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Thread: When to Repair, When to Retire: Sentiment, Quality, History, Etc.

  1. #1

    Default When to Repair, When to Retire: Sentiment, Quality, History, Etc.

    DISCLAIMER: I'm going to make some sweeping assumptions just for the sake of discussion. I suspect there's some guidelines that are applicable though... i.e. if repairs <= 50% of presumed market value then retire.

    Specifically, here's what I'm looking at: an Ibanez F5 artist model from the mid-70s (I don't have the fancy fretboard inlays so I wonder if it's a slightly lesser but serial places it in 1976).

    Good overall condition. Frets are low and flat. Binding around body is denigrating at the tips. Nut is chipped. Bridge needs fitted and/or replaced.

    Sounds fine. I don't have enough experience with higher-tier mandolins to say.

    I think, generally, the 70s weren't the high water mark for instrument building. So already I'm thinking retire. I do not suffer from MAS so I'm not looking for an excuse to get a new one.

    Here's the ballpark:

    Re-fret (has binding): $300
    Nut: $60
    Bridge Replacement/Fitting: $100
    Binding Repair: $60

    Sentimental Value: Limited (grandfather-in-law's, purchased new in 70s after his Gibson was stolen).
    Historic Value: Suspect (no inlay on headstock, yet serial # is Ibanez)

    ----------------------------------------

    Here's my logic, and I am no mandolin expert. The Ibanez is a cool instrument. People like it. They can tell it's old.

    But I could put a nice down payment on a potentially superior contemporary instrument for what this one will cost to rehab. And since I'm a one-instrument kind of guy, I'd probably spend $1500-$2000 to get a nice A style.

    But I'm also pretty certain I'm not considering something obvious. That's why I'm bugging you guys!

    Thanks for reading this far. I appreciate it.

  2. #2

    Default Re: When to Repair, When to Retire: Sentiment, Quality, History,

    I know I provided a specific model but I think it's worth a more general discussion of value, the perception of, the issue of sunk costs, and how that drives decision making. Sounds like a thesis, doesn't it?

  3. #3
    fishing with my mando darrylicshon's Avatar
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    Default Re: When to Repair, When to Retire: Sentiment, Quality, History,

    I'm a big fan of vintage ibanez mandolins, and own a few. I think that is too much to invest in fixing it. I have seen some f style vintage ibanez listed from $800-1500 but they don't seem to sell much at those prices. As much as I like ibanez I would suggest saving your money and buy a better one
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  4. #4

    Default Re: When to Repair, When to Retire: Sentiment, Quality, History,

    I think the answer is 'when you're happy with the outcome.' If its nagging you to get it fixed, do it. Otherwise, like an old love, let it go.
    Play it like you mean it.

  5. #5
    Registered User Drew Streip's Avatar
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    Default Re: When to Repair, When to Retire: Sentiment, Quality, History,

    Or look at it as a chance to invest in yourself. If you're a tinkerer, you could try refretting it yourself. Making a nut isn't terribly difficult, and you can buy a blank online for just a few bucks. Fitting a bridge, while slightly tedious, is not difficult. Body binding is not a structural necessity, so you could leave that alone until the instrument is playable.

    So the question there is: Is the sentimentality enough that you'd be scared to try anything yourself? I have a "Lotus" brand, laminate, A-model mandolin that would probably only fetch $150 in perfect condition. No sentimentality. It's worth it (to me) to buy basic fretting tools and give it a whirl. Even though it might cost me $300 in tools and material, I'd have skills and another working mandolin (which I could then sell if I chose).

    Or sell me your Ibanez and I'll send you a video after I work on it

  6. #6

    Default Re: When to Repair, When to Retire: Sentiment, Quality, History,

    Not worth spending the money on.

    I had an Ibanez "526" back in the 1970's. Took it to Mandolin Brothers, had them work on it, even they couldn't get much out of it.

    If the mandolin has sentimental value -- fine, just keep it "as it is". Don't spend anything on it.

    But if you want something for playability and tone, get something better.

    I'd suggest a used Northfield "S-series"...

  7. #7

    Default Re: When to Repair, When to Retire: Sentiment, Quality, History,

    Thanks all. I am a tinkerer. I've messed with a cheap Fender. I'll do the same here.

