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Thread: Loar-period A-Jrs.

  1. #1
    Rush Burkhardt Rush Burkhardt's Avatar
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    Default Loar-period A-Jrs.

    Having, over the years, passed on several opportunities to own LL's, for various reasons, I have finally achieved my goal of purchasing a Lloyd-period Gibson. So... maybe not one LL paid much attention to... an A-Jr. (snakehead). He might have walked past it on his way to examine and sign an F5!

    I've not found a great deal of information about the Jrs. (found what was in the Forum... still more details would be wonderful!)

    I've struggled to clearly make out the identifying numbers in my mandolin. Best I can tell, the serial number is 70050 and the FON 11165. (both the numbers on the block and the label are obscured by age and wear.) The numbers don't seem to jibe with the reading I've done! They are somewhat in conflict, as 70050 would put it one number past Dan Beimbornís own Jr. (a 1922 - I didn't know snakeheads were produced that early). The FON 11165 (which, on inspection) is a bit clearer, shows no relatives other than a Virzi - H5 [mandola] from 1924.

    Incidentally, my Jr. is a natural front, sans stain! (It could have been refinished sometime in itís life, I guess!; Tuners are not original. Bridge? New fret-board and frets.)

    Any information I could glean would be gratefully received. (Loaned my Spann to a ďfriendĒ! It disappeared!)

    Thanks! Rush
    PS Itís a great player regardless of its pedigree!


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    Rush Burkhardt
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  3. #2
    Dan Sampson mando_dan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    Looks great! Enjoy picking your little piece of history.
    1999 Buckeye #18 (Bucky)
    198x Flatiron pancake mandola (no name)

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    Registered User Bruce Clausen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    Nice! Here's mine, with original bridge and fingerrest.

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    Probably from 1924. I got new frets on it a few years ago, and now it plays very nice. And a new nut gave me a little wider string spacing on that very narrow neck.

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    I like those Snakes guys! Very Nice! I recently swapped an 88 F5-L for a 24 A-4 with Virzi-that needs to be in the archives with a handful of other KOOL Gibson's I have. My A-4 has some sweet tones to her!

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  9. #5
    Rush Burkhardt Rush Burkhardt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    Thanks, Folks! Continuing...

    Question 1: Did all LPJrs. (Loar Period Jrs.) have 1 piece bridges?
    Question 2: Were all LPJrs. sold with the stained finish?

    Rush
    Rush Burkhardt
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  10. #6
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    Yes I think all came with the one piece bridge and Sheraton Brown finish. At least the ones I've seen, a bunch have been upgraded with adjustable bridges. Good mandolins/bang for the buck!

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  12. #7
    Registered User Bruce Clausen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    Here's the fingerboard on mine. Don't know if I've seen another like it, with the sapwood and heartwood together. Must have been the cheapest ebony in the pile, but it's a nice look.

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    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    Very nice! Are you sure about 70050? That would make it the lowest serial number of all snakeheads -- last time I looked on Mandolin Archive, the lowest snakehead was 70336. As you say, 70049 is also an A-Jr, but that one is a paddlehead.

    My own A-Jr is very close to that: it's 68884, which is dated 1921 on Mandolin Archive although I suspect it's actually 1922 from the Spann dates. No visible FON. Mine is a paddlehead, with a very dark Sheraton brown finish (the photos on Mandolin Archive are a bit misleading because of the professional lights used by Dan for the photos). 70026 was recently for sale at Folkways Music as a 1922 instrument, and is also an A-jr paddlehead.

    Not sure what else you want to know about the A-Jr model. They were a stripped-down budget model, and sold with a different round label and a different brochure from the main range A models. You may already have seen the "Junior Gibsons" catalogue -- see attached from a recent Ebay auction.

    The mandolin shown is a snakehead, and interestingly it looks like a natural finish even though every single A-Jr I've ever seen (other than ones known to have been refinished, like Howard Frye's) has been a Sheraton Brown one. That may just be because it looks better in a monochrome catalogue, or maybe there were a few natural snakehead A-Jr mandolins made, in which case your finish may be original. I wouldn't bet on it, though. Your bridge is a replacement -- the A-Jr had a single-piece bridge.

    Anyway, I love my A-Jr to bits, so I think you've done very well!

    Martin
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  15. #9
    Rush Burkhardt Rush Burkhardt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    Thanks, Martin! The serial number/FON contrast is a bit bewildering...wish they were easier to read. I had not seen the Jrs. brochure! Way cool!

    Took the liberty of visiting your YouTube channel! An amazing collection of mandolin-centric tunes! Thanks for posting those! (enjoyed the tunes you personally recorded.)

