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Thread: Gibson H4 Mandola numbers

  1. #1
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    Default Gibson H4 Mandola numbers

    First time posting...

    Just wondering if anyone knows a the number for how many H4's Gibson produced? From the Mandolin Archive, it seems like the first one appeared around 1910 and maybe ended around 1930?

    Thanks!

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    Default Re: Gibson H4 Mandola numbers

    The reason you haven't gotten any other replies is that no one knows how many were made. We have no comprehensive production records from the early days of Gibson. We can only make very rough generalizations based on the number of surviving instruments that we see.

    The mandolin archive is a useful tool, but in most cases it represents only a small percentage of existing instruments. The Loar signed instruments are well reported. Most others are reported in considerably smaller numbers.

    An educated guess would be that they made them in the hundreds rather than in the thousands. A very generous estimate might be a maximum of well under 2000 total. Most were made between 1912 or so and 1920. H-4's made after 1925 are rarely seen.

    Bear in mind that we see only a handful of H-4's on the market in a year, while we see dozens of F-4's.

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson H4 Mandola numbers

    Most all H-4's were sold to the players of mandolin orchestras of the day, they were expensive, more so than the F-4 wern't they? In just my short years of say maybe a bit over 20 years of writing down every 30's F-7 serial # I've came across and I've only found a little less than 40 and there was well over 120 supposedly made according to Spann's guide "I'd have to look at his book for shipping totals, but I'm pretty close there"? So where are the others?
    I've only ever seen/heard of maybe two or so H-4's from the 1930's. You can look in the archives to give you an idea from the "Loar and early post Loar period" But there sure isn't many I'd say. Now you have my curiosity so I'll have to look at the archives but from memory I don't think there are many listed after say 1926, maybe a few?

    I just looked and it looks like there is 8 post Loar H-4's listed, that's after the last KNOWN Loar signed F-5, Looks like none after say 1930 "ship date" but I know for a fact there are a few 30's H-4's, and the archives sure don't show every Gibson ever made, just the ones that turn up. I have some that aren't in there I need to send in? But you can look at say known H-4 #'s and ust know they were limited quantity in those years as the mando boom was pretty much over.
    I didn't look but I bet there are a ton in the teens compared to Loar and post Loar period as that was when the mando boom was IN!
    Last edited by William Smith; May-24-2019 at 3:28pm. Reason: More Information

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    Default Re: Gibson H4 Mandola numbers

    I am glad to play (and own) an H4 from 1916 (according to Spann). I suspect there are fewer than "hundreds" made, let alone surviving. The important thing for me is my mandola is a superb instrument - but the history of it all is fascinating for sure!
    Jim Y

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    Default Re: Gibson H4 Mandola numbers

    I recall that it took me some time, measured in years rather than months, to find and purchase my H4. I see them appear for sale now at a rate of about 2-3 per year; they seem to appear more often these days, which I assume is due to both the ability to access obscure stuff thanks to the internet, as well as the aging of those souls who owned them and subsequent dispersal of their collections.

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    Default Re: Gibson H4 Mandola numbers

    I'd love the right H-4. preferably one from 24 with a Virzi! I bet not too many of those around! Even some of the earlier ones are very nice! I have a 24 Gibson Tenor Lute that was a basket case when I found it-"cracks, terrible sanding, old brad nails all over the sides and back into neck block, original TL neck was busted at the end, hardware all broke or not there so it had the right pedigree for a conversion," the GREAT Gary Vessel transformed into a mighty fine black face Mandola with a longer scale maple neck with pearl block inlays in board, it looks like it belongs in the depression era! Its way KOOL!

