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Thread: Identifying an old Gibson mandolin - thanks

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    Registered User J.C. Bryant's Avatar
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    Default Identifying an old Gibson mandolin - thanks

    I think I started this in the wronf area so I will do it again here. Sorry for the confusion. I don't know how to move post.

    I have an old Gibson A mandolin with a very faint label. The neck block stamp says 11963 and the serial number is 81057. how do I verify the model and year made? thanks
    Last edited by J.C. Bryant; Apr-04-2020 at 2:54pm. Reason: spelling

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identifying an old Gibson mandolin - thanks

    Is it a snakehead? My WAG would be 1925 based on mine.

    There are references to that FON here (and I thought all A2-z's were built in 1923):

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...963#post719459

    There was also a 1924 A2-z in the classifieds two days ago claiming that FON. It was the one mentioned in this thread (where dates are debated):

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...63#post1549679

    So maybe built in 1923 and left the factory in 1925?
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    Default Re: Identifying an old Gibson mandolin - thanks

    According to "Spann's Guide to Gibson," 11963 corresponds to a 1923 factory order number and 81057 to a 1927 serial number. That's a larger difference in date between factory number and serial number than usual.

    Post a picture of the full front of the mandolin if you can, including the peghead.

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    Registered User J.C. Bryant's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identifying an old Gibson mandolin - thanks

    Thank you all! It is supposed to ge an A2Z, but I just wanted to verify that and don't really what to do . I have come across the FON number referenced as an A2Z but with different SN. Anyway, thanks and I hope to satisfy my urge to verify. The man I bought it from is wonderful but I just wanted something concrete to verify it with. BTW, it has a snake head and is plumplin in color. It looks like the several A2Z's I have seen but the label is very faint. thanks.
    Last edited by J.C. Bryant; Apr-04-2020 at 4:53pm. Reason: spelling

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    Default Re: Identifying an old Gibson mandolin - thanks

    An A-2Z should have a bound fingerboard, bound back, a double bound top, and a pearl "The Gibson" logo.
    Most have a fancy soundhole rosette with narrow black-white-black bands around the perimeters and a wide white ring in the middle.

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    Registered User J.C. Bryant's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identifying an old Gibson mandolin - thanks

    Thank you all!
    "rcx56", it has all that! bound fingerboard; bound back (whitge); white and black bound top; black-white-black-white(wide)-black-white-black-around oval hole;and a white lining of the oval hole.
    So does that identify it as definitely an A2Z?

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    Default Re: Identifying an old Gibson mandolin - thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by J.C. Bryant View Post
    So does that identify it as definitely an A2Z?
    The only thing that will identify it definitely as an A2-z is that designation on the label. There are a number of instruments who have those same characteristics, particularly blacktops, that are seen as an A2 or even as A2-. To be “definitely” an A2-z, you need the label.
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    Default Re: Identifying an old Gibson mandolin - thanks

    The OP's factory order number is documented as an A-2Z in Spann's book.

    Suppose the label was missing or completely unreadable, what else would you call it??

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    Default Re: Identifying an old Gibson mandolin - thanks

    What tuners does it have? Most are arrowhead but some are the fancy silver plated engraved pearl button Waverly's-but I've seen these on plain snake A's!

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    Default Re: Identifying an old Gibson mandolin - thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    Suppose the label was missing or completely unreadable, what else would you call it??
    That’s a great question. I guess it depends on whether I was trying to buy or sell it.

    Were it mine, I’d probably call it a Gibson snakehead with all of the defining features of an A2-z. But I understand that phrase to be a mouthful and inconvenient for putting in one’s signature.

    My bias comes from a bit of a fascination with the legend of a black A2-z. As I’m sure you’re aware, even Andy Statman’s Gibson which is often called a black A2-z is really just an A2, and Cafe regular Jim Garber has a similar one. How about this one that Charles Johnson is selling?

    http://www.vintagemandolin.com/instr...gibsona2_74795

    He doesn’t list the FON for #74795 (11971? 11991?), but he does clarify that it “has all of the characteristics of an A2Z” though “the label on this one is marked A2.”

    Or how about this one?

    http://www.mandolinarchive.com/gibson/serial/79224

    It’s from a FON (11999) that I believe otherwise to be comprised entirely of A2-z’s, but it’s listed simply as an A. I imagine that a flaw in the top emerged during production which they hid behind the black finish.

    I suppose one possibility is that the blonde or natural finish is one of the defining features of an A2-z, in which case I’d have to wonder whether they ever made a white A3 snakehead during the transition...
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    Default Re: Identifying an old Gibson mandolin - thanks

    If you go down the factory order number lists in Spann's, you will see that the latest documented A-2's of any type were built in 1923. No A-2's are documented as being built any later than that.

