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Thread: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

  1. #1

    Default Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    I was at a friends house and got the classic "I've got a mandolin from an older family member, wanna see it?". My answer is always yes, and this time it really paid off! Anyone seen anything like this? She knows nothing about it and I said I'd snap some photos and see if the MC community has any ideas. Here are the photos.

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    Thanks for any info!
    Baron
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  3. #2

    Default Re: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    Yes, that's quite an instrument. As it says on the label- Vinaccia Brothers and the date of 1927 is also there- by appointment to the Queen Margherita and also signed by a Vinaccia family members. It really is quite special and appears to be in superb shape. That Hohner tuner is also a great bonus- as is the case.
    Last edited by NickR; Mar-06-2020 at 5:33pm.

  4. #3
    mando-evangelist August Watters's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    My heart just skipped a beat. If it was me, I'd want an appraisal from one of the major builders in Italy. I'd suggest Lorenzo Lippi.
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  6. #4
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    Baron: Very cool. Does your friend know anything about her older family member and if she or he played it or the circumstances of his/her acquiring it? What I especially like is that it is nicely designed, not overlay ornate with pearl and or (worse) TS all over the place. I would think it was meant to be played, not just an expensive acquisition. It looks like the bridge is mother-of-pearl. At first I thought it was ivory but it has some translucence.
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  7. #5

    Default Re: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    Jim: As far I know it was played by the older generaltion, and she does want to learn to play as well, but wasn't sure how valuable this might be and if she should look for something more reasonably valued (both in terms of money and family connection). I could tell immediately that it was a high quality instrument that likely held a reasonable value, so I told her I would look into it.

    Yes, the bridge is MOP. Very cool!

    August: Thanks for the lead, I will send Mr. Lippi an email!

    Thanks,
    Baron
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  8. #6
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    Why not play with a quality instrument? I would guess it is worth a few thousand dollars, but as long as it is in good structural condition, no reason why she shouldn't play it. Musical instruments are made to be played. And no, it is not worth anywhere near what a Stradivari violin is worth or even one of the top makers of American carved top mandolins.
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    The tuners are incredible. The case is much newer than 1927 if that's the date.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    Yes, label date is 1927 but the case looks more like 1950s/60s.

    IIRC Vinaccia Bros. mandolins aren't *quite* as valuable as those produced by the previous generation of the Vinaccia family, but still, this is a high-end instrument, as indicated by having fluted ribs (and lots of them) not to mention extra touches like the lion's head. I'd guess $2,000 to $2,500 but I could be way off.
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    Quote Originally Posted by August Watters View Post
    I'd want an appraisal from one of the major builders in Italy. I'd suggest Lorenzo Lippi.
    August, how does one reach Lorenzo?
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  12. #10

    Default Re: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    August, how does one reach Lorenzo?
    I googled his name and found an email address on his website.

    Thanks,
    Baron

  13. #11
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    Please, i miei amici are mincing words. This is a crusher mandolin. As wonderful as anything we have seen here in a long, long time.
    I'm far more the fan of the broader Neapolitan tone than the tinny Roman style so favored by folks here.

    If one of my friends pulled that out, I'd take hold, fire up a bone and say "See you in a couple weeks...."
    My Fratelli V is from 1903, so the i figli were at it for almeno qualche decennio before this one.

    3-4 $K in my book. Worth more.

    Mick
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  15. #12

    Default Re: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Why not play with a quality instrument?
    I totally agree, they are meant to be played. It also makes sense to know what it is worth so the player can decide for themselves and have a sense of its value and importance, which can help with taking good care of an instrument, especially if one is new to music. Also can help to know whether it’s worth getting insured.

    Thanks,
    Baron

  16. #13
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    I agree that it is probably in the ranges quoted here but that is not astronomical like a fine Italian violin. Closer to a quality A model mandolin. She should play it. That was all I was saying. Of course she should insure it. I have a feeling she was thinking it was worth tens of thousands. It is not.
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    Default Re: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I agree that it is probably in the ranges quoted here but that is not astronomical like a fine Italian violin. Closer to a quality A model mandolin. She should play it. That was all I was saying. Of course she should insure it. I have a feeling she was thinking it was worth tens of thousands. It is not.
    No, but it is something I would love to have and play, as I am guessing several of the other bowlback fans here would. Very nice find! Tell her to enjoy it!

  18. #15

    Default Re: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    Really nice one, Baron.
    I like that such a beautiful instrument can connect the lives of two people in a family.
    I don’t have any info, and I don’t know the student but personally I would suggest that she buys another work horse type mando because insurance may not be able to cover what would be a family loss. She’ll be a lot more relaxed while learning especially if she has to travel with it to see her teacher.

    Another one is that, though this particular instrument can be very motivating, her learning process as an individual may be constrained in some ways.

  19. #16
    mando-evangelist August Watters's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    Please, i miei amici are mincing words. This is a crusher mandolin. As wonderful as anything we have seen here in a long, long time. . .


