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Thread: Gibson Pumpkin Top, advice please.

  1. #1

    Default Gibson Pumpkin Top, advice please.

    On the MC classifieds at present is a 1913 Gibson Pumpkin Top for $1,300. I have been told that this instrument has no cracks, they think it is original and is in excellent shape, for it's age. Is the asking price resonable? It is on consignment and seller is firm. How much trouble could I potentially get into with an instrument 102 yrs old........? Am I going to be able to play the heck out of it without being concerned about fragility? This would be my first mandolin that I would own, although I'm very familiar with playing one. Would like to hear from those that have and play these. Thanks Janice

  2. #2
    Registered User
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    Sep 2007
    Austin, Texas

    Default Re: Gibson Pumpkin Top, advice please.

    I got a teens Gibson Pumpkin Top more than twenty years ago. Played the heck out of it and there were no issues of fragility. All original tuners always stayed in tune. And it has the sweetest tone - just not quite as loud as my more modern Gibson FG. And if it doesn't have any top sinkage, I really can't think of anything to warn you about. I may get new frets some day and yours could have a lot of fret wear, too. But I have also put new frets in my Gibson FG that isn't even twenty years old and it is not a real expensive job.

    Someone else could better tell you about price. I think it sounds reasonable. I paid $900.00 for mine a little more than twenty years ago, but I haven't seen any near that price unless it comes with issues.
    Bobby Bill

  3. #3

    Default Re: Gibson Pumpkin Top, advice please.

    Thank you Bobby, I did ask about the sinkage and there is none. Just wanted to hear from others with these mandolins, sounds like they were made to stand the test of time, and if looked after are still a good workhorse, and not as fragile as you would imagine a century old instrument to be.

  4. #4
    bon vivant jaycat's Avatar
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    May 2010
    Boston, Mass.

    Default Re: Gibson Pumpkin Top, advice please.

    $1300 may be a bit on the high side; however you are getting it from a dealer with a (limited) return policy and a reputation to uphold. Those things are worth some extra money.

    I got my 1915 A for $600 three years ago; however I have probably put $300 into it and it still gets cranky in the winter when the air is dry, no matter how much I humidify it. The top has sunk to a certain extent and I get some fret buzz despite replacing the original non-adjustable bridge. I love the tone but really, it wasn't the bargain I thought I was getting.

    Don't know if that helps or not; just another guy's 2 cents worth . . .
    "The paths of experimentation twist and turn through mountains of miscalculations, and often lose themselves in error and darkness!"
    --Leslie Daniel, "The Brain That Wouldn't Die."

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  5. #5
    Runnin' Free Theo W.'s Avatar
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    Apr 2011
    Western Slope of Colorado

    Default Re: Gibson Pumpkin Top, advice please.

    They definitely stand the test of time. There are problems with some of them and you do run into things like neck resets, refrets, grimy tuners, cracks, etc. Many of these things can be fixed fairly easily. And they are NOT fragile. I wouldn't worry too much if the seller says that it is pristine. Remember there is always the possibility of having something catastrophically wrong with any instrument, new or old. I think that the old Gibsons are probably stronger than most plywood models today though... Have at it!
    Theo Wecker

    Currently waxing poetic about:
    2008 Weber Buffalo
    2016 Martin D-18

  6. #6
    Registered User Dave Hicks's Avatar
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    Dec 2002
    Northeastern Indiana

    Default Re: Gibson Pumpkin Top, advice please.

    I've got a '16, which I've owned for about a year and a half. It's held up well (although my ownership is less than 2% of its age). I've avoided putting heavy strings on it.


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  7. #7
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Rochester NY 14610

    Default Re: Gibson Pumpkin Top, advice please.

    "Pumpkin Top." of course, was not a Gibson model. Most likely an A or A-1, though could be another A-model; a pic would help pin the exact model down. The "natural" top finish, tending to turn more orange as years pass, leads to the "pumpkin" nomenclature.

    If it's lasted a century, probably good for a few years more. Check the top for sinkage, and the neck for straightness (or at least acceptable level of "relief"). Pre-1920 definitely means no truss rod, so neck warpage can only be corrected by some fairly hefty repairs. Tuners also should be checked for operability. "No cracks" sounds good, but should also be inspected closely. "Original" generally refers to those components that are detachable: tuners, bridge, tailpiece. Does it have a pick guard? These often are taken off or lost.

    At the asking price you'd hope to get an instrument that hasn't been refinished or extensively repaired, and that has a hardshell case, either the original or a newer replacement. One can still find "paddle head" (another nickname for older Gibson A-models, based on headstock profile) Gibson A-models for less than $1K, so at $1.3K it's no bargain. However, it it's in VG-Ex condition, no repairs or refinish, no top sinkage, etc., you're not getting taken.
    Allen Hopkins
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  8. #8
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Nov 2003
    Richmond, Virginia

    Default Re: Gibson Pumpkin Top, advice please.

    I don't see a problem if it's structurally sound, without neck warpage, seams glued tight and all original hardware/case.

    From the drivability standpoint, they are great mandolins! I've owned my 1920 A3 paddle-head for just under 30 years. Sure, I've done work on it. But it's become a story in my life too. I play it very often.

    ˇpapá gordo ain’t no madre flaca!

    '20 A3, '30 L-1, '97 914, 2012 Cohen A5, 2012 Muth A5, '14 OM28A

  9. #9
    Registered User
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    Dec 2002
    Nashville, TN

    Default Re: Gibson Pumpkin Top, advice please.

    I've had a couple of these. One, a battered and much-repaired 1915 A, is one of my main instruments.

    It looks to have no repaired damage. I would not be worried about it being fragile. I also think it is priced a bit high, but consignments often are.

    Something to remember is that stores usually grade an instrument on its cosmetic condition (and in this case, original condition), above playability or tone. What is more important by far is its playability, and what work might be needed for it to have really good playability, and the sound. At this price, it really should need no significant attention, and sound good.

    The key is to go over the potential, worrisome problems one often finds in an older mandolin, and ask, ask detailed questions. The key issues I want to look at are neck (ie, FB) relief, or more completely, the evenness of the FB plane down its whole length, through the body joint and FB extension, fretwear, and top arch. If these are good, you can achieve nice playability. Since this has the original machines, you can expect tuning to be a little touchy. You may be better off with a set of replacement tuners, and possibly a replacement bridge. Don't simply accept a description of "great setup" and "great shape"; that should be backed up with detailed photos of the neck, fingerboard, frets, and measurements (!) of action, relief, bridge height, top arch, etc., enough to feel confident that it plays comfortably and needs nothing.
    Jeff Rohrbough
    "Listen louder, play softer"

  10. #10

    Default Re: Gibson Pumpkin Top, advice please.

    I thank you all for your input, I am learning so much from these forums, what a great community. Janice

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