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Thread: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

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    Default Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    Hi all, new member here. Glad to be able to join such a great resource for all things mandolin. I’m mainly a guitar player but I’ve had a bad itch to get into mandolins for a while, I think its almost time to appease the itch. I’ve been using a borrowed cheapo China-made mandolin for a while now, and it just doesn’t have the sound I crave for bluegrass style music. It sounds more like a plywood board that won’t hold tune (probably because it is . I played some Collings Mandolins at Gruhn’s last time I was there and LOVED the tone, the clarity and note seperation made them hard for me to put down.
    That’s currently the in my head benchmark for what I want a mandolin to sound like.

    Now, being on a limited budget (especially in these times), I’m looking to get a good sounding mandolin for $2,500 or less (preferably around 1k) that will most likely still be worth the money sometime down the road if I decide to move on from it. I’m really looking for an F style, I’m not sure I’d be visually satisfied with an A style. I’m currently looking at Gibson F9s and Flatiron mandolins from Montana or 1999 (or newer) Nashville ones. They seem to be good bargains and hold their value well. Any thoughts or recommendations are appreciated. Thanks

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    Mandolins do not 'hold their value', no matter what you buy. The best you can hope for, IMHO, is to buy used at a good price and not lose too much if you sell it. If you can buy at 60% of new, you probably won't get too much less, if any, if you sell.

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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    It was kind of a buyer's market starting this year and nobody can predict long term trends but i see people on reverb saying they have to sell guitars etc fast, they just lost their jobs...

    if you search this forum for "best $2,000 mandolin" or whatever price point, there'll be lots of threads

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/a.../t-141088.html

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/a.../t-109461.html

    short list builders: Pava, Girouard, Silverangel, Kelley, Flatiron, Gibson but also look at builders like Austin Clark and Mowry https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...6-Upgrade-path
    Last edited by gtani7; May-02-2020 at 8:21pm.
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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    Thanks for the responses so far. I know getting one that will probably not be worth less than I paid means I’ll have to do some hunting for a good deal, and I’m ok with that. I am looking at used mandolins mostly.

    Thanks for the links gtani7, looks like most everyone loves the Collings mandolins! Maybe I should just wait until I can afford one, or maybe look at the some of the nicer Kentuckys and Eastmans and upgrade again later.

    I currently have a local luthier/builder making me a D-45 style guitar (pre-war FS bracing), and he’s been contemplating starting to build mandolins, too. He could build me a Loar spec Mandolin in my price range, but being his first I wonder if I should take the chance. He’s undoubtly skilled in the art, he’s on his 35th build so he does have some build experience, just not in mandolins. Should I take the risk?

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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    A mandolin build is not the same as a dreadnaught guitar. It is closer to an archtop or violin but different from those also. There was a fairly prominent guitar builder who told a friend of mine that his first mandolin's top absolutely collapsed. He builds them for sale now but it took a few tries. His guitars number in the hundreds. You might get lucky but it would be a risk. Voicing and getting a good sound is completely different from a guitar.

    You should really consider A-style. But even so at $2500 you may find a pretty decent F style used. $1000 limits you a lot more.

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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    I currently have a local luthier/builder making me a D-45 style guitar (pre-war FS bracing), and heís been contemplating starting to build mandolins, too. He could build me a Loar spec Mandolin in my price range, but being his first I wonder if I should take the chance. Heís undoubtly skilled in the art, heís on his 35th build so he does have some build experience, just not in mandolins. Should I take the risk?
    Maybe, maybe not. There are skills needed to build a carved-top mandolin that are different from those needed to build a flat-top guitar. I'd be a bit cautious about putting four figures cash into a luthier's first mandolin, even if he's built 35 really good Martin clones.

    And I tend to disagree a bit about mandolins not holding their values. First, I'd recommend buying used, from a reputable dealer who prices instruments fairly, and stands behind them after sale. People on the Cafe speak very highly of The Mandolin Store; I've never dealt with them. There are two excellent dealers here in Rochester, with whom I've dealt for decades, and whom I trust to describe instruments accurately, price them at fair market value, fix them if I find a defect that didn't show up during the sale, and take them in trade if I decide to get a different instrument. Cafe members are very complimentary of The Mandolin Store; I've never dealt with them, but that's the kind of dealer you want. Elderly Instruments in Lansing also gets good grades here. And there are many attractive options in the classified ads on this site.

