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Thread: Please help to identify this mandolin?

  1. #1

    Default Please help to identify this mandolin?

    Hi Mandolin lovers,

    I'm a guitarist in Australia, and have just found my first mandolin at an opportunity shop (I think Americans call them thrift stores?), and am keen to find out any info regarding it's manufacturer/age/possible value...
    I bought it to play and learn on, so it's resale value is a moot point at this stage, but it'd be nice to have an idea, in case I were to resell in the future?!
    I note these particular characteristics - although some may be common, some are not...
    First is the headstock shape - I've found similar, but none exactly like it. Second, is the zero fret - which makes me think it could be of Eastern European origin, as typically on old arch top guitars from the region, they would use a zero fret (I'm thinking East Germany, Czech Republic, etc...
    I think (from how it changes colour in the light as you move it), it has decorative mother of pearl around the top edge, near the binding, though the way it's worn near the upper bout, I'm unsure. Spruce top, maple back and sides, with lovely birds eye, and flame on the back.
    On the downside, I note the top has collapsed a little under the bridge area, and I'd say there's something missing from the tailpiece (string cover?) and the bridge looks like a replacement to me. I think overall it's a little beauty, and it plays pretty nicely, (the strings are years old I'd say, and pretty rusty), though the neck down the nut end is very narrow. Also, I need to put slots into the bridge, as the strings simply pull into a straight line, under string pressure when in tune.
    I wonder what is a typical neck width (nut, and 12th fret area) on a mandolin?
    I'm sure at the very least, my daughter will be able to learn to play it, as she's only 10.
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Please help to identify this mandolin?

    You should post some photos of the back and the headstock in particular. However, I think the tuners are probably replacements. The case is almost certainly German- the handle and the metalwork suggest this. That headstock shape can be seen on Italian, German and Czech mandolins and the zero fret suggests one of those nations. I would imagine that the case and mandolin are an original pairing. I don't suppose there are any marks on the hardware on the case but it is either German or Czech and this mandolin is from the era when there were two German states. My assumption is that it is post WW2 not 1930s but original tuners would have helped in that assessment.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Please help to identify this mandolin?

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  4. #4

    Default Re: Please help to identify this mandolin?

    I believe the tuners to be replacements also. No signs of tarnish.
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  5. #5

    Default Re: Please help to identify this mandolin?

    Yes, replacement tuners which does not help fixing where it was made. Some Japanese mandolins had that sort of headstock shape but I have not seen any flat backs as such. One Yugoslavian maker had stylised f holes along the lines of your mandolin on its guitars- Glazbala of Zagreb. Do those case latches have any marks on them? Many Japanese flat backs were based around copying the Kay pear shape- and yours does have that sort of shape but there is nothing that gives a definitive place from my knowledge. The case does remind me of the cases that Hofner guitars sold in the UK circa 1960 would be paired with by Selmer of London but I am not suggesting that Hofner made your mandolin. It may have been imported new into Australia by one of the music companies associated to the big London dealers- or it may have made its way to you with an individual.The shot of its back reminds me of the John Dallas of London Radiotone mandolins made in Schonbach, Czechoslovakia before WW2- probably by a workshop called Brauer. As I wrote my guess is post war- 1950s or 60s not prewar- that case is circa 1960. Here is a thread where you can see a Radiotone which is not an f hole mandolin:

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...amber-Mandolin

  6. #6

    Default Re: Please help to identify this mandolin?

    Thanks NickR - the f holes are quite distinct, aren't they...
    Unfortunately, the metalware on the case is quite tarnished, and if there were any distinct markings, they've disappeared with age. I'd say the case could well belong to the instrument historically, but like Fender guitars imported into Australia in the 1960s without cases, a local manufacturer made cases here, that wouldn't be seen elsewhere. It may well be the case (see what I did there:/ ), with this one. I understand Rose Morris distributed instruments here in Australia, though I think their parent company was based in England, so I guess anything goes, right?!
    In fact, the zero fret thing to me was a give away, as I bought a Czech made f hole archtop guitar a while back which led me on a quest for knowledge of German, and Czech guitar makers of the 50s, and I discovered a British brand called Broadway which were also distributed by Rose Morris, and some of their guitars were made in Eastern Europe. So, the case and mandolin, most likely being from that area, certainly makes sense, for it to be here in Australia.