    Rush
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  16. #10
    Rush Burkhardt Rush Burkhardt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    Thanks, Bruce! Looks great, and in good condition! More photos?
    Rush
    Rush Burkhardt
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  17. #11
    Rush Burkhardt Rush Burkhardt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    Hey, Bill!
    Thanks for response! Definitely great "bang" for the buck!
    Rush
    Rush Burkhardt
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  18. #12
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    Hey Bruce, I seen fret boards like yours, On a 34 Gibson F-7 that I've seen comes to mind. I like that look, gives some character than just the typical black ebony board. Very nice, It still brings my mind to wonder why Gibson never put long scale "5 style" necks on their A models well the F-2's and 4's also? I think they would be a whole lot better? I have a 1914 F-2 that has a nasty heel break and the peg head ears are missing on both sides so I was thinking about putting a long scale neck with board elevated off the top? The body is fairly nice and all original including all hardware so I'm still thinking on fixing it original or the longer neck idea? I know there are tons of F-2's from that era "teens" that are very nice and original so I'm leaning toward a convert "I think anyway as I got a real good deal on it" I believe it would be fantastic with a longer neck and elevated board, sound wise a whole lot better. If it was something really rare I would fix original but seeing how the heel crack is more like a vicious break and the neck is warped and would need heat and a neck set well I'm talking myself into converting it to make an awesome player-something a wee bit different than an F-5.

  19. #13
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rush Burkhardt View Post
    Took the liberty of visiting your YouTube channel! An amazing collection of mandolin-centric tunes! Thanks for posting those! (enjoyed the tunes you personally recorded.)
    Thanks a lot, Rush!

    To avoid confusion: everything on my Youtube channel has been recorded by me personally, overdubbing all the instrument parts -- 1622 recordings on latest count. This includes the videos with a slide show rather than a live video of me playing. It's just that I stopped making a video of me playing when I went to recording multi-track as trying to sync that with a video adds too much complexity to the recording process and I'm more interested in the audio.

    There's a lot of tracks showcasing my A-Jr -- just search for "Gibson" on my channel homepage. It comes up first with my very old recordings (with video) and then the newer ones (with slide show) which tend to be better quality recording-wise.

    Martin
    Last edited by Martin Jonas; Jun-27-2019 at 6:58am.

  20. #14
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rush Burkhardt View Post
    Hey, Bill!
    Thanks for response! Definitely great "bang" for the buck!
    Rush
    For sure buddy! I love all those old pre-war Gibson mandolins, each is special even the modified ones! Did you ever get your old 30's F-12 conversion listed in the archives? I never did my F-7 converts but I sold/traded them off except my old faithful Loar Buster but that has an EA prefix being a 39 and the archive isn't set up for that strange # system yet? I think they should make a page for the letter prefix #'s as there are some really neat late 30's early 40's mandolins with that # system like the 7's, and wide bodied A-1's and A-50's also the F-4's, I also think I've seen some F-5's with that # system-actually Dusty Strings has a 39 F-5 with the EA than the # but it was totally redone by Randy Wood in the early 70's, I'm sure its great but people should and should've left the vintage pre-war F-5's alone In My Honest Opinion anyway. Sure they were built a bit heavy but all pre-war and the few early war 5's are pretty rare!

  21. #15
    Rush Burkhardt Rush Burkhardt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    Y'know, I've never thought about submitting my '37 to the archives, Bill. I always assumed the archives were for original instruments. Also have trouble knowing, with certainty, that I'm correct in the dating. The number on the label is not legible. My dating is based on Rual's report when I bought it in '69, and Randy's examination and recollection in '11 or so. Guess I'll have to do some investigation. Thanks for the idea!
    Rush
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  22. #16

    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    Hi, folks. I'm new here. Funny to see this topic coming up just now, as I too just bought my first vintage Gibson mandolin (replacing a Kentucky 630), and it is also a Loar-era snakehead A Jr. The photo below is from the store where I bought it, Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto, California.

    The description card that came with my A Jr originally said 1924, but someone hand-corrected it to 1923. Having read up a bit on the dating of vintage Gibsons, I see that the confusion is probably due to a conflict between the FON and the serial number. The FON indicates very late 1923 (it's very close to the end of the range given on this page), and the serial number, if the Mandolin Archive's dating of instruments is to be believed, indicates 1924. Since the FON was applied early in the production process, I would be inclined to call it a '24 on the assumption that production began in December '23 and finished sometime in '24. I don't really care which year it is; it's a Loar-era Gibson either way.

