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Thread: very old mandolin

  1. #1

    Default very old mandolin

    Hello. Wondering if anyone can help me? I purchased a mandolin at auction recently and will upload pictures below. The wording on the label reads: Sistema di MEGLIO and the overall condition is good. Beautifully made piece, and I would be really grateful if someone could give me an idea of its worth. Thank you. PS cannot upload images but will keep trying.
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  3. #2
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: very old mandolin

    These are nice mandolins usually made around 1901 or so. From what I can see it looks like it is in good condition. You don't show the sides but there are usually slits for "side ports" usually dash-dot-dash: — . — Worth depends on where you live and what money units. Usually for this $300-500USD if is perfect playing condition. Many of these are in the UK and I am not sure the value there.
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  5. #3

    Default Re: very old mandolin

    That is an approximate clone of the De Meglio mandolin. Although its tuning machines look to be nicer than in the genuine brand, those sort of clones generally do not fetch as much money as bona fide De Meglio mandolins. If the fretboard is straight and the mandolin is playable, I'd say you might perhaps get 150 British Pounds for it as is.
    A few suggestions:
    (1) Make sure that you safeguard that bone "pin" in the picture. That looks like the bridge saddle which goes onto the shelf of the bridge, pressed down by the strings.
    (2) Loosen up, by turning the white buttoned keys, those strings that feel under high tension.
    (3) Take the mandolin to a guitar shop or some such in your area where the mandolin's condition and playability might be assessed.

  6. #4
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: very old mandolin

    Peter is right. This one probably was built under license perhaps bot DeMeglio. Still it could be a decent mandolin. I sold my genuine one years ago but it had a metal bridge saddle, not a bone one, and a one piece cast metal nut/zero fret. Headstock was different too.
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  7. #5

    Default Re: very old mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I sold my genuine one years ago but it had a metal bridge saddle, not a bone one, and a one piece cast metal nut/zero fret.
    Jim, I also belive most, if not all, De Meglios had a metal bar saddle as well as a metal nut (0-fret). Probably Tavy has had more De Meglios pass thru his hands than you and I have seen, so he might wish to comment on it. I still have one De Meglio mandolin which needs one sunken fret bar fixed, and then it will play OK again. I also own a sturdy free-style clone which is not a bad mandolin at all. Come to think of it, could we consider Ceccherini mandolins to be fancy De Meglio clones ? (If Martin J. reads this he'd probably have a bird.)

  8. #6
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: very old mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter K View Post
    (If Martin J. reads this he'd probably have a bird.)
    What, me ...?

    We've had some discussions on these labels before, but the most likely interpretation of "Sistema De Meglio" is that these are mandolins that use De Meglio's system but are not actually made by De Meglio. Clones or copies, in other words. There seem to be a lot of mandolins that copy some or all of De Meglio's identifying features, sometimes claiming a relationship to De Meglio on the label (as here) and sometimes with other names -- I have a Carlo Rinaldi that looks exactly like a De Meglio except for inferior workmanship (and sound, unfortunately). I don't think any of these instruments have been anywhere near a De Meglio workshop, and the sheer proliferation of copies is presumably what caused genuine De Meglio labels to include ever more elaborate and effusive warnings about poor imitations.

    As for the OP's instrument, it's only an approximate copy. The scratchplate and string downholder are similar to entry-level De Meglio, but the tuners and headstock shape are not. De Meglio headstocks and tuners had parallel straight edges, not curved and variable width. They also had round dots as fret markers, not eliptical ones. As already discussed, bridge saddle and nuts/zero frets were brass, not bone, although they may of course be replacements. That sleeve protector is probably aftermarket, and definitely not De Meglio. It's also wrongly installed as it should go above the strings (with the "ears" tucked under the outer strings), not below them.

