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Thread: Help please dating A-style Gibson

  1. #1
    Registered User tonydxn's Avatar
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    Default Help please dating A-style Gibson

    Just received this Gibson A50 (I think). No label, serial number or any sign of a FON inside. Would be grateful for any clue about when it could have been made (or even if it really is a Gibson).

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    I believe it may be older than the style of the Gibson decal suggests - everything in the truss rod pocket is covered in black paint (including the nut and D-washer), which makes me think it may have been at least partially refinished.
    Mandolins: Bandolim by Antonio Pereira Cabral
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Help please dating A-style Gibson

    Wartime-era tuners......

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Help please dating A-style Gibson

    Looks like very late 1940s but you mention the logo may not be original. Gibson began using Philips screws in 1939 while as mentioned, the Kluson tuners lost their screws in the gears during WW2 and stayed that way for a while after its end. The pickguard bracket changed shape in the 50s and this has one that is from the earlier style. The photo of the back of the headstock does suggest there may have been a repair effected. Here is a 1946 A50 on ebay with a nice shot of the back of its headstock: https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-194...4AAOSwOdpXz1cF

    Some info on the Gibson logo which I assume to be correct:

    n 1947, the logo that is still in use today made its debut. This logo has a block styling with the "G" having a tail, the "i" dot is touching the "G", the "b" and "o" are open and the "n" is connected at the bottom. The logo is still slanted.

    By 1951, the dot on the "i" was no longer connected to the "G."
    Last edited by NickR; May-10-2019 at 12:22pm.

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  6. #4

    Default Re: Help please dating A-style Gibson

    In fact, your mandolin looks like the one for sale in Pennsylvania a few weeks ago.

  7. #5
    Registered User tonydxn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help please dating A-style Gibson

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    In fact, your mandolin looks like the one for sale in Pennsylvania a few weeks ago.
    Yes Nick, that's the one. Thanks Nick and Jeff for your pointers. So, it looks like not earlier than 1942 and not later than 1951.

    One thing that puzzles me about this mandolin is that the neck is spliced, with that black-stained wood down the middle that starts to crumble after a few decades. I always thought Gibson gave that up as a bad idea long before this one was made.
    Mandolins: Bandolim by Antonio Pereira Cabral
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  8. #6

    Default Re: Help please dating A-style Gibson

    That neck is puzzling, for sure- the next time I am with Gordon Wells, I will ask him about that. I get the impression from talking to him that changes of production technique often led to problems- so that various years are less good for certain Gibson instruments. In other words, you need to know your way around some long-lived models to avoid making an acquisition that might appear to be a bargain when it is not! Anyway, let's hope once you get a bridge and string it up, it hits the spot. You have certainly tidied it up a fair bit already.

    My A50 is not an A50- it is the Wards Model 1642 from 1936. It has that slanted headstock and no truss rod- not even a steel rod but is otherwise identical to the A50. It is a good instrument with a beautiful flame to the maple on its back. Gordon is making me a new guard as it is rotted badly- you have appeared to have mended yours okay. Sadly, my mandolin did have a crack on the top which he has glued- it looked like a scratch in the photos but it was a bargain nevertheless. Let us know how your new mandolin sounds. I imagine the case may be the original- it looks 1940s or 50s but cases can be swapped over time. This is the 1642- a seven string mandolin when it arrived- Gordon got me the post and gear for it!


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  9. #7
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help please dating A-style Gibson

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    ... My A50 is not an A50- it is the Wards Model 1642 from 1936. It has that slanted headstock and no truss rod- not even a steel rod but is otherwise identical to the A50...
    None of the Gibson 2nd lines had a truss rod.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  10. #8

    Default Re: Help please dating A-style Gibson

    I saw an analysis of the Wards Recording King "Nick Lucas" model and that had a truss rod but it was not adjustable- it was buried in the neck. I had wondered if that would be the case with this Wards mandolin but my extra strong magnet says "NO!" but the neck is in great shape. It is possible that other guitars had a rod but unless they are checked with a magnet one should assume that there is no rod present.To shave the price, Gibson had to cut out some cost but as a company like Wards bought in bulk I am sure that was a large part of the discount- along with cutting out the middle man when the instrument was sold. The Wards mandolin was the only carved top model sold that was not branded as Gibson, I believe.

