View Full Version : F4 article in vintage guitar magazine

Dec-03-2006, 11:14am
While in a bookstore yesterday I noticed the cover of Vintage Guitar magazine. In this issue is a one page article about Gibson's transition to the F model mandolin. The author addresses the early 3-point F4, the move to the 2-point design and Loar's influence. Also discussed are some of the financial and business issues that might have caused Gibson to make some of the decisions that were made in that era. Some of the pricing information provided in the artical is interesting too.

The author closes with the claim (paraphrase only) "...the F4 might be the best sleeper in the vintage market today."

There goes the prices again.

# # # # # David

Dec-03-2006, 11:26am
I'll have to hunt that magazine down. Who was the author?

Dec-03-2006, 12:00pm
My copy of the magazine is at work, not in front of me but I think it was in George Gruhn's column.

Scott Tichenor
Dec-03-2006, 12:04pm
From the Vintage Guitar Magazine web site:

Gibson’s F-5 is today considered the ultimate mando. But through the first quarter of the 20th century, the F-4 was considered by most players – including Lloyd Loar himself – to be the finest mandolin available. By George Gruhn and Walter Carter

Michael Gowell
Dec-03-2006, 12:14pm
re LL and the F-4...note that in some of the Fisher Shipp Concert Company's promo literature, LL is pictured playing a 3-point F-2, not an F-4.

Dec-03-2006, 12:38pm
Michael- I'm not 100% sure this is an F2. Catalog E lists the F4 and shows it with no peghead inlay. Perhaps a mistake, but it looks to match the one Loar is holding..

Dec-03-2006, 12:42pm
Note also that the fingerboard extension is missing, and there is some kind of material/pickguard between the fingerboard and the scroll at around 11 o'clock. I believe the pickguard is likely a small inlaid butterfly in this picture, and the top edge of the scroll near his Tuxedo appears to show binding on the back of the instrument? I have no modern or detailed photographs of an instrument that looks like this one, which I would guess falls between 3500-5500 (very roughly 1906-1908) in terms of serial numbers from some of the visible features.

This same photo appears in catalog F, which has reliable information to place it 1908/1909.. which would make sense.. Loar is probably holding an instrument made around that time for his "endorsement photo" in catalog F

Dec-03-2006, 8:50pm
Interesting observations Dan, I never noticed that "whatever" that is on the bass side of sound hole by the scroll, and visible on the treble side, (notice the rosette) and the scalloped ala Bush fingerboard extension. cool. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Dec-04-2006, 12:35am
Looks like a 1907 "Artist Model" to me with maybe a custom fingerboard. They had a black finish top,walnut back and sides finished in red stain,most bound front and back and unbound plain headstock with only "The Gibson" in top in pearl. Makes sense a professional endorser would want that Artist model back then.

Dec-04-2006, 5:02am
IN the queue for the scanner is the 1907-1908 catalog (e) that shows the F4 with no peghead inlay as well.. but then again the peghead *is* bound unlike the one Lloyd is holding. Is that what you are referring to Tom? I've heard the term "artist model" before, but haven't seen it described as a specific instrument type

Ken Berner
Dec-04-2006, 10:00am
Dan, What I know of Gibson vintage mandolins, would fit in a thimble. I do recall playing a 1909 Gibson A4 that had a butterfly on the pickguard.

Dec-04-2006, 2:09pm
The "Artist Model" was never pictured in a catalog. Not to be confused with the "F4 Artist Model" as the F4 had more binding, different wood and much more pearl inlays.

Rick Turner
Dec-04-2006, 8:26pm
If I didn't know better, I'd say that rectangle at the end of the fingerboard looks like a magnetic pickup! Check it out carefully... Weird... I know it's not, but it's sure got the look.

Michael Gowell
Dec-05-2006, 12:27am
Dan, thanks for pointing out the anomolies in that photo - I suggested it was an F-2 based on the lack of headstock inlay and what appeared to me to be top-only binding.

