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PJ Doland
Jun-16-2011, 3:25pm
I picked up the following instrument from an auction this afternoon and I wanted to get the Cafe's opinions on it.

I paid a total of $507.00 to get it (including the buyer's premium). Here is the lot description:


1923 Gibson Style A Brown Stain Mandolin, #71448. Nice crack free body. Original patent January 18-21 bridge. May have new neck as decal and tuners are incorrect. Peghead cracked through tuners. Tight whip crack in neck. Original hard case included. Condition: Fair.

Here are photos:


Front (http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4033387/snakehead-front.jpeg)
Back (http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4033387/snakehead-back.jpeg)


A few questions?


Do you think the neck is a replacement, or that someone just added a decal? The top of the headstock shape doesn't seem quite right to me, but I could be wrong.
Do you think the neck might have been replaced by Gibson when the new decal was in use? Even though the shape is wrong, it still seems very Gibson, if that makes sense?
If I don't like how this plays, how much would you expect it to cost me to get this optimally saleable? If the neck is a replacement, should I have a new replacement made? Put Golden Age tuners on it? Or should I sell the whole thing for parts and the cost of the case?

woodwizard
Jun-16-2011, 3:42pm
Hard to tell about the neck from the picture. For sure not the right decal. From the pic looks like it's worth more than you gave for it. You could easily get your money back parting it out but looks like it's worth fixing to me. IMHO ...Looks like the original Loar era bridge and tail piece and a nice looking body. Maybe it was sent back to Gibson during that style of decal and they worked on it then. ??

PJ Doland
Jun-16-2011, 4:00pm
I'm also a little worried about sinkage. I can't believe they don't do photos from the sides.

Jim Garber
Jun-16-2011, 4:10pm
I think that that 50s+ Gibson logo might throw off the look of the snakehead. if it is a replaced neck possibly Gibson did it in the 1950s or 60s and that might make it a player but still worth more than you paid. You may have to put a few hundred into getting it fully playable but still for a snakehead...

Worry about the sinkage when you get this thing. Was this an eBay find? If so, you could have asked for side view pics -- don't expect seller to read your mind.

PJ Doland
Jun-16-2011, 4:14pm
It wasn't from eBay. I got it from Heritage Auctions, which is a reputable outfit that does a lot of vintage instrument auctions. The closing price was $425 with a $82 buyer's premium. I will have to probably pay another $50 in shipping and insurance (but no sales tax).

barney 59
Jun-16-2011, 4:30pm
It's possible that the mandolin was sent to Gibson for repair and Gibson put that decal on and refinished or over sprayed the mandolin at the same time. Style A mandolins had no logo so maybe someone just stuck that on. On close inspection can you tell if the neck has ever been off? The snakehead and the year give it some added value. You got it for a good price because of the snake head but vintage Gibson paddle head straight A's go in that price range every day on ebay these days. If there is something up with the neck(not original) and a snakehead A or A jr can sell for under a grand which they sometimes do there probably is no great profit there if you were to fix it up and resell it. My guess is it will sound just fine set up and is a keeper.

MikeEdgerton
Jun-16-2011, 4:34pm
I'll give you $50.00 more than you paid for it as is. If that thing is playable you got a heck of a deal. Even if you spend a few bucks to get it back closer to original you still got a good deal.

Clement Barrera-Ng
Jun-16-2011, 4:42pm
I'm also leaning toward the neck not being original, and you're right that the headstock does appear different from an original snakehead. It may be possible that the mandolin had its neck snapped off in the 50s and the original owner had it sent back to Gibson for repair. The great condition of the top and back that it's in also makes me wonder it had been oversprayed during the same repair at the factory.

Either way, I think you made out very well with such a vintage model. I recently picked up a '26 snakehead A Jr at a local pawn shop for $400, and I put another $100 into glueing up a top crack and a little bit of shrinkage on the back near the tailblock. Still, mine didn't come with a case, and it was only an A Jr.

Bottom line is - Even if you don't like it, you can put it right back up on eBay and should expect to get all your money back. The case alone, if original and in good condition, is known to go for $200-$300.