    I have a bunch of mandolins I bought a fairly long time ago -- all used -- that are worth multiples of what I paid for them in the current market. I assume once you get a quality instrument, you aren't planning to sell or trade it in six months; if you "churn" through your inventory, you'll end up taking losses. If you buy a quality used instrument, of the types you describe above, treat it with care, and keep it for a while, you'll find that you can get what you paid for it in private sale, and most of what you paid for it in trade-in at a reputable dealer. To take an extreme example, I bought a very nice 1957 Martin D-18 maybe in the mid-1970's (I realize that's a long time ago) for $300, and got a trade-in allowance of $3,000 on my recently-purchased Larson brothers mando-bass. That's "holding its value.

    If you're really in love with the Collings sound, I'd go in search of a used one, and to get closer to budget, I'd accept for the present the esthetics of the A-model look. The problem with trying out expensive mandolins (or guitars, or automobiles, or designer sneakers), is that afterwards you can't be satisfied by the ones you think you can afford. Go for sound more than silhouette, and good luck hunting...
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    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    I tend to take the action that will leave me with the least regrets.

    If the sound you hear in your head is the Collings sound, get one, because everything else may leave you wondering. Watch for a used Collings MT, as the least expensive way to get that sound. If you find a good one used at a good price, it will hold value, and they are really consistent. Save the rest of your money and have the local builder try making you an F-body somewhere down the line, that's a really appealing idea, or trade up for a Collings F.
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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    A mandolin build is not the same as a dreadnaught guitar. It is closer to an archtop or violin but different from those also. There was a fairly prominent guitar builder who told a friend of mine that his first mandolin's top absolutely collapsed. He builds them for sale now but it took a few tries. His guitars number in the hundreds. You might get lucky but it would be a risk. Voicing and getting a good sound is completely different from a guitar.

    You should really consider A-style. But even so at $2500 you may find a pretty decent F style used. $1000 limits you a lot more.
    This is pretty much why I’m cautious of having him build one, but I do know him well enough that if it did implode (instantly or years down the road) he would make it right. The way I’m sure he would go about his first would be by matching the specs from one of the different Loar schematics out there (I don’t recall now which one was the most accurate), then carving/thicknessing the top, back, and sides also according to what what a Loar was. There’s obviously has to be some hand tuning to the tone bars and stuff (I say stuff because I hardly know what I’m talking about XD) but I’m not sure why it couldn’t turn out sounding as good as some of the mandolins in the low 2k range. I’m probably spouting nonsense here, if I am I’m sure someone will let me know

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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Sheets View Post
    I tend to take the action that will leave me with the least regrets.

    If the sound you hear in your head is the Collings sound, get one, because everything else may leave you wondering. Watch for a used Collings MT, as the least expensive way to get that sound. If you find a good one used at a good price, it will hold value, and they are really consistent. Save the rest of your money and have the local builder try making you an F-body somewhere down the line, that's a really appealing idea, or trade up for a Collings F.
    I donít really think I played enough mandolins long enough to know really know what I want, I went to Gruhnís to play guitars. I do know the Collings F and A I played there both sounded great, but there was one Kentucky there that almost sounded as good to me, too. It took me awhile to really tune in to what I wanted in a guitar, and I suspect itíll be the same with mandolins, so thats why Iíd like to buy one that I might be able to break even on if I decide its not right for me.

    If I decide I canít live without a Collings, I will go for the A. I found a Lefty-strung-right MT custom for $2,400, that seem like a pretty good deal if it wasnít originally a lefty (I assume thats why it hasnít sold)

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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    I have built three now after building several guitars and a lot of other things. I do not feel comfortable putting them up for sale yet. My number three sounds and plays decent with some cosmetic issues. Number 1 is pretty weak sounding. I am strictly building A style so far to get some understanding of what it takes to get good sound without the additional scroll complications. If it were as straightforward as building to a dimension then there would be plenty of people making mandolins that sound just as good as a Loar. Most pro builders say it takes 6 to 10 to get a good understanding of what you are doing. Your friend may get lucky, some people get it figured out right away, but as Allen says I would not feel comfortable paying in the thousands for anybody's first mandolin.

