View Full Version : Questions regarding the Gibson A Jr

Oct-04-2006, 7:54am
I didn't want to highjack anyone else's post with my question, so here it is. I have a couple of questions about the Gibson A Jr. I am potentially in the market for a vintage (late teens / early 20s) A (if I can decide what I am looking for) and I figure an A Jr can be had cheaper than the other (more fancy) As so...

1. Generally speaking does the A Jr have the same (much sought after) sound as the other (more fancy) 1920 Gibson A styles.

2. Generally speaking what would the going rate (current market price) be for purchasing an A Jr in decent condition (I'm not using the overpriced A Jr currently on the big auction site as a reference).

I used to own a 1924 L Jr guitar and sold it at a loss because I didn't like the sound, ah well, live and learn, no sense crying about that now.

But any comments or advice from A Jr owners and players regarding this instrument would be grately appreciated.

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

Bob A
Oct-04-2006, 8:02pm
As with any Gibson of a certain age, there are good and bad examples of any model mandolin. The Ajr was a plain Jane, but that's no reason to disparage it - a good one is an excellent mandolin; a dog is a dog. You'd be best advised to play as many as you can find, and your hands and ears will tell you what you need to know.

Price will vary by condition. Cosmetic issues might not matter as much to a player as sound and structural issues. If the top is sound (tight brace and no sinkage issues) and the neck is straight and the frets are not worn out, other wear and tear will only serve to keep it in a reasonable price range.

I can't quote prices at you; I haven't been in that market for a while. But check the major dealers; Gruhn, Mandobros, Bernunzio, etc etc and see what's available.

Oct-04-2006, 8:24pm
Forgive me, but I've never been clear about what is 'junior' on a Gibson Ajr. Rather dumbly, I thought it was a smaller instrument, perhaps for younger hands.

So it is a second line, so to speak? How do they differ in quality to the Kalamazoo mandolins, which I thought were Gibson's second line?

Maybe this will clear up an ongoing confusion I've had.


Oct-04-2006, 8:43pm
Here's a link to an A-Jr for sale at Mandolin World HQ --

Gibson A-Jr. (http://www.vintagemandolin.com/27gibsonajr521801.html)

Basically an "A" with less adornment. Manufactured for a brief time period, so there ain't too many around.

Oct-04-2006, 8:44pm
I'm not a Gibson historian, but I own a '24 A-Jr so I speak with *some* knowledge. #The A-Jr is a standard-sized mandolin with absolutely nothing added -- no edge binding, no soundhole rosette ... I mean nothing! #In other words, it's a Gibson A-0 or A-1 without the "bling". #Soundwise, they compare to the other models I mentioned.

Don Smith

Paul Hostetter
Oct-04-2006, 9:13pm
The A-Jrs tended to be made with the lowest grade materials: mismatched halves of tops or backs, sides of birch, back of walnut, etc. But a few I have handled have been up with the best Gibson As I have ever played. Don't judge a book by its cover!

Oct-04-2006, 10:33pm
The Juniors don't have an adjustable truss rod and have a lower end tailpiece of the "clamshell" type.
The tuners also are very plain as compared to the other models.
Other than that they are the same mandolin as the other models but absolutely Plain Jane. Brown.
I kind of like the no-frills look of them.
I would like to have one.
As far as price goes,,, from what I have seen lately they don't go for a lot less than a straight A model.
In my opinion that is because the Gibson A models are underpriced when you can generally pick up a pretty decent one for around $1000 on Ebay if you do your due diligence.
How much less than that can a decent A Junior really be worth?

Dave Hanson
Oct-05-2006, 3:39am
If you can get to see the documentary ' Down From The Mountain '
which is about the music from the film ' Oh Brother Where Art Thou. ' you can see and hear Mike Compton playing his Gibson A Junior,[ he's sold it since ]

Dave H

Oct-05-2006, 7:26am
Thanks to all for helping clear me up on this.

Atetone: There is an Ajr on the Ebay right now:

<a href="http://cgi.ebay.com/The-Gibson-Junior-Mandolin-Style-A-Jr_W0QQitemZ280034429513QQihZ018QQcategoryZ10179QQ rdZ1Q
QcmdZViewItem" target="_blank">http://cgi.ebay.com/The-Gib....iewItem</a>

going for what must now be considered a reasonable price for A models from this era, funky repairs notwithstanding.


Oct-05-2006, 7:34am
I wouldn't pay those prices for something with holes drilled in the front and side - but that's just me... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

John Goodin
Oct-05-2006, 10:26pm
This A Jr. on Ebay looks exactly like one that I owned for a few months earlier this year. I purchased it from the good folks at the Guitar Emporium in Louisville. I had an itch to try an A Jr. and they had one for sale at what seemed like a pretty good price. My receipt had a serial no. of 85909, not 84909, but the label is hard to read.

