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Thread: Gibson A40 (1954)

  1. #1

    Default Gibson A40 (1954)

    As someone just starting out on the mandolin, I'm just trying to educate myself about how to choose the best instrument to buy.

    Here's my question: how do I choose between a used vintage piece like this 1954 Gibson A40 (https://www.elderly.com/catalog/prod...y/866/#details), and a similarly priced NEW Kentucky KM900?

    They're both the same price, so not sure how to choose? Very different instruments.

    Basically trying to work out if it is more worth my while to get a new mandolin or a used one.

    ANY advice would be much appreciated.

    Thanks!
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  2. #2
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A40 (1954)

    Speaking from experience as I've had hundreds of low and high end mandolins, GO with the 900 Kentucky! Those A-40s are shortnecks, so playability all over the board gets tough! so with the mahogany back and sides not much volume also! Collectability not so much as people tend to go for teens-early 40's. Gibson's.
    The Kentucky 900'saresome pretty darn good mandolins, some sound better than mandos costing 4x's the price! Just my thought on that one.. If you want strong volume, great playability to the upper reaches-Kentucky.

  3. #3
    Registered User Bob Visentin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A40 (1954)

    As an owner of a A40 I second what bluegrasser said. I like to play my A40 but it does not have the volume for a jam session.

  4. #4
    Registered User G7MOF's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A40 (1954)

    If they both sound/play and feel good I'd go for the Gibson. It will always be worth the same as you paid for it when and if you decide to trade up whereas the new KM900 will depreciate by 1/3rd immediately. Just MHO.
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  5. #5

    Default Re: Gibson A40 (1954)

    Well, let’s see. Since our dollar is currently at .76 US, you are expecting to spend at least 1500 Cdn, which is pretty high for a first mando. G7’s point about value is correct though, the Gibson has already both depreciated and grown in value and is not likely to change much. Personally I like those disfavoured 40’s-50’s A50s and A40s, but you might do better with a dependable modern instrument ready to go. Given you’re looking at A-body &-hole models, Eastman 505, 605 or possibly 805 are well worth looking at too. I consider the 505 the high-value option.
    For in-Canada purchase check out Twelfth Fret or Cosmo Music sites, but if ever in Toronto, the 12 Fret experience is the in-person trip to make. (Or buy online from, since the Fret would do better at customized setup).

  6. #6

    Default Re: Gibson A40 (1954)

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Cameron View Post
    Well, letís see. Since our dollar is currently at .76 US, you are expecting to spend at least 1500 Cdn, which is pretty high for a first mando. G7ís point about value is correct though, the Gibson has already both depreciated and grown in value and is not likely to change much. Personally I like those disfavoured 40ís-50ís A50s and A40s, but you might do better with a dependable modern instrument ready to go. Given youíre looking at A-body &-hole models, Eastman 505, 605 or possibly 805 are well worth looking at too. I consider the 505 the high-value option.
    For in-Canada purchase check out Twelfth Fret or Cosmo Music sites, but if ever in Toronto, the 12 Fret experience is the in-person trip to make. (Or buy online from, since the Fret would do better at customized setup).
    Thank you all for your advice. I'm curious about what you've mentioned Bill. You're the second person who has mentioned the Eastman MD805. It is the same cost as the Kentucky KM900, so I'm not sure which is better value for money...

    I'm not a fan of the sunburst look to be honest (Kentucky), but I feel a little bit petty/superficial bringing external appearance into the purchasing equation. I like the look of the MD805 much more...

    Thanks all!
    CN0

  7. #7
    Fatally Flawed Bill Kammerzell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A40 (1954)

    I paid less than half of $1150.00 for the A-40 I owned. I believe the back on those is a laminate. For $1150.00 you can easily get a KM-1000. Here's one for $995.00 used from 2001. Includes case and free shipping.

    https://reverb.com/item/13637823-ken...QKvD_BwE&pla=1

    Here's a blacktop from 2012 for $1225.00

    https://reverb.com/item/12987443-rar...X9fD_BwE&pla=1

    You can get a lot of mandolin for $1150.00.
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  8. #8

    Default Re: Gibson A40 (1954)

    It is an interesting "apples and oranges" type of question.....

    In the early 1970's, you could buy a used 50's Rolls Royce (nice clean, chauffeur-maintained estate vehicle) for what a new Buick cost, around $5K. I pointed this out to my dad, thinking the choice was obvious...................dad bought the new Buick......

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  10. #9
    Registered User Bob Visentin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A40 (1954)

    I believe the back on those is a laminate.

    Yes. Back and side laminated.

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  12. #10
    Registered User John Kinn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A40 (1954)

    If you are going to play only bluegrass, the Kentucky will do the job. For an all-rounder I'd take the Gibson. I have a 1949 A40, and it's a very nice mandolin!

  13. #11
    Registered User f5loar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A40 (1954)

    I've got both and for the sound maybe the 900 will out cut the A40, but the cool factor is in the gibson. Skaggs got started on an A40N and it didn't hold him back any. Monroe played short neckers up until 1945 when he went long neck. Didn't seem to hold him back none either.

  14. #12
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A40 (1954)

    f5loar - I've read your personal opinion on the KM-900 as few times,& knowing the mandolin that you've compared it to,mainly for that reason,i'd recommend that the OP.goes for one of those. The opinions of other KM-900 owners has also been pretty high,
    Ivan
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  15. #13
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    Default Re: Gibson A40 (1954)

    While it is true that Skaggs and Monroe started out on instruments of lower quality it is also true that there wasn`t that many different models to choose from in those days...GO FOR THE KM-900...

    Willie

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