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Thread: 1924 Gibson Mandolin Production Estimate - By Model

  1. #1
    Registered User Joe Spann's Avatar
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    Default 1924 Gibson Mandolin Production Estimate - By Model

    To the best of my knowledge there are no surviving Gibson factory documents with production totals for the year 1924. I have produced the following estimated production, using my own private serial number list in which I can document about 380 instruments from the year 1924 (or about 15% of the predicted total 1924 production). I gathered this information over many decades, and from various sources, (e.g. instruments I have personally inspected, information sent to me, internet websites and original Gibson factory documents). Please remember, these are only estimates, based on a reconstruction of 15% of the original data.

    Joe Spann

    A-Jr 240 units
    A-1 320 units
    A-2z 200 units
    A-4 160 units
    F-2 80 units
    F-4 80 units
    F-5 100 units

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    Registered User f5loar's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1924 Gibson Mandolin Production Estimate - By Model

    So with 270 F5 estimate for signed Loars there are 250 found and listed in the F5Journal . That leaves 20 not found. Subtract 10 destroyed by acts of God, flood, fire etc. destroyed over domestic matters and thrown away, ran over by wife's car, thrown in trash can, etc. That leaves only 10 to be found and not known about or lest not by the journal. The days of finding a Loar in a pawnshop are pretty much over.

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1924 Gibson Mandolin Production Estimate - By Model

    I know of another Loar F-5 that surfaced a month ago maybe, but can't say no more about it. So that may leave 9-LoL. When I hear more about it I'll let ya all in on the gory details!

    And yes they do get thrown away, in the past anyway as that's the story on my Fern #83793. "granted not a Loar but an early Fern" It was found in the middle of a room in a pile that was going to be thrown out and the cleaning lady saved it, held onto it for maybe 30 years and sold it in the late 70's where the previous owner acquired it.

    My Loar came from a pawnshop in the 90's and wasn't played much at all, when I got it a year ago it sounded pretty good but still tight, now its sounding really great after some serious play if you believe in that sort of thing.

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    Registered User Hendrik Ahrend's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1924 Gibson Mandolin Production Estimate - By Model

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Spann View Post
    To the best of my knowledge there are no surviving Gibson factory documents with production totals for the year 1924. I have produced the following estimated production, using my own private serial number list in which I can document about 380 instruments from the year 1924 (or about 15% of the predicted total 1924 production). I gathered this information over many decades, and from various sources, (e.g. instruments I have personally inspected, information sent to me, internet websites and original Gibson factory documents). Please remember, these are only estimates, based on a reconstruction of 15% of the original data.

    Joe Spann

    A-Jr 240 units
    A-1 320 units
    A-2z 200 units
    A-4 160 units
    F-2 80 units
    F-4 80 units
    F-5 100 units
    Please allow for a different take on the estimated production of F5s in 1924.
    Joe, you did excellent research in this field and, to my knowledge, were the first to point out that - generally speaking - the FON indicates the year of production, whereas the serial number indicates the time of shipping. F5 serial numbers were probably reserved, and the signature date is hardly indicative of neither the time of production nor the time of shipping.
    The only information we have on F5 production years is a handful of FONs, in cases where the FON was revealed. For F5s with a 1924 signature date we only have one 11965 (signed Feb. 18) and 11985 (signed Dec. 1). These are, according to your list, 1923 FONs, not from 1924. 11985 appears in several 1925-shipped (unsigned) F5s also.
    The only 1924 Style 5 FONs can be found in two H5 mandolas with Fern inlay. Their FON is 11058A, thus from 1924, according to your list. Their construction features are quite similar to the Fern Loar F5s, about 22 in number and mostly signed in 1924 (plus a small number not yet found or destroyed). No other Style 5 instruments have this combination of plain white binding and Fern inlay; Fern Loar F5s are much different from other Loar F5s.