But I guess there's no end to the odd-duck variations found in Gibsons. #I have a 3-point (#8431) which I call an F-2 - no headstock inlay and top binding only. #But "The Gibson" is silkscreened, not inlaid, and the fretboard is "stealth" - no position markers. #Both characteristics are very unusual for this model and date. (note: I'm pretty sure the neck/peghead/fretboard are original - the peghead shows where the original Handel tuners were replaced and the holes plugged, and the binding along the sides of the fretboard shows several old cracks - something that probably would have been repaired if the fretboard had been replaced.)

Maybe I should call it an F-1.

Dec-05-2006, 6:30am
Interesting. Do you have pictures of your F you could share Michael? I do actually have a record of the instrument in the archive but no images

Ken Waltham
Dec-05-2006, 7:11am
A note on Lloyds' mando. In several photos, I have noticed he has a thing for wierd pickguard extensions. That's what's going on at the fingerboard and rosette, I think. I think it's celuloid.
I've seen photos where the p/g goes over the end of the fingerboard in some cases.

Ken Waltham
Dec-05-2006, 7:15am
Oh, I'm certain that's an F2. The thingy you think is back binidng is just a reflection from the camera, or light. I see no binding on the headstock, and I'm sure this is an F2.
BTW, what do you guys think the price of a really clean Loar period F4 is now???
I remember seeing Scott selling one for 15K a while back. Did it fetch that?

Dec-05-2006, 7:44am
It could be Ken.. I have some images to scan from Catalog E though, that show some further anomalies in that time range. I suspect Lloyd is holding one that lines up with catalog E specs. He appears in catalog F in that photograph with the 3-pointer (which also appeared in the playbills for the Fisher-Shipp group that have shown up here on the cafe every so often). I don't have it in front of me, but I recollect "e" showing an F4 with no peghead inlay.

Here's an interesting question to ponder.. What peghead inlays have been seen on 3-pt F4s that did not have the Torch & Wire inlay? Some very late 3-pointers have the double flowerpot.. but I'm talking serial numbers pre 10000 or so. The First catalog image I have of the Torch & Wire inlay is in catalog F (posted in a thread in the Vintage section). I hope to have that whole catalog on the archive soon too. Catalog images of the F4 between 1903 & 1911 are not yet anywhere else on the net to my knowledge, and records are pretty scarce in the archive still with large blocks missing from the record.

Regarding Lloyd's strange pickguards.. they certainly could be celluloid. I think that's the only instrument I've ever seen those on, though there are several photos. Interestingly, we now know several of his personal instruments, including 2 that have not been found

Ca. 1905-1907 Loar's earliest known Gibson.. his 3point pictured above.. wherabouts unknown
Ca. 19 early teens, his 10-string H2 mandola oval holed. Pictured in promotional materials for Fisher-Shipp group. Wherabouts unknown. Appears to be a wide-necked, standard body sized mandola. I have notes on this one somewhere and believe I have it narrowed down to a specific batch/serial range based on inlay style and some other features.
date ?? Virzi Viola, probably Ca 1920-1922
date ?? electric Viola, with the 10-string mando viola in private collection
70321 1922 the f-holed 10-string mando-viola (in private collection)
75315 1924 F5 (in private collection)

There will also be a tenor banjo or two to be sure (he's pictured with one in various catalogs, and penned an instructional book series on the tenor banjo)

Dec-05-2006, 7:50am
One more thing on Lloyd's F there.. the light spot in the center of the pickguard is *probably* a butterfly or bumblebee inlay. A very small one like that I have seen on a few other instruments such as Gregg Miner's 3-point:


Also take a peek at 4259 that Cafe member Dave Sutherland shared.. it's a torch & wire with tree of life inlay, but has an unbound back!

I'd say we still have a ways to go on these 1903-1910 Gibsons before we can be too sure what was what

Michael Gowell
Dec-05-2006, 12:54pm
Dan - I don't have any photos of my "F-1" but I'll try to get my son (who has the required camera and computer expertise) to help me.

Incidentally, the mando used to be owned by Skip Gorman and can be seen on the covers of his 'Feast Here Tonight' audio cassette and his 'The Old Style Mandolin - volume 2 - Monroesque' CD.

Dec-05-2006, 2:51pm
Ah interesting! I'd spotted that one on the cover of Skip's record and meant to ask about it (he's a friend of a friend)