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Thread: Looking for Information on Older Bowlback Mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Looking for Information on Older Bowlback Mandolin

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    Hi everyone,

    My great uncle passed away a few months ago and my great aunt is selling his instruments. One of which is this early 1900's bowlback. She believes it is from Italy. What do you all think about it? Any ideas on approximate value? I'm going to go check it out tomorrow.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Looking for Information on Older Bowlback Mandolin

    Pictures of the headstock (front and back,) and any labels inside the oval hole will help with identification. Thanks!

  3. #3

    Default Re: Looking for Information on Older Bowlback Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by LadysSolo View Post
    Pictures of the headstock (front and back,) and any labels inside the oval hole will help with identification. Thanks!
    No label. Ill get a head stock picture tomorrow.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Looking for Information on Older Bowlback Mandolin

    On the limited amount we can glean on from the photos, I reckon it is Chicago made with Regal in pole position.The board is has basic position markers (redolent of Oscar Schmidt) while the mandolin has a fair few flourishes in terms of inlays etc and quite a few ribs in the body's construction. In some respects it looks like a more expensive version of this Ward's mandolin below. The rather ambitious seller has managed to post photos without capturing all of the mandolin but I would also suggest Regal for this mandolin.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/153808325415

  5. #5
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for Information on Older Bowlback Mandolin

    It could also be a true Lyon and Healy product made in Chicago. Either way, it was made in the USA. One of our resident bowlheads might have a catalog picture. Many of these were made "for the trade" with no markings so that teachers, schools, retailers and such could sell them as their own brand name. As far as the value goes, very few bowlbacks will bring any large amount of money and those will be labeled. Bowlback mandolins were made in great numbers and many survive. They regularly fail to sell on eBay weekly. The large number of staves on the back identify this as a better model, the visible hardware doesn't raise to the level of high end. The crack in the top will devalue it. The case by the way is not original to the instrument.

    Here are all of the sold listings for bowlback mandolins on eBay. It doesn't matter how much people are asking for them, what matters is what people are paying for them.

    There are some that are not as nice as yours and some that are nicer. It will give you an idea as to how much these flex in price.

    It would also help to see a picture of the front and back of the peghead.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Looking for Information on Older Bowlback Mandolin

    Headstock Photos

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  7. #7

    Default Re: Looking for Information on Older Bowlback Mandolin

    Those photos tend me towards the mandolin having been made by Oscar Schmidt in Jersey City. The inlays around the sound hole, which were probably imported from Germany are seen on Oscar Schmidt mandolins but others may have used them as well.

    This is a horrible mess but there are a number of similarities and some differences, too.

    https://the-music-man-brighton.rever...1900s/27351664

    This is a much nicer instrument: https://www.dynamite-music.com/listi...dolin/15936997
    Last edited by NickR; Feb-09-2020 at 3:28pm.

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  9. #8
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for Information on Older Bowlback Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Emily Wilson View Post
    Headstock Photos

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    Absent a catalog page or a marked model with a brand name that is the same it's hard to identify a manufacturer. The hardware places it after 1900 and probably closer to 1910. That headstock shape was used by a few different manufacturers. Hopefully a catalog page will surface. The Oscar Schmidt mandolins generally but not always incorporated the initials OS into the pickguard design. The worm under tuners were pretty much gone by the mid 1920's and bowlbacks in general fell out of favor with manufacturers because they were labor intensive and expensive to produce. When the mandolin playing public would accept the flatback designs the industry changed.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  10. #9

    Default Re: Looking for Information on Older Bowlback Mandolin

    The headstock shape rules out many of the most likely makers and is typical of OS- which as Mike mentions, those initials often featured in the pickguard design but not all the time. Harmony used that headstock design but I have only seen it on their flat back mandolins. Your mandolin has a body that suggests a degree of expense in terms of its construction but the headstock, fingerboard and tuners do not really complement the body in that respect- as you would normally expect to see a similar level of ornamentation across the instrument as a whole. You may find a similar instrument if you search the internet.

    Here is another Oscar Schmidt "butterfly" mandolin with a pearl fingerboard. It has that headstock shape, steel plate -not brass tuners, and the same tailpiece. The bowl looks very similar to yours but I have not made a careful comparison. https://jakewildwood.blogspot.com/20...ade-pearl.html

  11. #10

    Default Re: Looking for Information on Older Bowlback Mandolin

    This may well be your mandolin- or a very similar model shown in the 1916 Supertone catalogue- it still does not confirm the maker. Supertone did buy from Oscar Schmidt at this time but was in the process of buying the Harmony company. I would still suggest it was an Oscar Schmidt build but it might just be Harmony. I think the fact that the mandolin has some flourishes yet cheap metalware and that plain neck does suggest a mail order company trying to make something eye-catching and good value.

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