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Thread: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

  1. #1

    Default Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    HI Folks

    just bought this A50 in the UK. The rubber stamped number 1138 is under one f hole but I can't see another number anywhere.

    It has an elevated fretboard, i.e. doesn't touch the soundboard. It has a big V neck, 3 colour sunburst and f holes as you can see.

    The tailpiece cover is replaced but the base looks original. What kind of cover should it have ? The current one touches the strings at the end and buzzes so I'll have to give it a slight bend.

    Any idea of date ? I've got the Spann book but can't figure it out.

    It plays very well with a clear open sound and plenty of volume.

    Thanks, David

    Click image for larger version. 

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  2. #2
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    Its a 1935 A-50. the only year with elevated board with F-holes, I've owned 3 of these and they are great sounding little mandolins! Are you sure the cover is a replacement? It should have the fancy cover that says the Gibson at slant with little decorations on it. Same one Gibson used from most every higher end mandolin from the teens through the 30's.

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    The cover is plain and thin & I think chrome plated. I have the Gibson engraved cover on my A4.. I'll try it for size. I don't suppose an original will ever turn up at a reasonable price though.

    I've strung it 10 to 36 and it sounds very bright and open, quite different from the A4 with the same strings. It really is very nice to play. I'll take it to a Session tonight and see how it cuts through the noise.

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    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    Looks very shiny for an 80+ year old instrument. Restored/refinished?

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    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray(T) View Post
    Looks very shiny for an 80+ year old instrument. Restored/refinished?
    Looks original to me, very clean! There is a cover on evilbay bids over 200 bucks now? They've got expensive WOW

  7. #6

    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    Hi Ray no neither of those. There are some minute cracks throughout the varnish on close inspection. The man I got it from had put it under a black light & concluded it hadn't been oversprayed or anything.

    Doesn't seem to have had a hard life. The neck and headstock are like new, some scratches on the back, a little fret wear. I've put 10 to 36 strings on it and it sounds lively.

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrasser78 View Post
    Its a 1935 A-50. the only year with elevated board with F-holes, I've owned 3 of these and they are great sounding little mandolins!
    Ever try converting one of them?
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    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    Instead of bending the cover to stop the buzz I would put some leather between the cover and the strings. This will kill the buzz and dampen the unwanted vibrations of the strings.

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    Ever try converting one of them?
    Not yet I would like to if I get another some day, on these the bridge does sit lower so It may take a 5 scale? A few I had sounded as good as an original F-7 of the period so there are the possibilities of it working out great.
    I converted an old 36 A-1 or A-50 and it turned out pretty good sounding but with the 5 scale it put the bridge up above the F-hole points.

  12. #10

    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    What kind of conversion are we talking about ?

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    Quote Originally Posted by Davey View Post
    What kind of conversion are we talking about ?
    Well on F-7's from the 30's the bridge sits about an inch closer to tailpiece instead of directly in middle of F-hole points, Ya have someone build you a new F-5 scale neck/fingerboard and whalla it moves bridge closer to the middle of F-hole points-then you have a vintage F-5 sound! You may can do the same thing with your style A-50, get a new A-5 scale maple neck made and ebony board and Bam, Ya have an even better sounding mandolin A-5ish.

    You can also have the builder take the back off and re-graduate the top and back plates from the inside to Loar mando specs. and you could have a hand cannon- not a cheap process around 3G in the states from Randy Wood. Worth it-indeed if ya want something old/great sounding to play. Unique also. Randy doesn't harm original finish on these its lacquer.

  14. #12

    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    Interesting ! As I play traditional Folk - English, Irish etc. I think the sound I currently have is pretty near perfect. It's also very light in weight so I don't think much re-graduating could be done.

    I have a 1933 Gibson L-1 Guitar (of the L-00 shape) which is also incredibly light in weight. It seems to be something they did in the early 30's. I've had a 37 L-00 and a 39 Mandolin which were heavier and stiffer but still sounded good with a different right hand technique.

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    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    Quote Originally Posted by Davey View Post
    Interesting ! As I play traditional Folk - English, Irish etc. I think the sound I currently have is pretty near perfect. It's also very light in weight so I don't think much re-graduating could be done.

    I have a 1933 Gibson L-1 Guitar (of the L-00 shape) which is also incredibly light in weight. It seems to be something they did in the early 30's. I've had a 37 L-00 and a 39 Mandolin which were heavier and stiffer but still sounded good with a different right hand technique.
    Yeh nothin wrong with the 35 A-50 as is but if you wanted to make it as powerful as an F-5 it can be done with those elevated board 35's. They have the right pedigree maple back and sides red spruce top/ and F-holes in the right position for a long neck and I think it'll look right meaning bridge not to close to extension past F-hole points. I've had 3 of em over the years, and real nice ended up swapping em for something else though. Should've kept one for a conversion but they pop up for sale every now and then. I do love any Depression era Gibson for all the different specs within the same mandolin or guitar,just a lot of different configurations.

