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Thread: Identifying and pricing an old bowlback

  1. #1
    Registered User Sevelos's Avatar
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    Default Identifying and pricing an old bowlback

    This mandolin was given to a grandmother of a friend when she was young. Today she is 66 years old.
    Could you please help identifying this mandolin? Do you know how much it may be worth today and whether it is worth fixing?

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  2. #2
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identifying and pricing an old bowlback

    The slotted headstock suggests European manufacture, which I would also infer from your location; where was your friend's grandmother living when she received it? Assume there's no label inside; it's a mid-quality instrument, based on its rather plain ornamentation. I think I've seen a similar pickguard on another instrument discussed on the CafeŽ, but I can't come up with a citation.

    There are many bowl-back experts here, and one of them will probably zero in on an ID, much better than I can.
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  4. #3
    Registered User Sevelos's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identifying and pricing an old bowlback

    Thanks Allen. His grandmother was living in Israel.

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  6. #4
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identifying and pricing an old bowlback

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    ... it's a mid-quality instrument, based on its rather plain ornamentation. .
    But it seems to have a fair number of ribs, and they may be rosewood. Note the number of frets, too, with a short fingerboard extension. Top is separating along the middle seam. It would be worth fixing if you can do the work yourself or know a friend that restores instruments. Otherwise, the cost of the restoration may be as much or more than the current market value of the mandolin even though it doesn't appear to be in bad shape.

    A few of our members do excellent professional restorations on old bowlbacks.

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  8. #5
    Registered User Sevelos's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identifying and pricing an old bowlback

    Thanks David,
    Can you recommend any luthiers in Israel for this job?
    Can you approximately evaluate how much this mandolin could be worth once fixed?

  9. #6
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identifying and pricing an old bowlback

    Unfortunately very few bowlback mandolins bring more than perhaps $200.00 US when they are in excellent shape. There are some that are worth much more but they are known branded models. If someone was going to spend the money to make this a playable instrument they would be doing it as an act of love and not making the decision based on financial reasoning. It will most likely cost more to get it in good condition than it will be worth.

    By the way, are there two different mandolins in those pictures? The one picture of the bowl appears to have more staves than the other is that just an optical illusion?
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  11. #7

    Default Re: Identifying and pricing an old bowlback

    The mandolin has a German-style tailpiece of Marcelli type. The pickguard is Roman-inspired. The similar scroll pickguard type is found on Embergher, Egildo and many other Roman-inspired instruments. Good idea to put the mirror and the torch inside to see if there is any stamp on the inner side of the top. The instrument reminds a 19c Roman mandolin, but most likely it is of German origin.

    An old no-name German mandolin doesn't cost much. $200.00 is very optimistic figure, but in a current condition is likely to be less. From the other hand, if the instrument was to be a real 19C Roman mandolin, it would have costed more.

    The best mandolin luthier in Israel would be Arik Kerman, but I guess he may not be interested in this sort of repair work. If you manage to get in touch with him, let us know. There are many enthusiasts here that have questions about the mandolins of his own making. Thanks.
    Last edited by vic-victor; Nov-16-2015 at 11:46pm.

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  13. #8
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identifying and pricing an old bowlback

    These guys are right, it's not worth more than a couple hundred dollars at best.

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    mando-evangelist August Watters's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identifying and pricing an old bowlback

    No one's mentioned the zero fret yet, another clue that it could have German or other central European origins. Also the design and dimensions of the headstock and neck don't look Italian to me.

    But it's an interesting period piece, and from the photos no major structural issues are visible. Since it was/is owned and played by someone you know, to me that's all the more reason to have it restored. I hate to see decisions about whether to restore old instruments driven too much by depressed market values.

    But maybe I'm just sentimental.

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  16. #10
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identifying and pricing an old bowlback

    I agree it's German, using (somewhat half-heartedly) certain Embergher-like Roman design features. The zero fret itself is not a giveaway -- Emberghers also have a zero fret -- but the flat wide nut and fretboard (as opposed to Embergher's ultra-narrow radiussed ones), the Marcelli tailpiece, the headstock shape and the lack of recurve at the neck joint all point towards this not being a genuine Roman instrument. That doesn't mean it's not nice when properly restored and set up, as some of these German mandolins were very pleasant.

