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Chiledog
Jun-19-2008, 5:40pm
http://austin.craigslist.org/msg/725309592.html

The thing that stands out to me is, he says he took it to Strait Music and they have never seen one this old.

I am not looking at buying this instrument, I would just like to hear some opinions!

Thanks,
Todd

BlueMountain
Jun-19-2008, 7:05pm
See it in person first. I foolishly paid $350 for a mandolin from CraigsList in Austin two months ago and still haven't received it. Today I found it listed on a Lycos sale page in Des Moines. Might be the same guy.

Martin Jonas
Jun-20-2008, 4:45am
Ignore the supposed "expert" assessment from Strait Music (whoever they are) -- for all I know they may never have seen a bowlback before. This is an American-made bowlback from the early 1900s, and they are very far from rare. Yes, they are old, but there were hundreds of thousands of them and a fair proportion of those are still in people's attics. Which is not to say that it may not be a very nice instrument (it looks OK as far as one can tell), and great fun to play once set up properly, but if you buy it it should be for those merits rather than any supposed rarity value or age alone.

Martin

brunello97
Jun-20-2008, 7:30am
Seems like a fairly high price for what appears to be at best a decent production model from one of the big US manufacturer's around the turn of the 20th C., my hunch from Chicago, but there are a number of options. # Todd, the business was quite incestuous back then and a lot of instruments were made by the big houses (Lyon and Healy, Oscar Schmidt, for instance) and sold under other labels, often by the local music store - perhaps even Strait if they had been around back then. #Often labels came loose, or the instruments were sold with no labels at all. # L+H produced a huge number of bowlback mandolins at a range of price points to cover the market. #Some of their second line or unlabeled mandolins were of as high a quality as some in their premium line, Washburn. #The number of staves in the bowl and the added MOP decoration and binding might have originally put it in the price range of the mid level Washburns, but was probably marketed to the large number of mandolin 'orchestras' sprouting around the US at that time. #The guess of 100s of K production is not off the mark and they regularly show up for auction on ebay, rarely fetching $275. #The fact that the case appears in at least functional condition is a blessing, as the instrument looks it quite fair cosmetic condition.

Martin, Strait Music is a venerable Austin instrument vendor, from pianos to tin whistles, (and hardy survivor of numerous floods.) Well stocked generalists, #I wouldn't expect them to have much experience with mandolins, old or new. #It may be quite true that they have never seen one this old. #That would probably be true of most people. #It is quite old. #Which in and of itself isn't saying all too much. You have to be careful with those folks from Austin, though, they can be quite tricky. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Mick

G3-P2. #Breathing easier for a few days.....?

Chiledog
Jun-20-2008, 9:37am
Thanks for the observations folks! #This is how I learn more about what to pay attention to when looking at a mando of any type. #I pretty much read every post in this section, always with the intention of learning something!

Ok, now for a really stupid question! #Is a bowl back and a "Taterbug" the same thing?

Thanks,
Todd

Chiledog
Jun-20-2008, 9:41am
Thanks for the observations folks! This is how I learn more about what to pay attention to when looking at a mando of any type. I pretty much read every post in this section, always with the intention of learning something!

Ok, now for a really stupid question! Is a bowl back and a "Taterbug" the same thing?

Thanks,
Todd

Celtic Saguaro
Jun-20-2008, 9:47am
A taterbug is indeed a backwoodsy name for a bowl back. #A lot of those cheap, early 20th century bowl backs were sold through catalogs. Often they didn't please when they arrived and thus 'taterbugs' don't have a great reputation.

Chiledog
Jun-20-2008, 2:10pm
Thank You Celtic for answering my question and adding a little history to it as well!

Todd

brunello97
Jun-20-2008, 3:23pm
Todd, if you are interested in this topic further you might check out Hubert Pleijsier's recent book on Washburn instruments which tracks the development of this Lyon + Healy brand of guitars and mandolins. It is available at Amazon and probably other local sources and is quite thorough in its overview of the instruments.

Not to quibble with CelticSaguaro but many of the pejorative terms for bowlback mandolins apparently emerged from a concerted marketing campaign by the Gibson company to taut their (at the time) new line of arch topped mandolins, then geared for the same market of small and large mandolin ensembles. Out of the L+H shops came many years of quality instruments bearing the Washburn name, as well as the American Conservatory label. The sold instruments to Wurlitzer, Bruno and other larger distributors in the country. While no doubt many low end mandolins were shipped through mail order houses, it is doubtful that the 'taterbug' slur began in response to these, given how many high quality bowlbacks were in circulation at the time and sold for very accessible prices.

