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Thread: To Gibson or not?

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    Default To Gibson or not?

    I have played mandolin off and on for about 10 years. I took lessons then occasionally with groups or friends. I first owned a Kentucky mandolin then sold it, thinking I would focus on playing other instruments. Fast forward a few years and I bought a mandolin again, a very cheap strad-o-lin that doesn't sound particularly good, but it was fine since I only play occasionally. My sister has recently asked me to play in her wedding. I'd like to upgrade to a new mandolin for the occasion. I have been offered A0 Gibson mandolin from 1922 in pretty good shape, which I think is a steal! It sounds pretty good, but I also have played a $250 Loar and $500 Stewart mandolin that also sound equally good to me. Which one should I buy? Who has bought one of these instruments and found it a good or not so good investment, especially for someone who only dabbles in mandolin? Isn't $1,000 for a Gibson a good price? Just looking for some guidance on making this decision. Thanks in advance!

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    Default Re: To Gibson or not?

    In the long term the Gibson is likely to hold it’s value whereas the value of the others is likely to decrease. Whether $1000 is a good price for any particular Gibson will depend on its condition and, to some extent, it’s originality.

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Gibson or not?

    Quote Originally Posted by mandolad View Post
    I have been offered A0 Gibson mandolin from 1922 in pretty good shape, which I think is a steal!
    Are you sure itís a 1922 A0? I was under the impression that the A0 wasnít produced until 1927:

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/archive...ona/azero.html

    A Gibson oval in pretty good shape for $1000 is rarely a bad buy, but itís only a ďstealĒ if itís from the Loar era and particularly a snakehead.
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    Default Re: To Gibson or not?

    For a Gibson oval hole, it's a good price. A "steal"? Maybe not right now as the market is slightly soft. But last time I looked there are not a lot of them available for that price. If it doesn't need any work then it's worth buying over the other two, IMO. My own journey was from a Loar model to a Gibson.

    The Stewart, depending on the instrument, might be a good deal, too. Although most don't seem to have the projection of a Gibson, they can have a nice tone.
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  8. #5

    Smile Re: To Gibson or not?

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    Are you sure itís a 1922 A0? I was under the impression that the A0 wasnít produced until 1927:

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/archive...ona/azero.html

    A Gibson oval in pretty good shape for $1000 is rarely a bad buy, but itís only a ďstealĒ if itís from the Loar era and particularly a snakehead.
    I think the wedding could be taken out of the equation. Paying $1000 compared to say $300 just for one 'gig' doesn't make a great dral of sense. To the untrained ear, one mandolin sounds the same as the next so the people at the wedding won't know. I dare say a scroll The Loar may look fancier but again no need to go for looks.

    As for the logic in paying $1000 well if you really want a Gibson then sounds like a pretty good price providing it doesn't need money spent on it.

    If you are happy with a $300 The Loar then that's the answer in my book. They are pretty good mandolins and pound for pound hard to beat.

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    Default Re: To Gibson or not?

    I vote with Jimmy. It sounds like you may be wanting to give a better sounding experience as a wedding present. There are always exceptions, but the chances that the bride will recognize that you are playing a different mandolin seem pretty low.

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  12. #7

    Default Re: To Gibson or not?

    If you want it, a wedding is certainly a good excuse for getting it.

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    Default Re: To Gibson or not?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Baldridge View Post
    It sounds like you may be wanting to give a better sounding experience as a wedding present.
    It sounds to me like you are looking for an excuse or two (the wedding, the investment, etc.) to buy a nicer mandolin. Ask me how I know!
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    Default Re: To Gibson or not?

    A '22 Gibson should have a truss rod making it in the Loar improvement era, paddle head or snake. If it has the truss rod I think a $1000 is a good deal. These tend to have a deep rich sound, unlike the tubby sounding earlier mando's. I am not a fan of tubby, and my "22 A2 is one of the best sounding Gibson ovals I have ever heard. Mine is a paddle and not a snake.
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    Default Re: To Gibson or not?

