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Thread: Odd blackface A4 that needs help

  1. #1
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Odd blackface A4 that needs help

    Now here's a weird one:

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Gibson-1920...0AAOSwZtlaFfbP

    From the non-extended fretboard and blackface top, we can infer that it's pre-1915 (extended boards start appearing in '14). However, "The Gibson" headstock inlay is pretty much straight across in a manner peculiar to a batch of 1907 mandolins, and it appears the serial number hath but four digits, which can't quite be read thanks to the angle of the photo, but may be 7311, which would indeed correspond to 1907. Shape of the end of the headstock would seem to bear out the notion that it's from the "aughts" rather than the teens.

    That being the case, however, this instrument should have a pineapple tailpiece cover and an inlaid rather than a raised pickguard. Said pickguard is very old. So what's going on there? Is there perhaps an inlaid pickguard under the raised one?

    Don't get me started about the back separation and the big screw into the neck block. Lord have mercy.
    Last edited by mrmando; Nov-22-2017 at 10:09pm.
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    Default Re: Odd blackface A4 that needs help

    I'm not going to second guess anything I can't see. The pickguard and tailpiece cover could have been changed by anyone at any time over the past 100+ years. Unless someone's got some X-ray software, it's impossible to know what's under the elevated guard. And that guard needs to be taken off before it kills what's left of the plating, binding, and finish.

    What I do see is a mandolin with the sides separating from the neck block and an out of line joint [if you can call it that] between the back and neck block. Getting those sides tucked back in is not the easiest thing to do.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Odd blackface A4 that needs help

    Handel tuners would help with the dating. Obviously not from the 20's as the seller claims.....

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Odd blackface A4 that needs help

    Seller says the SN is 7811, which gives us a 1909 ship date per Spann. Seller says there is no inlay underneath the pickguard.

    It has the wrong label for 1909, in addition to other anomalies. But there are other examples from that year with the straight-across headstock logo, so 1907 isn't the only time it happened before WWI.

    We can see that it has a chinrest-style pickguard clamp, so it's possible that this is in fact an original pickguard ... but if so, this would be among the earliest serial numbers to have a raised guard.

    7852, a later serial number, has the Orville label and inlaid pickguard: http://www.mandolinarchive.com/gibson/serial/7852

    But who said that any of this had to make sense?
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Odd blackface A4 that needs help

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    What I do see is a mandolin with the sides separating from the neck block and an out of line joint [if you can call it that] between the back and neck block. Getting those sides tucked back in is not the easiest thing to do.
    Given the condition, $1400 is a pretty ambitious price, wouldn't you say?
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    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Odd blackface A4 that needs help

    Kills me to see a screw through the back plate there, pics aren't good but it looks like there were other screw attempts that missed the block?
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    Fatally Flawed willkamm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Odd blackface A4 that needs help

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    Given the condition, $1400 is a pretty ambitious price, wouldn't you say?
    Ambitious would be one way to put it.
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    Default Re: Odd blackface A4 that needs help

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    Given the condition, $1400 is a pretty ambitious price, wouldn't you say?
    They won't get it from me.
    And I'm capable of repairing it myself.

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    Registered User MikeZito's Avatar
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    Default Re: Odd blackface A4 that needs help

    Too bad about the 'ambitions price' - that would probably be a fun player for someone.
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    Default Re: Odd blackface A4 that needs help

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeZito View Post
    Too bad about the 'ambitions price' - that would probably be a fun player for someone.
    Let it sit there for a few weeks, and then make an offer . . .

  11. #11
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Odd blackface A4 that needs help

    I’d say it needs a whole Thanksgiving table’s worth of TLC for half the price.
    Ambitious? Ambitious is a serious understatement. Very kind but...
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  12. #12

    Default Re: Odd blackface A4 that needs help

    it has some pretty points, most of the stuff is there, but when you look for a fixer upper you want it at half that price. i found a 1923 snakehead fixer upper for about half that price and it came to life as a cannon and now my main busking mandolin. i don't mind risking it a bit when it has already been through over haul.

    but i love those handel tuners.

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    Fatally Flawed willkamm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Odd blackface A4 that needs help

    Quote Originally Posted by Timbofood View Post
    I’d say it needs a whole Thanksgiving table’s worth of TLC for half the price.
    Ambitious? Ambitious is a serious understatement. Very kind but...
    It would take a lot of love. More than I'm capable of.
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    Default Re: Odd blackface A4 that needs help

    A soupcon of caveat emptor might apply with this item. Reference to the Archive (p3) lists Nos. 7850, 7851 & 7852... all A4's, all blackface, all with Handels and Pineapple t/p's. Also, #7851 has an inlaid pickguard PLUS a floating pickguard: #7852 has an inlaid pickguard - PLUS evidence of a floating pickguard, accord to Lynn Dudenbostel. I have #7850 on my lap; the Handels & Pineapple have been scavenged and it was in a sad state when acquired. These items are shown on the Archive photos.It has an inlaid p/g plus the mounting holes for a floating p/g. It also has a Lyre and Orville label. Is this a Frankenmando??? Try this - a pre 1914 head & neck on a teens body. The S/N is a problem, but who says it is kosher?

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Odd blackface A4 that needs help

    A soupcon of caveat emptor
    Maybe a soup CAN of caveat emptor ...

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    Teens body would explain the Guaranteed label, I suppose—but not the low serial number. The floating pickguard does have a chinrest-style clamp, which would be correct for 1909 but not for the teens. There's something Frankensteinish about this no matter what explanation one favors.
    Last edited by mrmando; Dec-03-2017 at 5:38pm.
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    Default Re: Odd blackface A4 that needs help

    Seems to me that everyone is overthinking this. It's an early elevated guard mandolin.

    From what the seller said, the number is 7811, which Spann's places in 1909. Elevated pickguards were patented in early 1909, so what's the problem?

    The neck appears to me to be cherry rather than mahogany, and has the amber brown finish, which would be correct for that period. I see no signs that the neck is non-original to the mandolin.

    The use of the last Lyre labels might have overlapped the use of the first non-lyre labels anyway. I've seen an overlap on the use of other parts, such as pickguard clamps and tailpieces. Factories are not necessarily orderly in replacing a part with an old design with a newly designed one in general production, and Gibson was not necessarily the most orderly factory in the world.

    The archives are a reference, not a dictionary. Except perhaps for the early f-5's, the archives only represent a small cross section of existing Gibson mandolins and has to be considered incomplete.

    The biggest problem with the mandolin is that it needs repairs. It wouldn't hurt if the price was a little softer.

    And if it's a 1909 and it's got a 1917 tailpiece, so what? That pickguard needs to be removed IMMEDIATELY.
    Last edited by rcc56; Dec-03-2017 at 8:39pm.

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