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Thread: Italian mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Italian mandolin

    Here are the pictures of the Italian Mandolin I am inquiring about.
    Hi!

    I know NOTHING about mandolins, but I picked up two in an online auction recently, so I hope you can offer me some assistance!
    I only had a couple of hours beforehand to try and find out some information about the mandolins, but I did manage to find the maker’s name and a picture of a Mandolin that matched the Vintage one in the auction.
    As far as I can tell, the maker, Raffaele Valente, of Rome, only produced one model around the late1800’s.
    The small label inside says:

    PREMIATA FABBRICA DI INSTRUMENTI ARMONICI

    RAFFAELE VALENTE ROMA



    The detailing and fret markers are Mother-of-Pearl.

    Not sure what the bridge is made of, but it is almost weightless.

    The bridge is not being held in place (obviously!&#128578 due to the missing strings & tuning keys, and, unfortunately, there was was no tailpiece attached either.

    But other than that, the overall condition of it appears to be very good (to my untrained eye at least!&#128521

    Would the tuning keys on an instrument of this age have been made of marble? Bone?

    What would the tailpiece have been constructed of? Silver? Brass? Wood? Something else entirely?

    And what about the strings? What DID they actually make strings out of in those days? Sinew? Some kind of hemp? Wire of some sort?

    I’m looking forward to learning all about this, and hopefully I will be able to get it in working order again and be able to use it!

    I am giving the other mandolin I bought to my dad for Christmas... and (hopefully🤷#♀️) we can learn how to play together.🙂

    He is a huge Bluegrass fan...
    I’d just tag along to keep him company as my mom just recently passed away. 😪
    So I figured if I’m going to be there, I might as well be playing something! (Keeps the wine glass out of my hand😉 Hahaha)

    I do have a 6 string and a 12 string guitar, but I haven’t played in years, and I thought it would be nice if the two of us could do this together. 🥰

    I’d appreciate any information that people might have about the maker, Raffaele Valente, as well as any pictures of the complete Mandolin (showing the tailpiece), and any other related information you may have about it.

    I’d also be interested be interested in hearing people’s opinions and feedback about the following:
    1) Is this something that you would take in to be repaired in person - as opposed to mailing it or couriering it?
    2) Any suggestions as to where I could get refurbishing such as this done?
    (FYI- I live in Midwestern Ontario near Lake Huron).
    3) Any ‘rough’ estimates of how much I’d be looking at for parts & labour?

    4) Any reputable Appraisers who specialize in vintage instruments, or mandolins in particular, where I could take it to have an appraisal done. (Christie’s? Sotheby’s? Others?)

    5) Is this the kind of instrument that is more of a ‘Collector’s piece’ - more to be looked at, or is it something that could be played without hesitation?
    (Even if the person is just learning!) 😁

    Thanks for any information you can share.
    I appreciate your help and look forward to your responses!
    Patti
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Italian mandolin

    These instruments unfortunately do not have a high monetary value. Even complete and in very good condition they will fetch a few hundred dollars. A handful of extremely desirable brands in top condition will sell just over a thousand dollars. Even repaired, this one would not fall into that category. The cost of repair would certainly exceed the value of this instrument. The fact that the hardware was stripped from it suggests that it may have serious structural problems that would make it unplayable and extremely costly to fix.

    It would have had geared machine tuners and the tailpiece would be plated steel or brass. They use extremely light gauge metal strings. These types of instruments can be played if they are in good condition. They are not suitable for bluegrass music though.

  3. #3
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Italian mandolin

    I posted some photos of another (similar, but nicer) Valente in your other post, Patti. Maybe Mike can merge these two?

    Definitely a Roman style mandolin with the slope fretboard and bridge. These can be very desirable mandolins in bgood playing condition.

    Carl could be right that it was field stripped for parts...The wood itself doesn't look in bad condition. The real key would be the state of the neck.

    Could you provide a few side views...in order that we might be able to see the angle of the neck relative to the bowl? You might want to shoot a few if you can,
    because it can be a tricky shot to make.

    If the neck is out of alignment, then the repairs escalate exponentially. Otherwise, it would be a hunting game for tuners, tailpiece, etc. and there are a number of folks here who could likely help with such a search.

    I'll post the Valente photos I have here again just in case.

