View Full Version : Original Prices on Early Gibson F mandolins

Michael Gowell
Aug-29-2009, 11:14pm
Since I'm lucky enought to have a 1909 F-2 I'm always interested in details about appointments and prices on the early F models. Several things have caught my attention and perhaps some members can explain the evolution of models and their prices.

On the AcousticMusic.org site there are copies of quite a few early catalogs - click on "history & research" on the main page and then"catalogs" on the page displayed. In the 1903 catalog B (which includes models F, F-2, F-3 & F-4) the F-2 is quite ornate - the top is "outlined in a cord pattern of pearl and ebony" and has a "pearl setting" (a large dot) in the scroll as well as a pearl bound and engraved scratchplate and the star-and-crescent-moon headstock inlay. The price was $132.08 (which strikes me as a lot of money for 1903.)

26 years later, in 1929, the F-2 was much less decorated. I imagine that was due to changing taste as well as the need to keep prices down. But the striking thing to me is that the price had dropped from $132 to $110.

The F-4 had dropped even more - from $221.63 to $150. So we're looking at list prices that had dropped by about a third.

I'm sure there were several contributing factors...perhaps the chief one was the change from Orville's workbench to a factory. Others might be the reduced popularity of mandolins, factory mechanization, economies of scale in materials purchases & improved distribution systems. But still...over a quarter-century during which the purchasing power of the dollar must have diminished somewhat it is striking that the cost of Gibson mandolins not only didn't rise but fell so sharply.

Any insights?

Aug-29-2009, 11:36pm
the cost of Gibson mandolins not only didn't rise but fell so sharply.

Any insights?

When hand held calculators were first made generally available commercially, there was no market experience as to where they should be priced. What they did, they started them out at prices that were pretty high, and lowered them slowly till sales picked up.

In the case of Gibson I would bet the price changes had little to do with how or where they were manufactured, and more to do with figuring out what they could sell them for.

barney 59
Aug-29-2009, 11:50pm
I'd be interested in what the price was in 1906 or 1909. Oct.1902 was when the deal was made to form The Gibson Mandolin -Guitar Co. I doubt that they had very much in place in 1903 and maybe it was kind of like now when you buy new tech items at high prices and a little while later the price goes considerably down. I don't think I've ever seen anything older than 1904 in a Gibson except for some of the Orville prototypes.

Aug-31-2009, 4:35pm
My understanding is that mandolins had gone out of style by the early 1920s. By 1929, they probably couldn't give them away. Also, the F5 had replaced the F4 as the top of the line. Just like today when they come out with a new iPod, the old version has its price tag cut in half overnight. It's hard to say much based on only 2 data points though.

barney 59
Sep-01-2009, 11:32pm
The mandolin craze was quite strong in the 20's that's why the Gibson mandolins of that period are the "Gold" standard that we pretty much judge everything else against. I think it must have continued into the 30's enough for Martin to try to create a new line to compete with Gibson Artist models with the 2-15,2-20, and the 2-30 in 1935/36 but in this case, by the time they did it it was clearly too late and of the 2-20s and 30s very few were produced.