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Thread: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

  1. #26

    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    I asked the seller for a picture of the action where the neck meets the body. He hasn't responded to that. Since then he did, however, post a "Mandolin Ibenez 1976 2 point model 513" for $275. Not really interested in that, but I might continue to pester him about the bowlback.

    I have a relative who lives in Greece, and I'm wondering if it might be more worth my while to have him look at local prices for a new Matsikas. How do well taken care of vintage Chicago instruments compared to a new European bowl-back? I'm guessing the quality of Rosewood isn't comparable, but I'm more interested in sound and playability.

  2. #27

    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Here is a Matsikas for sale by Thomann of Germany- a company known for its competitive pricing. This is their UK related website showing one at about $310. What the mandolin might cost in Greece I cannot say but Thomann does offer great deals. If you get a relative in Greece to buy you one then you have shipping and any import duty that may accrue.
    I always ask a seller to slide pennies on TOP of fret 12 under the G strings. It's not a perfect methodology but at 1.5mm thick then one penny would be great but most unlikely- two not so good but my Vinaccia at that point accepts two pennies and they push the strings up a little and it is a good instrument that has satisfied by guitar/mandolin man's high standards- not all my mandolins do! The body of my Vinaccia is just beyond fret 9 and at that fret the gap is about 2mm or so.Other coins can be used- a quarter is 1.75mm and so on until the coin or coins fill the gap. Here is the Thomann link:

    https://www.thomann.de/gb/matsikas_m...d_mandolin.htm

  3. #28

    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    there's also this one in NY, apparently: http://www.stutzmansguitarcenter.com...lin%20sISI3703

  4. #29

    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    At $200 that is a comparable price to the old Lyon & Healy you posted up. I would not wish to make a comparison as the former is nearly new, the latter about 110 years old. I would imagine that the materials- certainly as mentioned in the Thomann link are very different and other factors come into the equation. I see the neck joins the body at fret 10 on both instruments- you might ask the seller of the L & H to do that coin check at fret 10- ideally photograph it. I have had measurements that mention "wiggle" room for the coins which actually meant that another would also fit on top! I suppose you have to decide if you want to own a vintage instrument- having made the right observations or just go to a new instrument that is possibly more functional. Many people here don't struggle with that conundrum- they just buy mandolins for pastime!

  5. #30

    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Ah yes, but then to contend with the wife! Also, I primarily play classical guitar.

  6. #31
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    From what I recall, the Greek makers have a different method of mandolin-making. I believe that the tops are not bent like other vintage European (Italian, German, French, etc.) or American bowlbacks but that there is some internal carving of the tops.
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  7. #32

    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    This one makes it look like the top is bent but perhaps less so? https://www.ebay.com/itm/MATSIKAS-GR...-/381681440251

  8. #33

    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    I asked for photos of the string height and this is what he sent me.
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    Lots of opportunity to guess whether they are legit separate or painted stripes

  9. #34

    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Now he's sent one.

    "And a quarter is very close ( if you lay the mandolin on it’s side the quarter drops threw the strings and the finger board at the neck and body cross."

    He's not great at spelling, but he reduced the price to $160 without me making an offer.
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  10. #35
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    I'm guessing you are the only one showing any interest and he's afraid he's going to lose you now that your asking questions that he probably knows the answers to.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  11. #36

    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Here's the demo video he sent

  12. #37
    Registered User DoubleE's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    To me it seems like a worthwhile venture to take an afternoon and check it out. You obviously have a lot of curiosity and if you dont end up buying it at least you will have gained some knowledge about vintage bowlbacks. Find a nice restaurant in the area and make a day of it. For me personally, if its playable at $160 its worth it. Though I would still negotiate a lower price.

  13. #38

    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    I was trying to find an instrument with the same style tuning machines (rectangular) and here they are on a LH American Conservatory.
    https://jakewildwood.blogspot.com/20...servatory.html
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    Maybe this style/shape isn't unique, but most I saw had the solid metal plate or some curvature around the 3 on plate tuners.

  14. #39

    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Those tuners were very common and stayed in production for decades. You will find them on all manner of mandolins and date from early in the 20th century- those other styles are earlier and possibly as they are more elaborate, more expensive than the plain rectangular plates. As American Conservatory was a sub brand there was an element of shaving the price and more utilitarian tuners would be one way of doing this. However, this mandolin appears to be well built and in good order while the action looks very good as the photo demonstrates. I don't think anything thus far can be seen as a red flag and if he has dropped the price then that is in your favour. It's up to you now- as has been suggested if you go and visit, try and build something around the journey so it is less of a chore and more of a day or afternoon out.

