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Thread: Looking for a good mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Looking for a good mandolin

    I'm looking for a good mandolin. I have been looking on eBay and haven't found anything that really catches my eye. I am looking for an f type and my max price is about $600. If anyone knows of a good one on eBay or another website please tell me. Also, what are some brands that you would recommend?

  2. #2
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a good mandolin

    Have you checked Cafe classifieds? You can also put in a "wanted" ad there.

    Here's a Kentucky in your price range that would be quite a bargain, IMHO. And the Mandolin Store is a well-regarded dealer.
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    Default Re: Looking for a good mandolin

    Thank you I have not heard of the cafe classified.I have not been here for long

  4. #4

    Default Re: Looking for a good mandolin

    The is am very nice Kentucky, I will look into it

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    Default Re: Looking for a good mandolin

    Brands to look at would be Kentucky and Eastman are the most often mentioned here...but if you venture away from the mainstream you might find nice one's from smaller builders too...
    * the classifieds here, you have to act fast if it is a really good deal.
    * have you looked on Reverb.com? So much better than ebay in my opinion....that is where I found my recent mandolin and it was a good experience.
    * I haven't bought from them (yet) but The Mandolin Store and Fiddlers Green both have nice used mandos in all price ranges.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a good mandolin

    This is becoming a real cliché, but I suppose someone has to say it. In your price range you would go up a few notches in quality, etc. if you bought an A-model. The sound can be the same from either styke but you are paying essentially for cosmetics in an F. Then again if you have your heart set on it, go for it.
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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a good mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandolinseeker View Post
    I'm looking for a good mandolin. I have been looking on eBay and haven't found anything that really catches my eye. I am looking for an f type and my max price is about $600. If anyone knows of a good one on eBay or another website please tell me. Also, what are some brands that you would recommend?
    I'm going to go out on a limb, based upon the wording and the price range, and guess that this ad in the classifieds was posted by you:

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/120814#120814

    "I'm looking for a good vintage mandolin that is an f type. My max price is $600. If you know of any or have one that you will sell please let me know by either responding to this or private messaging me. If possible I would like to have a case come with it. My preferred brands are Gibson, Eastman, and Washburn but you can still let me know if you have a different brand for sale. I just had someone tell me that the new Eastman's and Washburn's are made in Asia and China, so I would like to add that I only want the old ones from the US. Thank you!"

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you are looking for the proverbial white whale. You will have a hard time finding a good "Chinese" f type mandolin for $600. Ones from the U.S. will be considerably more, especially vintage. As far as I know, Washburn once built mandolins in the U.S. but not f-styles, Eastmen have always been manufactured overseas, and used Gibson f-styles bottom out for prices that are over three times your stated budget.

    You might be familiar with the old saw about meat and the qualities of cheap, fast, and tender. A chef will tell you that you can have any two of those characteristics. In other words, meat that is cheap and fast won't be tender; meat that is cheap and tender won't be fast; and meat that is fast and tender won't be cheap. I've often felt that there could be an analogous list for mandolins with the descriptors American, carved (particularly f-style), and cheap. A picker will tell you that you can have any two of those characteristics. A cheap carved mandolin won't be American, a cheap American mandolin won't be carved, and a carved American mandolin will not be cheap.
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    Default Re: Looking for a good mandolin

    Patrick, you beat me to it!

    Not quite like a white whale, because once in a blue moon there is such a thing. The under 600 dollar F style mandolin? A better analogy might be Bigfoot.

    The only made in USA mandolin that I can think of that might come close to that budget would be a used American Breedlove. It would be an A style of course, not an F.

    Wonder where he ever got the idea that Eastman used to be made in USA? They have always been made in China. They didn’t even go through the Japan to Korea to China phases like Kentucky did. China, period.

    Your best bet my friend, in my opinion, is to get over the made in USA thing and try to find a nice used Eastman 315. Lots of bang for the buck.
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    Fatally Flawed willkamm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a good mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandolinseeker View Post
    The is am very nice Kentucky, I will look into it
    You can buy that right trough Dennis Vance at the Mandolin Store in Surprise, AZ. You can go right through their website. You will get better support then you will likely get through anyone at EBay. And that is a great price also.
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    Default Re: Looking for a good mandolin

    I agree that Dennis is the guy to call. I love my Eastman mandolins.
    Because mine has eight, does that make it twice as cool as a ukulele?

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a good mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    "...I just had someone tell me that the new Eastman's and Washburn's are made in Asia and China, so I would like to add that I only want the old ones from the US..."
    Great advice in pheffernan's post. I'll only add that there are no "old Eastmans from the US"; Eastman instruments have always been made in China. Washburns haven't been made in America for what -- 75 years? The brand name, formerly owned by the US firm Lyon & Healy, was scooped up by a US firm and assigned, similarly, to Chinese-made imported instruments.

    You could find an old US-made Washburn flat-back from the 1920's or '30's, but unless you're comfortable dealing with older vintage instruments, that may be available on the "collectors' market" and/or require a fair amount of restoration, you'd be far ahead looking at a used, decent-grade Asian-made instrument.

    If your objection to buying an Asian import is that you think the quality is inferior, that stopped being true decades ago, as far as the more respected brands are concerned. If your objection is based on a "buy American" preference, I can accept that, but you'll have to do a lot of research to find one that meets your price and design criteria.

