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Thread: Vintage Gibson oval hole

  1. #1
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    Default Vintage Gibson oval hole

    Iíve been listening to everyone talk about how amazing vintage Gibson mandolins are for years, and sort of believed you. I kind of thought some of it was hype. But today I played a bunch of pre war Gibsonís at Elderly, and WOW. I will never hear things the same again. Unbelievable.

    My favorite was this A2: https://www.elderly.com/collections/...gibson-a4-1922 It was not only lovely but had a warm, deep tone that is still haunting me, hours later. I just hope I can tolerate my instruments now, at least until I save up a few quid!

    They have a remarkable batch of 1920s A styles right now. They were an absolute joy to play, but so nerve wracking to get back on the hangers... If anyone has had doubts about the sound of these classic mandolins, get to a decent music store and play a few. I wish Iíd done it earlier!

    -M

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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    I have a '22 A2 that is, in my mind, the best sounding oval Gibson I have heard. They are really good sounding in that era.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  4. #3

    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    I have a '22 A2 that is, in my mind, the best sounding oval Gibson I have heard. They are really good sounding in that era.
    I have one of these as well - 72767 iirc. I think it might be early '23 depending on which number you like. But, same here - this is one of the nicest instruments I've ever heard, including some of the high end modern ones. It's a different style than some like, much much richer and fuller, but very pleasant. I put Tomasiks on it and it's just out of this world.

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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    Yeah, once I got my snake, i just stopped playing all my other mandolins except in specific cases. lovely instruments!
    --------------------------------
    1920 Lyon & Healy bowlback
    1923 Gibson A-1 snakehead
    1952 Strad-o-lin
    1983 Giannini ABSM1 bandolim
    2009 Giannini GBSM3 bandolim
    2011 Eastman MD305

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    Gibson had some fantastic oval hole A models from various pre-war years, I've had a few in the past still have one but its on the chopping block as I prefer the F hole models, even some of the F-2's and F-4's can be had at reasonable prices-all depending on the years, There is one individual that has a bunch here in the classified adds NFI-but just look at the goods and the pricing I believe is very fair! You can find many from the teens-30's at real good prices and some not needing anything. I think David Grisman awhile back on the cafť had an interview about great vintage stuff under 1000 bucks and he mentioned some of these. Elderly usually has great items and they will entertain serious offers, but be wary as nowadays I think all charge sales tax as I found out from a very high end purchase recently from them! But if its something you want you pay!

  7. #6

    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    My '23 snakehead A-Jr is the best-sounding mandolin I've ever come across. There really is something special about those early '20s instruments. I recently played a 1907 Gibson H-1 mandola, but while it was nice, it just didn't have the same combination of depth and brilliance.

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    In the early 20's I believe all models we're revamped under the watchful eye of Lloyd! Carvings we're way better, necks thinner, most got the new truss rod etc..I heard he was a tough guy to work with as he had certain expectations from all workers.

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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    My '22, while it does have the truss rod, is a paddle headstock. It also has a 1 1/4" wide nut. When I got it, it was what I wanted. Now I like a narrower neck and ff holes so it doesn't get played much, but for 12-15 years it was all I played. Still have it as it sounds sooo good it's hard to part with.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    Yep those 22's still have the wider neck but has the "new" improvements such as the truss rod, adjustable bridge and better carving. I bet its a nice one. It sure is hard to part with something after you've had it a long time!

  11. #10
    Registered User John Rosett's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    After playing dozens of Gibson oval hole mandolins over many years, my opinion is that the snakeheads, as a group, don't necessarily sound any better than the paddleheads. I have a '19 A2 that sounds as good as any Gibson I've played. Of course, personal preference plays a role, but I really think that each one should be evaluated on it's own.
    "it's not in bad taste, if it's funny" - john waters

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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    My '24 A2Z has enough volume and cutting power to play in a bluegrass band situation. But it's difficult to make a chop chord up in the B position.

  13. #12

    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    What type of strings do most players on your instruments old Gibson’s?

  14. #13
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    My 1927 (or 29) Junior has gotten a lot of compliments over the time I've had it. The 1910 A is good, but doesn't have the bass of the later ones.

    Then again, my mentor and bandmate has a 1909 that has the big neck and has a lot of bass. So it's tough to generalize.

    The 1910 now has Martin Retro Monels on it and the sound is good. The Junior usually has J74.

    Looking forward to going through the mandolins at Elderly next month.
    1935 Gibson A50, 2018 Collings MT, 1929 Gibson A Jr., 1941 Strad-O-Lin, 2018 Eastman MDO-305, 1950's Californian, 2015 Ashbury Style E OM
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  15. #14

    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    I paid way too much for my 1923 snake head over 20 years ago. I did not know much about these mandolins but I thought I heard great tone and volume. A couple of years ago, the man that repairs my instruments asked to see it as he was postulating making an A style mandolin. When he heard it- and he is a man that does not get excited and wax lyrical, he said it was the best example he had heard in over 20 years and admonished me for not having new strings on it. I went home and changed the strings pronto- I had been told by The Man. I did pay too much but it was a good buy it seems.