    I agree the pre-truss rod Gibson's "with a few exceptions" are superior sounding and a bit brighter + you can adjust the neck with the Truss rod! While I'm no fanof the round hole Gibson's some sure are decent as long as they don't have the tubbiness that the majority have! Some I've owned were really decent like a 25 Virzi Snake A-4, a 1912 F-2 that I had 20 some years ago was really fine sounding, bright, and sure didn't have the tubbiness! With those years Gibson's its hit or miss so I recommend trying before buying?

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    Default Re: To Gibson or not?

    Unless you plan on inviting Mandolin Cafe members I seriously doubt anyone that's there will hear the difference between any of these mandolins. I agree with Jimmy on this one as well.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: To Gibson or not?

    Having played guitar at two weddings I've found it is a challenge and only a small part of the overall event. The thing to do is practice alot on whatever mandolin you've got so you're happy with you're performance when it's all over.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Gibson or not?

    For a few years I worked part-time in a "Saturdays only" guitar store, run by the late Eldon Stutzman. (His son Dave's relocated it and kept it going as Stutzman's Guitar Center). Eldon used to tell customers who were comparing guitars for purchase, "If you can't hear the difference, buy the cheaper one."

    I'd give the same advice here, unless you're planning a fairly quick resale -- which would make no sense, IMHO -- or are attracted to the idea of owning a vintage Gibson, just because it is one. The price is pretty reasonable, although obviously condition is a major factor we can't evaluate, but the idea that "Gibson" will make any impact at the wedding is highly unlikely. Last June a friend and I provided incidental music for my son's wedding; I was playing my Stahl Larson-brothers-built mandola, and I probably could have been playing a Harmony for all the difference its multi-$K price tag made. I knew I was playing a fine historic instrument, but no one else cared. Which is fine with me; wedding musicians aren't there to be the stars. After all, we're not DJ's, to try to take over the proceedings and get chubby elderly people to dance the Electric Slide.
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    Default Re: To Gibson or not?

    Since your sister has asked you to play at the wedding, I imagine that she is happy with the sound you already make, so what you already have would be fine for this occasion.

    Since you yourself think the Gibson doesn't sound any better than the cheaper ones you mention, that answers the question for me. Don't buy it.

    Play what you have at the wedding, but keep your eyes open for another mandolin which 'speaks to you', as they say. I get a distinct feeling that this isn't it.
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    Default Re: To Gibson or not?

    If you want it to sound like a Gibson, buy a Gibson.
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    Default Re: To Gibson or not?

    Thanks for all the replies! Two thoughts that stuck out to me based on the comments ... that I need to practice and sound really solid on what I've got, and that this maybe isn't a "steal." Basically it's a Gibson at a price I could consider. The wedding is an excuse to upgrade; I would like a better sounding mandolin regardless.

    I probably misspoke about the A0 - It's an A-style, oval hole, black / dark brown mandolin. No logo on the headstock. It's in good shape (no warping or cracks), though it could use a refret, which the seller offered at half price ($250), so $1250 for the whole thing. Likely not a snakehead (sorry I didn't capture the headstock in the picture). .. the seller knows what they are since he is selling one for $7,000. Sound pretty good, though the G and D strings are a bit bassy, which might be because they have odd strings (all silver, round, the seller thinks is a German brand). The upper range (E string) sounds great. Good projection.

    I'm gonna go practice now haha.

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  31. #17
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    Default Re: To Gibson or not?

    That is a plain style A, built between 1918 and 1923. In that condition, it's no steal. They can probably be found in better condition at the same price, and certainly much better condition for $1200.

    In my part of the country, half price for a fret job is well under $250. Or maybe it's time for me to raise my rates.

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    Default Re: To Gibson or not?

