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Thread: Early Gibson A, but what is it exactly?

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    Default Early Gibson A, but what is it exactly?

    I came across this up for sale, and it is a paradox of parts that I don’t have enough experience to figure out.

    It looks like an A3 inlay, but I was under the impression that those all have white faces?

    Tuners look replaced, as well as the tailpiece and bridge.

    Top looks repaired as well.

    I’m looking for a players A oval to keep at work, so as long as it sounds the way I want I don’t really mind all of that... but, I do mind taking a bath on it if I sell it again later.

    So what is this? Is any of the hardware original, and what might a reasonable private sale price be in your minds?

    Thanks!

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  2. #2
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Gibson A, but what is it exactly?

    Its an A-3 with a refinish/newer hardware not much original there and not worth too much cash!

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Gibson A, but what is it exactly?

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrasser78 View Post
    ...not worth too much cash!
    Depends on what they're asking for it. Top not only has crack repair, but an apparent splint of of wider fracture. Replaced tuners and tailpiece, and what looks like a non-factory refinish.

    It may be the affordable player you're looking for. I'd check for a FON on the neck block, see if you can get a vintage on it. May have been a "white-face" originally, that went through sone serious wear/neglect/damage. If it plays well and sounds good, and if the seller's realistic about what he/she has here -- I wouldn't kick it out of bed for eating crackers, as we (crudely) used to say...
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    Registered User John Rosett's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Gibson A, but what is it exactly?

    Non-original radiused fingerboard also.
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  5. #5

    Default Re: Early Gibson A, but what is it exactly?

    Here is a similar looking A3 on reverb.

    https://reverb.com/item/11887634-gib...-mandolin-1919

    I am completely in the dark on valuing these older Gibson’s, especially with the condition issues. Can anybody help me ballpark a top and bottom range on what this is worth?

  6. #6
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Gibson A, but what is it exactly?

    Better condition A-3's seem to go in the $2K's, though I see asking prices as low as $1.8K and as high as $3.5K. But these prices are for ones that are within recognizable distance of "original." This one isn't.

    If you can get it for under $1.5K, perhaps closer to $1K -- and that's assuming that it's structurally sound, playable, sounds decent, has a case, and you like it -- I'd consider it. If the fingerboard's replaced, as well as tuners and tailpiece, and it's had a string of pro repairs and refinishes, that's in one way a good thing; it means that some player liked it enough to put four figures' worth of repairs and upgrades into it. Which speaks well for its basic quality, though each of those repairs has, in fact, reduced its market value.

    In the weird world of vintage mandolins, you can sometimes get more for an un-repaired, unplayable instrument, than for one that's been worked on extensively to make it a "player." Original finish, hardware etc. bring a premium; a collector will buy one as a "bargain" and perhaps get it restored, rather than repaired.

    Assuming this is a Gibson A-3, and to all appearances it is, it's the quintessential "player." It reminds me of Abraham Lincoln's axe, which is so "collectible," even though it's had three new heads and seven new handles since Lincoln owned it.
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  7. #7

    Default Re: Early Gibson A, but what is it exactly?

    Allen,

    Thanks so much, that is super helpful. I found a fantastic A4 oval that surprised me at how much I loved the sound--but being all original with handel tuners, it is outside of what I'm comfortable spending right now. I could go for a player's A3 if the sound quality is there, but don't want to be up side down.

    Thanks very much for the education.

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    Default Re: Early Gibson A, but what is it exactly?

    Pickguard and clamp missing, replacement tailpiece, tuners, and bridge, refinish that is lacking in authenticity, less than beautifully repaired cracks: perhaps 30% of the market value of a nice and original A-3. My guess is that a "correct" price would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $650 to $750.

    Have you checked the classifieds? There are several A models in better shape that might be within your budget.

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Gibson A, but what is it exactly?

    You can find original Gibson A's, A-1,A-2,A-3, A-4 and all the different 30's A's for sometimes well under 1G that are all original, maybe need a little set-up and that's great pricing I think! Check out classifieds here on the cafι, Reverb, Evilbay, Gbase, Banjo hangout etc... There are deals just gotta look!

  11. #10

    Default Re: Early Gibson A, but what is it exactly?

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrasser78 View Post
    You can find original Gibson A's, A-1,A-2,A-3, A-4 and all the different 30's A's for sometimes well under 1G that are all original, maybe need a little set-up and that's great pricing I think! Check out classifieds here on the cafι, Reverb, Evilbay, Gbase, Banjo hangout etc... There are deals just gotta look!
    Maybe I haven't looked in the right places, but teens/ 20s paddle heads seem to be listed starting around $1200-1400 and go up.

    There was a fair condition A1 on Craigslist for $975 with no case recently here in Bay Area. Seems to me that the net has raised prices. Someone cleaning out grandpa's house used to be happy with getting $500. Now they go on the net and see something priced for $1800 at Carter's and want to get that. I find no understanding of the importance of originality either.
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Gibson A, but what is it exactly?

    I think the days of old Gibson A's for under $1K are pretty much over, though I see a few with asking prices around $900. Of course, there are always private seller bargains, if you're lucky.

    I may have quoted a high price for the A-3 in question. Above all, one would need to play it and see how it feels and sounds.
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Gibson A, but what is it exactly?

