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Thread: Gibson A4 Mandolin Serial #56849

  1. #1

    Default Gibson A4 Mandolin Serial #56849

    Hello Guys and Girls!
    I was hoping to find some information about the mandolin that I received from my great grandfather. He was the original owner. The serial number is 56849. I believe it’s an A4. Has a crack on the bound portion of the sound hole, right underneath the pick guard. It is not visible or very big. I was just hoping you guys could tell me a little bit more about it. I might have to part ways with her to pay tuition. So I would like to know what I have...

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  3. #2
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A4 Mandolin Serial #56849

    Its a 1919 Gibson A-4, the guard was replaced at some point looks like late 40's-50's, the original deteriorated more than likely based on the inside case lining the "fur" that's gone in that area, very common in the 30's not so much in those teen years, Case is original, it missed the fancy Handel inlaid buttons by 1 year. Is that tailpiece cover and base gold plated? It should have a nickel cover but I've seen some gold plated! Is the back of the tuners nickel or gold plated? It looks pretty clean and may have been over sprayed and buffed out? Market value has went down but maybe a value of a bit less than 2G? I'll send ya a private message ok.

    Serial #57900 is the start of 1920.
    Last edited by William Smith; Sep-22-2018 at 9:42am.

  4. #3
    Registered User slimt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A4 Mandolin Serial #56849

    the Archives say its about a 1920 .. The Guard looks to have been replaced as well as the bracket.. Thats all I know.. I have had a couple of the A4s..

    Nice Mandolin..

  5. #4

    Default Re: Gibson A4 Mandolin Serial #56849

    I wish you'd play it, but if you have no desire to, it will find a good home. If the crack hasn't been repaired, you shouldn't let it go.
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  6. #5
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    Default Re: Gibson A4 Mandolin Serial #56849

    A word of warning - the corrosion of the frets adjacent to the pickguard is indicative of the pickguard deteriorating. It is made of celuloid which (usually because the mandolin is left in its case for long periods) tends to produce corrosive gas. This not only corrodes the frets but can leave a nasty burn mark on the mandolin top.

    If it were up to me, I'd think about removing the pickguard as soon as possible or at least get it looked at by someone who knows about such things. It should be stored separately from the mandolin. Deterioration is nor always obvious from looking at the pickguard itself.

  7. #6
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A4 Mandolin Serial #56849

    The guard was already replaced because of the gas off/deterioration! You can see what the original guard did to the inside of the case.

  8. #7
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A4 Mandolin Serial #56849

    You see many A-4's offered for sale around $2K or more. Some of them have pickguards removed. I'd get the crack looked at, see if it needs glueing/cleating.

    Your replacement pickguard is tres ugly, IMHO, but other than that, and the discoloration inside the case caused by the original pickguard, the only issue I see is with the soundhole crack.
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  9. #8
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A4 Mandolin Serial #56849

    Agreed, that's not the original pickguard. It was replaced sometime in the recent past.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Gibson A4 Mandolin Serial #56849

    I possibly stand corrected. I was aware that the pick-guard is a replacement but how can we be sure that it's not the replacement that's gassing-off? - if I were replacing a gassing guard, I'd clean up the fretboard.

    Celuloid problems aren't confined to those produced in the teens and twenties. I had to remove a guard from my retired Ibanez and that dates from 1976.

  11. #10
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A4 Mandolin Serial #56849

    Pickguards are more commonly made of vinyl or acrylic these days. The amount of gunk left on the lower frets and case lining indicates that the old guard completely self-destructed. The guard that's currently on it appears to be (a) completely intact; (b) not made of celluloid.

    The color doesn't look quite right to me, although that could be just the photos, but I'd be inclined to support the overspray theory. It's sad that whoever replaced the pickguard and oversprayed the body didn't bother to also clean off the fretboard, but I suppose it's not too late to have that done.

    What I see in photo 4 looks more like a scratch than a crack, but one can always have it looked at by a qualified repair tech.
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  12. #11
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A4 Mandolin Serial #56849

    That guard is late enough that it isn't celluloid. You can bet the ranch it's not celluloid. It's a modern piece of plastic probably better suited for an electric guitar than a replacement on a vintage mandolin. When it was done there probably weren't a whole lot of options like there are now. I agree with Martin on the color as well.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  13. #12

    Default Re: Gibson A4 Mandolin Serial #56849

    The fretboard can be restored with a light fret dressing, the crack repaired, and a suitable pickguard installed. If it has been oversprayed, that is a significant problem that takes it off the table as a collector item. So it is a nice player, barring any neck issues. A professional evaluation is in order to determine what would be prudent to do, if anything.

    The A4 likely is a wonderful sounding mandolin but it's hard to value without exactly knowing the issues. Certainly could swing the price five or six hundred either way.
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  14. #13

    Default Re: Gibson A4 Mandolin Serial #56849

    Just to recap, for the original poster:

    Your relative bought one of the highest quality instruments available at the height of the mandolin's popularity in the second decade of the 20th century. And it remains a very desirable instrument.

    The pickguard has been replaced, and not as well as is possible today. But since some players don't use a pickguard anyway, it's best to leave it up to the player, whether to replace the replacement.

    Your photos are not accurate enough to assess the state of the finish, and that's a big factor in the instrument's value. A little buffing of the frets with 0000 (VERY fine) steel wool will clean up the fretboard. The top should be repaired if you have the instrument 'set up' to play by a luthier with experience in vintage Gibson mandolins. Not an expensive repair.

    The instrument is 'worth' between $1K and $2,500. That's a big range. Any competent dealer in vintage acoustic instruments can give you an accurate appraisal if they see the instrument in person. And of course retail prices differ from wholesale or consignment prices that you'd get from a dealer.

    You can search for other 'teens Gibson A-4 mandolins at the usual online locations to see comparable instruments and asking prices.
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  16. #14
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A4 Mandolin Serial #56849

    I fully support Brad’s initial statement above, there are things which may or may not need addressing with regards to sale price. Whether or not the repairs or part (fingerrest) replacement are sellers or buyers concern is a side matter.
    I might consider seeing someone with the expertise to provide the seller an estimate for those concerns and factor that into selling price OR, have the instrument set up and better replacement finger rest installed etc. with the hope that investment will be recouped in the higher selling price.
    That’s a very, very hard choice to make.
    The family history, is beyond dollar value to some. It’s really nice, were it a family piece, I’d just keep it. But, that’s just me.
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  17. #15

    Default Re: Gibson A4 Mandolin Serial #56849

    I would tend to want the OP to play the A4 too, but if it's going to linger in a closet for the next twenty years, what's the point?

    If however, it was part of someone's growing up, and someone can remember it being played for them, like I like to do with my grandchildren, that's another matter. But if it's skipped a generation already, and there is no desire to play, maybe it should be passed on. Many factors to consider.

    My A-1 was put back into circulation, for which I'm grateful, but I'd rather have one from a family member like Marla Fibish has her grandfather's.
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  18. #16
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A4 Mandolin Serial #56849

    seems it's missing the pickguard clamp too.

    Nice mandolin! I also have an 1920 (A3) and love it!

    f-d
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