    Gibson changed the name from A-2 to A-2Z in 1922 [my reference is Gruhn's Guide to Vintage Guitars]. The name was changed back to A-2 in 1927, then the model was dropped from the catalog in 1928.

    Factory order numbers were assigned and stamped when an instrument was in construction. Labels and serial numbers were usually added shortly before an instrument was shipped.

    Remember in the early '20's, the demand and sales for mandolins decreased dramatically from the previous decade. Tenor banjos had become popular and mandolins had fallen out of favor. Mandolins that had already been built sat on the shelves, sometimes for years, before an order came through and an instrument was labelled and shipped.

    This explains why some mandolins were labelled A-2 but had A-2Z appointments. These instruments sat on the factory shelves for several years before they were assigned serial numbers, labelled, and shipped.

    The Op's mandolin bears a 1923 factory order number, but did not have a serial number assigned and leave the factory until 1927. By that time, Gibson had dropped the "Z" from the model name, and it was labelled with the then current model name, which was A-2.

    If you browse the lists in Spann's, you will see how drastically mandolin production dropped in the early 1920's.

    Gibson was known to build mandolins in different colors from the norm. The reasons may vary from custom orders to sales samples or an attempt to hide flaws. A few black A-3's have been documented, also some black A-2's or A-2Z's, and a few natural top A-4's. At least one ivory top F-2 is also known to exist.

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    Default Re: Identifying an old Gibson mandolin - thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    If you go down the factory order number lists in Spann's, you will see that the latest documented A-2's of any type were built in 1923. No A-2's are documented as being built any later than that.
    What do you make of this one?

    http://www.mandolinarchive.com/gibson/serial/99856

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    A few black A-3's have been documented, also some black A-2's or A-2Z's, and a few natural top A-4's. At least one ivory top F-2 is also known to exist.
    I've only seen one black snakehead with A2-z on the actual label.

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...6-Black-Friday
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    Registered User J.C. Bryant's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identifying an old Gibson mandolin - thanks

    The Op's mandolin bears a 1923 factory order number, but did not have a serial number assigned and leave the factory until 1927. By that time, Gibson had dropped the "Z" from the model name, and it was labelled with the then current model name, which was A-2.

    As the OP, here, I assume "rcc56"'s post applies to the one I was asking about. right?

    I need to try harder, if plossible, to read the label. But, if anything, with the eye it actually seems blank.

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    Registered User J.C. Bryant's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identifying an old Gibson mandolin - thanks

    Also, not meaning to be interuptive to this discussion, what can be implied by the FON, factory order number?

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    Default Re: Identifying an old Gibson mandolin - thanks

    Yes J.C., I was speaking about your mandolin [OP means original poster].

    A factory order number is a number that was stamped inside an instrument in the early phases of construction so the workers would build it to the correct specifications for the model. It is the best indication of when an instrument was actually built.

    Your mandolin is for all practical purposes an A-2Z. If you were to send a picture of it to any of the long-time vintage dealers, they would identify it as such by its specifications.

    But people will debate about the labeling 'til the cows come home. They might be better off spending their time studying the instruments and the reference books instead.

    I have unfinished work on the bench and taxes to get in order, so "I am out'a here."

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    Registered User J.C. Bryant's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identifying an old Gibson mandolin - thanks

    Thank you rcc56, I think I should let it go there. I don't know what else to do. thanks to all. I think this is one of those topics that could go on and on, with everyone having valid points.
    Blessings to all and BE SAFE, and play lots of music 6 feet apart.

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    Default Re: Identifying an old Gibson mandolin - thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    I don't make anything of it without a description, picture, or factory order number. Gibson had stopped building oval hole mandolins of any kind long before that serial number. It could be anything from a mistake in reporting to an old damaged carcass that laid around the factory for 25 years before it was finally finished and sold.

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    Default Re: Identifying an old Gibson mandolin - thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    If you go down the factory order number lists in Spann's, you will see that the latest documented A-2's of any type were built in 1923. No A-2's are documented as being built any later than that.

    Gibson changed the name from A-2 to A-2Z in 1922 [my reference is Gruhn's Guide to Vintage Guitars]. The name was changed back to A-2 in 1927, then the model was dropped from the catalog in 1928.
    Cool. I always assumed that the A-2Z replaced the A-3, because (a) A-3s also disappear around this time; (b) the whiteface A-3s have the same soundhole rosette that was used on most A-2Zs. It didn't occur to me that A-2s also went away. So the A-2Z effectively replaced both models.
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