    From this observation, it seems to me that Gibson made only about 22 F5s in 1924 - all Fern F5s - and had all other Loar-signed (and "unsigned") F5s made by the end of 1923. Moreover, there don't seem to be any F5s with 1925 FONs, which indicates that there were no F5s made in 1925 at all. The next batch of F5s has a 1926 FON (8231, if I remember correctly). Those F5s largely resemble the mentioned Fern Loars with plain white binding and Fern inlay.
    There is not much evidence in those few revealed F5 FONs, I admit, which is why I look at the construction features also. And my idea of the story makes even more sense taking into account that Guy Ferris put a halt to overproduction towards the end of 1923. (A similar story seems to have taken place in the case of the F4s: Lots of 1923 FONs, but hardly any 1924 FON, if at all.)
    So in my humble opinion, estimating a production number of 100 F5s for 1924 is highly speculative and harks back to those "traditional estimates" based on the idea that a signature date may have, indeed, much to do with the date of production.

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1924 Gibson Mandolin Production Estimate - By Model

    That's some pretty good observations Hendrik, makes sense!

    I have a question for you Loar guys that know more than myself, why were many/most of the Loars that have a Virzi installed more than likely put together in the "white" and then the back sawn off to install the Virzi than the finish was applied? Were these ones that Loar thought needed them because if they were not shipped until way later they sure were not ordered that way originally correct? Take mine for example a Dec. 1st 1924 signed but with a more than likely 1923 FON# compared to the one Dec. 1st 24 that the label fell out revealing the FON# 11985. Also the "Unsigned" Loars that have the same FON. Mine has a Virzi and you can clearly see that the back was cut off to install the Virzi then put back together and finished? I think its pretty strange to do it that way as in a shop/company to make $ a bunch of time was wasted and that = more $ spent for each mandolin. There is a wonder why moment that the company was in the hole! Doing it that way sure didn't help the company!

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    Registered User Hendrik Ahrend's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1924 Gibson Mandolin Production Estimate - By Model

    Well, in 1923 Gibson started offering to install the Virzi into sent-back-to-the-factory instruments. At the same time, there is a chance that Gibson took a few ready-to-ship F5s from the shelf and installed a Virzi, because the ordering party wanted one; we can only guess. Several F5s have signs of taken-off backs (e. g. the missing form-fit/dovetail feature of the point protector on the back binding only, the letter being smaller than the top binding). But some F5s, most notably the Fern Loars, apparently had their Virzi installed right away prior to finishing.
    What about F5s, such as the "unsigned" F5s #s 80782 and 80783. They were retrofitted with a Virzi, but apparently shipped after Loar had left. Did he have a hand in the decision for installing a Virzi? Hard to say.
    Whatever the case, the Virzi feature was dropped soon after Loar was gone.
    Last edited by Hendrik Ahrend; Nov-22-2019 at 9:54am.

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1924 Gibson Mandolin Production Estimate - By Model

    Well if my Dec. 1st 24 Loar was shipped in 26 according to the archive/Joe's shipping records my Virzi had to been installed after in the white at some point than the finish was applied-somewhere between 1923 "the build date, presumably 1923 FON# 11985 from when it was signed on Dec. 1st 24" So was the date it/every Loar that was signed the final inspection by Loar to get his stamp/signature? We know they were somewhat overproduced in 23 right? I highly doubt that in 26 that some of these got the Virzi and then the finish applied. Mine shows no signs of being finished than the back hacked off and any finish touch-up along the sides. It does show that it may have been top coated/spruced up when it left later on as when played and getting in contact with the arm and gut it's cloudy? But I know it was polished so that could be the cloudiness? It is no matter to me as I love mine, I find all this stuff pretty fascinating!

    I speculate that until a diary or some records surface we may never know for sure anyway? Its also like many don't think Lloyd didn't help build any of these fine historic instruments but I personally believe "with others" that he had some hands on in some aspects of the building process. He may have decided that the ones that got the Virzi needed it as we know he was an advocate for the Virzi as his personal Feb.18th 24 F-5, and his Violin, also the oddball 1922 10 string Mandola-Viola all had the Virzi's and I think he wrote a paper on the Virzi correct?