    I also agree with August that the decision whether to restore should be driven by the musical and personal value you place on the instrument and should not be unduly influenced by market values, regrettably low though they are.

    Martin

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  18. #11
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identifying and pricing an old bowlback

    I'm with Martin and August, the musical value is far above the financial value, and I too would restore the instrument.

  19. #12
    Registered User Sevelos's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identifying and pricing an old bowlback

    Thanks everybody

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  21. #13
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identifying and pricing an old bowlback

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Jonas View Post
    I agree it's German, using (somewhat half-heartedly) certain Embergher-like Roman design features. The zero fret itself is not a giveaway -- Emberghers also have a zero fret -- but the flat wide nut and fretboard (as opposed to Embergher's ultra-narrow radiussed ones), the Marcelli tailpiece, the headstock shape and the lack of recurve at the neck joint all point towards this not being a genuine Roman instrument. That doesn't mean it's not nice when properly restored and set up, as some of these German mandolins were very pleasant. Martin
    That recurve that Martin references is my favorite detail in the Embergher models. Looks equally as lovely from the back side as well. Sometimes the recurve gets a little lost, but the elegant taper to the neck (as with Martin bowlbacks) is typically there.

    BTW, I had a German / Markneukirchen "Roman-y" style mandolin for a while and it was a fairly nice mandolin, in my view. I sold it for >$400, but it was in essentially perfect shape. Kind of regret it some days.

    Mick
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  23. #14
    Mandolin Botherer Shelagh Moore's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identifying and pricing an old bowlback

    It might be worth contacting Gideon Weigert in Galilee. If he does not do this type of work himself he may know someone.

  24. #15

    Default Re: Identifying and pricing an old bowlback

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    Greetings. I am new here, as of this afternoon, and do not know whether I may add my images and questions to this thread or whether I should start a new one - but my images and questions are similar to those posted here.

    NOTE: A staff member just sent me the link to a tutorial. Since I have already gotten this far within your thread, I will try to post it, but may need to start all over now that I have read the tutorial!

    I am thinking of selling an old bowl-back (here in Texas, I never knew any term but "tater-bug") mandolin. So far, I have not found identification of the maker. There is some damage, and a dealer in our area who looked at my photographs told me that the lyre is not original. There is German printed text - on a layer of paper exposed because a portion of the inlay below the sound hole was lost at some point before I owned the instrument. I don't have a dentist's mirror or small light to search for a maker's imprint or label inside.

    What do you think I should ask for this instrument, including the case?

    A relative is evidenetly interested and wants to know what price I would charge. I will also post it on Reverb, meanwhile. My husband thinks I should estimate $40 for shipping and insurance, and should use UPS.

    I would welcome assessments and advice from any of you.

    Thanks very much!
    Juliet

  25. #16

    Default Re: Identifying and pricing an old bowlback

    Postscript: I see a typo in need of correction in what I just posted: evidently.

    There is also a redundant photograph - two of the headstock's front side. Here I will attach a photo of the back of the headstock.

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    Do you all think I should follow the tutorial steps and create a new thread, rather than take part in this one?



    Thanks -
    JulietClick image for larger version. 

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  26. #17

    Default Re: Identifying and pricing an old bowlback

    One more image of my mandolin - forgot to show the closeup of the lyre.

    JulietClick image for larger version. 

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  27. #18

    Default Re: Identifying and pricing an old bowlback

    Hi Juliet. You have an American-made instrument of a rather modest model. I am not an expert in US-made bowlbacks, someone with more experience will probably add more info soon. I do not think it cost very much. In fact, the case is probably worth more than the instrument itself.

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  29. #19
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    Default Re: Identifying and pricing an old bowlback

    I agree regarding valuation.

    I don't know what gauge strings are on the instrument, but if they're heavier than these:http://www.juststrings.com/ghs-a240.html they will probably complete the destruction of the mandolin. I'd invest six dollars into new strings before selling, myself.

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