  15. #40
    Registered User Peter K's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    I would also ID that mandolin as American Conservatory (their lower grade instrument).
    On one of their pictures I detect a hint of fretboard upward bow which would impose limitations on playability.
    A proper repair of a bowed fretboard, plus any other repairs that invariably crop up, is sure to cost much more than what you'd be able to get for thus repaired mandolin, if you decide to sell it some day.

  16. #41
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Let's be clear here folks. This is NOT an American Conservatory mandolin, which L+H always clearly labeled as such. That it resembles the one in the page that Jim posted shouldn't then be a reason to get ahead of oneself with attribution.

    L+H made a lot of mandolins lines. AC was not their lower grade instrument....check them out in terms of material quality and detailing. They made a lot of lower grade mandolins than the AC line (Jupiter, Lakeside, College Line...all manner of unlabeled mandolins.) I've seen numerous AC mandolins that were nicer (in terms of materials and detailing) than mandolins from the Washburn line. A proper AC mandolin (they made many with ebony fretboards) is a very good mandolin.

    Hard to tell from the bowl photos, but I do have the feeling these are "two for one" ribs. Could be wrong about this. Much easier to tell with mandolin in hand. Mind you, the extra faux rib separators were not painted on, but inset into the rosewood rib. Again, I don't think it should be a deal killer. L+H used it on a lot of mandolins. Others might have as well.

    The action appears a bit high to my playing preference, but that may be manageable with some simple bridge work. As Peter suggests, if the neck has rotated up a bit, it could make the action adjustment through bridge work less effective. Checking it with a metal straightedge should make its condition clear. I wouldn't buy it and invest much in repairs unless you do them yourselves. Lots of fish in the Chicago mando sea.

    You can talk yourself into it or talk yourself out of it, but only so much you can ascertain from a distance.

    Mick
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  17. #42

    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Here is another American Conservatory mandolin which is very similar to the mandolin in question. It has exactly the same tuners as on that mandolin- and bridge. The tuners on the AC mandolin from Jake's website do in fact have what looks like brass plates and riveted gears- they are not identical. Obviously, there is no label inside the mandolin but it may have fallen out. There are some small differences to the pickguards and other detailing but overall they are very alike. That does not prove the mandolin is an American Conservatory but it appears to be from the same maker and share the same build quality.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Bow...ndition=4%7C10

  18. #43
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Lyon & Healy built more instruments with no label than they did with a label. How do I know? You can tell by what shows up all these years later. There's a reason there is only a stick-on label inside. You could brand it or choose to not brand it anyway you wanted to. I was looking for a picture that I can't find of a stack of bowlback mandolins inside L&H's factory. I'm sure they weren't labeled but they were built to a certain trim level. If someone ordered a "for the trade" mandolin or two at a specific trim level and it matched a group of American Conservatory mandolins sitting there unlabeled I'm sure they would have done what any other factory does and fill the order. You also had the ability to have two or three dealers in the same area selling one of your brands exclusively while another dealer was selling the same product with a different brand name. That still happens in certain industries. I think Jim is pretty much right on with the identity, not as a brand name but as a L&H product that matched the specs of the AC. It's the only way to ID a large number of instruments from this era and later.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  20. #44
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    ...The action appears a bit high to my playing preference...
    Mine too. I'm going to guess there's more than just bridge work to get that down.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  21. #45
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    Lyon & Healy built more instruments with no label than they did with a label. How do I know? You can tell by what shows up all these years later. There's a reason there is only a stick-on label inside. You could brand it or choose to not brand it anyway you wanted to. I was looking for a picture that I can't find of a stack of bowlback mandolins inside L&H's factory. I'm sure they weren't labeled but they were built to a certain trim level. If someone ordered a "for the trade" mandolin or two at a specific trim level and it matched a group of American Conservatory mandolins sitting there unlabeled I'm sure they would have done what any other factory does and fill the order. You also had the ability to have two or three dealers in the same area selling one of your brands exclusively while another dealer was selling the same product with a different brand name. That still happens in certain industries. I think Jim is pretty much right on with the identity, not as a brand name but as a L&H product that matched the specs of the AC. It's the only way to ID a large number of instruments from this era and later.
    I think this is a broad brush description of L+H construction and labeling practices that contains both reasoned insight and some unhelpful hyperbole. The 'match the specs of.....' is a worthy conclusion.

    That great photo of the pile of bowls under construction, that Mike references just as likely was a production run or two of a particular line of mandolins as it was a smorgazbord made up of a range of parts of different details, materials, qualities. Hard to imagine it was some Washburns, some ACs, some Lakesides, etc. with the labels making the difference without a heavy degree of QC. I run a fabrication shop and that type of assembly complexity doesn't make a lot of sense if you're trying to control quality. Easier ways to do organize that kind of work.

