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Thread: Info on Inherited Mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Info on Inherited Mandolin

    I recently came to own one of my grandfather’s mandolins. It is one of several and I was told by the guys at the ‘shop’ who checked it over and fixed it up that it is a nice mandolin. So I decided to start lessons and I’m in love.
    I have no information at all about this mandolin except it’s an A-50. From my google research I am thinking it’s a 1950’s model but I would love to know more.
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  3. #2

    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    The dot above the i is joined to the G- I think that ended about 1957- making this instrument before or from that year. The tuners are called "single line" Klusons- as the name Kluson Deluxe is in a single line and in 1963 or so this was changed to a double line. These tuners debuted in about 1947, I believe. There are little design differences that help with their date.I am sure you can use that serial number to fix the date. There may be more information inside- I am sure others can tell you- what is called a Factory order Number which helps with the date as well. Nice looking example in good order. This website shows those little Kluson features which help date the tuners. Remember that makers might have stockpiles of tuners- so the instrument might date to a time after a new variant of tuner was devised. http://www.guitarhq.com/kluson.html

  4. #3

    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    I found this on Factory order Numbers- it will be somewhere inside if it is present. Your mandolin has the "block" logo:
    1948 1100s to 3700s (move from script to block logo)
    1949 2000s
    1950 3000s to 5000s
    1951 6000s to 9000s
    From 1952 to 1961, a consistent letter code resumed, with the letter appearing before the batch number.

    1952 to 1961 FON Letter Prefixes
    Year FON Letter Prefix
    1952 Z
    1953 Y
    1954 X
    1955 W
    1956 V
    1957 U
    1958 T
    1959 S

  5. #4

    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    Looks like it's in nice condition, and that will be cool to carry on your grandfather's legacy by playing his old mandolin. Welcome to the world of mandolins!

  6. #5

    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    The serial number on the sticker inside is 70636. So it looks like it’s a 1951 model. It’s still in its original case, would that be helpful?

    - - - Updated - - -

    I had my first lesson yesterday and it was like love at first sight! I hate putting it down to be productive��

  7. #6

    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    An original case is nice but it also depends on its quality. It may be a relatively flimsy item or it might be a good solid case. Post up a photo. Many keep the old case but if it is not very good- and the mandolin is loose and rattles inside, it is wise to get a good solid snug fitting case to keep the mandolin secure and safe if you are going out and about a lot. It's your decision but it's an instrument that is worth quite a bit- so it needs a good case for excursions but probably not at home. Anyway, I am pleased you are enjoying learning- don't destroy your fingertips- stay sensible while they toughen up. I think you are looking at the registration number- the FON number might be stamped elsewhere- those FON numbers for 1951 are 6,000 to 9000- not 70,000 odd! I have had another look and I found this relating to Gibson serial numbers. In the 1950s they were prefixed by an A. In 1961 a new numbering sequence was started dropping the A and for 1964 the range is as follows:64240-70500 which includes the number on your mandolin. It appears to be made in 1964 with that registration number.
    Last edited by NickR; Jan-17-2019 at 5:23pm.

  8. #7

    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    Congrats! It sure looks nice and clean!

  9. #8

    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    Oh the case is for sure falling apart. I’m trying to get the hubby to let me buy a decent/safer case but we can’t at the moment. I was just curious if the case could help age the instrument.

    - - - Updated - - -

    I am just in love with it! Thank you. I’m on day two of playing and I just love the way it sings.

  10. #9
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    So this is one of several? Did you inherit them all, or were they split up among your family?

    If you got other mandolins of his and don't want to keep them, you could sell one and buy a new case with part of the money.

    It's a nice mandolin, looks like it's in good shape, and taking lessons is a lovely way to honor your grandfather's memory.
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  11. #10

    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    He had 3 of them and mine is the least valuable but the family is holding on to all of them. There is one that has a beautiful shape. Has almost a melon shape to the back of it. I think that one’s about 100 years old. They’re treasured and it would be a shame for them to be sold. I’ll be able to get a case for mine soon enough.

  12. #11
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    Gotcha. Well, if you want information on the others, you've come to the right place. You might be able to save some money on a used case, when you're ready, by posting a wanted ad in the Classifieds here.
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  13. #12

    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    I am so happy I found this place. I’ll take a look at the classifieds asap. Thank you!

  14. #13
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    It is actually unlikely that a bowlback is worth more than a '64 A50, unless it is a specific brand or model of bowlback.
    Emando.com: More than you wanted to know about electric mandolins.

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    Lyon & Healy • Wood • Thormahlen • Andersen • Bacorn • Yanuziello • Fender • National • Gibson • Franke • Fuchs • Aceto • Three Hungry Pit Bulls

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  16. #14

    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    If the case is falling apart then it is probably a cheap case but it appears to have done its job as the mandolin looks good, although with age- string tension etc and other factors instruments can need attention even if their cosmetic condition is excellent- and the converse can be found- as leaving instruments for decades in a case may not be beneficial A good case does not have to be expensive if you are just going out for lessons etc. It is different for a professional musician who has to entrust his instrument to rough handling by third parties! You may well find that your A50 is the most valuable mandolin but not the oldest of the three. You should check out the makers of the others although many old mandolins do not have a label inside- or the name on the headstock.

