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Thread: Old Gibson sliding tailpiece cover

  1. #1
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    Default Old Gibson sliding tailpiece cover

    Hi, folks. Thanks for letting me join your forum.

    A while back, the father of a friend gave me all his tools when he moved from his house, after a career as a piano repairman and before that a builder at Steinway. (I've built one and nearing a second bass guitar from boards on up, and he liked my work.) Amongst the stuff was this tailpiece cover.

    Doing an image search, I think this could be a rather old F5 cover. Is that right?

    The closest thing to it that I found on Reverb was a cover that looked similar but was nickel plated, and was engraved.

    A few observations on it:
    - the design is debossed, also called impressed or embossed depending on your terminology. It is pressed in from the front, and on the rear face it is slightly raised, and then sanded on the raised areas to lower them.
    - the metal looks like what I've seen in old nickel silver. I suppose tin or zinc could also look like this, possibly. It doesn't chime but it rings a bit when dropped, like nickel silver, and I think of tin and zinc as having a dull thud.
    - there is no oxidation other than the general dullness. This includes the sanding marks on the back, which very strongly suggests that it is not a plated material.
    - there is no varnish or other clearcoat on it.
    - I haven't yet tried polishing a spot on the backside to see what happens, but I suppose I could.

    So, can anyone identify this, and give me an idea of its fair value? Especially if it is a vintage piece, I'd like to see it find a home on an appropriate instrument.
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Old Gibson sliding tailpiece cover

    That is a stock Gibson tailpiece cover that was used on most of their mandolin models except the F-5 from about 1910 to 1930, and continued to be used on some models until WWII.

    It is somewhat valuable. There is a demand for the cover by itself. I have seen complete tailpieces from that period including both the cover and the base advertised for between $250 and $400, but $400 is rather stiff, and the seller may not be able to sell it at that price. I will guess that a cover by itself is worth ~2/3 of what a complete tailpiece will bring.

    Be advised that this particular cover is not a correct replacement for a pre-war F-5. The earliest F-5's used a different tailpiece. We do see those tailpieces on later pre-war F-5's, but they are usually gold plated. Your cover appears to be the more common nickel plated brass version.

  3. #3
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old Gibson sliding tailpiece cover

    Welcome to the Cafι, Great score!, your cover is original and was used on most all Gibson mandolins from the early teens thru the early 40's. I've seen a few F-5's with that style of cover in the early 20's but most were gold plated and even on the 5's of the late 20s thru the early 40's. DON'T polish it or sand it!! Yours to me looks like a teens cover. I'd say fair market price would be 100-150 bucks. Its very nice, I've sold a few on the cafι here for 125 bucks, I know a guy who is selling one on his website for 100 bucks. Hope this helps and listen to others opinions and such.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Old Gibson sliding tailpiece cover

    Looks like a pretty standard Gibson tailpiece cover from the teens or twenties to me. Whether it’s possible to date it more precisely I’ll leave that for others but the grade of embossing is more like that on my ‘14 A than my ‘24 A - the latter is more lightly embossed than the former.

    I suspect that the “filing” as you call it is more down to scraping against the strings whilst it’s been taken on and off. As to price, it will have a value but what that would be in the US is different from what yiu might pay on this side of the pond.

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    Default Re: Old Gibson sliding tailpiece cover

    As others have said, you have a common but desirable #280 nickel silver Gibson tailpiece cover. It was used on many models with the exception of the F5. Attached is the where used list.

    As for polishing, that is up to you, some players like the aged patina look, others like it factory fresh. The nickel silver material is solid through and through, not plated brass, so you can polish it without fear of rubbing through plating because there is no plating. A mild abrasive polish such as Semichrome of Flitz will do the trick.

    Mark

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    Mark Lynch

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Old Gibson sliding tailpiece cover

    I have seen these with heavy plating wear, exposing the brass beneath.

  7. #7
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old Gibson sliding tailpiece cover

    How do you tell a 280 from a 283?
    Emando.com: More than you wanted to know about electric mandolins.

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    Default Re: Old Gibson sliding tailpiece cover

    The #283 is what we call the “Cloud” cover now. It was used on the D (Alrite), DY (Army Navy Special), the A-Jr and the others indicate in the listing.
    Indeed the #283 is nickel plated brass.

    Mark

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    Mark Lynch

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  10. #9
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    Default Re: Old Gibson sliding tailpiece cover

    I wouldn't put too much stock in the accuracy of old Gibson catalog descriptions. An example: they described all of their mandolins as having maple backs and sides, but all models below the F-4 were built out of birch [with an occasional renegade exception] until sometime in the later 1920's.

    If I can find somebody with a smartphone, I'll post a pic of a standard tailpiece with the brass showing.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Old Gibson sliding tailpiece cover

    There are nickel plated versions as you indicate but they are in the minority. They are easy to spot because the plating looks much different than the solid nickel silver variety. The OP’s is nickel silver not plated brass in my opinion.

    Here are some photos from my collection.

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    Mark Lynch

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Old Gibson sliding tailpiece cover

    Worn tailpiece from a 1917 A-4:

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    Observe the brass showing around the edge.

  13. #12

    Default Re: Old Gibson sliding tailpiece cover

    DO NOT, DON"T EVER polish something than took 100 years to look that way.....

    The new owner would be paying for that patina, IMHO.

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  15. #13
    Registered User Steve 2E's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old Gibson sliding tailpiece cover

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    DO NOT, DON"T EVER polish something than took 100 years to look that way.....

    The new owner would be paying for that patina, IMHO.
    I am definitely not an expert and don’t want to get involved with the solid vs. plated argument, but I second what Jeff said.
    Do not polish!

  16. #14
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    Default Re: Old Gibson sliding tailpiece cover

    Thanks, everyone for the replies. I will say that based on my knowledge of plating (I've specified and purchased hundreds to thousands of plated parts, including nickel, in my job), this is not plated.

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