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Thread: Are there any good vintage noname mandolins ?

  1. #1

    Default Are there any good vintage noname mandolins ?

    As new(ish) brandname mandolins are quite expensive, I wonder if it's possible to find good quality vintage instruments.

    Here in Europe there are many old mandolins for sale at low prices and many of them would have been handmade in all solid wood, so what is your experience, is it possible?

    I have a nice one but find it a bit hard on the left hand to play. I haven't done any setup yet though.

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    Last edited by poul hansen; Jun-20-2020 at 9:08am.

  2. #2
    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: Are there any good vintage noname mandolins ?

    Set up and string weight matters strongly influence how a mandolin plays, it is well worth having your mandolin setup or getting Rob Meldrum's pdf book and doing it yourself. If you like the mandolin you have, and it's structurally sound, then getting it set up to play well makes a lot of sense.

    I do think you can find some pretty good no-name mandolins here and there, by little known or hobby makers. In the US, there are Stradolins, which are fun, playable instruments that often sell for very little. Hard to beat at the price.

    Many of these older instruments will need setup work as well, so learning to do it yourself or finding a local luthier is worth the effort.

    Have fun and good luck!
    -Dave
    Flatiron A
    Way too many other instruments

  3. #3
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Are there any good vintage noname mandolins ?

    Levin mandolins, made in Sweden during the 1930's and 40's, have a reputation for being well built, good sounding mandolins. There a few on eBay.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  4. #4
    Registered User
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    Default Re: Are there any good vintage noname mandolins ?

    There are definitely good no-name mandolins out there. The problem is since they are less well known names or unlabeled, it is difficult to recommend specific ones to you. Take some time to learn what makes for a good instrument. A big part of that is that you enjoy playing it.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Are there any good vintage noname mandolins ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    Levin mandolins, made in Sweden during the 1930's and 40's, have a reputation for being well built, good sounding mandolins. There a few on eBay.
    Thank You. Any specific models?
    Last edited by poul hansen; Jun-20-2020 at 11:19am.

  6. #6
    MerryBlacksmith Bernd Bannach's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are there any good vintage noname mandolins ?

    The mandolin pictured is typical for german made mandolins. Most of them, although often handmade, are of a poor quality. I have owned some and played more. None of them had good working tuningmachines and don‘t talk about tailpieces. With luck you find one that sounds ok but not more. Playability is also not the best.
    But as I said with luck...

  7. #7
    Registered User Chris Bowsman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are there any good vintage noname mandolins ?

    I have a no name F that my dad bought at a jam for $200. Somebody built it, maybe from a kit, and it’s pretty good. The wood is a little thick, as it requires heavy strings, in my opinion, to sound good, but there’s no way I could replace it for the same as he paid.
    ‘96 Sparks F-5
    ‘19 Northfield Big Mon

  8. #8

    Default Re: Are there any good vintage noname mandolins ?

    In theory, there was more good wood available back then, more solid wood instruments, etc. However, even a hundred years ago wood was graded, so the best wood was used on the more expensive instruments, as a rule.

    I'm thinking, as an example, of the Chicago-made catalog instruments showing various price points and wood used even on budget instruements. It is all relative, even in the 1930's, a $30 instrument used better materials than one that sold for $7.50 -- even though the $7.50 instrument may have been made of all solid wood. An instrument might be made of birch, rather than maple, for example.

    So, sure, I would say there are many "good" vintage noname mandolins out there, that is, "good" but maybe fewer that are actually "great!"

  9. #9
    Registered User
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    Default Re: Are there any good vintage noname mandolins ?

    My friend has restored a couple of Levins that he bought off eBay but he says the sellers are getting canny and asking more now.

    They are good instruments, especially after he has set them up.
    Bren

  10. #10
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are there any good vintage noname mandolins ?

    depending on what's vintage. . .

    There are MIJ (Made in Japan) mandolins that fit the bill!

    f-d
    ˇpapá gordo ain’t no madre flaca!

    '20 A3, '30 L-1, '97 914, 2012 Cohen A5, 2012 Muth A5, '14 OM28A

  11. #11

    Default Re: Are there any good vintage noname mandolins ?

    Thanks for chiming in. Other people also recommended Levins and a shop had a few I could try, they were really convincing but 400-450$

    Then I found a Levin Model 54 for 160$ incl. hardcase !! He knew is was cheap(he paid much more a year ago) but just wanted someone to enjoy it. :-)

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  13. #12

    Default Re: Are there any good vintage noname mandolins ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bren View Post
    My friend has restored a couple of Levins that he bought off eBay but he says the sellers are getting canny and asking more now.

    They are good instruments, especially after he has set them up.
    As I have one now, I would like to know what he does to them, to make them better?

  14. #13

    Default Re: Are there any good vintage noname mandolins ?

    I played a MIJ Alvarez A model that sounded great. There should be a bunch of them floating around. Solid top, laminated b/s. All the Japanese ones were well built, but the F models a little over built.

  15. #14

    Default Re: Are there any good vintage noname mandolins ?

    Oh, I just checked the specs on my new 160$ Levin Model 54:
    Solid spruce deck
    Solid birch side and bottom
    Maple neck
    Walnut fretboard(maybe)

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