    All of that makes value difficult, as you can't apply the value of a sound De Meglio. Much depends on the tone and workmanship, i.e. whether it's a good De Meglio clone or not. However, potential buyers aren't likely to be able to assess this, so I would give a rather lower value than Jim. In the UK, 100 to 150 Pounds in current condition in an Ebay sale (and may not make that). Set up for playing and sold through a music shop, potentially double that (or more) depending on whether it turns out to be a nice player.

    None of this is to denigrate the instrument -- it may turn out to be very nice indeed once set up -- it's just a reflection of the limited market appeal of old bowlback mandolins outside a select number of "names". Even genuine De Meglios are marginal in market appeal as there were so many of them made. My recommendation would be to play it, enjoy it, and not worry about value.

    Martin

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  10. #7
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: very old mandolin

    Hi Peter, good to see you back around here!

    Personally, I simply wouldn't touch a DeMeglio "clone" unless I was looking for a player, and I could try it out in person. Value wise, the clones sell regularly for almost nothing (50-75) even in tip top condition. Strangely, the clones are less readily available than the real thing. Just my 2c....

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  12. #8

    Default Re: very old mandolin

    Apart from three Classical mandolin orchestras I've seen in the last 30 years I can't recall seeing anyone playing bowl shaped mandolins. Much as I quite like the look of them, they are awkward to hold, slippping all the time and most have neck issues as well as intonation issues and tinny tone.

    Value-75 for someone who wants to hang it in his Italian restaurant. Doesn't matter how pretty they are with abalone etc most are just an ornament these days. In the 1970s I remember a shop in Edinburgh having a Calace with a slightly arched back (not far off flat back) and much easier to hold. The shop owner said it was their 'American model' but I've never traced one since then. I just wish they would have made their mandolins like that and paid more attention to a decent thickness fretboard and compensated bridge. The abalone etc looks attractive but that's where it ends for me.

  13. #9
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: very old mandolin

    Apologies to all for my mistaken post above. On my phone it is very hard to see details or enlarge photos so I originally thought it was an actual DeMeglio.

    jimmy powells: you are a bit late for this dance. Many of us here have explored bowlbacks and, while I agree with you that they are an acquired taste and that there are lots of ones that are worthless as musical instruments, there are also some that are quality instruments. There are differences between the quality makers and the run-of-the-mill ones. Same as for flat or carved mandolins or for guitars, violins, etc. They do sound and play differently but there are many that are worth it for those who want to try it.

    As an example for value, many years ago there was an eBay auction for an Embergher mandolin sold by an antique store near me. I drive up there to take a look and the proprietor told me that the owner of the mandolin told her that she brought it to a guy in a music store who told her that it was only good as a wall hanger. The auction completed with that mandolin selling for over $2000 won by a French dealer. Yes, there are loads that are worthless but there are some that are desired instruments.
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  15. #10

    Default Re: very old mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Tavy View Post
    Hi Peter, good to see you back around here!

    Personally, I simply wouldn't touch a DeMeglio "clone" unless I was looking for a player, and I could try it out in person. Value wise, the clones sell regularly for almost nothing (50-75) even in tip top condition. Strangely, the clones are less readily available than the real thing. Just my 2c....
    John, I miss our projects....they were so much fun. I hope all is well with you.
    As you say, it looks like DM clones can fetch much less money than what I thought.

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: very old mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by jimmy powells View Post
    Apart from three Classical mandolin orchestras I've seen in the last 30 years I can't recall seeing anyone playing bowl shaped mandolins. Much as I quite like the look of them, they are awkward to hold, slippping all the time and most have neck issues as well as intonation issues and tinny tone.
    With all do respect. Nah. I hold them just fine, without slipping. And I have a few that are distinctly not tinny. And they are in regular rotation for when I play old time in a jam.

