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Thread: Beautiful little shop find identification?

  1. #1
    Registered User Lilyaperi's Avatar
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    Default Beautiful little shop find identification?

    So I was browsing through one of my local small music shops this afternoon just because, not looking for anything in particular, when I stumbled across this pretty little thing in their vintage section. She's obviously in need of some TLC, but I'm sorely tempted. She's smaller than she looks in the photo, but fits more comfortably in my hands for that, and what little sound I could get out of her dilapidated strings, seems to have a rich yet mellow sort of tone. Trouble is, there's no markings on her at all--no makers mark, no serial number, nothing to go on at all. As she is her bones cost a mere $99 and I have some money coming my way soon that could pay for restoration, but without any information on make/model I've no way of being completely certain whether it would be worth the investment. I was hoping maybe one of you fine folk might have some better idea than a newbie like me?

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    "Now and then we had the hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates." - - Mark Twain

  2. #2

    Default Re: Beautiful little shop find identification?

    It is probably from central Europe which includes Germany. However, the key aspects to whether it is worth buying- and spending more money on it cannot be answered from that single photograph. If you are not knowledgeable with regard to what you need to look for then unless there is a series of carefully taken photos it is impossible for others to make an assessment. I think the general rule is that with an unidentified and inexpensive instrument then it is probably best to leave it. That does not mean the instrument has no merit but this should not be a purchase made with your heart- it needs to be made with your head. Here is a reasonable German mandolin on Reverb. Note the price: https://reverb.com/item/13029265-fin...-germany-1920s

  3. #3
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beautiful little shop find identification?

    Most bowlback mandolins don't have a lot of monetary value. Many fail to sell weekly on eBay. The butterfly is a common decoration on many of these. I love it when people restore old instruments but be aware going in that you're going to spend a lot of money and the mandolin will not be worth much more (could worth be less) than you buy it for. There is no way it can be considered a good investment.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beautiful little shop find identification?

    Well....if the return on the investment is in the pleasure of learning to play and the enjoyment of playing once learned, then I might encourage it.

    The key to such would then be how much of an investment does it need to be playable? A good cleaning and some new (extra light) strings?

    The main feature to check for is the condition of the neck, the playing "action" at the 12th fret and whether the tuners function.

    If all is well, then a $99 investment in a mandolin such as the one in your avatar would be money well spent in my view.

    I wouldn't worry about "general rules" about a mandolin's provenance if you have the urge to begin playing. Many mandolins were made in Markneukirchen, Germany to be shipped out and labeled by others. I agree this looks CentroEuro in origin to me.

    If it isn't playable (as in the words of the illustrious James Garber) then there are other lovely accessible bowlbacks waiting for you.

    As Nick suggests, more pictures would help us be of more help.

    Mick
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    Registered User Lilyaperi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beautiful little shop find identification?

    Yes, I suppose I should have clarified that when I said worth the investment, I meant by getting an instrument that is pretty and playable out of it, not something that would make the money back if I sold it! I love collecting very old things, I'd have no intention of reselling it Although, I concede, one picture is hardly enough to to tell whether that were possible--it was just a quick snapshot I took to send someone who I thought would think it was pretty as I did, and I didn't think to ask around here until hours after I'd left the shop. I was definitely a bit of a dingus there, to be sure!

    And yes, a large part of the appeal of it (aside from the age) is that it looks much like the one in my avatar; I do a lot of ren faire, pirate, fairy, and other such camps, and it would fit in beautifully. Also, again, small hands and it just seemed to fit like a glove

  6. #6
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beautiful little shop find identification?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lilyaperi View Post
    Yes, I suppose I should have clarified that when I said worth the investment, I meant by getting an instrument that is pretty and playable out of it, not something that would make the money back if I sold it! I love collecting very old things, I'd have no intention of reselling it Although, I concede, one picture is hardly enough to to tell whether that were possible--it was just a quick snapshot I took to send someone who I thought would think it was pretty as I did, and I didn't think to ask around here until hours after I'd left the shop. I was definitely a bit of a dingus there, to be sure!

    And yes, a large part of the appeal of it (aside from the age) is that it looks much like the one in my avatar; I do a lot of ren faire, pirate, fairy, and other such camps, and it would fit in beautifully. Also, again, small hands and it just seemed to fit like a glove
    Well...then you ought to go back and have another look.
    Check on the string action and determine if it is playable enough to warrant the fairly low initial cost. Not much sense it starting to learn on an instrument that is hard to fret and likely then with poorer intonation. Just take a measure meant of the string height above the 12th fret. 3/32" would be ideal, imo.
    More than an 1/8" and you'll be looking at some difficulty.

    I wouldn't recommend getting it if it would require much effort to get it playable. Other options abound for nice bowlbacks at good prices as Mike suggests. You just have to be careful in assessing them. But the factors to judge by are pretty clear.

    The shorter scale of bowlbacks is perfect for smaller hands. I have very large hands but enjoy playing them as well. It can present a challenge but I find bowlbacks to be very intimate instruments to hold, but can also have a lot of projection.
    i love their "shimmering sound" as our friend, Martin Jonas, describes it so well.

    Many folks here tend to prefer the longer scale, carved top mandolins that are used in bluegrass, country, old time, swing, etc.
    There are a good many of us, though, who like to play both types, in my case particularly to play the same pieces on both to find the different nuances between the instrument and melody.

    Then there's hombres like Mike, who just love mandolins of all kinds, whether they play them or not.

    Mick
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  7. #7
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beautiful little shop find identification?

    It sounds from your other posts that you have been playing for less than a month. While I applaud your enthusiasm, I would hold off on this. I assume you have a mandolin that you have been playing on already. It may be pretty to your eye but could be ugly to your wallet.

    If you like, go back and take some pictures of the back and also give us a side view. I tend to agree with the others that this is a lower end eastern European mandolin. There is something inelegant to my eye of the way the tuner slots are made. If I were you I would take that money you will get and put it in a safe place and accumulate more for an upgrade fund. I know—not very exciting, but impulse buying often does not get you quality. Take it from someone who has decades of experience and a closet to prove it, sad to say.
    Jim

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    Registered User DoubleE's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beautiful little shop find identification?

    It’s hard to make an assessment based on a single photo, but from what I see I wouldn’t think twice about dropping a Franklin on this mandolin. Top looks solid. Buttterfly inlay is nice. Missing a dot, but that’s no biggie. Could possibly be a player, but it’s hard to tell from a photo.
    I know everyone’s financial situation is different, but for me this would be an ok buy of the heart at a hundred bucks even though it might take another hundred or more to make it playable.

  9. #9
    Registered User DoubleE's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beautiful little shop find identification?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    It sounds from your other posts that you have been playing for less than a month. While I applaud your enthusiasm, I would hold off on this. I assume you have a mandolin that you have been playing on already. It may be pretty to your eye but could be ugly to your wallet.

    If you like, go back and take some pictures of the back and also give us a side view. I tend to agree with the others that this is a lower end eastern European mandolin. There is something inelegant to my eye of the way the tuner slots are made. If I were you I would take that money you will get and put it in a safe place and accumulate more for an upgrade fund. I know—not very exciting, but impulse buying often does not get you quality. Take it from someone who has decades of experience and a closet to prove it, sad to say.
    Oh Jeez! I knew I should’ve waited until I saw a Jim Garber post! My post was based on heart, but Jim’s is based on reason and experience. I would trust Jim.
    I see these old bowlbacks and can’t help but think of the John Prine song “Hello In There”

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