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    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    Ya know Davey now looking at your photo of yours, it looks like your neck is needing an adjustment, looks like the extension is pretty close to the board. I had to have a neck set done to one of mine and for the price of that I should've just had a 5 scale neck made for it! what is the distance in inches from the top of the mandolin to top of the saddle?

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    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    Can't see any signs of movement around the neck joint. The distance is 5/8 inches.Click image for larger version. 

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  18. #16

    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrasser78 View Post
    Its a 1935 A-50. the only year with elevated board with F-holes, I've owned 3 of these and they are great sounding little mandolins! Are you sure the cover is a replacement? It should have the fancy cover that says the Gibson at slant with little decorations on it. Same one Gibson used from most every higher end mandolin from the teens through the 30's.

    yup, me too, I had one, just as shiny and bright, german nickel silver The Gibson script tail cover.

    they came with a bracketed plain unbound tortoise pick guard, not unlike the F 5 in that it poked into the fingerboard extension. metal bracket as I recall between the body and finger rest.

    Mine was stolen about twenty years ago by my nanny's no-good rock and roll boyfriend from Yuma, Colorado.

    A 50s are a nice mandolin. I recall the tuners being a bit sloppy, and replaced them with 1:24 harmony tuners, all that were available as an upgrade back in 1970. I recall too, perhaps because I had just started mando, my A50 was a bit difficult to play.

    pics of the back?? I believe these were birch, not maple????bluegrasser, anyone????

  19. #17

    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    This one is maple on the back although it's got a very dark varnish on it. Shame really as it looks like there's nice timber under there.

    My 1910 A4 is Birch. I always thought Birch was an inferior wood but it sounds good on the A4. Cheap Stellas used to be made of Birch.

  20. #18

    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrasser78 View Post
    Yeh nothin wrong with the 35 A-50 as is but if you wanted to make it as powerful as an F-5 it can be done with those elevated board 35's. They have the right pedigree maple back and sides red spruce top/ and F-holes in the right position for a long neck and I think it'll look right meaning bridge not to close to extension past F-hole points. I've had 3 of em over the years, and real nice ended up swapping em for something else though. Should've kept one for a conversion but they pop up for sale every now and then. I do love any Depression era Gibson for all the different specs within the same mandolin or guitar,just a lot of different configurations.
    fascinating ideas. have you ever done this? is it only the 1935 this will work well on?

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    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    Quote Originally Posted by ollaimh View Post
    fascinating ideas. have you ever done this? is it only the 1935 this will work well on?
    I bought a 36 A-50 off ebay real cheap about 10 years ago, took the back off and re-graduated it myself took down the tone bars, fixed the top cracks and back center seam separation, bought a Siminoff A-5 maple neck, ebony radiused board and had Lou Stiver put it back together, I don't know how to set a neck so had him do it and it turned out great, someone is playing it, I sold it but seen it pop up in the classifieds here a few years ago..It sounded really good but the bridge was not in the center of F-holes it was closer to the fretboard extension, maybe a inch up above the F-hole points..the 35's would be a better choice I think, I never put a 5 scale next to one though so I'm not sure if the bridge would be in the middle or not of the F-hole points?
    The 36 I did sounded real good! But would more than likely be better if the bridge was centered!

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrasser78 View Post
    It sounded really good but the bridge was not in the center of F-holes it was closer to the fretboard extension, maybe a inch up above the F-hole points..the 35's would be a better choice I think, I never put a 5 scale next to one though so I'm not sure if the bridge would be in the middle or not of the F-hole points? The 36 I did sounded real good! But would more than likely be better if the bridge was centered!
    The bridge of the Griffith Loar (and tributes to that instrument) is also somewhat forward, and no one as yet has complained about how that instrument sounds.
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    FIDDLES with STRADOLINS your_diamond's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    Quote Originally Posted by William Smith View Post
    Well on F-7's from the 30's the bridge sits about an inch closer to tailpiece instead of directly in middle of F-hole points, Ya have someone build you a new F-5 scale neck/fingerboard and whalla it moves bridge closer to the middle of F-hole points-then you have a vintage F-5 sound! You may can do the same thing with your style A-50, get a new A-5 scale maple neck made and ebony board and Bam, Ya have an even better sounding mandolin A-5ish.

    You can also have the builder take the back off and re-graduate the top and back plates from the inside to Loar mando specs. and you could have a hand cannon- not a cheap process around 3G in the states from Randy Wood. Worth it-indeed if ya want something old/great sounding to play. Unique also. Randy doesn't harm original finish on these its lacquer.
    Would it not be a lot less work and cheaper to buy a 1996 A-5G (one sold on feeBay Oct. 20,2021 for $1,900)? The 80's and 90's A-5G's have opened up and are getting rave reviews (though I have never run across one, but mandolins are fairly scarce in Florida, but that's what eBay and Mandolin Cafe Classifieds are for). I couldn't bring myself to pull apart a 1935 Gibson.

