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Thread: Old snakehead mandola(?)

  1. #1
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Old snakehead mandola(?)

    Would love to hear your theories on this one:

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/MANDOLA-VIN.../322910069764?

    I'm not convinced it really is a mandola; I don't see how a mandola built to Gibson specs would fit in that F4 case.

    However, there IS such a beast as a Gibson snakehead oval-hole mandola, although we know of only one if I'm not mistaken.

    Certainly not worth $6,500. Maybe $1,000 and a good chunk of that would be the F4 case.

    I also doubt that the person who did the crude sunburst and headstock inlay would have been able to build what looks like a well-executed and very Gibsonesque instrument in many of its particulars.

    So, hmmm...
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old snakehead mandola(?)

    My first thought was that we should compare this one with the known one. My second thought is to wonder if someone put a new neck or headstock on an existing Gibson paddle head mandola. I have no idea on this one.

    No way it's worth that much, I agree with you.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  3. #3
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old snakehead mandola(?)

    Seller says the scale length is 15.75", which is precisely the Gibson mandola scale.

    So if it fits in that case, obviously it's an H4 case, not an F4 case (and a closer look reveals that's exactly what it is). The plot thickens.
    Last edited by mrmando; Nov-28-2017 at 8:04pm.
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old snakehead mandola(?)

    I dunno, man ... it's interesting.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Notorious: My Celtic CD--listen & buy!

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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Old snakehead mandola(?)

    The only A bodied Gibson mandolas with curly maple backs I have seen were H-0's, which were f-hole mandolas. I have not heard of an H-1 or H-2 with a flamed back, but I would not be terribly surprised if one were to turn up.

    The binding around the heel of the neck combined with the unbound back indicates that a glue joint was broken and reglued, possibly indicating a neck replacement. But the head DOES remind me of Gibson work, except for the inlays. The yellowing of the pearl on the head and the bindings indicates a rather ancient finish.

    The soundhole seems a trifle large to me, but I can't say for sure from the pictures.

    If I had the instrument in my hands, I could probably tell whether or not any of it was made by Gibson. Trying to tell from the pictures, no. If any of it is Gibson, it has been heavily reworked.

    How about this? Maybe it's exactly what the seller says it is, a handmade instrument from the 50's? [possibly reworked at some point]??

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    Registered User bluegrasser78's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old snakehead mandola(?)

    It looks like a Gibson body and a homemade neck, the "snakehead" and neck are poorly done IMHO. and finish that looks like it was done in the 50's? I'd also like to see it in my hands, that could tell more.

  7. #7
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old snakehead mandola(?)

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    How about this? Maybe it's exactly what the seller says it is, a handmade instrument from the 50's? [possibly reworked at some point]??
    Handmade Gibson copies from the '50s are exceptionally rare, and tend to be rather crude. Take the level of workmanship on the headstock inlay of this mandola, and spread it out across an entire instrument, and methinks it would look significantly less graceful than what we see here. I think we see one level of execution in the inlay and sunburst, and quite another in most aspects of the overall build.

    Maybe E.A. Sisk worked in the Kalamazoo plant at some point and this is the mandola equivalent of Johnny Cash's Cadillac, built one part at a time? H0 back; H1 top; leftover neck; rosette, riser block binding and fretboard by Cousin Elmer?
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  8. #8
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old snakehead mandola(?)

    And now, here it is on YouTube!


    This weakens rather than strengthens the argument for it being worth $6,500.

    The tone is harsh.
    It's outta tune.
    And ... worst of all ...
    The chord progression ENDS ON A DOMINANT CHORD. Oh, have pity and resolve that thing, would ya!
    Emando.com: More than you wanted to know about electric mandolins.

    Notorious: My Celtic CD--listen & buy!

    Donaldson Wood Thormahlen Andersen Old Wave Bacorn Yanuziello Fender National Gibson Franke Fuchs Aceto Three Hungry Pit Bulls

  9. #9
    Registered User Troy Engle's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old snakehead mandola(?)

    I figured the number on the headstock was a S.S. # Here's the info:

    SISK, HOWARD E. was born 29 July 1918, received Social Security number 316-10-1906 (indicating Indiana) and, Death Master File says, died 02 November 1997 6431430
    Source: Death Master File (public domain). Check Archives for HOWARD SISK.

    So made/altered for,or by Mr. Sisk in Indiana more than likely. Tried looking up luthiers or mandolin players with that name, to no avail. IMO I think it's probably a Gibson mandola body, either an H-1, or maybe 30's due to the flame on the back (it could be rebacked), It could even been a Gibson Tenor Lute conversion. New neck and embellishments. I think the work is pretty darn good for the era, seeing as no one was really building this stuff much in the 50-60s. I think it sounds great in the vid. You have to be able to listen through the tuning, and admittedly novice playing. Not worth $6500 though. Case is worth as much as the mandola, I'd say.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Old snakehead mandola(?)

    I got a chuckle from seeing his Social Security number scratched on the back of the peghead. Some of us from a certain age group will remember that was common to see on various items of value. It was a trend in the late 60's/early 70's that Police recommended that items be marked that way for positive identification and theft prevention. I've seen many instruments and expensive cameras disfigured that way using an electric engraving pen. Nowadays, of course, we are told to protect our SS number at all costs......

    Good "detective" work!

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