Good luck and let us know what you think when it arrives

PJ Doland
Jun-16-2011, 4:51pm
Do you think Gibson might have repair records? Or is it patently ridiculous for me to even think they might have serial-number organized records from 40-60 years ago?

allenhopkins
Jun-16-2011, 5:07pm
Do you think Gibson might have repair records? Or is it patently ridiculous for me to even think they might have serial-number organized records from 40-60 years ago?

Well, not "patently ridiculous," but I doubt you'll get anywhere by asking them. How many repair records would have been brought from Kalamazoo to Nashville? None, I'll bet.

I like the "sent back to Gibson for re-necking" hypothesis. Serial number says "1923," repair shop says, "Hey, that's when A's had snakeheads," so they build a new one and put a decal on it, although a '23 A would have had a plain headstock.

For what you paid, you're in the catbird seat! Even if it needs some work, you still came in well under market price. Mandolin Bros. sold a 1916 pumpkin top, in really good shape with pickguard and original case, for $1.6K, more than three times what you're paying. A lot of these A's are up in the four figures. Enjoy what you got...

mrmando
Jun-16-2011, 5:55pm
For sure it's a replacement neck. Looks like someone recycled the original tuners, but note that they cut off the ends of the plates to fit the headstock, because they drilled the headstock in the wrong place. On the original headstock, you wouldn't have to do that to the plates.

Clement Barrera-Ng
Jun-16-2011, 6:34pm
Good point on the tuners. On original snakeheads, the tuners would have been mounted worm over instead of worm under. And judging from the current tuners that are on the headstock, they would have mounted fine in worm over fashion without having to cut part of it off to fit. I wonder why and who did that, and if it was even done at the Gibson factory. Just guessing on my part.

Jim Garber
Jun-16-2011, 7:35pm
For historical purposes, here are the two pics:

PJ Doland
Jun-16-2011, 7:53pm
Thanks for posting those inline as images. I had originally posted them as links because I wanted them to go to the huge high-resolution versions, but I can see how some folks might not want to click through.

Vernon Hughes
Jun-16-2011, 9:15pm
I was watching that mando at the auction this afternoon as well,just too short on funds at this time to buy another..I think it was a good deal,even if it's not playable it can be restored or part it out for what you have in it or more..

barney 59
Jun-16-2011, 9:27pm
In the last month and a half on ebay I've been following Gibson vintage A model listings. On my save list of mandolins that sold, 23 A models sold for under $1000 of those 13 sold for under $600. I only have 7 that sold for over $1000 an A-3 for just over a grand a 22 Snakehead A that looked sweet for $1700, a H1 for $1600 the rest were A-4s with the highest price paid at $2054.
I think the prices are way down..

MikeEdgerton
Jun-16-2011, 10:21pm
Barney, are you talking snakeheads or paddleheads?

Links
Jun-16-2011, 10:36pm
The description from Heritage Auctions stated that it "may" have a new neck, so I would have assumed that it did. It also mentioned a crack in the peghead through the tuners and a tight "whip crack" in the neck. If you can get those taken care of you should have a nice player.

Ron McMillan
Jun-17-2011, 1:02am
In the last month and a half on ebay I've been following Gibson vintage A model listings. On my save list of mandolins that sold, 23 A models sold for under $1000 of those 13 sold for under $600. I only have 7 that sold for over $1000 an A-3 for just over a grand a 22 Snakehead A that looked sweet for $1700, a H1 for $1600 the rest were A-4s with the highest price paid at $2054.
I think the prices are way down..

