda proof that a lot of folks are interested in helping a fella out, over-riding other issues. Other assumptions might, of course, be made.


Oct-02-2006, 9:39am
Hard to believe I've been trying to trade my 1916 A model for something around $1,000.00 like an A-9 with NO stuctural problems, and this particular item gets this kind of response? #Go figure? #I'll admit my sixteen has cosmetic defeciencies, but is in fine structural shape. #I guess this thread is kinda proof that cosmetics and a few structural questions overide playabiity of the instrument. #Still can't figure that kind of thinking? #Dan
I'm not sure what your concerns are? I asked for advice and some members were kind enought to provide it.

And many thanks to you all for your responses. I decided to pass on this instrument pending another drop in price.

regards #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Dan Adams
Oct-02-2006, 12:43pm
Didn't mean to have my wording sound like that. Sorry. What I was trying to say was I hope the playability is acceptable to you despite what cosmetic flaws may exist. It sounds like there is plenty advice stating that some inherent structural problems may exist. An obvious concern of anybody buying and instrument. I have two mandolins from this era, one that looks like it walked off the factory floor, and the other, well.. it has had some hard times. Both sound good, but the lesser of the two cosmetically, actually sounds better. Good luck in your search! Dan

Dan Adams
Oct-03-2006, 7:14pm
After looking at the listings on the 'local' auction site, and veiwing the options in 'Classified' section, the price for these teens/early twenties are rapidly increasing. Find one that is structurally sound, and sounds good, it's probably a good idea to purchase while the price is still reasonable. The demand seems to be rising, and the sellers are entering the market. Glad I bought mine when I had the opportunity and the cash. Dan

Oct-04-2006, 7:32am
plinker8 - thanks for the advice