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Thread: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

  1. #1

    Default Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    There's something of an oddball mandolin listing at Fretted Instrument Workshop in Amherst, Mass, for a new Gibson A5-L.

    Since Gibson doesn't make A5-Ls any more, I emailed the shop to ask for more information and was told that the mandolin is new old stock, sold to them in 2002 by Gibson. Never sold, mint, warranty papers and factory warranty would go to buyer, as they would be first owner.

    Pretty odd for a mandolin to sit around for 15 years. One could be excused for wondering what's wrong with it, but Tony, who replied to my email, says it has no issues. He is a man of few words, though, and didn't elaborate at all. Either they stuck to a crazy price way over market all these years or — something. But what?

    I wouldn't be surprised if it was on first blush kind of middling sounding and playing. My A5-L, when new from the factory in 1990, was only okay. It took a while to get it set up, and a long time for it to open up. But it wasn't lousy, by any stretch. And now it's a great mandolin that surprises me every day with how good it sounds and how well it plays. It's been speednecked and re-profiled by Bruce Weber (best thing ever), is on its third set of tuners (Rubners now), wide frets, an old Gibson pineapple tailpiece and looks anything but fresh, but it's a terrific mandolin. Some folks have a low opinion of Gibson A5-Ls, but there are a lot out there and they rarely come up for sale, which says something about how the fleet has aged.

    Has anyone checked out the new/old A5-L at FIW or have any thoughts on it?

  2. #2
    Registered User fscotte's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    No, but my '99 A5L was not very impressive when new. It was not one of those IG (instant gratification) mandos that everyone builds nowadays. It took about 3 years for the high end to start to pop and the low end to growl. Today, it is without a doubt the finest mando I've played, including Nuggets and Gilchrists. I had opportunity to play my A5L side by side to a very fine early 90's Givens, and mine won hands down.

    I suspect this particular mando may suffer the same newborn symptoms as mine did.

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    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    I have played an A modal for years, but just recently have they really come to be respected. At the price of a Gibson A in 2000 you could have bought a very decent F with another name but a F. That mentally is still around but not as prevalent. I have a friend that several years ago bought a great sounding RB 100 at a music store "new" but in the store for almost 20 years. The store dealt more with school band instrument, and for some reason had the banjo in the back taking up space. My friend was told that it hadn't sold because there wasn't a market for a Gibson without a mastertone tone ring, so they had held on to it for 20 years. Go figure. I suspect something along those lines in this case.

  4. #4
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    If they were an authorized dealer back then and if they still are I think that mandolin would still be under warranty to the buyer. Interesting concept.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    Quote Originally Posted by fscotte View Post
    No, but my '99 A5L was not very impressive when new. It was not one of those IG (instant gratification) mandos that everyone builds nowadays. It took about 3 years for the high end to start to pop and the low end to growl. Today, it is without a doubt the finest mando I've played, including Nuggets and Gilchrists. I had opportunity to play my A5L side by side to a very fine early 90's Givens, and mine won hands down.

    I suspect this particular mando may suffer the same newborn symptoms as mine did.
    Interesting... same here. I'm almost starting to think I'm delusional about how good mine is, but our experiences are the same. It's amazing the difference between what the mando was when new and what it's like now.

    By the way — what strings do you like for it?
    Last edited by Brian B; Sep-24-2017 at 9:13pm. Reason: Added question

  7. #6

    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    My 1993 A5L is great! I had Steve Smith put on a new bridge as well as do a little fret work last year. Right now it's my secondary mandolin, but I very much doubt I will ever part with it.

    For strings on it, I perfer GHS Silk and Bronze, though the EXP74CMs sounded pretty good too after they had time to wear in.

  8. #7
    Registered User fscotte's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    Seriously, mine just sounds good no matter what strings are on it. Right now I like Straight Up strings for their ease of playing.

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    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    Ever since they first came out, the A5L is one of my most favorite mandolins,the Gibson mandolin guide by Paul Fox lists the last year of the A5L as 2012,someone else told me 2006,personally,I haven't seen one past 2005,,this one probaby won't sell even though that was the price of a new one at the time,,you can get an excellent used one for half the price. I have a 1992, signed by Steve Carlson,it's awesome in every way,light,loud,very well made.even though it's my spare,I'd put it up against anything,,these mandolins are severely underated and are a great deal...

  10. #9
    Registered User fscotte's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    Ya, I'd say "back then" there was less choices. Now you got all kinds of choices for less, which offer immediate smiles to the player. It's a hard sell when one mandolin offers future awesomeness versus immediate goodness. There's never a guarantee the A5L there will be awesome.

    Assuming of course, it isn't already awesome, but I'd gander it isn't up to snuff yet.

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    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    I play a 1989 Carlson A-5L that I bought on faith a year ago. It was, and is, as new. It has come a LONG way in a year, and I have had several pickers who know what they are talking about hear it from stage and say "don't get rid of that one". Of course, I won't. To my eye, the A-5L is the finest looking mandolin ever made, and I like the sound of mine. You can't beat them for +- 2.5 k anywhere.

    Roscoe Morgan
    1/2/89 Gibson A5-L

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    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    Can't comment on this specific mandolin, but I bought a Taylor 714 guitar in 2010 or 2011 from Harry and Jeannie West's store in Statesville, NC, that dates to 1996. The salesman indicated it was the "last Taylor left from that contract." I picked it out of a wall of Martins and a really nice Yairi, with my wife doing some blind testing for me. I suspect it sat for so long because it's not a "bluegrass box," and that's a "bluegrass store," but its what I was after at the time. It's a very good finger picker, but doesn't muddy up if strummed aggressively like a lot of cedar topped guitars can do. It tends to be my "go to" if I ever need to play with our youth band, where I usually play mando or bass. Sometimes these things just need to find the right player.
    Chuck

  13. #12

    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    "Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years"

    Considering what they're asking for it, it's likely to remain unsold for 15 more...

