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Thread: Confusing Gibson Flatiron

  1. #1

    Default Confusing Gibson Flatiron

    I recently obtained a Gibson Flatiron mandolin, which I really love and play every day (I'm now retired and can devote the time!). However, I have been trying to trace the history of this instrument and am somewhat confused. The label inside (unsigned) states that it is a Gibson Master Model, A5 Artist, but it is patently an F5 (with appropriate points, peghead, scroll, florida fingerboard and F-holes). The serial number is 80107029, which the Gibson system would suggest it was made on 10 Jan 1987. The label states "Gibson Inc, Nashville TN USA" but I've read that the manufacture didn't move to Nashville until later and anyway this would pre-date the Gibson purchase of Flatiron. Can anyone better informed help clarify?

  2. #2
    Teacher, luthier
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    Default Re: Confusing Gibson Flatiron

    Gibson serial numbers . . . [sigh]

    From what I've read, there were at least two numbering systems for Gibson Flatirons made in the US. And they are both different than the system used on Gibson guitars.

    The earlier system is for Montana made mandolins. The first two digits are the year.
    For example, 89xxxxxx would indicate a mandolin built in Montana in 1989.

    For Nashville made Flatirons, the last digit is the decade, and the first digit is the year in the decade.
    In other words, 80107029 would indicate a mandolin made in Nashville in 1998.

    If the above is not accurate, somebody please correct me.

    Maybe it has an A5 label because the assembler picked the wrong label out of the pile. Or because they were out of F-5 labels. Or because it was quitting time on Friday, and any old label would do.

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Confusing Gibson Flatiron

    2nd mandolin labeled on January 01, 1998, not even a Friday

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    Registered User Hendrik Ahrend's Avatar
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    Default Re: Confusing Gibson Flatiron

    In 1987, Gibson bought the Flatiron mandolin manufacturing company, located in Bozeman/MT, from the owner, Steve Carlson. In that facility, Gibson continued to make both Gibson brand and Flatiron brand mandolins side by side. The instruments had similarities in construction, but differed some. Gibson also started to have acoustic guitars built in Montana - to this day. In 1996 Gibson relocated Flatiron to Nashville, and Flatiron mandolins were built in the same facility as Gibsons. Bruce Weber and other Flatiron employees stayed in MT and started "Sound To Earth" (Weber brand mandolins). Gibson discontinued building Flatiron brand mandolins in Nashville, I believe sometime in the early 2000's. A bit later, Gibson started to have Flatiron brand mandolins imported from China.

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  8. #5

    Default Re: Confusing Gibson Flatiron

    "The serial number is 80107029"

    January 7, 1998, 2nd instrument completed that day.

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  10. #6
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Confusing Gibson Flatiron

    The label inside (unsigned) states that it is a Gibson Master Model, A5 Artist, but it is patently an F5 (with appropriate points, peghead, scroll, florida fingerboard and F-holes).
    They put that label on every mandolin they built around that time.

    OK, I just re-read that. It says it's an A5 and it's an F body?
    Last edited by MikeEdgerton; Dec-04-2019 at 7:25pm.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  12. #7
    Registered User Buck's Avatar
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    Default Re: Confusing Gibson Flatiron

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    They put that label on every mandolin they built around that time.
    Seems like you're saying Gibson was consistent about something? Does seem right to me. :-)
    Todd Yates

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  14. #8
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Confusing Gibson Flatiron

    pictures would be nice. . .

    Is it x-braced or parallel?

    I'd agree on the '98 vintage. So, that's after Gibson bought Flatiron. It's likely too early for the Asian pedigree? It's also too early for the Nashville pedigree.

    Bet it's a nice one!

    f-d
    ˇpapá gordo ain’t no madre flaca!

    '20 A3, '30 L-1, '97 914, 2012 Cohen A5, 2012 Muth A5, '14 OM28A

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  16. #9

    Default Re: Confusing Gibson Flatiron

    Quote Originally Posted by fatt-dad View Post
    pictures would be nice. . .

    Is it x-braced or parallel?

    I'd agree on the '98 vintage. So, that's after Gibson bought Flatiron. It's likely too early for the Asian pedigree? It's also too early for the Nashville pedigree.

    Bet it's a nice one!

    f-d
    I have to ay it's the nicest to play of the mandos I have (I am a sufferer from MAS like many mando players!). I have a couple of Barnes & Mullins (A and F) and 2 Eastmans, or should that be Eastmen? (again A and F) Also a Seagull S8 (nice to play), an Ashbury Lindisfarne and an unknown Bowlback, reputed to be 1900-20 which I have refurbished (thanks to Jerry Rosa's many videos for the invaluable info on how-to). See, I have it bad, so be kind...

