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Thread: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

  1. #1

    Default Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    Hi all. I have been on line for hours trying to find out what kind of instrument this is. It has 8 strings like a mandolin but is shaped like a tenor lute mandola. It has a Gibson label inside, but I cannot be sure it's not fake. HELP!

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    Last edited by Mandolin Cafe; Oct-04-2018 at 8:06am. Reason: need to get photos posted

  2. #2
    Cafe Linux Mommy danb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    Regal Octofone is my guess

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    It wasn't made by Gibson and it looks a whole lot like a Regal Octophone as Dan has said. Disregard the label totally, Ignore the headstock shape as well. Regal built them any way the distributor ordered them.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=rega...w=1280&bih=939
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Registered User nmiller's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    Actually, that's not a Regal. The body shape is not quite the same, nor is the scale, the headstock, or the inlays. It actually looks nicer than any of the Octophones that Regal built. But, everyone is correct in that the Gibson label is a red herring.
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    Registered User Roger Adams's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    I know nothing about the instrument in question, but the label appears to be original to the instrument and clearly says made in Italy, so no attempt to fake a Gibson. Did Gibson ever import instruments from Italy for distribution?
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  9. #6

    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    Are there any pictures of the back?

  10. #7
    fishing with my mando darrylicshon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    Might just have been a company named Gibson in Italy. I know there are two different Northfield companies. I have a octave from the one in united kingdom
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  11. #8

    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    Quote Originally Posted by danb View Post
    Regal Octofone is my guess

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    I've had an octophone before, it was significantly larger.

    - - - Updated - - -

    I've had an octophone before, it was significantly larger.

  12. #9

    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    Click image for larger version. 

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    See pic below

  13. #10

    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    Talk about a red herring -- the "made in Italy" is a nice touch! Why? I don't know........

    On a somewhat related note, the local pawn shop chain wouldn't loan money on any instruments without a name or a serial number -- so many were given names and serial numbers after the fact by people needing money -- and as you can guess, some were less convincing than others, but many ended up on the racks for sale. Not sure if that was the goal here or not. But, let's face it -- nobody likes a "no name" instrument!

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    Registered User nmiller's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    Quote Originally Posted by Grizzly Adams View Post
    I know nothing about the instrument in question, but the label appears to be original to the instrument and clearly says made in Italy, so no attempt to fake a Gibson. Did Gibson ever import instruments from Italy for distribution?
    Quote Originally Posted by darrylicshon View Post
    Might just have been a company named Gibson in Italy. I know there are two different Northfield companies. I have a octave from the one in united kingdom
    Note that the label refers exclusively to violin-family instruments. Gibson did indeed distribute Italian-made violins in the '20s, so as far as I know the label could be real. Of course, it's not original to this particular instrument.
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    I need to start selling bridges. Gibson made violins as well but that label has a logo that can be identified date wise and it wasn't in the 20's unless it was the really late 20's.

    Gibson Violins

    Paul's link is dead but the document is there. I'd love to see any documentation of Gibson selling imported instruments that early. I've never seen it and I love the history.
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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    Quote Originally Posted by Grizzly Adams View Post
    I know nothing about the instrument in question, but the label appears to be original to the instrument and clearly says made in Italy, so no attempt to fake a Gibson. Did Gibson ever import instruments from Italy for distribution?
    "Exclusive distributors of Virzi violins, violas, cellos and basses" and then "Made in Italy"

    That's a clue...

    https://stearnsviolins.com/index.php...i-tone-violin/

    "“Virzi” Tone Violin made by the Virzi Brothers for Gibson in Italia, New York, in 1924."

    Did they make them in New York or is Stearns wrong and Virzi made or imported these violins from Italy?

    onward...

    http://forum.gibson.com/index.php?/topic/34208-virzi/

    "As you may know, the Virzi tone producers were licensed from the Virzi Brothers, who were violin makers, during the Loar era (more or less)"

    http://siminoff.net/virzi-tone-background/

    "Further south, on the island of Sicily, in the village of Palermo, Giuseppe Virzi Sr. continued the heritage of the family-owned violin and pipe organ repair business. As is the European tradition for offspring to inherit and assume the craft of their parents, sons Joseph and John Virzi seized the opportunity, but took their family’s heritage to the New World...

    a line of fine violins, violas, and bass viols, the Virzis opened a sales office at 503 Fifth Avenue in New York City. "

    "While the economic opportunities of the U.S. market offered great potential for violins from Italy — a natural connection for the two Virzi brothers — it is interesting to note that the Virzis instead turned to Heron-Allen and Alberto Bachman of Marchneukirche, Germany to produce their instrument line."

    huh? GermanY not Italy?

