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Thread: $200 to spend on a new or used Mandolin

  1. #1

    Default $200 to spend on a new or used Mandolin

    Hi,

    I have been playing mandolin casually for about two years and enjoying playing mostly Irish/Celtic stuff. I am looking for a mandolin to keep at my office to mess around with for a few minutes when I have downtime.

    My budget is $200. Does any one have any suggestions on a prudent buy? Should I go new or used in anyone's opinion?

    Thank you so much for any help!
    Parke Sterling

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  3. #2
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: $200 to spend on a new or used Mandolin

    If you want carved arched top and back, go used (A). If you want flat top and back you might be able to find a decent new one in that price range, but a very good used one might be available.
    I don't recommend getting a $200 "F".

    Edit to say; budget a little extra for a good set up. Buying in that price range (or any price range for that matter) will likely mean getting something that needs some amount of set up work to play well.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: $200 to spend on a new or used Mandolin

    Used will most likely get you more mandolin and I agree with John, look for an A style.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: $200 to spend on a new or used Mandolin

    Rover RM-50 is at least all solid woods. Discounted they're ±$250 new; here's a used on on eBay, repaired back seam separation, says it has "pro set-up," for a hundred and a half.
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    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: $200 to spend on a new or used Mandolin

    An Ibanez M510-DVS retails for less than $200. All of the instrument, except the neck, is laminated but with silk and steel strings, a thick pick and a good set up, it's very playable and it doesn't sound bad.

  7. #6

    Default Re: $200 to spend on a new or used Mandolin

    Keeping in mind that I am new to the mandolin world, I went through the same questions you had. And for the price point you mention, I'd go A-style, used, and solid woods. With those criteria, what I found recommended the most was a Kentucky KM150.

  8. #7

    Default Re: $200 to spend on a new or used Mandolin

    Setup is key here. I'd go with a shop, like Elderly, or perhaps Schoenberg's that goes through the inexpensive mandolins that they sell, sets them up, etc. Quality control at this price point is not 100% at the factory.
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

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    Registered User DoubleE's Avatar
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    Default Re: $200 to spend on a new or used Mandolin

    I’m going to buck the trend and suggest a vintage bowlback. They work well with fiddle tunes in a solo situation and it would look really cool in your office when you’re not playing. Good conversation piece. And you’ll be helping to preserve the mandolin legacy!

  11. #9

    Default Re: $200 to spend on a new or used Mandolin

    If you decide to go the bowlback route, there's a very nice looking Ditson in the classifieds being offered for $225 from Bernunzio Music (guaranteed to be well set up). It's ad no. 148673. No personal financial stake, but I am tempted by it.

  12. #10
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: $200 to spend on a new or used Mandolin

    OK, read the first post carefully: "...looking for a mandolin to keep at my office to mess around with for a few minutes when I have downtime. My budget is $200."

    You can find KM-150's, which usually sell for over $400, used for slightly less than $200; the ones I've seen listed around $180 have had some condition issues, but might be playable if well set up. But consider that the instrument is going to be kept in OP's office, which may not provide the ideal temperature/humidity environment, say, over the weekend. A more fragile type of mandolin, such as a bowl-back would be a greater risk. It might be stashed under a desk, or on a closet shelf, wherever.

    Secondly, for a mandolin that's going to be grabbed for a few minutes' playing now and then during the work week -- and is not the OP's primary instrument -- I'd recommend that it be as similar to the "main" mandolin as possible. A 15-minute work break on Thursday afternoon, is not where you learn to play a whole new mandolin style, on an unfamiliar instrument. So I'd still recommend an inexpensive A-model, solid woods if that's affordable --and a good case, case humidifier as well.

    I once found a cheap pre-war ladder-braced parlor-size guitar in the attic of the house I bought in 1976, in one of those felt bags that passed for "cases" back in the day, and said, "Hey, I'll take this to work, play it outdoors in the park on my lunch hour." The guitar lasted about three months before the neck pitched forward, despite the silk-and-steel extra-lights I had on it; the office environment was too unfriendly. Not worth fixing, in my instrument tech's estimation, so I left it with him in case he could use the tuners or tailpiece. "Office instruments,:" in my experience, need to be sturdy, and shouldn't represent a sizable investment, either monetary or emotional.

    YMMV, of course, but I stick by my Rover RM-50 recommendation.
    Allen Hopkins
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    Stradolin Vega banjolin
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    Registered User DoubleE's Avatar
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    Default Re: $200 to spend on a new or used Mandolin

    I just want to say that my suggestion was not meant to undermine Allen’s. I think the Rover is a fine choice within your budget. My suggestion is a bit out of the box and maybe a bit eccentric and would probably exceed $200, but I do think a bowlback could work. Without a doubt a decent case and proper care are required.

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  15. #12

    Default Re: $200 to spend on a new or used Mandolin

    Wow, thank you all so much for these suggestions. Blown away by the support that this forum offers. Big Love!

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    Default Re: $200 to spend on a new or used Mandolin

    Since the OP didn't specify what kind of mandolin he's accustomed to, I'll suggest this nice $200 Greek-style bowlback over at Stutzman's in Rochester. These things are usually loud and good for the Irish/Celtic tunes. (NFI obviously)
    Exploring Classical Mandolin (Berklee Press, 2015)
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    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
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    Default Re: $200 to spend on a new or used Mandolin

    Are there a lot of offices that are NOT climate controlled?
    Chris Cravens

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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: $200 to spend on a new or used Mandolin

    Well, I used to keep a Rogue in my office for my alleged downtime; cost me $49 plus shipping, iirc. And $60 for a good setup, but that can be gotten around with Rob Meldrum's book. It has 8 strings, after all. and if it sounds like a jack-in-the-box, with a good setup, it worked for me just fine. Busking or a home mandolin you might want something a little more upscale, but for an office mandolin, the rogue is perfectly fine. my 2 cents.
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    Default Re: $200 to spend on a new or used Mandolin

    I bought a Rogue for the same reason (I am a Librarian) but I realized it would be too tempting.

    What I consider downtime vs. what THEY consider down time are two VERY different concepts!

  20. #17
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: $200 to spend on a new or used Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by ccravens View Post
    Are there a lot of offices that are NOT climate controlled?
    They may be adequately humidified and temp-controlled for the workers, but not for instrument storage. I was amazed at how quickly my attic-find cheapo guitar "went bad."
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

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    Struggle Monkey B381's Avatar
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    Default Re: $200 to spend on a new or used Mandolin

    "It doesn't matter how much you invest in your instrument until you invest in you and your ability..."

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Question Re: $200 to spend on a new or used Mandolin

    Flat top & back may br fine for your Irish session practice .... you in UK? or Canada, or US.
    writing about music
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    Default Re: $200 to spend on a new or used Mandolin

    What Alan said. Most offices are temp controlled, but not necessarily humidity controlled. And, many places use programmable thermostats so night time temps can be drastically different from daytime temps if it’s not a 24 hour operation...
    Chuck

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