The story was they had it on consignment from a guy who had bought it at Gruhn's. Supposedly it belonged to Mr. Compton before that. In any event it's a fine playing and sounding instrument. I had fun using it for a while but I really didn't need it and Steve at the Emporium took it back. I essentially rented it for a few months.

Anyway, $899 might be a little high for it but it's got some real personality. I had more trouble than usual feeling like it was really in tune but I understand that's not all that uncommon with Gibsons of that era. Seeing those pictures (and the more I see them the more I'm convinced that its the one I had) makes me a little homesick for it but you can't keep them all.

John G.

Oct-06-2006, 4:36am
I saw the Ajr topic and I thought I would chime in.

I have an Ajr that I play quite I often and it is one of the sweetest sounding instruments that I have ever heard. It has a paddle type headstock and is very basic for sure. According to the serial number, I think it is a 1927. Quite a few years back I had a radiused finger board put on it and I also have a fishman bridge installed for pluging in. My string selection on it can vary from thomasticks to dogals or flattops. Any of those sets seem to work well.

I have seen and played quite a few Ajrs and for some reason they were all good ones. I don't know why that is. I agree you can't judge a book buy its cover.

Alan Epstein

Andy Morton
Oct-14-2006, 10:46am
I own a 21 A-2 and I have seen a few A-Jrs and have played a few---I played the two that both Mike Compton and David Long had when they came through Madison WI (twice) and talked to the Dude (Lynn D) at his shop in Knoxville about the Jrs. It seems that for some reason a high percentage of them have great, rich tone and that woody Gibson vintage sound. Could it be the lack of binding which makes for a top that would vibrate and resonate more freely??? Just wondering....

I really like them----they are really cool!!


Oct-14-2006, 12:06pm
Generalizations about any particular brand #or model is a meaningless pass time, usually practiced by those who
wish to impress others or themselves with their vocabulary. Nothing personal ... just an observation. Each instrument
will reveal its merits and shortcomings in the hands of a competent musician. Mssrs. Compton and Long have probably chosen these particular instruments because of distinct critera ... not because of the instruments "reputation".
As to the lack of binding ... nah.


Oct-14-2006, 12:29pm
Yeah Andy, you are right.. my experience matches up with that. The Jrs tend to be bassier (no truss rod?) and though they have pretty wide-grained tops in general, the sound quality does truly seem to be warmer or in some distinct way different from other A-models. They seem to sound nicer than pre-loar ones without truss rods, and I'd say their "average" quality is above snakeheads in general, though snakeheads can get quite a bit nicer than Jrs. All in all, I still think that vintage Ajrs are probably the best tone/value buy available in either old or new mandolins.

Jim Garber
Oct-14-2006, 1:45pm
They seem to sound nicer than pre-loar ones without truss rods, and I'd say their "average" quality is above snakeheads in general, though snakeheads can get quite a bit nicer than Jrs.
I have a snakehead A-Jr. It has a nice sweet sound tho I have a feeling that it would benefit from some slight adjustment on the bridge. How do the snakehead Jrs compare to the refgular snakehead line?

BTW you can see the whole Junior line of Gibsons promo pamphlet here (http://www.mandolinarchive.com/index.shtml) (courtesy of Mr. Beimborn).


Oct-14-2006, 4:13pm
Jrs are bassier than normal snakeheads, on average, to my ear. You're absolutely right on the bridge, set-up is very sensitive on any fine instrument, and well worth pursuing! I think an Ajr snakehead should have a loar-period replica adjustible bridge. Some of the snakehead Jrs that I've really liked have birdseye figure on the backs.. Mike Compton's "O Brother" one did, and one I had for a while did too. Sometimes they suffer from "Eccentric frets" too, but it's well worth having sorted out!

Oct-14-2006, 5:29pm
I think an Ajr snakehead should have a loar-period replica adjustible bridge
I can't say that it *shouldn't* ... I'll just say that I had a one-piece ebony bridge made for mine and I've never seen any reason to do anything different.

Don Smith

Andy Morton
Oct-22-2006, 12:15pm
I guess in my comments on the Gibson A-jrs I did drop the "big names" a bit (sorry-----wasn't my intention)---but it did strike me that Compton and Long both played them (and they are always let workshop attendees try them) and others way more knowledgeable than me about mandos have such high regard for them. I would guess they chose them for a reason and for a particular "old time sound." The few that I have played really sounded great--warm full, resonate, vibrate in your hands---great value for the money!!

Madison, WI