Sometimes I wish I had better access to the American market. At those prices, I might actually be able to satisfy a latent urge to acquire a decent teens or twenties Gibson A. I live in Asia where such things simply don't exist, but back 'home' in Europe, they command at least double the prices Barney quotes - and are very thin on the ground.

rm

barney 59
Jun-17-2011, 1:29am
All the mandolins I listed were ones that sold. Those that didn't sell I dumped from my watch list mostly, though some survived. I figure that if they don't sell they don't count. A 22 Snakehead A sold for $1700 that looked pretty nice. The snake heads mostly had starting bids or buy it nows at $1500 or above(some way above) that got no bids so by and large my list is mostly paddleheads as most A model mandolins are paddleheads. "Loar Era" and snake heads do bring a premium. I just think that "premium" isn't what it was a year or two ago. A little while back a paddle head A-4 in decent shape would rarely sell for only $1500 and $2500+ was pretty common. Now it looks like it's lucky if it sells for more than $1500 and I haven't seen an A-4 sell for $2500 for a while. I haven't seen a snake head A-4 listed lately except maybe one with a stupid high starting price. Someone has listed now,and didn't know what they had, an A2z that is at about $2000 with some time to go.That is one worth watching. Really desirable rare items or really pristine examples are a different thing all together, someone wants them and wants them bad. What I'm noticing is a bunch of decent looking A1's, 2's and even 3's going in the $600 to $1000 range. Under $600 they usually have problems. Vintage A model "players" are dirt cheap right now and anyone that ever thought they might like one should jump in and get one. They're cool,they're fun and affordable.

mrmando
Jun-17-2011, 2:06am
Good point on the tuners. On original snakeheads, the tuners would have been mounted worm over instead of worm under.
Er, ah, no. They would be mounted worm under. The eejit who made this new neck put the holes too far down the headstock. Then when he went to install the tuners, he had a choice: flip them and install them worm over, or install them correctly and cut off the ends.

Here is one of my snakeheads with period-correct tuners mounted correctly:
http://i568.photobucket.com/albums/ss122/emando_com/a2z/DSCN2365.jpg

Clement Barrera-Ng
Jun-17-2011, 3:12am
Er, ah, no. They would be mounted worm under.

Thanks for the correction. I don't know what possessed me to make such a broad pronouncement. I was going by my own A Jr and a few others I had seen mounted with tuners that didn't have the pointy end in your pictures. I went back to the archives and lo and behold, most of the snakeheads have the same tuners as yours, mounted worm under.

Sorry for the confusion.

mrmando
Jun-17-2011, 4:46am
Wiggle ends, arrow ends, square ends ... all would be originally mounted worm under if I am not mistaken. Most Juniors have square-end plates, but if yours are worm-over, they're an anomaly.

Darryl Wolfe
Jun-17-2011, 9:18am
Not true. they come worm under and worm over Both my A4 snake and my "A/black A2z" are worm over. The change was later in '24

Regarding the mandolin in question, the entire peghead is at least a 1/2" too long

EDIT: for clarification though, that mandolin by serial number and those tuners by design were originally worm under as said earlier

Also, my eye says that it is a Gibson paddlehead 60's neck installed by Gibson and simply tapered to resemble the original neck. The length, shape of the mustache and the decal appear to confirm that statement

JeffD
Jun-17-2011, 10:48am
In any case I side with Mike, it can be made to sound great and play well if it doesn't already, and would be a great player instrument giving you lots and lots of fun. Mando-ecstasy for a more than reasonable price.


Also it will never be so highly prized that you feel guilty when MAS strikes and you want an additional mandolin.

Well am I wrong? I'm just sayin....

RB250
Jun-20-2011, 12:57pm
I recently purchased a 1917 A style Gibson with 2 small (5") hairline cracks on the backside. It sounds great and my Eastman 615 isn't getting much playtime lately. Paid $750 and feel this was a very cheap way to get the old Gibson sound.

RB250

RB250
Jun-27-2011, 12:42pm
I looked and played a 1924 Snakehead lase W/E and compared it to my 1917 A. The snakehead had old strings on it granted but not ancient and I had to say my 1917 A sounded better. Neither has the full classic woody sound but some of that. I have heard A's with the classic woody sound and it's unmistakeable. Anyways, the ask was $2200 and I offered $1500 and not so sure of that. Are the snakeheads supposed to be that much better? I would have liked to have heard this mando with new strings but faced with a firm price walked away w/o followup. I'll check this out in a month or so. I couldn't see the value for a player although a Loar period mando / snakehead is probably a good investment. I also know I can get a Collins F for under $2K. Any comments?