    Mine are old and finicky. That is my complaint. They don't like it too humid, or too dry, or too hot or too cold. They remind me of an aged Shih-Tzu dog, unnecessarily arrogant. LOL But we wrestle regularly, and when they are in the mood they sound great. One of them is quite loud.
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  18. #12

    Default Re: very old mandolin

    Hi Jim. My comment did not infer to ALL bowl backs. I said MOST have neck issues as well as intonation issues and tinny tone. I don't take that statement back. A few years ago I actually bought an Embergher and a Calace from the same person: Daughter of a mandolin enthusiast/player who had passed away. I bought them both for a good contact in London. We paid 1800 in total for them but truth is that I just did not think either was up the mark. Nothing major wrong with them. Just the usual issues of intonation, awkward to hold etc etc.

    I've seen several classical players playing bowl shaped ones but they probably have the cream of the crop. All I'm saying is that MOST bowl backs have some sort of issue and borne out by the fact that, apart from the Classical world (as I said orginally) if you see 1000 mandolin players how many would be playing a bowl back. That says it all.

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: very old mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by jimmy powells View Post
    .... apart from the Classical world (as I said orginally) if you see 1000 mandolin players how many would be playing a bowl back..
    Me and David. Jim and Martin. Jeff and Peter. John, of course. Oh, and Hany. That's eight of us.

    I've never seen 1000 mandolin players in one place. That's a lot!

    Mick
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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: very old mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    Me and David. Jim and Martin. Jeff and Peter. John, of course. Oh, and Hany. That's eight of us.

    I've never seen 1000 mandolin players in one place. That's a lot!

    Mick
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    Default Re: very old mandolin

    I always feel suspicious when I see a photo of a bowlback with the bridge saddle removed from the bridge. Usually it was taken out to compensate for high action (a very common problem). The fact that this one has had the saddle removed doesn't PROVE that the action is too high, but I'd be willing to place a modest bet on it.
    Mandolins: Bandolim by Antonio Pereira Cabral
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    Default Re: very old mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    Me and David. Jim and Martin. Jeff and Peter. John, of course. Oh, and Hany. That's eight of us.

    I've never seen 1000 mandolin players in one place. That's a lot!

    Mick
    I play my bowlbacks too, but you've never seen me! I'm also not as knowledgeable about all of the makers, I just enjoy them.

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  25. #17
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: very old mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by tonydxn View Post
    I always feel suspicious when I see a photo of a bowlback with the bridge saddle removed from the bridge. Usually it was taken out to compensate for high action (a very common problem). The fact that this one has had the saddle removed doesn't PROVE that the action is too high, but I'd be willing to place a modest bet on it.
    That's what I know, Tony. That's not a bet, I would take, just to be sure. But I'm an optimist.

    Who knows when the saddle might have been lost over 100 years of string changes. (Probably changed at least twice in that time period...) At least the mandolin is still with its case, which is a hopeful sign at least.

    The bridge is in a pretty wonky place to begin with. One would expect the bridge to be moved backwards over the bend to help with too high action. Moving it forward? Maybe it needs a saddle... Or else it's all out of control, which is my hunch.

    I'm a fan of DeMeglio mandolins in general. But the "Sistema" mandolins have remained a mystery to me. Did they license this out, or where they jobbed out, to be sold under other labels? The lengthy caveats on some of the DeMeglio labels make for an interesting mystery story.

    Some day we'll find out....

    Mick
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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: very old mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by LadysSolo View Post
    I play my bowlbacks too, but you've never seen me! I'm also not as knowledgeable about all of the makers, I just enjoy them.
    Muchas gracias, Signora S. We're up to nine out of a thousand now.

    Mick
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  27. #19

    Default Re: very old mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post

    I'm a fan of DeMeglio mandolins in general. But the "Sistema" mandolins have remained a mystery to me. Did they license this out, or where they jobbed out, to be sold under other labels? The lengthy caveats on some of the DeMeglio labels make for an interesting mystery story.

    Some day we'll find out....

    Mick
    I am less than optimistic about that, Mick. We would need an enthusiastic Neapolitan member with ample free time who'd do some city archive searching, such as trade and business permits, workshop leasing papers, contracts, etc. Has not happened yet, has it ? I for one would love to unravel the hidden story of Ceccherini and Stridente mandolins.

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