    This particular A3 was on CL for $1500, which I think is too much given the refinish, top crack, replacement hardware etc.

    In general, A3s were pumpkin tops until 1918, after which they were refrigerator white. I have seen a handful of A3s with different specs, mostly from before 1909. There are a few with a wildflower inlay rather than the vine, or blackface instead of pumpkin ... but it seems there was less variation after 1909.
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    Default Re: Early Gibson A, but what is it exactly?

    No refinished paddle head Gibson A is worth anywhere near $1500. A rule of thumb in the vintage market is that refinishing devalues an instrument by at least 50%.

    It's only my opinion, but as I said in my earlier post, I believe that a fair market price for the CL instrument that the OP asked about would be $650-$750 maximum because of the refinish, the repaired crack, and the absence of any of the original hardware. You can certainly find many instruments that are in much better condition for the $1500 the seller is asking for.

    I believe that the top has been refinished on the Mike's Music instrument. I don't recall ever seeing black soundhole binding on a pumpkin top Gibson mandolin. The white/black top binding is not right for a pumpkin top A-3 either-- this instrument almost certainly had a white top when it left the factory. The pickguard and tailpiece are of later issue, and the bridge is a modern replacement. I consider the price to be high by several hundred dollars.

    I agree with Allen and Brick that serviceable "low" A models [plain A, A-1, A-2] with original finish are going to start at $1000 to $1200 and go up from there, unless they're really beat up or in need of multiple repairs. Of course, there are always some wishful or uninformed sellers who will price an instrument above or below realistic market value.

    It is not unusual to see high asking prices on Reverb.

    From what I've seen over the past couple of years, A-3's with original finish seem to have settled in at around $1650 to maybe $2850 or so, depending on condition and whether or not they have the original tuners, pickguard, and tailpiece. White tops can bring more than pumpkin tops if they are clean. Occasionally I have seen white tops listed for as much as $3000, but I have my doubts that any have actually sold for that much. I don't think that a pumpkin top will bring much more than $2250.

    I hope this info is helpful.
    Last edited by rcc56; Jun-28-2018 at 1:02am.

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    Default Re: Early Gibson A, but what is it exactly?

    Yep, all of this is helpful. I went and played it today and the story is that the refinish was done by Gibson in the 50s and the owner received it back with no hardware so it sat under a bed since then.

    Tuners won’t hold tune very well, which could be due to the top of the bridge buckling. Body is solid and overall okay, but I would need to set up a new bridge and put on new tuners (these are super cheapies) not worth the hassle for the price. It would have to be 4-500 for me to buy it and do more repairs I think.

    So school me on prices for original A4 mandolins from late teens with Handel tuners? Yes the whole other end of the pool, but what’s that market like?

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Gibson A, but what is it exactly?

    I sold a teens A4 with some issues for $2,200 recently on behalf of the late owner's widow. The back had been off, a couple of cracks had been repaired, finish touchup on the back wasn't great, pickguard pins had been replaced with finish nails, and it had plain tuners (oddly, the family showed me a photo from the 1930s of the owner as a young man with the mandolin, and it had plain tuners then ... so they must have been replaced early on). I was quite pleased to get that amount for it; I let the buyer talk me down from $2,500.

    Every paddlehead A4 on Reverb seems to be listed for $2,500 and up regardless of year or condition. If you want a really clean one, be prepared to pay that amount; if you don't mind a few issues, perhaps you can get one for less.
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Gibson A, but what is it exactly?

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    I believe that the top has been refinished on the Mike's Music instrument. I don't recall ever seeing black soundhole binding on a pumpkin top Gibson mandolin. The white/black top binding is not right for a pumpkin top A-3 either-- this instrument almost certainly had a white top when it left the factory. The pickguard and tailpiece are of later issue, and the bridge is a modern replacement. I consider the price to be high by several hundred dollars.
    Indeed -- that's the famous A2Z body binding, and if this is from 1919 it certainly would have been white originally. The refinisher deserves kudos for closely approximating a pumpkin top, but a refinish is a refinish.
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Gibson A, but what is it exactly?

    Here's an interesting FrankenGibson with a pre-1910 body and a truss-rodded neck, a headstock inlay from the 1930s ... and Handels! Very strange. Guitar Center says 1918, but that date just sort of splits the difference between the body and the headplate.

    https://www.guitarcenter.com/Used/Gi...IN-Mandolin.gc
    Last edited by mrmando; Jun-28-2018 at 4:19pm.
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    Default Re: Early Gibson A, but what is it exactly?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    Here's an interesting FrankenGibson with a pre-1910 body and a truss-rodded neck, a headstock inlay from the 1930s ... and Handels! Very strange. Guitar Center says 1918, but that date just sort of splits the difference between the body and the headplate.

    https://www.guitarcenter.com/Used/Gi...IN-Mandolin.gc
    "Possible heel repair" is kind of like saying "possibly pregnant" about someone who is in their eighth month.

    Reasonable market range for original finish paddle head A-4's in decent condition seems to be $1850 to $3000. I know of others that are higher, but . . .

    The low of $1850 would usually be representative of private sellers who want to make a quick sale.

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