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    bon vivant jaycat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    Amherst is 93 miles from Boston. ... Not exactly "in the Boston area." ... Just sayin'...
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    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    Quote Originally Posted by J.Albert View Post
    "Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years"

    Considering what they're asking for it, it's likely to remain unsold for 15 more...
    It's still there, two years after you wrote that.

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    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    Just checked... still there!
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    Brentrup Evangelist Larry S Sherman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    I’ve played that one.

    Larry

  19. #17

    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    They seem to be asking $4350 for a new, unsold 17 year old Gibson and it is not getting any interest...........

    What do you think a fair price should be?

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    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    They seem to be asking $4350 for a new, unsold 17 year old Gibson and it is not getting any interest...........
    What do you think a fair price should be?
    Probably half that. This may be part of the reason brick and mortar stores are having problems staying in business. Whatever money they have tied up in that mandolin has cost them 2or3 times in cash flow, theyncould have taken $1200 or $1500 off 17 years ago and had use of that money to make more money. An Internet buisness goes for low % profit and high volume which keeps cash flow in their favor.

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    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    Probably half that. This may be part of the reason brick and mortar stores are having problems staying in business. Whatever money they have tied up in that mandolin has cost them 2or3 times in cash flow, theyncould have taken $1200 or $1500 off 17 years ago and had use of that money to make more money. An Internet buisness goes for low % profit and high volume which keeps cash flow in their favor.
    This store is not an Internet business. None of the high end music stores are. They are not looking to do high volume sales. They build up a list of loyal clients, try and keep interesting stock around for the right buyers, etc. It is not a business model based on working capital. If you try and run it that way, you end up being known as the guy who “discounts” and builders and small shop manufacturers shun you. This is why a lot of builders no longer allow discounting, and some have reduced dealer margins to REALLY discourage it. Most premium brands/builders no longer allow rabid discounting.

    As for this shop, they always have older stock. I bought a “new” National guitar in there years back that was at least 5 years old. He wouldn’t budge on the price. I suspect he’s his own landlord, so he makes his money off the other tenants in the building.
    Good Advice: Play before you pay, and know your product and your market.

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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    One day, someone will come in and make him the right price at the right time.
    This thing is, “askin” ain’t sellin’!” If a seller can afford to wait, that’s entirely up to them. I say, sell it when the right time comes along, don’t cave unless you need the money.
    Only the seller can decide what his margin is. No matter what “we” think or say.
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    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    Sorry, but it is not "new" anymore either. That's many years of shop play. I'm guessing it's had many string changes and I bet there is even a touch of fret wear.

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    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    Hello -
    I live very close to that shop and have seen the mandolin in question. I have never played it. Based on the price of most other mandolins in the shop I am guessing (and I mean guessing) that it is too expensive for the average customer. An hour plus drive away is Music Emporium which has a beautiful selection of mandolins in that price range and on up. So possibly this mando is a bit of an anomaly for that shop's location and clientel. It is a quality shop with a lot of incredible guitars - more guitars than mandolins.
    2014 Phoenix Neoclassical Euro III
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    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobar View Post
    This store is not an Internet business. None of the high end music stores are. They are not looking to do high volume sales. They build up a list of loyal clients, try and keep interesting stock around for the right buyers, etc. It is not a business model based on working capital. If you try and run it that way, you end up being known as the guy who “discounts” and builders and small shop manufacturers shun you. This is why a lot of builders no longer allow discounting, and some have reduced dealer margins to REALLY discourage it. Most premium brands/builders no longer allow rabid discounting.
    As for this shop, they always have older stock. I bought a “new” National guitar in there years back that was at least 5 years old. He wouldn’t budge on the price. I suspect he’s his own landlord, so he makes his money off the other tenants in the building.
    It's his store and he can do as he wants with it. My point is don't blame the Internet for brick and motor stores demise, if that is the way you handle cash flow. If he makes his money off rent of the rest of the building then the music store is more a hobby and that is his right.

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    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    35-40 years ago I sold Tony a few Martins including a 1910 00028, 1920 00 18 and 1920 0028. He restored the 1910 and sold it to Livingston Taylor. At the time he had a brisk business and usually had numerous pearl Martins and other fine vintage instruments. A few miles away is Northampton with venues like the Iron Horse and a great theater that routinely have major national acts and folks like David Lindley comb the local music stores looking for small town prices. Tony must be in his mid 70s or older so he's just not in a rush for a quick sale

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A5-L unsold for 15 years

    A new inventory item that sits unsold for 15 or more years, is evidence (IMHO) of a pricing mistake.

    If the mandolin had been sold at the wholesale price to a customer, the day it was received, and the money invested at a decent rate of interest, the result would probably exceed the current asking price. Retailers gauge the market -- the clientele that walks into the store, the competition either "brick-and-mortar" or on-line, the desirability of a particular instrument as compared to others on the market. Some items are sold at break-even or even a loss, to earn the cash needed to maintain the store, acquire additional inventory, or meet the basic needs of the store owner (you know, food and shelter -- see Maslow's Hierarchy).

    I see these "new old stock" items put up for sale fairly regularly, and most instrument dealers seem to recognize when they're shopworn and need to be discounted. You don't want to be in the position of putting that A-5L in a "going out of business" auction, whenever that occurs.

    Don't see too many "new old stock" 1976 Plymouth Valiants sitting on dealers' lots, waiting for the "right buyer" to show up 43 years later. Pricing stubbornness just results in unsold inventory.

    Does it still have the factory strings on it?
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