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Thread: Mystery Bowl-back Mandolin

  1. #1

    Question Mystery Bowl-back Mandolin

    Hello fellow musicians,

    I'm trying to find more information about his mandolin. The owner of it wants to get an approximate value and possibly sell it.

    Unfortunately, there are no markings anywhere that I can find. Nothing inside, and nothing on the head.

    Any information you can provide will be very helpful.

    Thank you!
    Alerdale
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  3. #2
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mystery Bowl-back Mandolin

    American made, most likely in Chicago, probably by Lyon & Healy or Harmony, lower end model as shown by the number of stays on the back. They routinely fail to sell on eBay weekly. If you can get anything near $150.00 for it do a happy dance. It was built circa 1900, a bit before or after.

    Very few bowlback mandolins bring a high price and those would be marked and deluxe. Many thousands were manufactured and survive, some in better shape than others.
    Last edited by MikeEdgerton; Dec-06-2019 at 12:14pm.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  5. #3

    Default Re: Mystery Bowl-back Mandolin

    Thank you for the response. I appreciate it.

  6. #4
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mystery Bowl-back Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    American made, most likely in Chicago, probably by Lyon & Healy or Harmony, lower end model as shown by the number of stays on the back. They routinely fail to sell on eBay weekly. If you can get anything near $150.00 for it do a happy dance. It was built circa 1900, a bit before or after.

    Very few bowlback mandolins bring a high price and those would be marked and deluxe. Many thousands were manufactured and survive, some in better shape than others.
    Many if not most of those old basic bowlbacks have been damaged by having been strung with heavy strings, and the action is too high.

    If yours is still playable, it may be of interest but as Mike says, these things do not sell for a lot.


    BTW, that looks a lot like one of my old bowlbacks!

  7. #5
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    Default Re: Mystery Bowl-back Mandolin

    Most of my bowlbacks did not come with original cases - that case looks a little rough, but may add a bit of value. Maybe $25 or so. Maybe string it up, keep it and learn to play it? (Will need ultralight strings to avoid damaging the instrument.)

  8. #6
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mystery Bowl-back Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    American made, most likely in Chicago, probably by Lyon & Healy or Harmony, lower end model as shown by the number of stays on the back. They routinely fail to sell on eBay weekly. If you can get anything near $150.00 for it do a happy dance. It was built circa 1900, a bit before or after.

    Very few bowlback mandolins bring a high price and those would be marked and deluxe. Many thousands were manufactured and survive, some in better shape than others.
    I think we need a special app that will automatically insert Mike's info above. Hmmmm... maybe we can add it to the buttons above the post. It could be called the Mike Edgerton button. Perhaps another one that says, "Probably not a Larson-made mandolin."
    Jim

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  10. #7
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    Default Re: Mystery Bowl-back Mandolin

    FWIW, the lowest-left photo, that mostly shows the side of the body, also shows that the current (5 out of 8) strings are relatively close to but probably not touching the fretboard, which can be a good sign. (Comparing the string height to the depths of the fret tangs, they're way lower than on the typical warped old bowlback.) There's at least some hope that, when strung up with new & very-light gauge strings (and after lubing/rehabbing the tuners), it may be reasonably playable.

    For good measure: http://www.lutherie.net/tuner.maintenance.html
    - Ed

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

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  12. #8
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mystery Bowl-back Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I think we need a special app that will automatically insert Mike's info above. Hmmmm... maybe we can add it to the buttons above the post. It could be called the Mike Edgerton button. Perhaps another one that says, "Probably not a Larson-made mandolin."
    Maybe that button should open up a drop down menu with selections, Jim, since around here "Probably not a Larson mandolin" means "Possibly is a Larson mandolin" which also means "It could be a Larson mandolin" which also means "You can't prove it's not a Larson mandolin!" which means "Well, I think it's a Larson mandolin."

    It would save a lot of time.

    Mick
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  13. #9
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mystery Bowl-back Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    Maybe that button should open up a drop down menu with selections, Jim, since around here "Probably not a Larson mandolin" means "Possibly is a Larson mandolin" which also means "It could be a Larson mandolin" which also means "You can't prove it's not a Larson mandolin!" which means "Well, I think it's a Larson mandolin."

    It would save a lot of time.

    Mick
    There are some folks on the Cafe I would call larsonists.
    Jim

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  15. #10
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mystery Bowl-back Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    There are some folks on the Cafe I would call larsonists.
    I know that's right, J. And some folks are "Possible Larsonists". Others exhibit "Larsonist traits".
    Some sort of resemble folks who look somewhat like Larsonists who were identified in a book, once upon a time.

    Mick
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