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Thread: A Pearl of Great Price A-4

  1. #1

    Default A Pearl of Great Price A-4

    I had found myself in possession of several instruments that I was mildly dissatisfied and/or bored with. Looking at the Carter Vintage website, I spied something which caught my attention; a 1920 Gibson A-4 in "excellent condition". So I piled my stuff in the car and headed for Nashville.

    I test drove a number of new and vintage instruments from Carter's extensive collection. I was interested in a 2007 Gilchrist A Jr. with oval hole. But the Gibson A-4 won my heart in the end. Indeed, it was in excellent condition, used only lightly in its 100 year life. Perfect narrow grain adi top. Birch back and sides with very attractive curly figure (I assume it is birch). Straight neck with substantial heft (as I like it). Tuners, pickguard, bridge and all attachments as they should be. My only complaint is the rather tiny original frets. But they are in good condition and the action is low. I've decided to play it as is for now.

    The tone is is smooth, refined, and a little dark (tubby?). Perfect for old time, celtic, but not bluegrass. But I don't play bluegrass anyway.

    I'll try to get photos ASAP, although my equipment does not make posting easy, as you all know.

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  3. #2
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Pearl of Great Price A-4

    My thoughts are that it is important to figure out whether you are dissatisfied or bored. I don't mean to be glib. I found that a new addition to my herd renews interest in the ones I have had for a while. As opposed to dissatisfied, in which case it makes more sense to move them on.

    A Gibson A-4 is, IMO, a really beautiful design. I have almost pulled the trigger on a few. My preference is an A-4 in black face. Ooooo sweeeeet. My tastes run that way and, all else being equivalent or at least comparable, I like your decision.
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  4. #3

    Default Re: A Pearl of Great Price A-4

    I let my Larrivee SD-60 go because, although I loved the tone, I hated the neck shape and found it uncomfortable. My Eastman mandola was essentially a novelty instrument which I put away in the closet after my interest waned.

  5. #4
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Pearl of Great Price A-4

    Wow, what a story and what an analogy. Sounds like a beautiful instrument!

  6. #5
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Pearl of Great Price A-4

    I love my paddle head too! Congratulations!

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

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    Default Re: A Pearl of Great Price A-4

    I lusted after an A 4 for years until I finally bit the bullet and got one. It is so sweet, not an F 5, but a great substitute when I want something a little different from the Randy Wood. It is a 1916 and in pretty good to very good shape
    Last edited by Denny Gies; Oct-23-2020 at 9:05am. Reason: additional thought

  8. #7
    Joe B mandopops's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Pearl of Great Price A-4

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    Yes, good choice. I got my 1917 A4 in the late Ď70s when I lived in New York. I bought it from some guy for around $300. The top is distressed & it did not come with a pick guard or a case, I carried it home in a bag, but I loved it. I still have it, well my son has it, but itís still in the family. Iíve acquired a couple other As, since. Now I want a A2z, so Iíd have natural blonde, too.
    Joe B
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  9. #8
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Pearl of Great Price A-4

    I, too, have de-accessed the instruments that didn't please me. But in terms of mandolins i have my inner circle and pick up those in cycle. The "old man" is my 23 A2 snakehead which I have had about 38+ years. Some times it just naps in it's case but once in a while I take it out and play it and love blooms once again.
    Jim

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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Pearl of Great Price A-4

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I, too, have de-accessed the instruments that didn't please me. But in terms of mandolins i have my inner circle and pick up those in cycle. The "old man" is my 23 A2 snakehead which I have had about 38+ years. Some times it just naps in it's case but once in a while I take it out and play it and love blooms once again.
    (You have a nice collection, Jim.)

    f-d
    °papŠ gordo ainít no madre flaca!

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

  11. #10
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Pearl of Great Price A-4

    My '22 A4 paddle head seemed to be @ the introduction of the Truss rod .. Nickel plated brass TRC probably done to Highlight that..
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  12. #11

    Default Re: A Pearl of Great Price A-4

    My A-4 has the fuller, wider neck with pronounced V. I like that better than the trim neck of the truss rod era. My only problem so far is the teeny fretwire.

  13. #12
    Registered User Calocedrus's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Pearl of Great Price A-4

    I just had to get a black A-4 to match my K-2. Still hoping to find an affordable H-2 mandola to complete the set. Also have a black L-4 guitar from the teens, but it needs some serious luthier attention. The L-4 even has the original pickguard, but it’s got a little rot where the metal clamps are attached.
    Click image for larger version. 

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  14. #13
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    Default Re: A Pearl of Great Price A-4

    Quote Originally Posted by mandroid View Post
    My '22 A4 paddle head seemed to be @ the introduction of the Truss rod .. Nickel plated brass TRC probably done to Highlight that..
    My '22 has a stainless truss rod cover, not plated.
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  15. #14
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Pearl of Great Price A-4

    Quote Originally Posted by Calocedrus View Post
    I just had to get a black A-4 to match my K-2. Still hoping to find an affordable H-2 mandola to complete the set. Also have a black L-4 guitar from the teens, but it needs some serious luthier attention. The L-4 even has the original pickguard, but it’s got a little rot where the metal clamps are attached.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Ah, collector mania! At one point in my earlier mando-life I had one of watch including the mandobass. All were black except the MB which was brown. Sold everything but my A- snakehead. Good luck in your search.
    Jim

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    2018 Campanella A-5 -- 2007 Brentrup A4C -- 1915 Frank Merwin Ashley violin -- Huss & Dalton DS -- 1923 Gibson A2 black snakehead -- '83 Flatiron A5-2 -- 1939 Gibson L-00 -- 1936 Epiphone Deluxe -- 1928 Gibson L-5 -- ca. 1890s Fairbanks Senator Banjo -- ca. 1923 Vega Style M tenor banjo -- ca. 1920 Weymann Style 25 Mandolin-Banjo -- National RM-1

  16. #15
    Registered User BBarton's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Pearl of Great Price A-4

    Good catch, George! I also have a '20 Gib A-4 (sunburst), all original with all its parts and case. I've had it for about 25 years now -- don't play it much anymore, as I have some other players -- but it was a mainstay in my "Celtic mando arsenal" for several years (also have a matching H-2). It has a very sweet, mellow tone, but, like you, I find one drawback is the tiny fret wire!
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    Too many instruments...too little time

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