    There are some signed Loars with the later "Guarantee label rather than the smaller Master Model label" But who knows as Gibson had the Guarantee label on all the lower end instruments before the Loars anyway. There must've been quite a few that were already finished/completed that were just hanging out to be sold/shipped. Take the "Unsigned" Loars with the installed Virzi-they were obviously finished when Loar was there but never signed and they all appear to be part of the Dec. 1st 24 batch.

    It's all very interesting and we may never really know what went on?

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1924 Gibson Mandolin Production Estimate - By Model

    On another note I believe Gruhn has a Loar that's not in the archive and a later 20's-early 30's Fern also a 41 F-5, Carters has maybe two Loars also not registered, and Schoenberg has a beat re-done 28 Fern, and a 41 F-5, Bernunzio has a 37-38 flowerpot all unknown to the archive? So there is a few right there that should be added to the archive? There may be others but haven't really looked too much! Also on Reverb there is a 41 F-5 that has been re-graduated that isn't in the archive-that one more looks like a 39 because of the spaced out flowerpot only seen in 39's, and has flamed wood when most all 41's have the quilted maple! Cowtown in Vegas "no longer in business I think, had a nice 39 F-5 but never got back to anyone about it-and wonder why they are out of business! I'll check for more. They should be shown in the archive!

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    Registered User f5loar's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1924 Gibson Mandolin Production Estimate - By Model

    Any pre war F5 serials should be given to Darryl Wolfe at F5 Journal to put them in the register. I've always said, it's better it is in the archives with photos then not, should it be stolen. A stolen one can be refinished and labels taken out, but that maple flame pattern is like a fingerprint for identification of that particular F5. As far as Virzi being in or out or added later, we must remember Loar did own some stock in the Virzi Bros. NY company. It would be to his advantage to have them put in every one. While the exact date is not known, we do know by catalog description the Virzi was a $15 option in the 1923 catalog for the MM and it was included in the price of the MM in the 1924 catalog which means Loar won his argument with corporate big wheels that it needs to be added at no additional price. This would explain the majority of the '22 and '23 MM don't have one, and the majority of the '24 MM do have one. Back then, they had word of mouth just like today, except it's much quicker today. My guess is Loar got around the mandolin circles and helped promote the MM and the Virzi. For 3 years we know he took off the month of August to tour with the Gibson band. So the majority of orders were from his pickin' friends in the classical world of mandolins. Hence the reason some were added and also some were taken out or not put in to begin with by custom order. I know there were a few in the classical world that got the word out there that the virzi didn't help it at and if anything made it worse being nicknamed the Tone Reducer. So if you heard that story, you placed your order without one, either by the $15 extra or by the "it's included" deal. Just like new car salesmen of the day, if you didn't want that power steering, leave it off. I suspect many signed in '24 that already had the virzi installed were sold as "it's included in the price" deal and the new owner didn't know one way or the other if he needed that virzi or not. And then there has to be those few who got one with a Virzi and someone else played it to tell them " you need to send it back to the factory and tell them to take that thing out. It's choking down the sound". I can not speculate if the factory would charge a new owner to remove one or to put one in that didn't have one after the 1924 year models. They virzi is the mystic of the lore of the Loar. We may never know why, but I can say some of the MM sound great with the Virzi, so some of the mystic is it did do it's job in being a tone enhancer.

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  18. #10
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1924 Gibson Mandolin Production Estimate - By Model

    That's interesting Tom, Thanks for sharing! I didn't know Lloyd owned Virzi stock! It all makes perfect sense now. It just blows my mind that on most the mandolins were completed than the back sawn off to have them installed! Hendrik pointed out the Fern Loars seem to have them installed in the building process so these may have been built in 24? I've never had one of those in hand though to check out.

    As far as the Loar and other 5 #'s I've found not in the archives I've asked but dealers wont give them out to me "Gruhn's/Carter's anyway" so Darryl may have better luck getting them for research purposes, and adding them to the archive? Out of many of the Loars I've checked out and heard I personally prefer the Virzi in them? Maybe I'm one of the few but I hear something in them, call me nuts but I do? Sure they may not have the serious power as one without but they do add something to the tone "I think anyway" And for originality is why mine is still in there.

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