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Thread: Enigmatic Gibson A-50 Mandolin 1930s but with 40s metal ware

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    Default Enigmatic Gibson A-50 Mandolin 1930s but with 40s metal ware

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Gib...ndition=4%7C10



    This mandolin is an enigma. The headstock inlaid logo dates the mandolin to the early 1930s as Gibson moved over to a silkscreened logo that was much larger in script size. The bridge is also an older style than you would expect on a mid-30s A-50. To my eye it appears to be an early 1930s mandolin. However, it has Kluson tuners which Gibson started to use in 1937-8 but the gears are riveted in place- something Kluson started to do in 1942 as the wartime metal shortage began to bite- so screws were replaced by rivets. In 1939, Gibson went over to Phillips screws- all the metal ware on this mandolin is attached by Phillips screws. So, it is a real anomaly. Was it mandolin body that was stored for about 10 years and completed in WW2 by Gibson- or was it made at the start of the A-50 run with f holes that began in 1934 and then returned to Gibson and new tuners were put on it? Why would Gibson replace the screws that hold on the tailpiece? Is the mandolin made of maple- I cannot tell. All in all, very strange and others may be able to shed light on the mystery of why it is like this. is it an A-50?- it is bound top and bottom.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Enigmatic Gibson A-50 Mandolin 1930s but with 40s metal ware

    Wartime Gibson would have used whatever was laying around the factory to fill an order. There's a picture in the Gibson book "Kalamazoo Gals - A Story of Extraordinary Women & Gibson's "Banner" Guitars of WWII" about the women that Gibson employed to build instruments where someone is playing a mandolin. It's here. They were building mandolins at the time the tuners would have been used.

    Joe Spann's book illustrates that Gibson could and would hang onto an instrument and ship it at a later date than the serial number or FON might suggest. The way that the early Gibson second line instruments were equipped showed that they would sweep the floor of the factory and use parts destined for earlier instruments on later models. The only constant with Gibson has been their inconsistencies.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Enigmatic Gibson A-50 Mandolin 1930s but with 40s metal ware

    Yes, that makes a lot of sense and would explain the tuners and the Phillips screws. The only thing that is at variance with this is the bridge which is an older style. I realise that this could have been found in the factory as part of some old stock or may be a replacement- although I think it is original to the instrument. Something about the rust on this mandolin tells me that it lived in an ocean side property in the Laguna Beach area!

  5. #4

    Default Re: Enigmatic Gibson A-50 Mandolin 1930s but with 40s metal ware

    The inlaid pearl logo is a nice feature, IMHO. Certainly a step up from the silkscreen or the later decal.....

    As for the other parts, they could have been changed later, but doesn't really concern me. I like it the way it is.

    Going with my first impression, I'm thinking it left the factory that way. Case is a nice touch, especially for an A-50.

    OTOH, let's say the tuners broke in 1965, you go to a music shop, they happen to have a broken wartime Gibson in the back and they give you the tuners from it. Possible....

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Enigmatic Gibson A-50 Mandolin 1930s but with 40s metal ware

    Even the bridge could have been old stock. It also may have been shipped somewhere as a deck load on a submarine.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Enigmatic Gibson A-50 Mandolin 1930s but with 40s metal ware

    Is there any evidence of a screw hole in the top? I cannot see one but it might be there- I just wondered if there had ever been a pickguard- again, wartime- using old stock there may not have been one. The fact that the tailpiece, tuners and the truss rod cover are all Phillips screws make it certain, in my opinion, that this is all original and was assembled at one time- no changed parts. Yes, a deck load on a submarine would make sense- or someone that liked to strum from a chair sitting in the sea while cooling his feet!

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    Default Re: Enigmatic Gibson A-50 Mandolin 1930s but with 40s metal ware

    There is no enigma here. According to my dog-eared copy of "Gruhn's Guide to Vintage Guitars", although the A-50 was introduced with a silkscreen logo in 1933, a pearl logo was introduced in 1937 and was used until 1946 when the gold silkscreen was introduced.

    The small diamond inlay in the peghead was used throughout the war years. This is a wartime A-50.
    There was a mandolin with the same features at my local music store that sold recently.

  9. #8

    Default Re: Enigmatic Gibson A-50 Mandolin 1930s but with 40s metal ware

    That's great to get the bottom line on this mandolin. I have to admit I have not seen an A-50 with that pearl inlaid logo, so assumed it was older. However, what you write makes total sense with regard to the screws and WW2 style fittings. My only question then is regarding that bridge- is it an older style? This 1940s A-50 has a new bridge, so it does not answer my question about the bridge but it has those riveted gears and Phillips screws and shows a metal rod out of the edge of the board that may have been part of the pickguard assembly- no screw hole.

    https://mountainmusicsite.com/produc...12262492373035

    While looking at the mandolin above, I found another- dated 1940 that has Nick Lucas style inlays. There are so many variations, it seems. Mind you, I am not convinced it is all original- the tailpiece cover, tuners and the label- for example. https://reverb.com/item/4914735-1940...rdrop-mandolin
    Last edited by NickR; Aug-01-2019 at 3:47pm.

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    Default Re: Enigmatic Gibson A-50 Mandolin 1930s but with 40s metal ware

    I don't see anything bothersome about the bridge on the ebay mandolin except for the distorted photographs. Someone used an odd lens for some of the pictures.

    I worked on the A-50 at Mountain Music when it first came into the shop. At that time, it had a rosewood bridge with large adjustment wheels on it. It was more or less similar to the bridge on the ebay mandolin. The non-original ebony bridge in the link you provided was added somewhat recently [and not by me]. The footprint of the missing original rosewood bridge is visible in a couple of the pictures. Apparently, someone wanted the original rosewood bridge for something else. Now that I think about it, I think I can guess who might have talked them out of the original bridge, but I prefer not to say who.

    That mandolin sat in the shop for at least a couple of years. I'm glad they finally sold it.

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Enigmatic Gibson A-50 Mandolin 1930s but with 40s metal ware

    Its an early war time A-50, The early ones had a thinner "Gibson" inlay in the peg head-the late 30's-40's pearl work was thicker and cruder also cut by a different company. I've had many of these mostly the early 35's with elevated fret boards not glued flush like the 36 onward. Looks to be what it is, the finish is for sure odd but that's old Gibson for you. Just my opinion.

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    Default Re: Enigmatic Gibson A-50 Mandolin 1930s but with 40s metal ware

    Approx. 1942 as has been stated
    Diamond inlay
    This one Iíve had since mid 1960ís
    No fon or serial
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    Default Re: Enigmatic Gibson A-50 Mandolin 1930s but with 40s metal ware

    Better? photo of bridge
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    Default Re: Enigmatic Gibson A-50 Mandolin 1930s but with 40s metal ware

    Looks like maple to me
    Tuners replaced so no comment on hardware
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  15. #14
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Enigmatic Gibson A-50 Mandolin 1930s but with 40s metal ware

    Yeah, I knew the tuners weren't original. The buttons were too nice
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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