R250

Jim Garber
Jun-27-2011, 12:47pm
Snakeheads in general have a different sound than prior era Gibsons. Soundwise, IMHO, it is a matter of opinion and, of course, there are variations among instruments even of the same year. Personally I like the slightly pre-Loar period, having played a few 1920-21 instruments and , for some reason, they have a nice sound to my ears with a little less than that later premium price. Bear in mind, tho, that my own favorite Gibson is a 23 A2 snakehead.

JeffD
Jun-27-2011, 12:56pm
I think snakeheads are cool. I cannot tell you why. I just love the look. So I might pay extra for a snakehead, all things being equal.

I would never (this is just me) prefer one mandolin over another because of its potential as an investment. I would get the one that plays, sounds, feels, looks the best at the best price all things considered. I would pay a bit extra for condition, or all original parts, or in support of the vendor. I would not pay a nickle extra because of some predicted future value. Because I never intend to recoup that value. If I love the instrument I will keep it.

But I do understand the catch and release strategy. I just can't fall in love with a mandolin on the one hand, and see it as trading stock on the other.

PJ Doland
Jul-14-2011, 4:15pm
I just thought I would mention that I've had this mandolin sent to John Hamlett.

He'll be building a new replacement neck for it, with a radiused fretboard. He'll also be replacing the tuners and doing whatever else he deems necessary.

I'll be sure to post photos here when he's done.

MikeEdgerton
Jul-14-2011, 8:47pm
Your mandolin is in good hands. I'm sure John will do a spectacular job.

Grommet
Jul-24-2011, 3:29pm
:popcorn::popcorn:

PJ Doland
Sep-21-2011, 8:58am
I decided to have John Hamlett completely replace the neck for a number of reasons:


The neck was not original when I acquired the instrument.
The replacement neck had a whip crack.
The replacement neck had a misshapen headstock.
The fingerboard was poorly intonated.


Here are some pictures of the repair in progress, which John sent me last week. Looks like it's coming along nicely.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4033387/snakehead-restoration/1.jpg

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4033387/snakehead-restoration/17.jpg

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4033387/snakehead-restoration/19.jpg

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4033387/snakehead-restoration/30.jpg

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4033387/snakehead-restoration/33.jpg

You can probably tell from the pictures that I've opted for a radiused fingerboard.

JeffD
Sep-21-2011, 9:50am
Ooooh. You are going to love that instrument.

JeffD
Sep-21-2011, 9:50am
Bear in mind, tho, that my own favorite Gibson is a 23 A2 snakehead.

Yep.

sunburst
Oct-22-2011, 9:41pm
I've just exchanged emails with PJ, the OP of this thread, because the mandolin is now finished. Here are a few pictures;

sunburst
Oct-22-2011, 9:47pm
The neck is a mahogany replica, inside and out, with an original Gibson truss rod (taken from a junk neck) and Stewmac replica tuners.

sunburst
Oct-22-2011, 9:51pm
The last picture is a picture of this mandolin next to a picture from the archive of a consecutive serial number A1. I used the pictures of it for guidance in getting the details more or less correct for the time period.

Mike Black
Oct-22-2011, 9:55pm
Nice! Good work John! I'm sure that PJ will be very pleased.

robert.najlis
Oct-22-2011, 10:00pm
wow, that looks amazing!

Ron McMillan
Oct-22-2011, 10:01pm
John has created my idea of perfection. While it would be sweet to own an all-original 1920s A4, I would be perfectly content with one that looks that good (and that probably plays like a new instrument). Beautiful.

Ivan Kelsall
Oct-23-2011, 4:26am
It's when i see work like this,that superlatives fail me !. What can you say that would do tribute to such fabulous craftsmanship ??,
Ivan:disbelief:

Bill Snyder
Oct-23-2011, 10:11am
John did you do anything to the existing finish other than clean it up? I ask because in the photos it looks like a new mandolin. Really stunning.
Aesthetically I think these old oval holes (and a few of the modern copies) may be may favorite style.

sunburst
Oct-23-2011, 10:29am
I polished the finish on the body, and added a little overspray to blend the neck finish into the body finish, touched up some places and left others as they were. The mandolin has been refinished with lacquer, perhaps by Gibson, but at any rate, the refin' is pretty good with a little age and wear. I (we) figured the economics of the situation warranted leaving the finish as is and matching it with a lacquer neck finish. Lacquer will polish back to a high gloss with little effort if it is in decent shape.