    I do quite like the look of it, however.
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    Default Re: To Gibson or not?

    i'm going to suggest a different path- get a good used, newer built mandolin that doesn't need work, adjusts easily and sounds rich and plays easy. i would think if you did that you will enjoy the mandolin more, play it more, and become enamoured with it. it doesn't sound like the person wanting to sell you the Gibson has your best interest in mind in my opinion. You would be much better off having a "team" of scouts here, look thru our classifieds and offer up some excellent suggestions to you. You could come in under that $1000 and have a superior looking/playing instrument to be proud of. Call up theMandolinStore and talk with Dennis, he would guide you into something well within your $ range, and have it set up to play when you open it.

    you can get a whole lot more mandolin if you buy used, and i've found you can get a solid buy out of the classifieds here, and themandolinstore at times has used mandos as well.
    keep us posted on what you do
    d

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Gibson or not?

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    That is a plain style A, built between 1918 and 1923. In that condition, it's no steal. They can probably be found in better condition at the same price, and certainly much better condition for $1200.
    It’s no steal, but it is a value. I can’t think of an archtop mandolin that I’d rather own for $1000 than an old Gibson oval. Perhaps make an offer?
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    Default Re: To Gibson or not?

    I just purchased a 1920 Gibson A from the cafe ads (as in, arrived just last Saturday). Cosmetically, looks a lot like the one you're looking at. However, seller had refretted (big frets) and changed tuners (and shipped to me) for 950. I love it, plays and sounds great. But I do agree with others that you shouldn't upgrade just because you think it's the thing to do for a wedding.
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  40. #22

    Default Re: To Gibson or not?

    As far as having 'The Gibson sound', although I've been a lover of Gibson fot 50 years or so and have owned 27 Gibson mandolins, I think it is a phrase which people use when trying to enhance an instrument. I dont think there is such a thing as a 'Gibson sound'. Its just hype in my view.

    Mandolins sound like mandolins. I defy most people in a blind test to pick out a Gibson or a Collings or Ellis or Northfield or old Lyon & Healy. This idea of an instrument having a 'Gibson sound' will never register in my book.

    I've always loved F4s and other Gibsons but if I'm honest, not because of the sound. I've just always loved the charisma of the Gibson name and the history of the teens Mandolin Orchestras.

    I'm looking for an F4 right now. I'm in the UK. Cant help myself. Determined to keep the next F4 I buy (I've sold the previous 7 F4s).

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  42. #23

    Default Re: To Gibson or not?

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    It’s no steal, but it is a value. I can’t think of an archtop mandolin that I’d rather own for $1000 than an old Gibson oval. Perhaps make an offer?
    I asked him if he would go any lower and he said no, though I didn't throw out a number. The slightly inflated prices may be due to the fact that I live in a very expensive city. I do like how it looks alot, though. My main concern is it sounds so bassy on the low notes...meaning the notes rings for a long time once the G and D strings are played. Might be the strings?

    I'm leaning towards buying the $250 Loar, new. It sounded pretty good. I can always upgrade again. I'll probably go back to the shop and play it again, see if I like the Loar a second time.

    Thanks again for everyone's input!

  43. #24

    Default Re: To Gibson or not?

    Quote Originally Posted by kegcrowe View Post
    I just purchased a 1920 Gibson A from the cafe ads (as in, arrived just last Saturday). Cosmetically, looks a lot like the one you're looking at. However, seller had refretted (big frets) and changed tuners (and shipped to me) for 950. I love it, plays and sounds great. But I do agree with others that you shouldn't upgrade just because you think it's the thing to do for a wedding.
    @kegcrowe Does your sound bassy on the low notes...meaning the notes ring for a long time once the G and D strings are played? The one I have pictured has odd strings, so I didn't know if it was that or the instrument itself. Anyone else have a similar 1920s Gibson that can chime in?

  44. #25

    Default Re: To Gibson or not?

    Can you explain more by what you mean by tubbiness? My main concern is that it sounds so bassy on the low notes...meaning the notes rings for a long time once the G and D strings are played. I thought it might be the strings.

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