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Thread: Martin Style 20 Interest

  1. #1

    Default Martin Style 20 Interest

    I have a line on a Martin Style 20 in decent shape. Nothing more serious than normal wear.. Asking price is $2200.

    My style of music is old time and contra dance fiddle tunes. No bluegrass. My current mandos are a 1921 Gibson A and a Lafferty Schneider made A model with oval hole. I am satisfied with both my current mandos.

    Do those of you who are familiar with the Martin Style 20 think it would be an desirable addition to my stable? I love the looks of the Martin but don't want a downgrade musically.

    I don't have an opportunity to do a hands on of this mandolin, but have seen a similar Martin model with f holes, which I presume has similar workmanship.

  2. #2
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    Workmanship is certainly similar but I believe that the style 20 (oval hole) is somewhat better sounding than the 2-20 (later with f-holes). I had a 40s 2-15 and it was not very loud though it sounded nice. I assume you can't try it before you buy it? That price sounds like a fair retail price assuming it needs no additional work.

    My guess that your '21 Gibson woud be a better all round mandolin but if you love the Martin and can afford it, nothing truly wrong with it.
    Jim

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  3. #3
    Registered User zookster's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    I owned a '29 Style 20 for a number of years. Should not have gotten rid of it! Perfect for old time, with a great 'bite' to the tone.
    I would highly recommend purchasing one.

  4. #4
    Registered User usqebach's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    I've got one that I think is the 2-15; oval hole, fully carved arch top without the points. Should play like the style 20. I think it's a lovely little mandolin, and has more refinement and better woods than your 1921 Gibson (I've got a snakehead A from around then as well).
    That being said, I could never fit it in to anything I was playing at the time. If I wanted to beat out more volume (backbone, if you will) then the Gibson A model was better. If I wanted better tone at the expense of volume, my Vega Cylinderback was better.
    So I always found that I was wanting just a bit more of something when I played it.

    That's just my opinion; free and worth every penny!
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  5. #5
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    Quote Originally Posted by usqebach View Post
    I've got one that I think is the 2-15; oval hole, fully carved arch top without the points.
    That would be a style 15 (no prefixed 2-). The 2-15 has f-holes.
    Jim

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  7. #6

    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    My 1921 A model has seen little obvious playing time. It has good bite and little thud. I'd sure like to hear a Style 20 and get a real comparison with my A. Unfortunately I live about 900 miles from it.

  8. #7

    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    The style 20 worked well for Bill Bolick!
    https://youtu.be/KH2zM30w2dY

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  10. #8
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    Quote Originally Posted by George Henry View Post
    My 1921 A model has seen little obvious playing time. It has good bite and little thud. I'd sure like to hear a Style 20 and get a real comparison with my A. Unfortunately I live about 900 miles from it.
    I did search and I found one in a store of a big chain for that price. I don't know if that is the same one you are considering but I just did a pretty easy transaction of having the ship a vintage guitar to a closer store to me and they told me I just had to pay in full and would refund everything but the $20 shipping if I didn't like it. I could also have taken it home for 3 days and still returned it. That worked out quite well.
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  11. #9

    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    I think that is the mandolin and that is the deal.

  12. #10
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    And their closest store is over 900 miles from you?
    Jim

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  13. #11
    Registered User nmiller's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    I was able to play that one today. It's in very good shape, with no cracks or other damage, just some light wear. The neck is straight and all the hardware appears to be original. According to Gruhn's Guide, the unbound fretboard makes it a '29, one of their first carved-top mandolins. The sound was definitely warmer and rounder than the 2-20 I used to have, if not as loud.
    www.OldFrets.com: the obscure side of vintage instruments.

  14. #12
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    I had them ship a 1930s 17-inch archtop guitar to my closest store (about a 40 minute drive) and if I decided it was not for me they would have charged me only $20 for shipping. You do have to pay in full upfront including tax as well but it got there in a few days, I was able to examine it and take it home and still had a total of 3 days approval period in which I could play it =, set it up as you like and even take it to your luthier or repair person to check it out and still return it to the store and they would take it back. BTW for some reason they post really bad or super small photos but you can have the store send good photos.

    NFI, of course, on my part. I certainly have no connection to the GC Corporation. Let us know what you will do. We live vicariously through you.

    Hey, it was great that you had vintage expert Noah Miller to check it out for you.
    Last edited by Jim Garber; Oct-19-2018 at 3:13pm.
    Jim

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  15. #13

    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    Thanks for checking that one out! How do you think it would compare to a good 1921 A model Gibson?