  7. #7
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Please help to identify this mandolin?

    The f holes are really not unique. They are copies of f holes used on American made instruments of the 30's, 40's and even into the 50's by companies like Regal, Harmony, and Kay. It's fairly common on the Strad-O-Lin branded mandolins of the era as well as a group of resonator mandolins sold with many brand names. This wasn't made by any of the American companies and I wonder if the case is original to the mandolin. I agree with Nick, the tuners have been replaced. I agree also that it's probably post WWII. I haven't seen that headstock mated with this body shape. Hopefully one our European members has seen one.

    That bridge isn't original (obviously) and needs some attention. Did the top sink?
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Please help to identify this mandolin?

    Thanks Mike, yes you're right, they're not unique, but they are distinctive, and certainly similar to Strad-O-Lin, etc.
    The headstock is probably the main point of difference, but it could simply be a headstock shape chosen at a particular point in time, as I see Strad-O-Lin had several shapes, for example.
    Indeed, the bridge setup looks relatively new also, and yes the top under the bridge has sunk somewhat. It's certainly playable, and has a decent action, and intonation appears to be quite good. I can't see that there's any kind of bracing under the soundboard at that point, which is a bit odd. I guess it would be worth taking the back off, and reinforcing the soundboard, long term. I guess an X brace would be the ideal, under the bridge?

  9. #9
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Please help to identify this mandolin?

    In this case the bracing is going to be whatever works for you. I would assume they probably had some sort of tone bar in there but I know Strad-O-Lin used a cross brace. It looks like someone has placed the top of an adjustable bridge on this with a Popsicle stick underneath it.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Please help to identify this mandolin?

    http://lacquercracks.dk/identificati.../introduction/

    Lacqueur Cracks above has that site and If you send him this link he may comment- either back to you or here if he is a member. There used to be a great European Guitar site but he told me it had been hacked into submission, which was a shame because it was a superb resource and much of my European instrument knowledge came from its members- and then it was vapourised. The f holes on your mandolin are based on American 1930s examples but in the USA they were replaced with a single cut f hole in the main by the 1940s- whereas they seemed to be in vogue in central Europe with a bolder look in the 1950s- as on your mandolin. It's a shame its tuners are replacements as they might have given more evidence for the nation that made it. Czech guitars had often striking tuners- especially in the 1930s while the German made tuners were often seen on instruments made in other countries as Germany was the source of so much- makers in the USA bought from German suppliers- even Harmony in the 1950s and 60s was buying German made tailpieces for some models of guitar- the H62 and H77- there may be others.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Please help to identify this mandolin?

    Look like late 50's Japanese. Zero fret, headstock shape, F holes general aesthetic

  12. #12
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Please help to identify this mandolin?

    I don't remember seeing export Japanese stringed instruments until the late 60's but maybe we were just late bloomers. I agree that the design looks like that.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Please help to identify this mandolin?

    I would like to think that if the mandolin was made in Japan- and I considered that- it would still have its original tuners! Mind you, we know that tuners get changed when they do not need to be- it's not like Kluson button rot where getting new tuners was the easiest option and nobody was worried about "originality". However, we now live in a different world and I have stuck plenty of buttons on to Kluson tuner units- although I prefer to defer to the patient man that has to mend my stuff!

    Looking at those photos again, I can see that something has befallen that tailpiece. There may well have been a cover plate that has been yanked off it. Again, that may have given a bit more evidence of its origin- likewise, the bridge.

    Here is a discussion about Ibanez mandolins. Yes, they are very different in most respects to this one but the cases are very similar- especially, the one with the dark green interior. It is not identical- that bit of padding in the top is not there but it is very similar.