  17. #15
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    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    NickR is correct. A shaped hard case can be had for less than a hundred dollars new. If you really watch for specials some times half that. If the mandolin flops around in in it a couple T shirts can make it sung. I certainly would not allow it in luggage compartment on a plane like that but it will safely ride in you car where ever you want to take it and be protected.

  18. #16
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Sunshine&Vikings View Post
    Oh the case is for sure falling apart. I’m trying to get the hubby to let me buy a decent/safer case but we can’t at the moment. I was just curious if the case could help age the instrument...
    I've seen several A-50's and A-40's in "original" chipboard cases. They were considered Gibson's entry-level models, so probably were marketed with the less expensive cases. These cases aren't likely to last 50+ years.

    A decent imported hardshell would be a wise and necessary investment. Musician's Friend has several A-style cases, wooden or Fiberglas, ranging from $89 to $119.
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  19. #17

    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    What you often find is that the buyer paid as much as could be afforded for the instrument and then bought a case with the few pennies left over!Obviously, the more well-heeled did not have this problem and got a good instrument with a good case. Most times, it was the former methodology and that may not have worked out too well!

  20. #18

    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    I found a case that I want and hopefully will be picking it up shortly. I was just curious if cases would leave clues for instrument age. For now I have the mandolin cushioned any time I take it anywhere. Click image for larger version. 

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  21. #19

    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    Wondering what style of music he played, with a Gibson F-hole and a bowlback he could have done a wide variety of styles.
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  22. #20
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    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Sunshine&Vikings View Post
    I found a case that I want ...
    Uhmm... While the case looks nice on the outside and is branded Gibson (undoubtedly made FOR Gibson by a separate company), it is what's commonly call a "chipboard" case, meaning cardboard with a somewhat durable outer covering and a velour-ish covering on the inside. So yes, it looks nice, but...

    What it does not have is a wood or stiff foam body, internal bracing (generally also wood), and padding (foam covered with thick fuzzy fabric) that will protect the instrument from movement within the case AND from the shock of a moderate drop or fall, where damage is most likely to occur. (Some few cases may even protect from being run over and/or airline handling, but let's not go that far!)

    The Travelite case in Alan's link above is probably the most popular+effective "economy" case around, while I find the similar Gator case to be equally protective, if not as nicely appointed, for my best (Flatiron) mandolin. As both of those use stiff foam rather than wood as their primary structural component, they're not considered "hardshell", but are still VERY protective, far more than even a well-padded gig bag... or unpadded chipboard.

    BTW, I also use one of those hardshell Washburn cases for my more economy-but-most-abused-&-well-travelled mandolin (inside a padded/insulated tennis bag), but I got that on sale at maybe 1/3 the price listed. The hard shell is good, but the foam of the Travellite, and probably the Gator, would be more protective.
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  24. #21

    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    Ha ha , the photos are of the original case, not the one I am planning to buy. Don’t worry!

  25. #22

    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    He played some of everything. He would often play along to the radio on his mandolins. I don’t remember what he did formally with them. He was in a big band with his trombone and also played banjo but I don’t know what his training was. He would learn things from listening to them and just play with anything.

  26. #23

    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    What a lovely story. It makes me wish I had a granddaughter like you to inherit my mandolins when the time comes. Your A-50 is beautiful!!! If you look inside the F hole underneath the finger rest (pick guard), there should be a number stamped inside on the back. If so, that will be your FON and is more accurate for dating a Gibson mandolin.

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

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  28. #24
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Sunshine&Vikings View Post
    Ha ha , the photos are of the original case, not the one I am planning to buy. Don’t worry!
    That brown chipboard case with the faux alligator outside surface, is exactly the case I was thinking of when I mentioned the "original cupboard case" that lower-end Gibson instruments are often found in.

    I bought a '60's J-50 "slope shoulder" guitar that came in the guitar equivalent of that case. Makes me think of all the now-vintage instruments that were carried to lessons, gigs, jams, whatever in cases like that, and survived anyway. My J-50 went from Denver to LaGuardia in the cargo hold when I flew back, military standby, after my discharge in 1967. It's still playing; my sister has it, 50+ years later. Now, of course, it's in a decent hardshell.

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  30. #25

    Default Re: Info on Inherited Mandolin

    Yes, your case is a faux alligator case made by Geib and has that Gibson badge and is from the early 1960s- so it is original to the mandolin. It is certainly not the cheapest case in the range at that time and is actually worth a bit by itself. You should keep that case but look for a good modern example. I have a Gibson made Kalamazoo guitar from 1968 and it has its original case- and it is far more rudimentary than your case. Yes, your case is the top-of-the-range chipboard item and should be kept but if you plan regular outings with your mandolin get a stronger modern case as well. If you look on the case bottom there may be an impressed mark from the maker but they are not always present.

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