    Mick
    Yes, lest anyone be mislead by understatement, let's put it out there: this appears to be off-the-charts fabulous. This is the mandolin we hope for, every time someone mentions they have their grandmother's old mandolin in the attic. OK, there are others much more valuable, but certainly this is the one I hope for!

    3-4 $K in my book. Worth more.
    Yes, perhaps. Maybe twice or even three times that much, if it's what it appears to be, and it finds its way to the right collector or museum curator. It's very difficult to establish a market price for an item that is so seriously undervalued. That's why I suggested this one really needs to be seen by one of the major players in Italy. If you haven't yet seen it, here is Lorenzo Lippi's Vinaccia model. (NFI)
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  21. #17
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    I am in tune with Mick's assessment and, unless I am mistaken, he is saying that market value is $3-4K but to us bowlheads these are worth a lot more. I have noticed that even for the big three Italian name bowlbacks and even the in the European market, the selling prices fpor these vintage mandolins have even gone down considerably. Maybe 8 years or so ago, for instance, the most desirable soloist Embergher 5bis would sell for over $10K. The last one I know of sold over here in the US for about $3500. The 18th century Vinaccias have historic value for museum collections. And presentation models appeal to the collectors. This one is a lovely instrument for sure but it is not a historic one nor is it a presentation model.

    I wonder what that bridge sounds like. MOP is very unusual for bridge material. Usually bridges are bone-topped ebony. I would guess the MOP would be very bright in tone.

    Baron: maybe your friend can take more photos and post them here?

    I was wondering about the neck profile. I find it interesting that Both Calace and Embergher had standard styles that they worked from. Vinaccia seemed like it was all over the place. Of course, there were quire a few family members who probably had their own ideas of mandolin construction. Possibly they just would make whatever customers wanted. I had a couple of really plain ones but I have seem some really ornate ones as well as even Roman-style mandolins. I wondered if this one had a touch of Roman styling.
    Last edited by Jim Garber; Mar-07-2020 at 2:16pm.
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    A little disappointed in the lack of discussion of the Hohner pitch-pipe. I mean, it's a "Trutone" and "The World's Best."

    This one's asking 50 bucks on eBay. Of course, it's a P4, with many more reeds, and the OP's one is only a P1, but the mandolin model is in much better condition. I'd say $50 at least, right?
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    This one is a lovely instrument for sure but it is not a historic one nor is it a presentation model.
    Are we sure of that? Maybe it's the rarest of the rare — a tasteful, moderately restrained presentation model.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    Are we sure of that? Maybe it's the rarest of the rare — a tasteful, moderately restrained presentation model.
    Maybe we have different definitions of presentation instruments. Usually they are the ultimate in luthier artisanship and are made with exceptional workmanship. Moderately restrained is the polar opposite of "presentation" in my book.

    Three examples:

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    Angelo Mannello mandolins at the Metropolitan Museum:

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    Or the more recent One Millionth Martin Guitar (perhaps the most over-the-top model until the 2 Millionth):

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    Frankly, I prefer the OP Vinaccia over all of them in terms of modest ornamentation.
    Jim

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    Registered User Roger Adams's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    I know nothing of bowlbacks, but that one looks pretty darn special to me! That is not your old dad's "taterbug!" Simply beautiful!
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    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Adams View Post
    I know nothing of bowlbacks, but that one looks pretty darn special to me! That is not your old dad's "taterbug!" Simply beautiful!
    I agree with Roger. Since seeing the pictures, it keeps jumping back into my head. It is just stunning. IMHO, she needs to have it properly appraised. She should learn to play on a lesser instrument, then she needs to play this one beautifully and with real family pride.
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  29. #23

    Default Re: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    Beautiful Vinaccia 40 fluted ribs (correct me if I am wrong - I have counted 40), top of the range instrument, no doubt. Somewhat different to a classic Vinaccian look from the turn of the century, but it is not unusual, as Vinaccia ran by Gaetano from 1920's on became more experimental and produced many instruments that do not look like "classic Vinaccia".

    Top of the range Vinaccia instruments certainly have a market, but selling it at a good price can be challenging under current economic conditions. If it is playable and has no problems it can be a desirable instrument for a good musician.

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  31. #24
    Registered User Peter K's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone have information on this very unique bowlback?

    Nice and very unique, perhaps one-off (custom) job for someone who liked abalone ornaments/parts as well as stained spruce tops. Unfortunately, the whole instrument looks over-sprayed to me, and not all that well either. Maybe it's just the way the pictures were taken.
    I am more in line with Victor when it comes the estimated value of that mandolin, that is probably because what he and I have in common is some recent experience selling old mandolins. And we can both tell you the market for vintage bowlbacks is not very good these days, if you are a seller, that is.
    Have the mandolin auctioned on eBay.....that should let us know what its market value is at that particular moment in time.
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