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Thread: Help identifying bowlback mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Help identifying bowlback mandolin

    Last weekend, I bought this awesome bowlback mandolin ($25). I'm trying to gauge whether it is worth refurbishing to make it playable. I know nothing about it.

    The yard sale seller told me that she thought it was an antique Lion bowlback--I have no idea if this is accurate. I see no markings on it or inside the bowl. In fact, the only marking I can see is the metal tail piece on the bottom. It reads "PAT APPLD."

    The mandolin is structurally solid. It is roughly 24" long, and I count 11 ribs making up the bulk of the bowlback (in addition to a larger piece that runs around the perimeter of the bowlback). There are cracks in the fretboard and one of the tuner knob gears is missing. At minimum, it needs cleaning, restringing, and maybe a new fret board.

    Is the mandolin valuable enough to put money into it to refurbish and try to make playable? Or is it a better conversation piece as is? Any input would be greatly appreciated.
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Help identifying bowlback mandolin

    Your seller probably meant Lyon & Healy. Whether it is it or not I can't say, hopefully other folks will chime in soon. Certainly a US-made (probably Chicago) instrument, a fairly simple model. It doesn't cost a great deal, so not worth putting money into. But it actually doesn't look too bad on the photos and you can probably get away with just cleaning, adjusting the bridge heigth, changing missing fret, oiling the tuners and re-stringing with light strings. I wouldn't bother even filling the fretboard cracks (but you can mix some PVA glue with ebony dust and do that if you like, letting it dry and sanding afterwards). It might well be playable just like that.

  3. #3
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help identifying bowlback mandolin

    Victor, there actually were "Lion Brand" mandolins in the US from that era.

    I don't think they were made by L+H, though anything is possible. I tend to associate the "Bluto's Beard" scratchplate with the Atlantic Rim makers--maybe Oscar Schmidt.

    Hopefully Twonhoff can get an image of the label on this one.

    Mick
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help identifying bowlback mandolin

    You have an entry level mandolin from the early 1900's, possibly made by Lyon & Healy in Chicago (as they made a ton of them). There were other manufacturers as well as Mick has pointed out. They regularly fail to sell on eBay weekly but if you're interested in it put some light gauge mandolin strings on it and tune it up. I would have bought it for $25.00. It's not worth a whole lot of money.

    The only way to possibly ID the maker barring a label inside would be to find a catalog page. Somebody might actually be able to do that.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Help identifying bowlback mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post

    Hopefully Twonhoff can get an image of the label on this one.
    Thanks for the response. There are no labels on the inside of the bowl, so no luck there. Again, thanks for the response.

  6. #6
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help identifying bowlback mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    You have an entry level mandolin from the early 1900's, possibly made by Lyon & Healy in Chicago (as they made a ton of them)....
    The scalloped headstock certainly does look those used on various Lyon and Healy mandolins.

    Mick
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help identifying bowlback mandolin

    I go to the wrong garage sales
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Help identifying bowlback mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    I go to the wrong garage sales
    Same with me, Mike! A few years ago one of my regular Saturday morning yard sale "competitors" greeted me at 7am at one of the bigger sales. As we were leaving, I said "which way are you going?" He says, "this way!" I said, "OK, I'll go the opposite direction." A couple hours later we met up at another sale and I asked if he found anything......"yep, the very next sale after I saw you I bought a 60's Fender Mustang guitar and case!" I politely said, "that's great!" as I had mostly been seeing baby clothes at "my" sales. (needless to say, I don't collect baby clothes............)

  9. #9
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help identifying bowlback mandolin

    That one looks like a Bruno from the "Bluto" scratchplate. Prob made by L&H for them. Bruno was a NY distributor.
    Jim

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  10. #10
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help identifying bowlback mandolin

    Jim, I figured you'd have a page for us.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  11. #11
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help identifying bowlback mandolin

    twonhoff, what you have there doesn't have much monetary value, so if you were considering investment in terms of monetary return, that would be a bad deal, as others have suggested. (These guys know more about them than I do). Also, I understand that one of the tuners is missing a cog, so there would be more to do than others have suggested to get it playable.

    All that said, if it were mine, I'd fix it up a bit and play it. I've done that with a bowlback - the first mandolin I ever owned - and I loved fixing it up and playing it. They're way cool. It's hard to tell from the pictures, but the action seems to be good on that one. So if you fix it up I think you'd have a worthy player. I'd fix it for a player, but not for re-sell.

    Others might advise to hang it on the wall and save your money for one that doesn't need the work.
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