    I'd also like to echo Jim G's advice, that an entry-level A-model is likely to be ahead of an F-model at the same price point.
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    Default Re: Looking for a good mandolin

    I recently set up and sold a used Eastman 505. I had plenty of time to evaluate the mandolin-- gave a few lessons with it, took it to a jam session, and played it around the house for several hours. I was pleasantly surprised by the instrument. It was good enough to gig with.

    These are often available used in your price range and are worth checking out. The 505 is an A model that is made of better materials and is more carefully built than the 315 F model. They are in the same price range. In other words, if you buy the F model, half of your money is going into the scroll instead of into quality construction.

    Eastmans have always been built overseas. Not many Washburns have been built in the US. I have never seen one that was. You're not likely to find an American mandolin in your price range unless you stumble upon a US made Breedlove or an old Regal or Harmony made instrument. For $500 or $600, the best instruments are going to be better quality used A models, made in [gulp] China.

    If you have your heart set on an American made F model, you'll need to save 2 or 3 thousand more.

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a good mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by multidon View Post
    The only made in USA mandolin that I can think of that might come close to that budget would be a used American Breedlove. It would be an A style of course, not an F.
    As I suggested in my previous post, a cheap American mandolin is not going to be carved. The answer, therefore, is a flattop:

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/120738#120738

    No, it certainly does not deliver the classic f-style silhouette, and it may not have its cutting power in a bluegrass jam, but it does everything else that a mandolinseeker is seeking in an American-made mandolin within budget. Pancakes make excellent starter instruments and then can happily shift into the role of backup, alternate voice, or travel mandolin when the budget expands for a later f-style purchase.
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    Eternal Beginner Seamus B's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a good mandolin

    You may change your mind about f-style mandolins and decide to get more 'bang for your buck' by going for an a-style. But your requirements are quite specific and you may need to alter expectations, or increase your budget.

    I'm not sure why you want a US built mandolin, but if it is to support small, local companies or luthiers then you might want to think smaller than large businesses like Gibson, Eastman, and Washburn.

    If I lived in the USA I would probably save up and buy a Big Muddy mandolin, which are made in Missouri. They are a-style oval holes mandolins, but are lovingly built and sound great. They sometimes come up second-hand for less than $600.

    If you are dedicated to getting a US built f-style mandolin for $600 or less then good luck, you will certainly need it! Ultimately it comes down to what two issues of the three are most important to you - location of build, price and style.
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    Registered User Steve VandeWater's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a good mandolin

    And Kentucky mandolins, despite the name, are Asian imports as well
    It ain't gotta be perfect, as long as it's perfect enough!

  17. #16

    Default Re: Looking for a good mandolin

    Thank you guys! I guess I really don't care where it is made as long as it is a good mandolin! Do you have any opinions on Gold Tone mandolins?

  18. #17
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a good mandolin

    I own several Gold Tone instruments, all banjo or banjo-ish -- a "banjola" which is essentially a mandola body with a five-string banjo neck. They're good quality, and decent value for the price.

    Gold Tone started out with flat-top mandolins, mandolas, octave mandolins and bouzoukis, but they've expanded their line to include some carved-top instruments. They've also licensed the Rigel design from the US, and make "clones" of these respected but somewhat idiosyncratic instruments. Their GM-55A A-style mandolin has a solid top, laminated back and sides, and a "hand-rubbed" oil finish, while their GM-35 F-model is apparently all plywood.

    I'd check out their mandolin page and see which models appeal to you. Overall, my assessment of Gold Tone instruments is a decent quality Asian-made line, with the additional interest that Gold Tone offers "niche" instruments like ukulele-banjos, mandolin-banjos, short-necked "Irish" tenor banjos, even an "octajo" octave mandolin-banjo! IMHO you could do worse.
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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a good mandolin

    This Kentucky in the classifieds looks like a deal......

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/120862#120862
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  20. #19
    FIDDLES with STRADOLINS your_diamond's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a good mandolin

    Why would you spend that much money on a good mandolin
    when you can get a GREAT Stradolin & possibly for less than $100... certainly less than $200.
    Not very much for Vintage American made http://r.ebay.com/oNE2mQ

    While I realize this is not everybody's "cup of tea" there is something special about the wood on a 50+ year old instrument... it is light and resonant... it drives like a Ferrari when many of the newer stuff drives like a truck.
    Last edited by your_diamond; Feb-16-2018 at 6:14am.
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    Default Re: Looking for a good mandolin


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    Default Re: Looking for a good mandolin

    Thanks for asking but I found a great Eastman 305 that I love!

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a good mandolin

    Love conquers all.
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  25. #23

    Default Re: Looking for a good mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    As I suggested in my previous post, a cheap American mandolin is not going to be carved. The answer, therefore, is a flattop:

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/120738#120738

    No, it certainly does not deliver the classic f-style silhouette, and it may not have its cutting power in a bluegrass jam, but it does everything else that a mandolinseeker is seeking in an American-made mandolin within budget. Pancakes make excellent starter instruments and then can happily shift into the role of backup, alternate voice, or travel mandolin when the budget expands for a later f-style purchase.
    that flatiron s a great buy, i had one of those i played for several years

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