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Thread: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

  1. #1

    Default Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    In my area this mandolin is for sale. The seller claims that three different appraisals all confirmed it was made in Italy, but it doesn't have any indications of who made it.

    The ad states 1920's, but in a message he stated he thought it was from the 1890's:

    "This is what I know this mandolin was a family Heirloom it holds a tune better than some mandolins and not as well as others.
    I love string instruments, its a hundred years old ( I personally think its 1890s or so) its not in pristine shape.
    If you try to find it on line. Every west Europiun country made the exact design. Germany, Poland, France, Italy,Scotland. So its in beautiful playing shape.
    And one beautiful piece of history to me. Every thing on it is original, if you want to get all new parts from the bridge and the tensioners, on down. You will lose the original tone. Its a solid Mandolin."

    Is there enough in these pictures to figure out anything more? Think it's worth sinking $180 (or visiting - it's 1.5 hours away)?

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  2. #2

    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Is there an "Italy" district of Chicago? It's most probably a product of Regal, possibly Lyon & Healy. It may be worth the money if it is !00%. I was unaware that Scotland had a mandolin making tradition- a small number were made in England. There was a "Little Italy" district of London.

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    Is there an "Italy" district of Chicago? It's most probably a product of Regal, possibly Lyon & Healy. It may be worth the money if it is !00%. I was unaware that Scotland had a mandolin making tradition- a small number were made in England. There was a "Little Italy" district of London.
    Yeah, I think Little Italy in Chicago is around Taylor Street.

  5. #4
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    Is there an "Italy" district of Chicago? It's most probably a product of Regal, possibly Lyon & Healy. It may be worth the money if it is !00%. I was unaware that Scotland had a mandolin making tradition- a small number were made in England. There was a "Little Italy" district of London.
    It sure looks like a Regal or another Chicago maker.

  6. #5

    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Interesting the background the seller has chosen for this one, the old cupboard. The headstock has a similar features.

  7. #6

    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Think an old Regal is worth a 1.5 hour drive for a look at this price? I don't see much damage in the photos aside from some wear on the soundboard and some scratches on the bowl. I don't have experience playing any mandolins aside from my Kentucky.

  8. #7
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vagueperson View Post
    Think an old Regal is worth a 1.5 hour drive for a look at this price? ...
    Depends on how much you want a bowl-back. Consensus is that it's early-20th-century American. Generally, those were well-made mandolins, and if this one's in excellent playable condition, the price is in line with what they get on the market these days.

    Bowl-backs sound different, have to be held differently, generally have shorter scales, and have to be strung with extra-light strings because they're built much more lightly than more modern flat-back mandolins. They can be really pretty-sounding, and very suitable for classical, folk, Italian/European, and other non-bluegrass styles of music.

    This one's not a huge bargain, and there are many of these century-plus-old Chicago-made instruments on the market most of the time. You could end up with a neat addition to your "collection," that would take your music in a new direction. Or it could sit little-used in its case. (By the way, does it have a case? It can be hard to find a decently protective bowl-back case; both mine sit in chipboard cases that are pretty marginal.)

    Your call.
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  9. #8

    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Many Neapolitan made mandolins made circa 1900 were little more than tourist souvenirs- their build quality is low and their playability zilch- then there's 120 years of life and its tribulations on top of that. This mandolin looks to be in good order- what you cannot tell is its intonation which you can check in person. I think you have to expect it to be a little less player friendly than your Kentucky. I began learning on my great grandfather's 1890s bowl backs. One was a Ferrari and the other a Vinaccia- a good make. When I pick them up now, I wonder how I persevered. I would assume this Regal might be a little easier to play than those two I tangled with many years ago.

  10. #9
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Might be worth the $180 if it doesn't need any work. As for the driving distance, try to get the seller to meet you halfway.

    Don't believe a thing the seller says about it ... the seller is singularly uninformed about mandolins in general and this mandolin in particular.
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  12. #10
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    Many Neapolitan made mandolins made circa 1900 were little more than tourist souvenirs- their build quality is low and their playability zilch- then there's 120 years of life and its tribulations on top of that. This mandolin looks to be in good order- what you cannot tell is its intonation which you can check in person. I think you have to expect it to be a little less player friendly than your Kentucky. I began learning on my great grandfather's 1890s bowl backs. One was a Ferrari and the other a Vinaccia- a good make. When I pick them up now, I wonder how I persevered. I would assume this Regal might be a little easier to play than those two I tangled with many years ago.
    Good point on the variable intonation on MOR Italian bowlbacks. With the Ferraris, DeMuredas, Lanfrancos, etc. etc. It can be pretty sketchioso in my experience.
    My Vinaccia (not an MOR builder) is spot on, however. A joy to play.
    I've had any number of Great Lakes Rim bowlbacks and have found the intonation to be fairly reliable. Or as reliable as one can expect from a short-scale mandolin.
    Tone quality is another story, but I agree with Allen: A lot of nice mandolins came out of that L+H / Regal pipeline. What else is $180 going to get you?

    Mick
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  14. #11
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Most likely Chicago made, date is after 1900 and before 1920 and I would hazard a guess that it's a Harmony or Lyon & Healy. If it's playable it's worth what you're willing to pay for it but don't assume you can sell it for that much. Bowlbacks regularly fail to sell weekly on eBay.