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...banez-mandolin

  14. #14
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Please help to identify this mandolin?

    The bridge isn't original and the tailpiece is missing the cover.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Please help to identify this mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    I don't remember seeing export Japanese stringed instruments until the late 60's but maybe we were just late bloomers. I agree that the design looks like that.
    I have a 57 Ibanez round hole archtop guitar... with gold sparkle pickguard. They made "higher-end" blingier models and mando's along the same lines.

    I don't think this one's an Ibanez

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  17. #16
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Please help to identify this mandolin?

    Headstock looks Suzuki-esque, rest of the instrument not so much. Beats me.
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  19. #17

    Default Re: Please help to identify this mandolin?

    Heh heh, well, it's a little more professional than a popsicle stick, but the bar wasn't raised much higher, for sure. The action was raised just enough, so as ugly as it is, it's totally functional. It needs bracing though, and as I bought it cheap, and want to learn about repairing old guitars, bracing this top will assist my efforts in the learning process.


    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    In this case the bracing is going to be whatever works for you. I would assume they probably had some sort of tone bar in there but I know Strad-O-Lin used a cross brace. It looks like someone has placed the top of an adjustable bridge on this with a Popsicle stick underneath it.

  20. #18

    Default Re: Please help to identify this mandolin?

    I see the similarity of the case - shame none of those pics show the outside. Certainly mine has the little strip of plastic type material stopping the top from opening all the way as those pictured, but it's broken on mine.
    Certainly is a shame about the tailpiece cover! I don't doubt it would have had some distinguishing feature.

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    I would like to think that if the mandolin was made in Japan- and I considered that- it would still have its original tuners! Mind you, we know that tuners get changed when they do not need to be- it's not like Kluson button rot where getting new tuners was the easiest option and nobody was worried about "originality". However, we now live in a different world and I have stuck plenty of buttons on to Kluson tuner units- although I prefer to defer to the patient man that has to mend my stuff!

    Looking at those photos again, I can see that something has befallen that tailpiece. There may well have been a cover plate that has been yanked off it. Again, that may have given a bit more evidence of its origin- likewise, the bridge.

    Here is a discussion about Ibanez mandolins. Yes, they are very different in most respects to this one but the cases are very similar- especially, the one with the dark green interior. It is not identical- that bit of padding in the top is not there but it is very similar.

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...banez-mandolin

  21. #19

    Default Re: Please help to identify this mandolin?

    Hey thanks for that link - I have been gassing for a Harmony H62, and it's great to learn about the origins of hardware used. I know there wasn't a huge amount of info about the early Harmony/Silvertone guitars, (apart from marketing hype in the catalogues), so this is a great resource.

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    http://lacquercracks.dk/identificati.../introduction/

    Lacqueur Cracks above has that site and If you send him this link he may comment- either back to you or here if he is a member. There used to be a great European Guitar site but he told me it had been hacked into submission, which was a shame because it was a superb resource and much of my European instrument knowledge came from its members- and then it was vapourised. The f holes on your mandolin are based on American 1930s examples but in the USA they were replaced with a single cut f hole in the main by the 1940s- whereas they seemed to be in vogue in central Europe with a bolder look in the 1950s- as on your mandolin. It's a shame its tuners are replacements as they might have given more evidence for the nation that made it. Czech guitars had often striking tuners- especially in the 1930s while the German made tuners were often seen on instruments made in other countries as Germany was the source of so much- makers in the USA bought from German suppliers- even Harmony in the 1950s and 60s was buying German made tailpieces for some models of guitar- the H62 and H77- there may be others.

  22. #20
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    Default Re: Please help to identify this mandolin?

    Try Maruha. Their round hole archtop guitar has similar finish as on the back of this mando. I found a pic of a Maruha mando which is pretty close in shape and has similar f-holes, though I think the holes are closer to those on their model 165 archtop guitar.

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