Tastes in music and in instruments change and by the 20s certainly the day of the bowlback had passed on (in this country at least) for the everyman (or woman) mandolin. The archtop A and F models (as well as those from Martin and a reformed L+H) became the desired instruments for the new musics played on them. The unfamiliarity of the body shape and the adjustment it takes some folks to hold them securely has led many current players to avoid them at best and disparage them at worst. Which is a shame.

Good quality American made bowlbacks remain probably the best value on the used string instrument market today. (I have several which I play regularly along with my Gibson and Martin mandolins.) Even at the $275 listed price the bowlback you are talking about is a good value relative to what that same money will buy you in an imported plywood or pressed top mandolin designed to appeal to contemporary tastes. 275$ today translates into ~12$ in 1905, a ballpark guess at the age of the bowlback. Washburn named its model numbers based on price and many of the 1225 mandolins were sold for ~12$. True rosewood back, mahogany neck, nice spruce tops.
With some nice lightweight strings you are good to go.

If you are wondering where our current crop of mando-heroes stand viz bowlbacks have a look at this early view of the Dawg (a photo often posted here as a rejoinder to the bowl vs arch debate.)

Mick

Chiledog
Jun-21-2008, 11:07am
Mick, thanks for sharing the information. #I will have to get my hands on that book, as it sounds right up my alley so to speak.
#I am way too new to the instrument to have an opinion on what looks/sounds better, heck I have never played a real mando! #As soon as I get my ducks in a row, I am headed to see Clay at Fiddler's Green, to put my mitts on a real mando.

Todd

Eugene
Jun-21-2008, 11:30am
Seems like a fairly high price for what appears to be at best a decent production model from one of the big US manufacturer's around the turn of the 20th C., my hunch from Chicago, but there are a number of options.
I would go even further and wager on this being a Lyon & Healy product. #Everything about it is typical of their mid-range instruments built for the American Conservatory label or commissioned for various house brands: headstock profile, scratchplate profile, soundbox profile, broad pearl rosette, bridge, etc. #If playable, I think $275 would be a very nice price. #Having "to recondition to play", $275 is way out of line.

Eugene
Jun-21-2008, 11:33am
That said, it does look really healthy from the images. I wonder what "reconditioning" it actually needs.

Eugene
Jun-21-2008, 4:13pm
Can't see if the neck is bowed....a lot of those old bowlbacks had heavier guage strings put on them over the years and the necks couldn't take the tension... #if it needs a neck reset that's a problem.
Indeed.


Looks like a Washburn. #Can't see if the tailpiece has a thumbscrew in it....
At that time, Washburn was one of many Lyon & Healy brands. #The "kidney" style tailpiece, like the one on this piece, was much more likely to be used by their American Conservatory brand. #Also, the typical headstock profile and tuner type was different on their Washburn brand; this one again is more akin to American Conservatory or commissioned house brand pieces.

HddnKat
Jun-21-2008, 8:19pm
You have to be careful with those folks from Austin, though, they can be quite tricky. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif
Hey, take it easy on us Austin folks - it's not our fault that certain high profile politicians claim to come from here.....LOL - they make some pretty nice mandolins here, too.

brunello97
Jun-21-2008, 10:16pm
HddnKat, I'm from Austin myself, just out on loan to some Northerners for spell.....but as you know, a certain high-profile politician most certainly didn't come from Austin, though we did give him a place to stay for a little while. We do remain quite friendly folks. (Too bad about the recent fire.) They do make very nice mandolins there, as well as a lot of other fine things. But now that John Mueller's Barbecue is kaput, the search for that holy grail continues. I'm back in August. Can't wait.

Mick

Jim Garber
Jun-21-2008, 11:18pm
Is a bowl back and a "Taterbug" the same thing?
Lots of names for these. here are a few I have collected:

armadillo
potbelly
roundback
bowlback
watermelon
melonback
luteback
taterbug
humpback
turtleback
chili dipper
BUBBLE BACK
gourd back
Neapolitan

Chiledog
Jun-25-2008, 1:10pm
Thanks Jim for the list of often used names. I still think "taterbug" is just flat plain funny...in a good ol' country boy kinda way!

Todd

brunello97
Jun-25-2008, 1:17pm
I don't know, Todd. For me, 'taterbug' always has had all the aural pleasure of fingernails scraping across a chalkboard. #

Here's hoping all us Texan country boys can get comfortable with 'Neapolitan style mandolin.' http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Mick