View Full Version : A pair of '80s Kentucky KM180S

May-08-2009, 7:03pm
Hi y'all, first post on the Cafe, though I've been stopping by here for months. Been playing for just over a year.

Here are my two KM180S's. Got the one on the left last May as my first mandolin (bought it locally from a guy whose blind mother had played it during her life), serial #19505. The nut was cracked when it came to me so I had a local luthier fashion a bone nut to replace it.

The one on the right was an eBay score that was listed as a "mini-guitar" (probably why it slipped through the cracks without being bid on). For < $100, I couldn't pass it up. Serial #11018.

I figured I'd play both for a while and eventually decide to hang on to one of them. Six months later I'm still yo-yo'ing between 'em! That one on the left has a smooth, dark, woody tone that I love. I'm playing the one on the right more lately, it sounds a bit more sparkly which is great for Irish tunes.

The logo and font differences in the headstock are interesting to me. Did Saga decide to change those designs after a certain point on all of their mandolins, or is it more of a random thing?

- Adam

man dough nollij
May-08-2009, 10:05pm
Hi Loess,

Welcome to the Cafe! ~o)

I'm no authority on Kentuckys at all, but I do notice that those two are very different from each other. The one on the left has the body joined at the 14th fret, and the other one is joined around the 12th.

I'm guessing that the e-bay one is quite a bit older than the other one, which could be a good thing.

As you've probably seen here, they were made in various places at different times. (Japan then Korea then China, IIRC.) I think the japanese ones are the most highly prized.

I'm sure other folks will chime in with more info.


Neil Cunningham
Jan-22-2011, 10:19am
Hi All.
I just picked up my first mandolin in a trade. Its a Kentucky KM180s. The guy I got it from told my that the ones with the floret (like the one pictured on the left) were made in Japan. According to him, Saga got into some legal issue with Gibson over the motif, so they had to stop using it. I don't know how true that is, but it sounded good to me. So, as long as I believe mine is from japan, the music it makes will be especially sweet.


Bill Snyder
Jan-22-2011, 3:48pm
I don't think Gibson owns the right to the fleur de lis.

Jan-22-2011, 4:00pm
Bill is right, Gibson has no claim to the Fleur-de-lis. That symbol precedes Gibson's creation by centuries. This is probably much like the stories of the "lawsuit" guitars, mandolins, banjos that are just as untrue. Gibson has said they claim the design of the flower pot used on early Gibson instruments and as unique art they could do so. I think the Boy Scouts of America as well as the French Government were using the Fleur-de-lis well before Gibson ever did. You don't see Gibson laying claim to the crescent moon and star either and that was basically their first headstock symbol. What you have is two instruments made in two different shops and probably two different countries. The change was probably more due to economics. That second design is similar to another Gibson design as well.

Ed Goist
Jan-22-2011, 4:34pm
According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fleur-de-lis#Earliest_usage), "By the 12th century the fleur-de-lis had become the heraldic emblem of the Capetian kings of France."

If the Fleur-de-lis was being used in what is now Kalamazoo before the 12th century, it was being used by roaming native American tribes, raccoons, or black bears. :grin:

I wonder if Gibson is planning to take legal action against the province of Quebec, Canada over their flag? :grin:


Ed Goist
Jan-22-2011, 4:36pm
Adam, those are beautiful mandolins! Thanks for posting.
Oh, and those are really well taken photos.

Jan-23-2011, 5:33pm
Cool Kentucky Mandolins

Michael Eck
Jan-24-2011, 12:20am
Interesting. I still have an MIJ 80s KM180s. Mine is almost like a cross between these two in that it has a 12-fret join with the fleur de lis inlay. The original owner sanded down the finish quite a bit so it has a very scratchy look to it but it plays fine. I actually used it on both Ramblin Jug Stompers albums -- it's the only mandolin on the live record and I strung it in "mosquito" tuning for "Freight Train Boogie" on "Hobo Nickel." Lately it's my wall hanger and I keep it strung with LaBella flatwounds. The KM180s is a bit unusual in that it has mahogany back and sides.