    Maybe they did do something approximating that...but it wasn't a process of making a bunch of things and then dishing out the labels. Too much variety in the extant work. Quality of woods were probably consistent across such a run as well. But differe from line to line.

    You can imagine any guy on the line getting his work order for the day, just like in any other carpentry or fab shop. When finished they go in the big pile for the next level of trim, hardware of finish. Obviously, the fingerboards, tuners, scratchplates, tailpieces etc. varied with the "quality" of the final product line.

    AC as well as Washburn varied across the models as well as crossed over quality between the two. But they are pretty easy to tell apart. Less so as you move down the L+H food chain. I have had a couple "Our Own Brand" L+Hs of quality higher than upper level Washburns, but with distinctly different detailing of headstock, neck joint, etc. They weren't making mudpies. They wouldn't have been labeled Washburns or AC.

    Easy to imagine some mandolins getting "repurposed" to meet another order, though, but I think it a stretch to apply such thinking to an entire production process at L+H. I've gone through my fair share of Chicago bowls, unlabled L+H mandos, "Our Own Label" L+Hs and also Washburns and ACs. The label alone isn't what mades them different from each other. Some details are similar, but there was enough distinction to make things clear. That was a small sample of a dozen or so instruments.

    We jump through all kinds of hoops here to be clear in our attribution of Gibsons, for instance, or assumptions that eg. Luigi Embergher was sitting next to the guy who built my mandolin. I'm only lobbying for some of the same clarity with L+H bowls. If this were an AC bowlback it would have a label. They don't "fall out". (Just try taking one out if you don't believe me....) If it is "just like an AC model" well that's easy enough to type as well.

    Mick
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  22. #46
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any help identifying old Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    I think this is a broad brush description of L+H construction and labeling practices that contains both reasoned insight and some unhelpful hyperbole. The 'match the specs of.....' is a worthy conclusion.

    That great photo of the pile of bowls under construction, that Mike references just as likely was a production run or two of a particular line of mandolins as it was a smorgazbord made up of a range of parts of different details, materials, qualities. Hard to imagine it was some Washburns, some ACs, some Lakesides, etc. with the labels making the difference without a heavy degree of QC. I run a fabrication shop and that type of assembly complexity doesn't make a lot of sense if you're trying to control quality. Easier ways to do organize that kind of work.

    Maybe they did do something approximating that...but it wasn't a process of making a bunch of things and then dishing out the labels. Too much variety in the extant work. Quality of woods were probably consistent across such a run as well. But differe from line to line.

    You can imagine any guy on the line getting his work order for the day, just like in any other carpentry or fab shop. When finished they go in the big pile for the next level of trim, hardware of finish. Obviously, the fingerboards, tuners, scratchplates, tailpieces etc. varied with the "quality" of the final product line.

    AC as well as Washburn varied across the models as well as crossed over quality between the two. But they are pretty easy to tell apart. Less so as you move down the L+H food chain. I have had a couple "Our Own Brand" L+Hs of quality higher than upper level Washburns, but with distinctly different detailing of headstock, neck joint, etc. They weren't making mudpies. They wouldn't have been labeled Washburns or AC.

    Easy to imagine some mandolins getting "repurposed" to meet another order, though, but I think it a stretch to apply such thinking to an entire production process at L+H. I've gone through my fair share of Chicago bowls, unlabled L+H mandos, "Our Own Label" L+Hs and also Washburns and ACs. The label alone isn't what mades them different from each other. Some details are similar, but there was enough distinction to make things clear. That was a small sample of a dozen or so instruments.

    We jump through all kinds of hoops here to be clear in our attribution of Gibsons, for instance, or assumptions that eg. Luigi Embergher was sitting next to the guy who built my mandolin. I'm only lobbying for some of the same clarity with L+H bowls. If this were an AC bowlback it would have a label. They don't "fall out". (Just try taking one out if you don't believe me....) If it is "just like an AC model" well that's easy enough to type as well.

    Mick
    I'm sure those bowls were finished to a point, separated by bowl, headstock shape, whatever and like you said, simply finished with the tuners, scratch plate, etc. Heck, they might have been unbound, I have no idea, I just understand how well run factories work. All you have to do is look at the early Gibson 2nd lines to understand that they didn't know what to do with all of their extra pieces until a declining economy made them think outside their normal box. Then they started building combinations that were unusual at best. I think L&H was better at building bulk than Gibson was but they were positioned differently in the market than Gibson was. I've never seen a Lyon & Healy "for the trade" catalog but there must have been one. If you had those you'd have a better chance of identifying these unlabeled instruments. Without them the best you can do is find a similar branded model. Heavens knows that Hubert's book gets a whole lot of mileage even though we rarely see these labeled Washburn.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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