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Thread: Any thoughts on Wm. C. Stahl Bowlback

  1. #1

    Default Any thoughts on Wm. C. Stahl Bowlback

    I saw one today. Nice original mandolin, decent condition, no cracks, great action, nice label inside soundhole. Needs cleaning and new strings, but otherwise no issues. Nothing fancy, no pearl or inlays. Along the lines of a Lyon & Healy or Regal. Has original canvas type case in poor condition. I guess what I am asking is there any desirability for a Stahl? I know it is part of the Larson Brothers, Mauer, etc., family and if it were a guitar people would get really excited, but it is a bowlback mandolin, not a guitar. I did a quick check on MC Classifieds and one person has one for $1200. I also checked on eBay, one is being offered with a starting bid of $300 and another is available for $1600. I checked the completed items and one sold for $50! I also checked Larson Brothers and saw similar prices being asked, but most of the sales that were completed went for about 1/3 to 1/2 of these prices, selling for $300-500, those were Larsons and Mauers, not Stahl., just to be clear. It was at an antique shop and the employee didn't know what the owner wanted for it, so I have to check back. I've probably answered my own question, but I would appreciate any thoughts you might have. Thanks, Jeff

  2. #2
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any thoughts on Wm. C. Stahl Bowlback

    My question is, did the Larsons make bowl-back mandolins?

    …and I answered it myself, pulling my copy of Robert Hartman's Guitars and Mandolins in America, Featuring the Larsons' Creations off the shelf, and seeing some Larson-made, Stahl-labeled bowl-backs pictured.

    However, there was a cautionary note on page 25: "…some of the mandolin family instruments, guitars, and harp guitars bearing the Stahl name were not made by the Larsons but probably by Regal."

    Huge mystique has developed around Larson-made guitars etc., but not everything labeled "Stahl" is Larson-made. Stahl was a dealer/distributor who sold instruments from several sources, e.g. banjos which weren't made by the Larsons. I'd have to be pretty certain that a given bowl-back was Larson-made before I'd go as high as some of the prices you quoted.

    "Certified" Larson brothers products command high prices, though bowl-back mandolins would be toward the lower end because of the limited market for them now. But a Stahl label's no guarantee. A Regal-made Stahl shouldn't get priced higher than any other Regal product, IMHO.
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  4. #3
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any thoughts on Wm. C. Stahl Bowlback

    Well, put, Allen. Robert Hartman's book needs to be read carefully and cautiously, I think, to help keep a lid on the rash of sketchy Larson attributions.

    I was the unintended beneficiary of such a few years back. I had a Stahl labeled bowlback, which was pretty nice all around, but I never suspected it of being a Larson. It simply didn't look like one in any respect. I sold it on Ebay as a Stahl, never even mentioning the "L Word" in the ad. Evidently somebody must have thought LarBros and the bidding took off and I think the mandolin sold for ~$450, about 3X what I expected. That was a nice windfall, but I've never second-guessed who might have made the mandolin.

    Count me as a Doubting Thomas as far as many Larson attributions go. But I do enjoy being proved wrong

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  6. #4

    Default Re: Any thoughts on Wm. C. Stahl Bowlback

    Thanks for the tips, guys! I thought maybe I had struck gold, when I saw that label, but the more I think about it, it just looked like one of many no name bowlbacks that I have seen over the years. Probably Regal made.

  7. #5

    Default Re: Any thoughts on Wm. C. Stahl Bowlback

    Even a bowl back mandolin labeled Maurer is not necessarily Larson made. Maurer was in business long before the Larson's came to work for him and they eventually ending up owning the business. There is some speculation that Maurer in the beginning imported mandolins from Italy.

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  9. #6

    Default Re: Any thoughts on Wm. C. Stahl Bowlback

    Just to follow up, I went back for a second look and did speak to the owner. He said he would take $300 for it. He also said they tried to sell it on eBay for $600 with no results. I looked it over and feel it was probably one of the Regal-made Stahls. Nothing really distinctive about it other than the label. In fact, I have a no name bowlback that looks identical, but mine has better playability. I'll pass.

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