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    Default Re: Gibson H4 Mandola numbers

    Thanks to each of you for your replies. I loved reading your information and learning new things! My love of the H-4 goes back to the early 90's when I was learning mandolin. (i'm a converted 5-string banjo player). I actually learned to play on a 1919 H-4, owned by one of my jamming buddies. I eventually moved on to mandolin and some years later picked up an H-2, but never forgot the fancy H-4 on which I'd learned. Like you've mentioned, they're not often seen for sale, and I agree that the final production numbers must have only been in the hundreds. I finally found one just last fall, one of the very few post-Loar-period models, dating to 1927. It's got a big, bold tone, and plays wonderfully. I find myself playing it about every day. I played an H-5 at Carter's last spring, but can't imagine it's much better than this one! Just more expensive! Thanks again to everyone.

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    Default Re: Gibson H4 Mandola numbers

    The few H-4's I've played were great instruments. I guess I have heard of maybe 20 to 40 of them on the open market over the years; and know of a few others that have happy homes. There are 55 listed in the archive.

    After thinking about it for a couple of days, I'm going to guess that 400 to 600 total might have been made, and that maybe half of them are still in existence.

    A local fellow turned up with a sloppily refinished one a few weeks ago. I haven't seen it advertised on the net. I considered buying it and restoring and re-varnishing it, but he was asking more than I was prepared to give for a re-finished instrument.

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  15. #9
    Formerly F5JOURNL Darryl Wolfe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson H4 Mandola numbers

    I did a quick study on mandolinarchive and there are 55 H4's versus 480 something F4's. Since mandolin archive is not a selective study like my F5Journal, I would accept that ratio as very accurate. Roughly one H4 for every 10 F4's.

    My F5 journal performs an algorhythm to calculate an estimated built number. If it detects any 2 serial numbers within 6 of each other, it assumes a batch and fills in the numbers between as confident they exist. But studying H4 serial numbers I see a distinct pattern where they do not appear to be made in batches of significant number at one time. During the Loar era (for the H4), I see a pattern of maybe 6-12 at one time. Prior to that, I would guess 2-4 as needed

    With that said I would multiply half of the 55, lets say 25 by 4 per batch for a total of 100
    Then I would take the other 30 and reduce that by one half to account for consecutive serial numbers I see. That would be 15 and now multiply that by an arbitrary 8 per batch for another 120. This makes an estimated total of 220

    This seems a bit low to me. But even if you multiplied everyone of the 55 numbers by a batch of 8, you only get 660

    300-400 would be my best effort guess. Applying the above ratio, that makes 3000-4000 F4's which seems correct in my mind

    This approach quite easily rules out any notion of 1000 or more H4's.

    For further sanity check, there are 20 recorded H5's versus 281 F5's, a bit less than 1 per 10

    This puts RCC56's post spot on
    Last edited by Darryl Wolfe; May-28-2019 at 11:10am.
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    Default Re: Gibson H4 Mandola numbers

    Thank you, Daryl. This is really great information and I enjoyed learning more about the way the numbers are calculated. This makes the most sense to me as well in terms of quantities produced. It almost seems as if they were made on demand rather than part of a production schedule. I suppose it wouldn't be a stretch then to apply a similar ratio calculation to K4 mandocello production vs the H4, as H4 - F4. Anyway, I'm happy to have one after all these years and even more impressed when I think of the rarity of this instrument.

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    Default Re: Gibson H4 Mandola numbers

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ebie View Post
    Thank you, Daryl. This is really great information and I enjoyed learning more about the way the numbers are calculated. This makes the most sense to me as well in terms of quantities produced. It almost seems as if they were made on demand rather than part of a production schedule. I suppose it wouldn't be a stretch then to apply a similar ratio calculation to K4 mandocello production vs the H4, as H4 - F4. Anyway, I'm happy to have one after all these years and even more impressed when I think of the rarity of this instrument.
    Historically, Gibson made instruments in batches. But some of the real questions were how many. On high volume instruments this was 12-24 at a time. In this case, I'm seeing 4-6 at a time, but several times a year maybe. During the Loar era, they overbuilt, producing say 12 at a time when they only had one sold. The rest hung around until sold
    Darryl G. Wolfe, The F5 Journal
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