    A fairly decent rule of thumb is that a mandolin will cost about twice what an equivalent guitar does because of the extra work involved. Good luck and have fun looking.

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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    Quote Originally Posted by TheLeadFlatpick View Post
    that will most likely still be worth the money sometime down the road if I decide to move on from it
    As I'm sure you know from guitar buying & selling, a good deal on the used market will be what you need and then hopefully you'll get most of your money back on it when you sell, minus fees and shipping, etc. Also, if anyone hasn't mentioned it, a comparably nice mandolin will cost double what a guitar will. So if you know what a $500 guitar is like, that's what you can expect from a $1000 mandolin. $1000 guitar=$2000 mandolin. Or there about.
    A recent used JBovier F5 might be in your $1000-$1500 range and would hold its value. They are imports, but are good ones. They don't appear that often though.

    A used Kentucky KM-1050 or KM-1500 would be in that range and would likely resell ok too.
    Something like this, though I'd bargain on it a bit:
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/154089#154089

    The Collings MT is a good one in that range. You don't need to buy a lefty converted to righty at that price. Here's one for the same money:
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/153917#153917

    Here's an even better one:
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/153837#153837

    Here's one for $2200
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/153736#153736

    But if you've gotta have the F5 scroll, a Collings is a long way out of your price range.

    A used Eastman mandolin will likely hold its value too.

    If you're looking at the high end of your price range, a used Northfield NF5S would be my pick if you can find one.

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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    Quote Originally Posted by stevojack665 View Post
    As I'm sure you know from guitar buying & selling, a good deal on the used market will be what you need and then hopefully you'll get most of your money back on it when you sell, minus fees and shipping, etc. Also, if anyone hasn't mentioned it, a comparably nice mandolin will cost double what a guitar will. So if you know what a $500 guitar is like, that's what you can expect from a $1000 mandolin. $1000 guitar=$2000 mandolin. Or there about.
    A recent used JBovier F5 might be in your $1000-$1500 range and would hold its value. They are imports, but are good ones. They don't appear that often though.

    A used Kentucky KM-1050 or KM-1500 would be in that range and would likely resell ok too.
    Something like this, though I'd bargain on it a bit:
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/154089#154089

    The Collings MT is a good one in that range. You don't need to buy a lefty converted to righty at that price. Here's one for the same money:
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/153917#153917

    Here's an even better one:
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/153837#153837

    Here's one for $2200
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/153736#153736

    But if you've gotta have the F5 scroll, a Collings is a long way out of your price range.

    A used Eastman mandolin will likely hold its value too.

    If you're looking at the high end of your price range, a used Northfield NF5S would be my pick if you can find one.
    I Like your taste in instruments! All of those mandolins are on my radar right now. At the price of the Km-1500, I think I would probably go for the collings A for a little more. I would definitely like a Northfield NF5S, but like you said they are hard to find and sell pretty quick.

    A new mandolin that is on my radar is the Kentucky KM-850 and KM-855. German spruce top, Alpine Maple (whatever that is) back and sides, and a supposably thin Nitro finish for $1,200 or less new. The only difference from it and the KM-1000 that are almost twice the price is that the 1000 has maple from michigan and a red spruce top, and the headstock inlay. Is red spruce really that much better than German? And is Alpine Maple not going going to sound as good as the Michigan supplied Maple (red maple, I assume)? Anyone care to weigh in? Right now the KM-850s are cheaper than even the KM-650s, plus I know someone who can get me one even cheaper from guitar center.