    I visited Gryphon at lunchtime today and tried all four of their vintage Gibsons. I was surprised to find that the A Jr sounded worlds better than any of the others (a 1912 F-2, a 1929 F-2, and a 1935 flat-back A-00 -- the Jr is thus the only Loar-era of the group). The Jr has a beautiful, full, brilliant tone that projects wonderfully, while all of the others were comparatively tinny and not nearly as loud. I also compared the Jr to a few modern mandolins; the only one that compared well to the Jr was a new Collings priced at over 5x what they were asking for the Jr. So I bought the Jr. It is nearly all original; Gryphon replaced the tuners with Waverlys, though the original ones are in the case (and it's the original case, too -- a bit beat up on the exterior, but still usable). It even came with a vintage rattlesnake rattle in a little Ziploc bag. I'm told these were originally used to keep mice away, though I have no idea how well that worked.

    I love the A Jr. It sounds great and plays well, and I like its thick neck. The Kentucky will likely be sold soon.

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  24. #17
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    All the snakes I've played and owned were very fine sounding for the round hole shortneck sound, full of tone and plenty of volume-I think personally most all the Loar period instruments are very fine! Extra care in the building process maybe accounts for much of that? Bang for the buck those Jr's are great if your into sound rather than the fancy appointments of their higher end models-its mostly all cosmetic things, like binding, inlays etc... Great score guys! I had a snake A-1 that I sold here recently as it needed some work but it was pretty plain Jane, had the gold stenciled "The Gibson" in the peg head and why I bought it was for the Loar A style arrowhead silver plated pearl button tuners! Yes Gibson sporadically put these fine tuning machines on some of their cheaper mandolins of the period! I would think they just had them on say the snake A-4's and A2-Z's but no after seeing a handful of say A-1 snakes I believe maybe extra care was taken with the mandolins with these tuners? I've often seen the silver plated engraved bump end worm over gear pearl buttoned tuners on 1925-26 Gibson A's evan again on the lower priced models! Maybe they just reached into the pile of tuners and pulled out whatever to use, or maybe that's what someone wanted when they say ordered one or Gibson just did this to give some fancy options for any of the extensive perspective buyers? With Gibson back in the 20's and for sure in the depression era of the 30's I've learned anything was possible as there are so many different configurations within each madel and year such as better wood, hardware, inlays, elevated fret boards on some with most the board glued flush to the top! Some people frown on the 30's Gibson's-mandolins and guitars but I'm a huge fan of some of these models and some are quite rare! My favorites are the 1935 elevated board F-hole A-50's-now that is some bang for the buck, I'm always on the lookout for these-all I had in the past were awesome-maybe I'll have to poat a wanted add????

  25. #18
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    Hey William, have you ever heard of something called a paragraph or, punctuation? A twenty line paragraph is hard to read.
    Sorry, teacher parents.
    Three components, for each paragraph “beginning, core and end” as in most writing compositions.
    Again, I apologize for an “English Lesson” but, this is a real hair raiser for me, I won’t read that babble.
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

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  27. #19
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    Sorry about that, actually I'm an avid reader but I agree I'll start writing without thinking as my mind always is in wander and wonder mode, and yes without thinking about proper English! Guilty!

    I didn't think I babbled anything, just facts as I know them!

  28. #20
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    I don’t mean the content, just, the grammar. A series of run on sentences tends to be tedious to read. For me anyway.
    No harm, no foul.
    You usually have excellent information to share btw.
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

  29. #21
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    Yes my grammar sometimes gets away with me among other things! I try to be helpful to all when I can be and that's what its all about for me sharing knowledge and the passion for what we here all love.
    It amazing to me how Gibson back in those days did things different on the same model, be it tuners or other hardware, even binding on how on a small batch they put tortoise back binding on the F-2's and 4's. I don't believe I've seen that on an A model but could be wrong? I've learned take nothin for granted with Gibson's in the 20's-30's.

  30. #22
    Rush Burkhardt Rush Burkhardt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    So...I still have some A-Jr. questions. There have been shots across the bow, but NO definitive answers! (Yes. I understand the Gibson record-keeping, over the years, left something to be desired.)

    1. When was the snake-head introduced to the Jr. line? (My mandolin's serial number is 70050, and it is a snakehead! The FON seems to be 11165.)
    2. I have seen, in the archives, and other places that the Jr's were Sheraton Brown. Were they all Sheraton Brown? (Mine is a more natural finish...those I've had look at it agree that it doesn't seem to have been refinished.)

    All help gratefully appreciated!
    Rush Burkhardt
    Towson, MD


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  31. #23

    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    I believe the snakeheads were made only from 1922 through 1924 or '25, and A-Jr's were all Sheraton Brown.

  32. #24
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    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    My Jr was made Dec 22, 1922. Very fine instrument.

    Bought in excellent minus condition with original case for $400 in Napa, Calf. in 1984. Seller was the grand daughter of the original owner who bought it new.

  33. #25

    Default Re: Loar-period A-Jrs.

    Hi Rush, Do a search for posts from iowaiowa. Should find photos of original chipboard case for this exact mando. (Long gone). Very interesting initials and address.

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