    Mick
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  5. #4
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Italian mandolin

    I have the same photos in my file from another MC denizen from about 10 years ago. That one is a more ornate model with fluted bowl ribs. If this were properly restored with period parts the it might be worth considerably more than you paid. However, i would guess that after you put about $1000 into parts and luthier work you might be able to get a few hundred over that from the right person. From what I can tell of the photo it looks like its finish was stripped and all the hardware removed. Possible that it was being restored but possibly in the wrong manner. Unless you really want to invest in it for yourself or your dad I would say sell it and the Sigma for whatever you can get for them and buy your dad a decent mandolin to learn to play bluegrass. Actually from what you wrote before it sounds like he might prefer a guitar anyway. In any case, this mandolin has potential for some people like the few of us here that appreciate them but it will take some time effort and money to make it playable and, as Mick says, may have other issues that are not evident from the photos.
    Jim

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  7. #5
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Italian mandolin

    Hey Patti24:

    Welcome to Mandolin Cafe. I applaud your enthusiasm but there is really no need to post the same thing in multiple places. We can find you. At the top of all forum pages is a link that says New Posts and many of us check that daily to see what we want to read and/or respond to. Just post in one place.

    Sometimes the admins will combine threads so that all the replies are in one place. Makes it easier for everyone.
    Jim

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  8. #6

    Default Re: Italian mandolin

    Hi Carl! Thanks for your response. That's a bummer! I would have thought that instruments of this age would fetch a good dollar. What is the reason why they don't? Do they not have good sound? Do they go out of tune easily?

  9. #7

    Default Re: Italian mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Patti24 View Post
    Hi Carl! Thanks for your response. That's a bummer! I would have thought that instruments of this age would fetch a good dollar. What is the reason why they don't? Do they not have good sound? Do they go out of tune easily?
    It is mostly just a matter of style. The mandolin was extremely popular during the early 1900s for Italian music and some similar styles so there are a lot of them out there. Their sound is more suited to classical music and Italian styles which have become less popular in time. Bluegrass and more modern styles use a carved top style mandolin developed by the Gibson company and others in the 1920s. Yours is a decent instrument if it were complete and does not have any serious structural problems. Unfortunately they are a style which is not super popular.

  10. #8

    Default Re: Italian mandolin

    Hi Jim! Ooops! hahahaha... Okay, sorry about that! One spot- got it! The auctioneer is willing to take the Sigma back because of the damage, but I don't think he would agree to buy the Italian Mandolin back, so I'll just try to sell it. That is too bad that neither of them turned out to be of any value. I thought the Italian one would for sure.
    Thank again for your input. It's much appreciated. Patti

  11. #9

    Default Re: Italian mandolin

    The business of antiques is very particular. All too easy to buy a lemon no one else wants. One needs to know the market well to buy well. Be it old watches, furniture, gramophones or whatever. Bargains do not happen very often, especially in these days of internet age. Stories of treasures bought for nothing from the flea markets are largely the thing of the past. Many years ago I bought a very old violin for $100 and it looked a million dollars to me. I later had to struggle to get my $100 back on re-sale. I became a lot more cautious (and I hope educated) since.

    To answer some of your questions, the mandolin doesn't look too old, perhaps early 20 c. In those times strings were already made of steel and both tailpiece and tuners were brass. In your case someone tried to convert the tailpiece to pegs, similar to steel string guitar's bridge pegs, but it looks like the holes are not through, so it didn't happen.
    Last edited by vic-victor; Dec-22-2020 at 11:40pm.

  12. #10

    Default Re: Italian mandolin

    Thanks! I appreciate your explanation!

  13. #11

    Default Re: Italian mandolin

    I guess we all have to start learning somewhere, right! I can't believe how much I have learned over the course of a week! Thanks for your input about it's construction too!

  14. #12

    Default Re: Italian mandolin

    By the way, if you'd like to part with it PM me and we can discuss. Thanks.

  15. #13

    Default Re: Italian mandolin

    Patti, all solid advice. Sometimes, we have a short perspective on history. When my 67 Mustang was about 5 years old, kids at service stations thought it was a amazing relic of the past - cool! All these years later, it hasn’t increased in value at all because there are millions of them. Same with old instruments; mandos used to be dominant before guitars became popular and millions survive, but the bowlbacks are hard to hold, especially standing up, and as mentioned, have a sound not so suitable for bluegrass. Yours looks medium-quality, not low, and might have been stripped because of a problem - or not, so it needs to be acquired by someone who will investigate it and maybe put it back together, but it would be an expensive adventure for you since you’d have to hire someone.
    The classifieds here don’t seem to feature very many ‘entry level’ instruments, and with the pandemic not so easy to make the rounds of stores. To get a good starter mandolin that’s setup properly your best bet is to buy one from someone who plays one. There are many discussions on this website for best lower cost brands, but the setup is critical, more than on other instruments. Even a brand-new one needs some attention.

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