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    R-5, MT & A1 ('12. '13) lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help please dating A-style Gibson

    I am with you, tonydxn. I have what in serial number is a teens oval and the decal we think was added later? Anyway, it is a mystery to me and thought I would throw in my lot to the discussion.
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  12. #10
    Registered User tonydxn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help please dating A-style Gibson

    Quote Originally Posted by lflngpicker View Post
    I am with you, tonydxn. I have what in serial number is a teens oval and the decal we think was added later? Anyway, it is a mystery to me and thought I would throw in my lot to the discussion.
    I recently bought, repaired and sold on an oval-hole A style a lot like yours which had the same logo on the head. I am pretty sure Gibson had fitted a new fretboard and put the logo on while they were about it. It was on top of the finish anyway and met with a mishap while I was working on it (no great loss I reckon). The logo on the A50 is under the finish.
    Mandolins: Bandolim by Antonio Pereira Cabral
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    R-5, MT & A1 ('12. '13) lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help please dating A-style Gibson

    Quote Originally Posted by tonydxn View Post
    I recently bought, repaired and sold on an oval-hole A style a lot like yours which had the same logo on the head. I am pretty sure Gibson had fitted a new fretboard and put the logo on while they were about it. It was on top of the finish anyway and met with a mishap while I was working on it (no great loss I reckon). The logo on the A50 is under the finish.
    Thanks Tony! Yeah, it makes sense that someone did some work at Gibson and then added the logo. Everything else, including the label and serial screams 1913, so I find it interesting. BTW-- the nut is wider than my 1912, another fact that speaks to the possibility of the logo being affixed while in the shop. I am no expert at dating these early Gibson mandolins, but I gather these things from the likes of friends like yourself. Wonderful tone and easy to play.

  14. #12
    Registered User John Rosett's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help please dating A-style Gibson

    It was not uncommon for Gibson to repaint pegheads and put a modern logo on and instrument that came in for repair. I used to have a Southern Jumbo guitar that had the original 1947 script logo underneath a coat of black paint and a 50's style logo. The guitar had had extensive repairs.
    "it's not in bad taste, if it's funny" - john waters

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help please dating A-style Gibson

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    I saw an analysis of the Wards Recording King "Nick Lucas" model and that had a truss rod but it was not adjustable- it was buried in the neck. I had wondered if that would be the case with this Wards mandolin but my extra strong magnet says "NO!" but the neck is in great shape. It is possible that other guitars had a rod but unless they are checked with a magnet one should assume that there is no rod present.To shave the price, Gibson had to cut out some cost but as a company like Wards bought in bulk I am sure that was a large part of the discount- along with cutting out the middle man when the instrument was sold. The Wards mandolin was the only carved top model sold that was not branded as Gibson, I believe.
    There was also a Cromwell model that was carved if I recall. I don't feel like digging through the books. The Gibson adjustable truss rod was what differentiated the second line instruments from everything else. Anything non-adjustable would have been ok because it was seen as inferior and the Gibson dealers couldn't complain.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  17. #14
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    Default Re: Help please dating A-style Gibson

    A hint for dating re-worked Gibsons without identifying numbers:

    Gibson guitars and A-40 and A-50 mandolins made before mid 1950 have a peghead that is noticeably thicker directly behind the nut than it is at the logo. Gibsons made after 1950 have a peghead of near uniform thickness.

    A side shot of the peghead on the original poster's mandolin would confirm its date of manufacture as pre-1950. And yes, those are wartime tuners. Wartime Gibson instruments often have necks that are not in one piece. Apparently, large blocks of mahogany were in short supply. I would not be surprised if an inspection with a light and a mirror also revealed a poplar neck block.

    I have seen many Gibson instruments that were re-worked at the factory and had the block letter logo added. An example of this is Dan Brooks mandolin, pictured in post #9. His mandolin was definitely made in the early 1910's. The ball end tuner posts and the bridge with removeable saddles narrow the date of manufacture to no later than early 1915. The tailpiece is a replacement.
    Last edited by rcc56; May-11-2019 at 11:18pm.