  16. #14
    Registered User nmiller's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    Quote Originally Posted by George Henry View Post
    Thanks for checking that one out! How do you think it would compare to a good 1921 A model Gibson?
    Those old As vary widely, but I actually think the Martin could pass for one in a blind test. It might have a bit less bass. The short scale and neck angle give it a very different feel from a Gibson.
    www.OldFrets.com: the obscure side of vintage instruments.

  17. #15

    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    If the mandolin you are looking at is at Guitar Center - it was probably mine . . . I sold it to them at a store in Connecticut, last week.

    The mandolin has a great oval hole tone, and the action is low and easy. As Fifths pointed out in post #7, it works great for old-time music, as evidenced by my old friend Bill Bolick. Because of Bill, and my friendship with him, I have owned two Style 20's over the years, and have never been disappointed. The only reason I sold this mandolin is because (for a few reasons) I just could not justify keeping it anymore. My Style 20's have been good friends for the past 19 years, and I will always think of them fondly.

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  19. #16

    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    Mike, you have increased my interest in this mandolin. Nice curlbto the maple? Frets in good shape?

  20. #17

    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    I am certainly not an expert on woods or frets, and I don't want to give you any less-than-accurate information - especially given the facts that the mandolin is no longer in front of me, and that you cannot play the instrument in advance . . . so I will just give you my layman's observations and recollections.

    When I first bought the mandolin it seemed to be in very, very nice shape for being nearly 90-years old . I think I commented here on the Cafe that aesthetically; 'the mandolin looks like it was made in 1929, played often but carefully for a year, and then put back in the case for eight decades.' (Unfortunately, it did not come with the original case.) The action on this mandolin was very low. The neck is straight, and I cannot recall any buzzes or dead spots anywhere on the fretboard. The tone is what I would refer to as a 'very old-time, oval hole sound' . . . that is to say that if you are looking for 'chop' this is not the mandolin for you, but if you like to play melodically, this is a winner. (Go to YouTube and type in Blue Sky Boys, 'Who's Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet' for a good example of the tone . . . and some fine playing.) The projection on this mandolin certainly would not constitute it as a 'banjo killer', but in an old-time, folk, small-ensemble setting, it will be just fine. The only odd thing about this mandolin is that I looked high, low, backwards, forwards, inside, outside, upside-down, right side-up and every other place, but I could not find a serial number - but given the features, I have not doubt that it was a 1929. The only other note is that the strings will DEFINITELY need to be changed, as they are pretty dead . . . but aside from that, I would give this mandolin my highest recommendation.

    Feel free to let me know if I can help with anything else.

  21. #18
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    George Henry: It sounds like you live about 1-1/2 hour drive from the Guitar Center store in Knoxville, TN. If you are hesitant in buying it sight unseen why not have them ship it from CT to the Knoxville store. The downside is that you have to pay upfront for it but the upside is that you can try it in person, play it in the store for a good amount of time and if you didn't like it you are out the drive tike and the one way shipping. You can even take it home for 3 days. I know it is a long drive but might be worth it. Or just have it shipped to you directly but not sure if you have to pay shipping both directions in that case.
    Jim

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  23. #19

    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    I have done such a thing 3 times. I have GC ship to the Asheville which is 1/2 hr farther but the tax in NC is 2.5 % less.

  24. #20
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    OK. That makes sense. Now I do understand. I guess I didn't get that since you mentioned the mandolin being 900 miles away from you.
    Jim

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  25. #21

    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    I've decided to pass on the Martin mandolin. I've other projects to occupy my interest.

  26. #22

    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    The style 20 appears to have popped up again in Brooklyn at a greatly reduced price. I have purchased it and it's being shipped to Knoxville. Website says good condition. Because of pandemic return is increased to 90 days on vintage.

    We shall see.

  27. #23
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    It may be a good one but heck you won't know till you get her! Post pix etc... and then have some of the guys that know this stuff critique her!

  28. #24
    Registered User Steve 2E's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    I think I have deja vu all over again. Well done, Ahab!

  29. #25

    Default Re: Martin Style 20 Interest

    Haven't heard anything about mando whereabouts. I did get email that order had been placed. I really don't care about fret condition as long as neck is straight. I would probably replace frets anyway. I worked for six years as set up tech for instrument maker and I do fret installation for a local builder.

    I'm getting excited. I'm seen some YouTube videos of Style 20 and I like what I hear. More like Lyon and Healy than Gibson.

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