  17. #10

    Default Re: Confusing Gibson Flatiron

    Quote Originally Posted by pasteye View Post
    I have to ay it's the nicest to play of the mandos I have (I am a sufferer from MAS like many mando players!). I have a couple of Barnes & Mullins (A and F) and 2 Eastmans, or should that be Eastmen? (again A and F) Also a Seagull S8 (nice to play), an Ashbury Lindisfarne and an unknown Bowlback, reputed to be 1900-20 which I have refurbished (thanks to Jerry Rosa's many videos for the invaluable info on how-to). See, I have it bad, so be kind...
    Here are some pix of my new baby:

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    Nice, huh?
    As to bracing, I'm afraid both my fingers and inspection mirror are too big to fit through the F-holes, so cannot confirm type or configuration.

    Incidentally, can anyone help id my revitalised bowlback, with distinctive butterfly inlay? Maker and/or date would be great.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by pasteye; Dec-05-2019 at 7:30am. Reason: New pix

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  19. #11
    Confused... or?
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    Default Re: Confusing Gibson Flatiron

    Quote Originally Posted by pasteye View Post
    ... help id my revitalised bowlback, with distinctive butterfly inlay?
    Edit: Whoops! Photos added while I was typing, so mostly "never mind". But I gotta say ...

    That is THE best photo of what I've called the "knife-edge worm & rectangular cog" style of gearset, virtually always with the cog riveted/center-punched onto the shaft. Normally on pre-WWII European instruments, which doesn't narrow it down by much. The finish looks too pristine to be original, but I'm no expert.
    - Ed

    "What our group lacks in musicianship is offset by our willingness to humiliate ourselves." - David Hochman

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  21. #12

    Default Re: Confusing Gibson Flatiron

    Quote Originally Posted by EdHanrahan View Post
    Edit: Whoops! Photos added while I was typing, so mostly "never mind". But I gotta say ...

    That is THE best photo of what I've called the "knife-edge worm & rectangular cog" style of gearset, virtually always with the cog riveted/center-punched onto the shaft. Normally on pre-WWII European instruments, which doesn't narrow it down by much. The finish looks too pristine to be original, but I'm no expert.
    Thanx Mr Hanrahan, ay least its 70 years old by your guess. The tuners I have to say are a bi7c4 to use as they are so tight at string tension and the buttons are so small and so close. I believe the finish to be original, as I said I have renovated the instrument, so saw the condition when bought. Amazing what a little walnut oil can do for wood!

  22. #13
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Confusing Gibson Flatiron

    Nice Flatiron!

    f-d
    ˇpapá gordo ain’t no madre flaca!

    '20 A3, '30 L-1, '97 914, 2012 Cohen A5, 2012 Muth A5, '14 OM28A

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  24. #14

    Default Re: Confusing Gibson Flatiron

    I'm sure I saw that mandolin in a UK auction listing recently. Brompton's possibly.

    As long as you love it, I wouldn't worry about age etc.

  25. #15
    Confused... or?
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    Default Re: Confusing Gibson Flatiron

    Quote Originally Posted by pasteye View Post
    ... The tuners ... are so tight at string tension ...
    Unfortunately, luthier & Cafe member Paul Hostetter died earlier this year, but thanks to his family continuing his website, THIS gem of tunerosity is still available to us. Enjoy, and apply liberally!
    http://www.lutherie.net/tuner.maintenance.html

    ps: It wouldn't surprise me if this was the most-frequently referred article on the Cafe.
    - Ed

    "What our group lacks in musicianship is offset by our willingness to humiliate ourselves." - David Hochman

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  27. #16

    Default Re: Confusing Gibson Flatiron

    Quote Originally Posted by fatt-dad View Post
    pictures would be nice. . .

    Is it x-braced or parallel?

    I'd agree on the '98 vintage. So, that's after Gibson bought Flatiron. It's likely too early for the Asian pedigree? It's also too early for the Nashville pedigree.

    Bet it's a nice one!

    f-d
    Fatt-Dad
    My new dental inspection mirror has arrived, aiding an internal view, and I can now confirm it has cross-bracing. Very fine, no more than 3/16" wide and about the same in depth. No cloth reinforcement at the crossing point, as found in the Lloyd Loar originals. Does this help the ID and nationality?

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