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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    The KM-850, KM-1050 & KM-1500 are now made in the same factory.
    The 850 is a good mandolin, as long as you're getting one that was recently manufactured. The old KM-850 from the previous factory had quality control issues. Many of them had a bent fingerboard at the neck joint. The new ones are much better.
    Also, as I'm sure you're aware from guitars, setup of any mandolin is crucial. Make sure you buy from a good mandolin shop that will include the setup, or budget $75-$100 to get the setup done by a good mandolin tech.
    Here's a good price on one from a reputable dealer that will do a good setup:
    https://store.banjobenclark.com/prod...m-850-mandolin
    Buying new, you'll take a hit on resale. You can expect to recoup about 2/3 of the cost vs new.

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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    Buy the mandolin that suits your ear to begin with and enjoy playing and don't worry about the potential appreciation ! Buy a used A built by relatively well known makers which you can find on this forum. Someone like a Max Girouard mandolin which can be bought in your price range new or if Collings has the sound go for it ! I lucked out years ago and bought a violin from a very well know maker and the price was high at that time. The maker died a few years later and the price for his violins have went through the roof ! Enjoy playing and don't worry about the resale !
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    Quote Originally Posted by TheLeadFlatpick View Post
    I currently have a local luthier/builder making me a D-45 style guitar (pre-war FS bracing), and he’s been contemplating starting to build mandolins, too. He could build me a Loar spec Mandolin in my price range, but being his first I wonder if I should take the chance. He’s undoubtly skilled in the art, he’s on his 35th build so he does have some build experience, just not in mandolins. Should I take the risk?
    If I was looking for an instrument to hold its value, the last thing I’d do is buy new from someone with no reputation for building mandolins. Sure, you might get lucky and be working with the next Lynn Dudenbostel, but the odds are against it. No, I’d recommend that you buy used and appropriately depreciated from builders that have built a brand of quality mandolins. In your budget of $2500, that means a Collings MT / Pava for an A-style or, if you must have the scroll, a Nashville era Flatiron Festival / Northfield F5S.
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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    If I was looking for an instrument to hold its value, the last thing I’d do is buy new from someone with no reputation for building mandolins. Sure, you might get lucky and be working with the next Lynn Dudenbostel, but the odds are against it. No, I’d recommend that you buy used and appropriately depreciated from builders that have built a brand of quality mandolins. In your budget of $2500, that means a Collings MT / Pava for an A-style or, if you must have the scroll, a Nashville era Flatiron Festival / Northfield F5S.
    Totally agree with this. Only thing I would add is to also look at the Kentucky KM-850. Played one a couple of months ago and it had a great sound for bluegrass. And the price is very much at the lower end of your range.
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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Platt View Post
    Totally agree with this. Only thing I would add is to also look at the Kentucky KM-850. Played one a couple of months ago and it had a great sound for bluegrass. And the price is very much at the lower end of your range.
    The Kentucky KM-850 is one I am definitely considering! I think I can get a new one for under 1k (still over $900 probably), and at that price I don’t think I would lose much (if any) down the road if I decide to part with it. I haven’t looked at the used market for a while on Kentuckys, but it seems like the KM-850s go for around $800-$1000 used. The video of the newest version put out by the Mandolin Store sounds like a great Bluegrass mandolin that I could be happy with.

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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    I buy new, from the top tier of a brand that I like. Last year I sold my Kentucky and Gibson, and got more than I paid for them.
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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    The other option is to get a basic, but solid wood Eastman or Kentucky, maybe even a flatiron pancake, ideally used, as a starting point. Many of the plain looking basic level instruments have good sound and can be set up to play well. Play for a while, learn what you really like, then buy the good F body you want somewhere down the line, and keep the basic mandolin for travel, playing outside, etc.
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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    Quote Originally Posted by TheLeadFlatpick View Post
    The Kentucky KM-850 is one I am definitely considering! I think I can get a new one for under 1k (still over $900 probably), and at that price I don’t think I would lose much (if any) down the road if I decide to part with it. I haven’t looked at the used market for a while on Kentuckys, but it seems like the KM-850s go for around $800-$1000 used.
    On a new import, I would expect to lose at least 30% in depreciation off of replacement value ($1140) pretty much immediately ($800). And realize that if you save money on the front end by purchasing from Guitar Center, you’re likely going to lose some on the back end by paying for a professional setup (unless you’re comfortable doing the work yourself). In other words, you’re likely to lose a few hundred dollars, which may not be much. If you were to buy a used mandolin, you’ll likely spend more but lose less:

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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    On a new import, I would expect to lose at least 30% in depreciation off of replacement value ($1140) pretty much immediately ($800). And realize that if you save money on the front end by purchasing from Guitar Center, you’re likely going to lose some on the back end by paying for a professional setup (unless you’re comfortable doing the work yourself). In other words, you’re likely to lose a few hundred dollars, which may not be much. If you were to buy a used mandolin, you’ll likely spend more but lose less:

    https://reverb.com/item/33118426-nor...-2017-sunburst
    I am comfortable doing my own setups. I really like that Northfield, but I really need to sell another guitar before sinking in that much money in right now. I guess like most everything, patience is key.

    The KM-850 looks like its normally around $1,700 but is on sale right now. The KM-1000 seems like it never gets much of a discount off MSRP, but if I call about the KM-850 I’ll see what kind of discount I can get on a KM-1000, too. How do most of you feel the higher end Kentuckys and Eastmans compare to their US made counterparts? Are they normally pretty close, or are the 4k Gibson, Ellis, and Collings worlds better?

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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value


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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    Hi everyone (and OP!)

    If you like the Collings sound then buying one is maybe the best way to get it. The reports of Collings consistency have been accurate in my experience - every one of them I've played has been excellent and they've all had that characteristic sound, gorgeous woods and impeccable build quality. A used MT is one of the best values out there - and one of the least expensive mandolins that's so consistently good you can buy without playing first. Pretty much any MT in nice shape is likely to be a great instrument.

    Sometimes they can be had just under $US 2k which is a little over the OP's budget but if you consider it's an instrument you might never want to sell maybe it's not that bad. For that matter, their deserved reputation for consistent quality makes an MT easy to sell if you were to decide later you wanted something else.

    All that being said, there's an attractive MT2 in the classifieds right now - an MT with nicer appointments and finish. In fact I just noticed it looks like it has a single-piece back. I have NFI but that looks like it could be a really nice deal.

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/154292#154292

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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    Quote Originally Posted by TheLeadFlatpick View Post
    The KM-850 looks like its normally around $1,700 but is on sale right now. The KM-1000 seems like it never gets much of a discount off MSRP, but if I call about the KM-850 I’ll see what kind of discount I can get on a KM-1000, too. How do most of you feel the higher end Kentuckys and Eastmans compare to their US made counterparts? Are they normally pretty close, or are the 4k Gibson, Ellis, and Collings worlds better?
    I have a Kentucky KM-805 (F-style), as well as a Collings MT and a Pava player. I got the Collings MT used for $2200, there is no comparison between the Kentucky and the Pava and Collings. Don't get me wrong, the Kentucky is a nice mandolin, but the Collings and Pava are in a whole different level. I will never have to upgrade from the Collings and Pava (and my Weber Bitterroot, for that matter.) The Kentucky, while nice, would not be a lifetime instrument (well, I will keep it because it's my only F-style,) but it would not satisfy me sound-wise long-term.

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  41. #25
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    Default Re: Looking for Mandolin Recommendations that hold their value

    Quote Originally Posted by LadysSolo View Post
    I have a Kentucky KM-805 (F-style), as well as a Collings MT and a Pava player. I got the Collings MT used for $2200, there is no comparison between the Kentucky and the Pava and Collings. Don't get me wrong, the Kentucky is a nice mandolin, but the Collings and Pava are in a whole different level. I will never have to upgrade from the Collings and Pava (and my Weber Bitterroot, for that matter.) The Kentucky, while nice, would not be a lifetime instrument (well, I will keep it because it's my only F-style,) but it would not satisfy me sound-wise long-term.
    Is your Kentucky the newest version of the KM-850? I’ve heard the older ones arent the best. I have just about decided to not try and beat around the bush and just get a good US made mandolin and be done with it.

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