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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    Quote Originally Posted by John Rosett View Post
    After playing dozens of Gibson oval hole mandolins over many years, my opinion is that the snakeheads, as a group, don't necessarily sound any better than the paddleheads. I have a '19 A2 that sounds as good as any Gibson I've played. Of course, personal preference plays a role, but I really think that each one should be evaluated on it's own.
    My experience has been similar.
    I've played many wonderful Gibsons that were made in the 1910's.
    I try to judge an instrument by its sound and feel rather than by its look or model.

    The snake-head does have an interesting look, and some folks prefer the smaller neck.
    Last edited by rcc56; Aug-11-2019 at 3:41pm.

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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    I paid way too much for my 1923 snake head over 20 years ago. I did not know much about these mandolins but I thought I heard great tone and volume. A couple of years ago, the man that repairs my instruments asked to see it as he was postulating making an A style mandolin. When he heard it- and he is a man that does not get excited and wax lyrical, he said it was the best example he had heard in over 20 years and admonished me for not having new strings on it. I went home and changed the strings pronto- I had been told by The Man. I did pay too much but it was a good buy it seems.
    I imagine the appreciation of the value has cancelled out the difference between what you bought it for then vs. what it’s worth now 20 years later. If I’m making any sense.

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    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    Believe it or not, I got turned on to Gibson ovals by watching old videos of Dash Crofts of Seals & Crofts. It is something that I would like to lay my hands on - someday when I am worthy . . . .

  20. #18
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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    I use EJ74s on mine. And it sounds OK with elixirs (mediums). fwiw
    --------------------------------
    1920 Lyon & Healy bowlback
    1923 Gibson A-1 snakehead
    1952 Strad-o-lin
    1983 Giannini ABSM1 bandolim
    2009 Giannini GBSM3 bandolim
    2011 Eastman MD305

  21. #19

    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig the Mad View Post
    My '23 snakehead A-Jr is the best-sounding mandolin I've ever come across. There really is something special about those early '20s instruments. I recently played a 1907 Gibson H-1 mandola, but while it was nice, it just didn't have the same combination of depth and brilliance.
    the snake heads are the best

  22. #20

    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    i have two snake heads, a refinished 23, which i call the world's best busking mandolin and a slightly rough but original 24. i just priced up a 22 junior paddle head. it is also a great tone.

    some late teens are also great but it's hard to beat the early twenties. still way under priced for the quality.

    the junior was $700 canadian. thats about $500 usd. what can you get for that price??? nothing even close to equal. to equal the tone of the best oval hole gibson's you have to pay lutheir prices of many thousands of dollars, and still not get the aged wood tone

  23. #21

    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Foss View Post
    I imagine the appreciation of the value has cancelled out the difference between what you bought it for then vs. what itís worth now 20 years later. If Iím making any sense.
    Yes, it has. I did tell my expert from whom I had purchased it- a well-known rip-off merchant, and I said: "I don't want to speak ill of the dead"- to which he replied: "Now, don't let that stop you!"

    I bought a guitar three years ago from someone who had bought it from the same shop as my mandolin thirty years ago. I paid exactly half what he had paid thirty years earlier. In fact, when he said where it was from I nearly lost interest! However, it is a good instrument but I would suggest it was worth a fourth of what he had paid back then in the 1980s. He had just signed a recording contract and had been given a huge advance- some of which was spent on this guitar. I think the guitar is probably worth double what I paid- but it had been on ebay for a while and his BIN price was sinking when I decided to end the agony!

  24. #22
    Formerly F5JOURNL Darryl Wolfe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    We all have our likes and dislikes and founded opinions. "To me", the slightly later snakeheads (worm over tuners, late '24, 1925, 1926) are consistently excellent. However, you need to want and expect a loud, bright, cutting and slightly raspy tone that is unlike any teens or early 20's oval hole.

    It is for this reason that many folk covet the A2Z. Most all of them fall in this period. There is nothing different about them other than this exact build timeframe.
    Darryl G. Wolfe, The F5 Journal
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  25. #23
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    I've used Thomastik, "Heavy" on my A3 for years! I think the code is 154st.

    I'm now using the EXP-74CM and love them too!

    f-d
    °papŠ gordo ainít no madre flaca!

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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    Hey Mreidsma (original poster) did you get a chance to play this A4 snakehead at Elderly : https://www.elderly.com/collections/...ehead-mandolin - and if so how did it compare with the 22 A4 that your interested in? Did it have a " a loud, bright, cutting and slightly raspy tone that is unlike any teens or early 20's oval hole." as Darryl says compared to the A4 you like ???
    I have a 27 Ajr w a 1 1/4 nut and a 20 F2 w a 1 3/16 nut and they sound very close to the average listener. ( I myself prefer the F2 )

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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    I'll be honest, frshwtrbob, I kind of lost interest in all the other mandolins after I played that A4! I did play a few A4s, and I did play at least one snakehead, but the tone didn't grab me like the 22 A4. That said! Every one of those mandolins was amazing. I still can't smile when playing my mandolin at home yet. But both my Dad and I fell in love with that 22 A4.

    Elderly is a real gem. One of the employees offered to bring out the Loar they have for sale for me to play, but it was nerve wracking enough trying to hand some $4-5000 mandolins back up on the wall. I didn't want to be responsible for a Loar! Plus I pointed out I certainly couldn't afford the Loar, let alone the Gibsons (yet!).

    I have a coworker who wants to make a trip over (we're about an hour away), so next time I go I will try the snakehead if it is still there!

    -Matthew

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