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Thread: Can you help me ID this mandolin?

  1. #1
    Orso grasso FatBear's Avatar
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    Default Can you help me ID this mandolin?

    This mandolin has come available "near" me. It is within driving distance, but farther than I'd like to drive without knowing more about it first. The seller inherited it and knows nothing about it or about mandolins or even, apparently, what a fret is.

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    What she's said about it so far:

    "Vintage mandolin, showing some wear but in good condition with a case. $1200 "
    and
    "I was told it is a style A, the label is worn so I can't see the whole number... the instrument is in great shape except for the finish"

    I have read the Gibson ID pages on this site and looked at a lot of photos on the Mandolin Archive site and cannot quite figure it out. The tailpiece doesn't look like an original Gibson tailpiece to me. I'm a player, not a collector, so I don't care, but I assume that affects its market value. The headstock says "Gibson" not "the Gibson". I can't tell from the photo if it is stamped on or inlaid and she hasn't answered that question yet. I only saw one instrument with that logo on it and I think it was a 1928, but the binding was different. I sorta guess that it is a 1928 or later A2.

    I'm interested in what others think it might be and what is a reasonable price for it. Armed with better info, I might trek down and give it a try.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Registered User colorado_al's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you help me ID this mandolin?

    I'm sure that people here more familiar with these will have a good idea.
    I'd ask if there are any numbers or letters stamped on the back of the headstock, or marked inside the sound hole
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    I may be old but I'm ugly billhay4's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you help me ID this mandolin?

    Bridge looks non-original too. Both are very easy fixes. I second the idea of asking for more information. Especially the FON.
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    Orso grasso FatBear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you help me ID this mandolin?

    I've asked about the FON. I'm not a collector, so originality of the bridge and tailpiece are of secondary importance to me except as they affect the value. If the bridge works well, I'll probably keep it. If I replace the tailpiece, I may replace it with an Allen cast one.

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you help me ID this mandolin?

    Late '20s or early '30s logo. The pickguard support could be original; the rest of the hardware isn't (tailpiece, bridge, tuners, pickguard).

    FON can help with the dating. The price seems a little dear given all the mods, especially if the case is not of the same vintage as the mandolin. You'd need to make your decision based on how it plays and sounds, but you'd be more than justified in offering a couple hundred less than the asking price.
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    Teacher, luthier
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    Default Re: Can you help me ID this mandolin?

    I've seen others like it. I would call it an A or an A-1 depending on whether or not the back is bound. The bridge may or may not be original-- Gibson did use that style bridge on some instruments from the 40's and perhaps earlier. I have a 40's A-50 in the shop right now with a similar bridge. The logo is definitely 30's style. The tailpiece and pickguard have been changed. I'll reserve judgement on the tuners unless you can furnish a picture. Is there loose binding on the back??

    The only sure way to date it is by serial number or factory order number. Gibson was known to update logos and finishes on mandolins that came back to the factory for repairs in the 30's. But from what I can see, I would suggest that the mandolin was made in the 30's.

    Here is a picture of a late 20's Style A in original condition. You will notice, among other things, that the logo is different.
    http://www.guitarandbanjo.com/invent...-mandolins/a-2
    It has been there for a long time, probably because of the price.

    $1200 would not be unreasonable if there are no cracks, the finish is clean, original, and unworn, and it doesn't need any repairs. Can't judge that from the one picture you've furnished, either.
    Last edited by rcc56; Nov-29-2017 at 6:23pm.

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    Orso grasso FatBear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you help me ID this mandolin?

    That's the only picture I've got.
    The seller is at work right now, but will look for the numbers when she gets home. I'll let y'all know what she finds.

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    Orso grasso FatBear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you help me ID this mandolin?

    I got the following additional information from the seller:

    "I found a number stamped on the inside on the neck, its 8509. I also found a crack inside on the lower side,it has been patched and seems tight."

    I'm guessing the "lower side" means the back.

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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you help me ID this mandolin?

    Somebody has a 1920 A3 (white face) like mine for $1,350. $1,200 sounds high for a paddle head '28.

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    Fatally Flawed willkamm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you help me ID this mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by FatBear View Post
    I got the following additional information from the seller:

    "I found a number stamped on the inside on the neck, its 8509. I also found a crack inside on the lower side,it has been patched and seems tight."

    I'm guessing the "lower side" means the back.
    Not specifically listed in Spann, but the way the FON numbers run it is from 1926.
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    Orso grasso FatBear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you help me ID this mandolin?

    I was reading about FONs and logos and such. I came across some info about Gibson. Apparently they over-produced in the early 1920s and then there was a corporate shakeup in 1924. (Or 1925? It's already fading from my aging brain.) Then it took them quite a few years to work through their inventory of parts and partially built instruments. I also found a claim that they changed the logo in 1933, but mrmando says late 20s/early 30s. I suspect he is probably right because of all the chaos they went through during those years. I'm sort of coming to the conclusion that someone ordered this instrument in the late 20s or early 30s and that they took an earlier body and added a later neck to complete it.

    Are there any more opinions as to its value? I'm not a collector, just a player. And not a wealthy one, either. I don't want to overpay, but I'm willing to pay a fair price if I like how it sounds.

    Thanks.

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you help me ID this mandolin?

    There are known examples of instruments with build date (FON) and ship date (SN) being off by a few years. Demand for mandolins lagged in the latter '20s, and evidently some mandolins sat around the shop for a couple of years before being completed and shipped out.

    That would probably be the case with this instrument. We know that logo isn't from 1926; I don't believe it was in use until 1929 at the earliest.

    So apparently paddlehead production had resumed by 1926? There are snakeheads that were shipped as late as 1928.
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    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you help me ID this mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by willkamm View Post
    Not specifically listed in Spann, but the way the FON numbers run it is from 1926.
    1926? If I'm not mistaken, they didn't start using that logo until the '30s. And, the top of the headstock shape doesn't look like '20s to me. Perhaps the neck was replaced.
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you help me ID this mandolin?

    The problem with the neck replacement theory is that replacing a neck typically means also replacing the block, and the new block typically doesn't have a FON. Presence of a FON tells us we're looking at an original block, so if the neck was replaced it would have to be grafted. We can't tell from this one photo whether it has a grafted neck.

    Headstock shape might raise the arcane question of how much carving was done before a neck got a FON stamp. Say a batch of neck blanks are stamped in 1926, but the carving on their headstocks isn't done till later in the process ... so by the time this one's ready for carving, the shop is using a new template.

    A FON of 850 would indicate a 1933 build, if the seller is seeing a 9 that isn't really there. But I'm getting rather into the weeds with that speculation.
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    Default Re: Can you help me ID this mandolin?

    Why would a neck replacement require replacement of the neck block? Pre-war Gibson mandolins were assembled with a dovetail joint. Replacement of the neck block would require removal of the back or the top, which would be difficult and unnecessary labor.

    I can't speak for the construction methods used in the modern era, though. I have heard that Gibson has done some very strange things, especially in the Norlin and current eras.
    Last edited by rcc56; Dec-01-2017 at 1:03am.

  16. #16
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you help me ID this mandolin?

    I suppose it all depends on the nature of the damage to the original neck, doesn't it? But yeah, I misspoke ... naturally there's some number of replacement jobs that can reuse the original dovetail and leave the block intact. I'm inferring too much from a small sample, I guess.

    Regarding the logo, here's a mandolin with that logo purporting to be from 1928 ... but this is Craigslist, so that doesn't necessarily mean a whole lot. https://nashville.craigslist.org/msg...407564535.html
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