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/s...dolin-Brothers

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/s...Gibson-Violins

    http://www.gibson-prewar.com/gibson-prewar-violin-bass/

    seems to cover later period violins circa 39-41 or so

    but I found this:

    https://tarisio.com/cozio-archive/br...?Maker_ID=2243

    Giuseppe Virzi
    Violin maker

    Younger brother of Giovanni Virzi. Emigrated to New York around 1913.



    the registered mark is in Italy and NY

    https://reverb.com/item/4484005-virz...-4-4-full-size

    "Brand:
    Virzi
    Model:
    Violin
    Categories:
    Violins
    Year:
    1924
    Made In:
    Germany"

    another Germany reference

    https://reverb.com/item/10489140-vir...ying-condition

    with label that indicates the Virzi patent was in both NY.

    Well I can't say I've helped with what instrument that is, but I do wonder about the label and if it did come from another instrument.

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  20. #14

    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    What is the word directly before "violins"? It sort of looks like Virzi to me!

    Anybody have better eyes?
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    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    As per Joe Spann, Gibson owed Virzi $1486 in 1927 presumably for Virzi violins which they were marketing. Looks like the right time period and would explain "virzi" on the label.

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    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    David beat me to it!

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    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    OK, I'm confused. does anyone know when Gibson started using that logo? How long did Gibson do business with Virzi after Loar left? Finally, has anyone got a Virzi catalog for that era? Now I'm intrigued.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    That looks like a genuine Enrico Gibson to me, he worked in a booth in the back, in the corner, in the dark.
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    Of course the question no one's asking is ... Does it have a Virzi?
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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    A web search for 'Virzi' doesn't come up with much that doesn't lead back to the use of the ''Virzi Tone Producer'' by the Gibson Co.
    The Virzi Brothers are referred to as Italian born instrument makers based in New York : - https://stearnsviolins.com/index.php...i-tone-violin/

    IMHO - It's not beyond the bounds of possibility,that the Op's mandolin 'might' very well be a Virzi bult one,made specifically for Gibson,hence the label. I found a 2005 referrence to a Virzi catalogue on one website,but a search for it yeilded no results.

    Realistically (IMHO),this could simply be yet another 'Gibson mystery',of which we've had more than a few in the past !!,
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  31. #21

    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    I see Gibson Inc.
    From 1902 it was called "Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Mfg. Co. Ltd."
    In 1944 when it was bought by CMI and then acquired by ECL in 1969 it was called
    Gibson Guitar Corp. not until 1986 was it called Gibson Brands Inc.
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    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    I could be wrong, but it looks to me like the label is "aged" with ink, or at least with some material that doesn't appear on the rest of the inside-back of the mandolin.

    Coming from the banjo environment, there are literally thousands of fake Gibson labels that have been made, circulated and even publicly sold. Many of these labels are easily spotted by wording or lettering discrepancies, by the material they were made with, by the conventions that were normal for the date of the instrument's manufacture, and/or by the way they are attached to the instrument. But some of these fake labels are well enough done that they have to be examined forensically in order to tell if they are real. All of this makes any Gibson label on an instrument that doesn't at least generally match a catalog description pretty suspicious.

    This particular label asserts a few things that haven't been documented for the likely period and location that the instrument was made in. Gibson did do things that were not documented, but most of those resulting instruments can be categorized as "floor sweep" types of instruments.

    I really think the best way to find out about this particular instrument is to present it to one of the living experts on Gibson mandolins for their evaluation. It might be a short and humorous adventure, or it might turn out to be a very illuminating experience.
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    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    OK, again. From what I can see Gibson used that logo in the 30's. Does anyone know when they stopped offering a Virzi as an option? The Gibson Inc. name could refer to a second corporation set up to import instruments but I kind of doubt it. They would have just used their corporate name and I can't find anywhere that the company was known as Gibson Inc. Has anyone got any documentation for that? I'm more than a little skeptical that this has anything to do with Gibson.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  35. #24
    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    But some of these fake labels are well enough done that they have to be examined forensically in order to tell if they are real.
    Well, they got the "Parsons Street" right anyway. Can't tell if it says 225.

  36. #25
    Registered User mandotool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mystery Gibson...What is this strange instrument?

    10 bucks says they're's a Virzi in there..
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