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  19. #15
    Registered User tonydxn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help please dating A-style Gibson

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    A hint for dating re-worked Gibsons without identifying numbers:

    Gibson guitars and A-40 and A-50 mandolins made before mid 1950 have a peghead that is noticeably thicker directly behind the nut than it is at the logo. Gibsons made after 1950 have a peghead of near uniform thickness.

    A side shot of the peghead on the original poster's mandolin would confirm its date of manufacture as pre-1950. And yes, those are wartime tuners. Wartime Gibson instruments often have necks that are not in one piece. Apparently, large blocks of mahogany were in short supply. I would not be surprised if an inspection with a light and a mirror also revealed a poplar neck block.
    Yes, the head thickness does taper down (from about 17mm to 13mm). The neck is made of quite nicely flamed maple and the neck block is indeed made of a much lighter-coloured wood than mahogany.
    Mandolins: Bandolim by Antonio Pereira Cabral
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    R-5, MT & A1 ('12. '13) lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help please dating A-style Gibson

    rcc56, Sure appreciate the additional information from you. Removes the mystery! Thanks, Dan

  21. #17
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    Default Re: Help please dating A-style Gibson

    Glad I was able to be of help.

    A hint on identifying poplar: it is fairly light in color and often has a greenish tint. Gibson used it for neck blocks on at least some instruments from c. 1942 to c. 1944.

    American instrument makers were faced with materials shortages and made due with what they could get their hands on during WWII. During this period, we often see wood substitutions and less use of metal. By mid 1946, most instruments are once again made with "standard" materials.

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  23. #18
    Registered User tonydxn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help please dating A-style Gibson

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    . . . Let us know how your new mandolin sounds . . .
    I'm not much of a player - I get my kicks from building mandolins and bringing dead ones back to life. I can't describe the sound as a player would, but to me the trebles sound clear and sweet and the basses have quite a bark. I have posted a very basic sound sample here https://youtu.be/vi99zVDA7Wk

    Here are some before/after shots so you can see what I have done with it

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    Thanks to everyone who helped with information on this mandolin. It is now ready to start a new life with someone who can really play . . .
    Mandolins: Bandolim by Antonio Pereira Cabral
    German flatback by unknown maker converted from a descant Waldzither

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  25. #19

    Default Re: Help please dating A-style Gibson

    Tony, that's great- did you remake the whole of the pickguard? I'm pleased it has worked out so well. I got the pickguard for my 1936 Wards Model 1642 last week. Gordon Wells made me one from scratch using the remnant of the original as a guide. He backed it with clear perspex to make it a bit thicker as the celluloid I obtained was a bit thin- as was the original- and he glued the white beading to itClick image for larger version. 

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  26. #20
    Registered User tonydxn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help please dating A-style Gibson

    The binding was still sound and intact, so I re-used it. It was easy to get rid of the old crumbled acetate. I cut some new acrylic tortoiseshell from StewMac and fitted it into the binding. I had the bracket nickel plated.
    Mandolins: Bandolim by Antonio Pereira Cabral
    German flatback by unknown maker converted from a descant Waldzither

  27. #21

    Default Re: Help please dating A-style Gibson

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    ...perspex...
    Perspex, apparently also called Plexiglas etc.

    (As an elderly U.S.-ian, I've only encountered the word "Perspex" one other time, about 30 years ago in a cassette-tape audiobook ghost story by Frederick Forsyth "The Shepherd" about a British pilot trying to get back home to England on Christmas Eve 1957. At the time, I figured from the book's context that Perspex was probably something similar to Plexiglas, but I'd never actually looked it up until seeing NickR's post today.)

  28. #22

    Default Re: Help please dating A-style Gibson

    As Tony and I live in the UK, I used the brand name Perspex but I nearly wrote Plexiglas- as most of those who might read the comment would not be familiar with Perspex. On another matter, the breakdown of the pickguard on my mandolin really corroded the bracket but with a file, I cleaned it up but there's no way it is going to be replated! There was a bit of damage to the top but thankfully, none to the binding or other plastic and metal. The seller cannot believe the transformation to her father's apparently wrecked mandolin which he had since childhood.

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  30. #23
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help please dating A-style Gibson

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    As Tony and I live in the UK...
    So you look at mandolins with a different perspextive...?
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  31. #24

    Default Re: Help please dating A-style Gibson

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    So you look at mandolins with a different perspextive...?
    That's very good!

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