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Thread: Help identifying a vintage mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Help identifying a vintage mandolin

    I'm a newbie here and have collected old guitars for the past 50 years that I found primarily at estate sales around here in Florida which yielded plentiful great guitars when I started doing this some 50 years ago! I don't know much about mandolins (only the very basics!) but in my years of acquiring cool old guitars, mandolins often fell into my lap or were part of the deal. I joined this Forum only recently in an effort to finally learn more about a few of the unnamed mandolins that I have picked up and invariably put away in the closet until now! Over time I'll post a few but I'll begin with this one.

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    There are no names or ink marks anywhere. The fret board is obviously gorgeously inlaid.

    I also have a very similar mandolin (same extended fret board) that says Weymann mandolute on the back of the peg head. It has several unique inlays (the planet Saturn on the 3rd fret!!) and the back is incredibly flamed. I've learnt that this Weymann is a style 60 from 1928 and I've always assumed that the un-named mandolin is also a Weymann but I'm seeking confirmation or clarification. Even a style number would be great. I hope all the pics show up.

    Anyone know??
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  3. #2
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help identifying a vintage mandolin

    Not sure the top one's a mandolute. The Weymanns have a very pronounced curve in the back, making them much deeper at the tailpiece end than at the neck end. Can't tell from the pics you posted whether the unmarked one has that curvature

    Looks very similar in shape, though. Weymanns I've seen have only been marked with that decal on the back of the headstock, but I seem to remember another one that had a "Keystone State" label inside, probably indicating it was sold by Keystone State Music in PA.

    There's lots more expertise on the Cafe than mine, and I'm sure you'll get some superior analysis.
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  4. #3

    Default Re: Help identifying a vintage mandolin

    The bottom one HAS a paper label inside the sound hole (in addition to the decal affixed to the back of the peg head). I'll attach a picture of that. It has a pronounced curve in the back measuring 3" at the widest point.

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    The unmarked one has no label. It also has a back curve but only measure 2.8" wide so it's slightly shallower than the style 60 above.

  5. #4
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help identifying a vintage mandolin

    Weymann was a manufacturer of some things and a distributor of others. Chances are these could have been manufactured by Lyon & Healy or one of the other large builders for the trade with no label and labeled as Weymann to be sold in their retail store.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  6. #5
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help identifying a vintage mandolin

    So many features of the two mandolins are nearly identical -- the bridges, the engraved "cloud" tailpieces, the pickguards -- that it's quite possible that they came from the same shop. Mike E's hypothesis above is surely plausible; Weymann started advertising its mandolutes in the 19-teens, and listed several models. Whether the Weymann shop manufactured them, or whether they contracted out to another maker, doesn't appear to be readily ascertainable. The more expensive ones had "violin edges," meaning the top and back projected slightly over the sides. I once owned a low-end mandolute, and it had flush edges as most flat-back mandolins have.

    This somewhat odd website -- apparently written by someone facing advanced cancer and deeply into Hindu spirituality -- also contains a fair amount of research on Weymann instruments, including some catalog pix and a historical chronology. Author focuses mainly on Weymann guitars, and Weymann's most well-known for banjos, but some Googling comes up with other discussions of Weymann mandolutes.

    The features of the mandolute that seem the most distinctive, other than its quite recognizable shape, are the arched top and back, the "violin edges" in more expensive models, and the variable body depth caused by sides that taper from greater thickness at the tailpiece, to lesser at the neck. Even the relatively cheap model I owned had the arched top and back, and the variable depth, though not the edges. It seems both these instruments have those two characteristics.

    I'll hazard another guess that it will be very difficult to prove or disprove Weymann ID for the unmarked model. I'd call it a higher-end instrument, as determined by the elaborate fingerboard inlay, five-ply binding and engraved tailpiece. Without a label, or the "violin edges," closest I'd dare is to say it's a "possible Weymann mandolute."
    Allen Hopkins
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  7. #6
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help identifying a vintage mandolin

    I suspect that both of these mandolins were built by Oscar Schmidt in Jersey City, NJ. I've been through the L&H and Regal books. No common shapes for pickguard. Oscar Schmidt however has it. The engraved Waverly tailpiece was a common jobber item as was the Saturn inlay.

    This bowlback Jake worked on is identified as a Weymann product and the tuners and inlay are the same as number one. I just wouldn't expect an unlabeled instrument to come out of Weymann.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help identifying a vintage mandolin

    FWIW I concur with Mike on the Oscar Schmidt suspicion. This doesn't seem to have a Chicago link to the usual suspects there. I've long suspected a connection between Schmidt and what was made--or labeled--by Weymann in Philadelphia. Body shapes, materials, hardware details, etc. can be very similar.


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    Default Re: Help identifying a vintage mandolin

    I sincerely appreciate the well considered & expressed opinions from those who have kindly posted them. I learnt something from each one. I also have yet another attractively inlaid mandolin from the same era (I'm guessing 1920's or '30's) with a similar extended fret board. Although the peg head has a pearl inlaid Bruno name, based on some of the comments posted above, I suspect that this mandolin may also have an Oscar Schmidt connection? Yes/no?

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    mando-evangelist August Watters's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help identifying a vintage mandolin

    Bruno was a distributor, not a builder, and worked with many builders, so their instruments can be difficult to trace. Interesting feature here is the Embergher-style recurve -- the edge of the top doesn't continue the same curve all the way up to the neck joint, but instead curves back slightly in the opposite direction, making a more pointed shape at the neck joint.

  12. #10
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help identifying a vintage mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Noteworthy View Post
    I sincerely appreciate the well considered & expressed opinions from those who have kindly posted them. I learnt something from each one. I also have yet another attractively inlaid mandolin from the same era (I'm guessing 1920's or '30's) with a similar extended fret board. Although the peg head has a pearl inlaid Bruno name, based on some of the comments posted above, I suspect that this mandolin may also have an Oscar Schmidt connection? Yes/no?

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    I think that one is Chicago made. I've seen that pickguard. When I get a few minutes I'll take a look.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  13. #11
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help identifying a vintage mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    I think that one is Chicago made. I've seen that pickguard. When I get a few minutes I'll take a look.
    Agreed. Chicago.

    Still feel that the OPs original example was from NJ/Philadelphia.

    Curiously, though, there was a Regal labeled flatback on Ebay recently that had the body shape of a Weymann/Schmidt mandolute with some nice Handel tuners. Went cheap.

    Was a little beat up but otherwise okay. Don't know why I didn't bid on it.

    Mick
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    Registered User bluegrasser78's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help identifying a vintage mandolin

    Those all are some mighty fine horns! Great looking mandolins form a time that some serious pride was put into most instruments back pre-war! How could one not like any of them, Fantastic original crafted instruments from a bygone era is what its all about to me, all the different brands etc... KOOL stuff for sure!

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  16. #13
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help identifying a vintage mandolin

    When I get home tonight I should be able to ID that Chicago mandolin. That pickguard is either on a Regal or a L&H.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  17. #14
    mando-evangelist August Watters's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help identifying a vintage mandolin

    Anyone have any impressions of expected retail value for any of these instruments? How much does the budget "Stella" brand detract from the blinged-out model pictured above? The Weymann looks to be presentation-level; how much does that increase the value of a Weymann mandolute? And what about the Bruno?

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