View Full Version : Oscar Schmidt

Feb-12-2004, 7:56pm
I recently acquired an Oscar Schmidt bowlback. In my quest for information, I conducted an extensive Google search, and got ... nothing! #Well, actually I did find one Oscar Schmidt, but it was a 12 string, listed at MockingBird Music (http://www.mockingbirdmusic.com/attic.html#Mandolins) for $1500. I also searched here and found only a 12 string. Why is there such a dearth of info?

I took a few pictures. Here is the front and back. (http://home.earthlink.net/~racuda/images/front-and-back.jpg), the back of the headstock showing the tuners (http://home.earthlink.net/~racuda/images/tuners.jpg) (there is a "3" stamped into the wood), a view of the side (http://home.earthlink.net/~racuda/images/side.jpg), and one showing the case (http://home.earthlink.net/~racuda/images/case.jpg). Here is a closeup of the top (http://home.earthlink.net/~racuda/images/top.jpg).

Can anyone provide any information about this mandolin? Is it a good one? Is it worth anything close to what they are asking at MockingBird Music?


Jim Garber
Feb-12-2004, 11:15pm
Quick search brings up this site (http://www.stellaguitars.com/).

OS, BTW, is a current division of Washburn which was also an old company, certainly mentioned very often on this board.

OS cranked out thousands of lower end instruments including mandolins. The one on Mockingbird may be a grade or two higher than yours but certainly overpriced IMHO.

Yours is a decent American bowlback but nothing outstanding in terms of a valuable instrument. However, you can still enjoy playing it and it prob sounds prety decent. The usual caveat from this board is use ultralight strings on it: Black Diamond, GHS A240 and the like.

Yours looks to be in good shape and i like the "golf-pants' lining for the case.

There was talk on another thread of a Stella mandolin which was also made by OS, as well as many autoharps.


Feb-13-2004, 1:13pm
Greetings racuda,
I agree with all Jim has offered, so I guess my offering amounts to reinforcement. The pre-depression Oscar Schmidt Co. (OS) of Jersey City has nothing to do with the modern Oscar Schmidt and had nothing to do with the pre-depression Washburn/Lyon & Healy (L&H). Likewise, the modern Washburn has nothing whatsoever to do with the original Washburn, which was a brand of L&H. The modern Washburn is a case of a modern firm buying the rights to use the name of an extinct brand and then, as Jim alluded, buying another extinct brand (OS) to serve as their budget line.

The original OS was a massive producer of mass-produced entry-level instruments. Their instruments are enormously abundant and, unfortunately, not very valuable. They do have a kind of campy collectability for the association they had with early blues players through their Stella brand guitars. For mandolins, it's rare to see one take any better than a few hundred $. If anything, I would argue 12-stringers are worth less because they are so unwieldy as players' instruments. In spite of the apparent excellent condition, that $1,500 price tag at Mockingbird is WAY out of line. It's typical of the kind of thing that happens when a shop that deals in guitars gets a hold of a bowlback mandolin and, because (like most folks) they have so little experience with such things, assumes they are rare.

Yours looks nice and in good shape, racuda. I think the "3" is a style designation, but I don't know if anybody has endeavored to collect what Oscar Schmidt's style designations mean. These were built for a very different breed of string than popularized by modern bluegrass. Only keep the very lightest strings available on it: down to ca. 0.009"-0.0095" on e". Appropriate sets are now made by GHS (their "Classical" set), Ernie Ball, and Dean Markley. Black Diamonds are also good. Such a set up sounds best with a somewhat pointy pick.


Feb-13-2004, 1:25pm
PS: Your bridge looks nothing like any period bridge I've seen. I suspect it might be a bit heavier than desirable. Is there a footprint of the original bridge still evident in the soundboard? You may want to locate an antique bowlback bridge or have a slighter bridge made that is more similar to the original.

Feb-13-2004, 5:45pm
Eugene, you are correct. I can see a suntan outline where the original bridge was. It had squared off ends and was longer than the current bridge.

Would the original be solid wood, or would it have had some type of saddle?

Also, thanks to you guys, I already had a set of GHS extra light classical strings ordered and waiting when I received this mandolin.

Feb-13-2004, 6:34pm
Have a look at Mockingbirds site. I'd wager the original bridge on yours would have been very similar.

Can I assume the neck and cant on yours are healthy, racuda? If so, string it up and enjoy it to the hilt.