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Thread: Vintage Gibson oval hole

  1. #51
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    I lucked out very early in my mandolinning. My first mandolin a Terada, was destroyed in a locked car in the summer heat. I played a Flatiron Mandola for a while, but then purchased a Gibson 1923 A2 snakehead SN# 73934 FON# 11865. From the Music Emporium in Boston.

    This was in the way back, over 35 years ago, and I seem to remember it cost $1000, which was a lot. I walked around the block four times before I purchased that beauty. I didn't know what I was buying except I knew it better be good for what I was paying.

    I have come to cherish it. Before I could even play it well there were many folks who tried it and liked it. I have gotten more than a few offers to purchase it, not for exceptional money, and then one great offer from a professional I met in a work shop at a festival, in whose judgement the instrument was exceptional.

    Once a few years ago I was traveling through Nashville for work, and stopped at Gibson, across from the Grand Ole Opry. I played a bunch of mandolins ranging in cost up to five figures. I was good and didn't buy anything. When I got home, however, I took out my A2 and the sound was as good or better, and definitely of the same family. (I agree that comparing a sound you hear with a sound you remember is dicey, but that is how I remember it.)

    I play it with a ToneGard, and I upgraded the case from the original, to better protect it. I changed the tuning machines a couple of years ago, but that is the only repair or modification. It holds it tuning real well, and if you change strings one at a time the set up stays the way it was.

    I love the instrument and play the potatoes out of it. I am not anywhere near getting as much out of the instrument as there is. This is more instrument than I "deserve" now and certainly insanely more than I deserved umpty ump years ago when I first took it home.

    My only complaint is a goofy one. There are times when I really don't want a Gibson sound. It is so much the iconic Gibson sound, all warm and creamy with every note a bing (not a ding, all bings), so because of how Gibson's are so closely associated with very specific kinds of music, this mandolin is not a first choice when I am not playing that kind of music.

    Something to think about, and another justification for MAS.
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  3. #52
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    Hi Jeff,

    A good story, well told. I like the way we can develop history with our instruments just as we do with friends. I wish you many more years of joy from it. Oh, and with instruments of other voices for other genres.

    Best wishes,

    Bob
    Purr more, hiss less.

  4. #53
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Clark View Post
    Oh, and with instruments of other voices for other genres.
    A while back, at a mixed jam, mixed in that we allowed a banjo or two, but did not cater to them by staying one key. With every key change they had to change tuning.

    I poked fun at them, saying "what?, you gotta different tuning for each tune?"

    One fellow poked back, saying "Jeff, you gotta different mandolin for each tune."
    Indulge responsibly!

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  6. #54
    Registered User mreidsma's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    Just a quick update on this, a little over 8 months later: A month ago I bought a mid-1930s Kalamazoo KM-11 flat top, which I thought would be the closest I got for a while to a teens or twenties oval hole. I love that mandolin, it sounds incredible for a flat top.

    BUT, last week I bought a Gibson oval hole, 1915 Pumpkin top. Just got it today. It's an A model with Handel tuners, and I have some information on its provenance, which is fun. I'll have a separate post once I get some time with the instrument and get some photos taken. So far it sounds close enough to my memory of that A2 to satisfy me.

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  8. #55
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    Unusual for a 1915 pumpkin top to have Handel tuners. Care to post a photo?
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  9. #56
    Registered User mreidsma's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    Yes - I thought it was pretty unusual for an A, too. Not sure if they are original, but the price hanger from when it was purchased 2 owners ago lists it as an A model with Handel tuners. They work very well and are in great shape. I included a photo of the back of the headstock - I can't see any evidence of tuner swap, but then again, I think these would have had the same footprint as the stock A tuners, so who knows?

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    I'll take some nicer photos for the Mandolin Archive and do a little writeup on this mandolin and the history of one if its owners soon. The G and D strings are dead as a doornail, so I'll need to restring it to really hear its voice, but it's nice even now!

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  11. #57
    Registered User tree's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    Unusual, somewhat - but consider that it's Gibson. Who was it that said the one thing they consistently are is inconsistent (or something to that effect)?

    That is one more sweet looking mandolin with those Handels and the wide grained top!
    Clark Beavans

  12. #58
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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    The only A models that were factory equipped with Handel tuners were A-4's, and perhaps a very few early A-3's. The plates were the same, so they are drop-in replacements.

    I remember a time when Handel tuners were much easier to find, and didn't cost $400.

  13. #59
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    Could have been sent back to Gibson for an upgrade, when the Handels were still available -- or they could have been cannibalized from a trashed, higher-model instrument.
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  14. #60
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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    Well, let's put it this way-- a friend of mine had a spare set of Handels, and would put them on one mandolin for a while, then take them off and move them to another, etc. . .

    At one time or another, those tuners spent time on a Sheraton Brown A-2, an ivory A-3, and even on a May Bell.

  15. #61
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Gibson oval hole

    Have a '22 A4 just like that on Pg 2,
    the nickel plated TRC Highlights the new inclusion of a truss rod..
    It has been refretted since.. included a fingerboard leveling..

    In the 80's I got a Plain Brown A also from '22 no TR, no peg head logo, had no side dots..,
    Aluminum bridge top full contact base ..
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