    Now... telling my wife that you all gave me permission to buy a new mando. Hmmmmm

  8. #8
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    Default Re: When to Repair, When to Retire: Sentiment, Quality, History,

    You mentioned that you might like an A style mandolin, well the Kentucky KM-900, 950 and 956 sell used for around $800, some less, some more and they are about as good as you can get for that amount of money...

    Willie

  9. #9
    Registered User John Rosett's Avatar
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    Default Re: When to Repair, When to Retire: Sentiment, Quality, History,

    I have an early 70's Kingston telecaster copy that i bought at a pawn shop for $60. I put around $300 in to it(frets, tuners, some wiring work), and it's been my main gigging guitar for years. Sometimes "market value" isn't the only consideration in an old instrument.
    "it's not in bad taste, if it's funny" - john waters

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  11. #10
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    Default Re: When to Repair, When to Retire: Sentiment, Quality, History,

    There is the financial side which is easy:
    Cost of Instrument + cost of repairs, improvements - likely resale value = P&L net
    ( looks like your P&L would be a couple hundred bucks because there is no initial cost, but if you don't sell then it's a $500 expense)

    Then there are the other factors you mentioned: historical and sentimental value. Hard to compute. Sentimental value isn't necessarily changed by repairs. I have my grandfathers piece of crap $100 bowl back. Don't play it much. Would not sink a bunch of money into it. Will never sell it.

    Then there is the elusive "L" factor. How much to you LOVE playing it?
    This is impossible to quantify in dollars and cents. What does your gut say?

  12. #11
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    Default Re: When to Repair, When to Retire: Sentiment, Quality, History,

    I think before asking, you already knew your answer

    I agree with Drew's approach. See what you can do to spruce up the Ibanez yourself (great experience that could translate into savings down the line if you learn to do those tasks well, and you're really out nothing if you mess it up), but get a better mandolin. You can get some really nice quality A-styles in your budget, for sure. And, if the Ibanez works out, you'll have a nice beater...or, if your wife has a "one in one out" rule, you'll have a playable instrument to give a kid to learn on.
    Chuck

  13. #12
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    Default Re: When to Repair, When to Retire: Sentiment, Quality, History,

    Well .... I would say it depends on how much disposable income you have. You could buy a good condition used mandolin and repair your old one for a total cost of 2,000.00$. Or just buy yourself a new very well made F model from a PacRim company. There may be a family member or friend that could do with a starter Ibanez. Or you can hang it on the wall as it is next to a picture of it's history. Bottom line you can replace the Ibanez with a used Eastman The Loar or Kentucky mandolin for close to the cost of the repair... and have an as good as or better instrument in good repair. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

  14. #13
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: When to Repair, When to Retire: Sentiment, Quality, History,

    "Depends, depends, depends..." (Not the adult diaper.)

    I bought an iffy condition 1930's Regal Octofone for less than $300. Re-repairing a headstock crack, correcting a neck warp with a carbon fiber truss rod, new ebony fingerboard, cost me over $300. So I put more than market value into repairs.

    Was that dumb? Now I have a nicely playable vintage instrument, an uncommon model that makes a nice octave mandolin. Could I sell it for what I have into it? Maybe yes, maybe no.

    A 40-year-old Asian made F-5 copy is a different thing. The factor that makes it hard to give advice is the family connection. What's the subjective value in restoring a "family heirloom" instrument, even though it may have limited market value? Only you can answer that.

    I'd say, absent the family connection, that not paying for pro repairs, perhaps doing some DIY work on it, would make much more sense. There are plenty of comparable -- better, even -- Asian-made F-model mandolins on the used market in the $500 range. You could get an Eastman MD315 used, good condition, for around that price.

    But the Eastman wouldn't have belonged to your wife's grandfather. That's the question only you can answer: what's that worth?
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  15. #14

    Default Re: When to Repair, When to Retire: Sentiment, Quality, History,

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    But the Eastman wouldn't have belonged to your wife's grandfather. That's the question only you can answer: what's that worth?
    Apparently she didn't care much for him!

    I think possessions are worth being sentimental about... but that part of my brain is broken. With the exception of a few baby items from my kids I really view stuff as just stuff.

    Thanks for your thoughts though... I've come to a similar conclusion. I'll DIY repair it when I get a replacement. I can't DIY it now because I need the instrument for gigs.

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