BTW, this is a fine sounding snakehead, easily one of my favorites among those I've encountered.

John Gardinsky
Oct-23-2011, 11:34am
Nice job!

Clement Barrera-Ng
Oct-23-2011, 11:55pm
Wow! Fantastic work John. You've managed to outdone yourself once again.

PJ Doland
Oct-27-2011, 9:27pm
I don't want to schlep this thing around in the original case.

Can anyone recommend a really good case that fits these short-necked snakeheads very well?

fatt-dad
Oct-27-2011, 9:51pm
(understatement alert)

Nice job John!

(Wow)

f-d

Clement Barrera-Ng
Oct-27-2011, 9:52pm
PJ: The TKL Prestige case will work very well with those vintage short neck Gibson. However, the don't have any neck support, so the headstock can bob around in the case a bit.

Also, someone had recommended those new Eastman fiber glass case. They're made for F style originally, but at least one member had reported that her modern A2Z fits in it very well.

So.. did you receive the mandolin back? How is it?

PJ Doland
Nov-28-2011, 10:33pm
I still can't get over how well this thing sounds. And I love having a vintage A with a radiused fingerboard (that's intonated properly). It plays like a dream.

I picked up an Eastman fiberglass case and it fits perfectly. Those should be the "go-to" cases for people who own short-necked Gibsons.

PJ Doland
Feb-26-2012, 11:30am
I tried to sell this a while ago (because I had originally purchased it intending to flip it after having it repaired).

I chickened out after only listing it for a few hours. John did TOO good a job with it. Looks like I'll have this one forever.

robert.najlis
Feb-26-2012, 12:04pm
Lucky for you I don't have the money. I saw that ad, and if I had the money I would have contacted you! :)

Clement Barrera-Ng
Feb-26-2012, 12:31pm
Lucky for you I don't have the money. I saw that ad, and if I had the money I would have contacted you! :)

Same here. I was seriously tempted and had been wondering who the lucky new owner is. Glad you decided to keep it.

pfox14
Feb-28-2012, 11:08am
I


Do you think the neck is a replacement, or that someone just added a decal? The top of the headstock shape doesn't seem quite right to me, but I could be wrong.
Do you think the neck might have been replaced by Gibson when the new decal was in use? Even though the shape is wrong, it still seems very Gibson, if that makes sense?
If I don't like how this plays, how much would you expect it to cost me to get this optimally saleable? If the neck is a replacement, should I have a new replacement made? Put Golden Age tuners on it? Or should I sell the whole thing for parts and the cost of the case?


Back to the original questions. I would say the neck was replaced and not by Gibson. As far as I know, Gibson never used decals for their logos. They were either inlaid or silk-screened. I would play it "as is" as long as it sounds good. Having a new neck made woould be too expensive IMHO.

onassis
Feb-28-2012, 11:54am
?:confused:

Little late on that one. Go back about 10 or so posts, the neck, fretboard and tuners have already been replaced. Looks amazing!

PJ Doland
Dec-09-2012, 7:01pm
I've been thinking about replacing the tailpiece on this with a James and selling the original. Here are my thoughts:

1. I really like the James on my other mandolin.
2. This thing is already so far from original condition that I can't imagine it would affect the value much, one way or the other.
3. Somebody else around here might have a mandolin from the same era much closer to original condition who would benefit more from me selling it to them rather than me just keeping the original on a shelf somewhere.

What do you folks think about my logic here?

PJ Doland
Dec-14-2012, 11:42am
Any opinions on my previous post regarding the tailpiece?

sunburst
Dec-14-2012, 11:49am
I see no harm in doing what you propose. The only thing is, you have no control over what happens to the sold tailpiece, so the "noble cause" of having it on a more "original" mandolin could turn out differently, and it could end up on a home-made instrument or...