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    FIDDLES with STRADOLINS your_diamond's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    I'm torn between a modern A-9 2009 Gibson https://reverb.com/item/45845991-gibson-a-9-mandolin at $1,200 obo 14 inch scale 1 1/4 nut width, elevated fretboard
    and this https://bernunzio.com/product/gibson-50-27701/ 1933 Gibson A-50 at $1,950 with 14 inch scale (unknown nut width ...anybody???) also elevated fretboard.

    Any Help or Suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Mike

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    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    Hey Mike, If its the one at Bernunzio's with the pickguard its a HOSS! It was mine and this one is carved really well, David Harvey did the neck set, refret, pearl nut and tuners-oh and the bridge! He agreed with me that it has the stuff and is better than a bunch of 30's-40's F-5's I've played and he also said so.

    I swapped John two 33's however and the other one I never played as I thought she needed a neck set-that one is carved the same way as the other one. This one didn't have a guard. Hope that helps a bit and I don't remember the nut width but standard 30's I think so a bit wider than say Loar era's 1 1/8.

    Oh I just seen the link you gave-I have no idea on this one as I never heard her-I thought it needed some work?

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    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    I would allways go with the pre war A-50 provided it has an elevated fretboard. The Bernunzio link shows a top crack. That would "bother" me some. At least it looks oškliv (cz for ugly). Have you played it? Can you play it? That seems to be the top priority.

    I looked up the usual suspects (Fred Oster, George Gruhn, Walter Carter, Charles Johnson) but "still havent found what Im looking for". That is, Ive not seen an A-50 (elevated fretboard). I have seen A-1s, A-00s, wide body A-1s etc. at prices from 1k to about 2,5k. But they all have fretboards glued to the top (which I dont appreciate in a mandolin except certain snakehead A styles etc...). But watch out for traverse brace vs. tone bars.

    As a referrence to the OP. I do not know if that mandolin has been refinished as it looks too pristine to me.

    Oh, from your handle I see that you have a Strad-O-Lin. I do think that youve got it covered. An A-9 is no competition to a great Strad-O-Lin (like mine). Id go A-50.
    Olaf

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    FIDDLES with STRADOLINS your_diamond's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson 1930's A50 info please

    Quote Originally Posted by William Smith View Post
    Hey Mike, If its the one at Bernunzio's with the pickguard its a HOSS! It was mine and this one is carved really well, David Harvey did the neck set, refret, pearl nut and tuners-oh and the bridge! He agreed with me that it has the stuff and is better than a bunch of 30's-40's F-5's I've played and he also said so.

    I swapped John two 33's however and the other one I never played as I thought she needed a neck set-that one is carved the same way as the other one. This one didn't have a guard. Hope that helps a bit and I don't remember the nut width but standard 30's I think so a bit wider than say Loar era's 1 1/8.

    Oh I just seen the link you gave-I have no idea on this one as I never heard her-I thought it needed some work?
    Looks like your David Harvey "tuned" A-50 is gone. I should have pulled the trigger but at the top A-50 price range of $2,500... Who am I kidding, I'm a Stradolin kind of guy. For me it will be just another one that got away. For you, William, sounds like you miss that one, just a little bit.

    Quote Originally Posted by grassrootphilosopher View Post
    I would allways go with the pre war A-50 provided it has an elevated fretboard. The Bernunzio link shows a top crack. That would "bother" me some. At least it looks oškliv (cz for ugly). Have you played it? Can you play it? That seems to be the top priority.

    I looked up the usual suspects (Fred Oster, George Gruhn, Walter Carter, Charles Johnson) but "still havent found what Im looking for". That is, Ive not seen an A-50 (elevated fretboard). I have seen A-1s, A-00s, wide body A-1s etc. at prices from 1k to about 2,5k. But they all have fretboards glued to the top (which I dont appreciate in a mandolin except certain snakehead A styles etc...). But watch out for traverse brace vs. tone bars.

    As a referrence to the OP. I do not know if that mandolin has been refinished as it looks too pristine to me.

    Oh, from your handle I see that you have a Strad-O-Lin. I do think that youve got it covered. An A-9 is no competition to a great Strad-O-Lin (like mine). Id go A-50.
    A properly cleated top crack away from the sound board (upper treble bout) does not bother me. It could be touched up (I've got a guy) and/or covered by a pickguard if it really bothers you. However, I've gotten used to battle scars. You can relax when playing a road worn oldie as opposed to a mint instrument.

    So, no to the A-9... they appear scarce and pricey ($1,200 for a beat up one when they were only $1199 new in 2009).
    Yes, to another Stradolin... that was too easy
    And definitely to a elevated fretboard 1953 Gibson A-50... searching.

    Can someone please explain, "traverse brace vs. tone bars". I appreciate you guys and learn a lot.

    Aren't Stradolin's traverse braced? Pictures Please
    Last edited by your_diamond; Oct-30-2021 at 12:03pm.

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