    Here is every recent bowlback sale on eBay.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  15. #12
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    ...What else is $180 going to get you?
    3 Rogues and some strings!
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  17. #13
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    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Go and see it, if you like it and the sound, I would offer $150. I have several bowlbacks, paid less than $200 for each of them, and enjoy them for their sound. That's the main thing - do YOU Like the sound? And if you get it, get a piece of shelf liner from Lowe's or similar place to make it easier to keep on your lap, and string it with very light strings.

  18. #14
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vagueperson View Post
    Think an old Regal is worth a 1.5 hour drive for a look at this price? I don't see much damage in the photos aside from some wear on the soundboard and some scratches on the bowl. I don't have experience playing any mandolins aside from my Kentucky.
    The bigger issue will be the action where the neck meets the body. Get a picture of that. You can have him stack quarters at that point. There is really no way to adjust the neck on these.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  19. #15

    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    no mention of a case.

  20. #16

    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Here is a very similar mandolin- the one you have shown has more ribs in the bowl but a more utilitarian bridge- which is old. That type of bridge was around for quite a while and is typical of the 20s and 30s but it may be older. Same tuners. Your mandolin does not appear to have a tailpiece cover which it probably ought to have. The one on this is mandolin is hinged. Remember the asking price is not a measure of an instruments true value- it may well be too high. There is a demo.

    https://reverb.com/item/117300-brazi...back-1890-1910

  21. #17
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    L+H (and maybe others) deployed the dubious practive of insetting a thin strip of white edging within a single bowl rib to make it appear as two. Easy to see with bowl in hand from the grain pattern. Or when you have a bowl come appart. The bowl curve geometry shows more distinct faceting than if there were only independent ribs.

    I've got a suspicion about this one in that regard, but it is hard to tell for sure from the small photo. Not that it should be a deal breaker, the rosewood used on even the most ordinary bowls out of Chicago was often very very nice.

    Also from the small photos, the action looks pretty good. Offer $150 and use the $30 you save on getting a nice cloud tailpiece.

    Pass on the Three Rogues.....

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    Here is a very similar mandolin- the one you have shown has more ribs in the bowl but a more utilitarian bridge- which is old. That type of bridge was around for quite a while and is typical of the 20s and 30s but it may be older. Same tuners. Your mandolin does not appear to have a tailpiece cover which it probably ought to have. The one on this is mandolin is hinged. Remember the asking price is not a measure of an instruments true value- it may well be too high. There is a demo.

    https://reverb.com/item/117300-brazi...back-1890-1910
    If it was built before 1924 a Regal would have been built by Wulschner in Indianapolis or Lyon and Healy. I've never seen an unlabeled Wulschner mandolin, I've seen plenty of Lyon & Healy's. Lyon and Healy bought the Regal brand name in 1904 and applied it to some of their instruments. Those instruments would have been labeled Regal, they would not have been unlabeled. Unlabeled the brand name meant nothing. They would have been built by Lyon and Healy. In 1924 Lyon & Healy set up Regal as an independent company. This mandolin is earlier than that. It wasn't built by Regal, it was either built by Lyon and Healy or some other builder like Harmony. For decades we have used Regal as a catch all, in this case it can't be. That would apply to the original poster's instrument as well. There's no way it's a Regal.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  23. #19

    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Pleijsier tells us that having bought the Regal trade name in 1904, a new company was incorporated using the Regal name in 1908. He suggests that Lyon & Healy kept a financial interest in this new enterprise as the Regal trademark was not transferred to the Regal Musical Instrument Company until 1924 as you mention.

  24. #20
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    They wouldn't have been building for the trade, they would have been building branded instruments. Again, it doesn't make sense to lump it in. Sorry, I'm not buying it just because someone on Reverb has a Regal with a question mark on a similar instrument. Find a branded copy that's similar and it's plausible, other wise it much more likely to have been a L&H instrument or something that was built by one of the established builders. Nothing points this towards Regal. Regal became the bulk builder for the trade after this would have hit the market.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  25. #21

    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    I don't disagree with your viewpoint at all. My only point was that the mandolins are similar and I was showing that some sellers are asking unrealistic prices- not that it was definitely made by Regal. My message to the original poster being don't be tempted to pay too much because somebody else was being unrealistic. My original post mentioned Regal and Lyon and Healy as possible makers but as you point out the original Regal company probably predates the era this mandolin was made so it is more likely Lyon & Healy. I can't comment on Harmony as that maker's bowlbacks do not appear to be common- or they are attributed to others which does not help matters. In conclusion if he drives for 180 minutes to view this mandolin, I hope it is time well spent.

  26. #22
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    From the looks of it, it is very close to a American Conservatory style 602. These pages are from my 1912 catalog:


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  28. #23

    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Yes, I think you are right- you can see how the price goes up as the ribs increase. Let's hope that the potential buyer is happy- assuming he has made the journey. I would assume if he bought it, we would hear from him. So, it is definitely from Lyon & Healy- minus the tailpiece cover.

  29. #24
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    From the looks of it, it is very close to a American Conservatory style 602. These pages are from my 1912 catalog:
    L+H American Conservatory mandolins: the best $/value ratio on the used mandolin market.

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Here's a telling example of the L+H "one rib into two" technique on a model built for the trade in Cleveland, OH.

    Not sure if this was ever fooling anyone, or whether it was used in concert with the "more ribs, more $$" approach as suggested by the catalogs.

    I've had a few "no name" or "our own label" L+H bowls apart where this trickery was evident.

    Can't say I've seen it on Washburn or AC bowls but who knows?

    Absolutely lickable rosewood nonetheless.

    Mick
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    Last edited by brunello97; Mar-07-2020 at 9:39pm.
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