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Thread: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

  1. #1
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    Default Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    I think my MAS may be getting a resolution soon, or at least a focus on a specific model and brand. I am looking to purchase a Collings MF5 soon, but have never owned a Collings and am not very familiar with the brand. I know they have a reputation for very good quality.

    I have gone to every mandolin-friendly store I can and played every instrument they had, and the Collings MF series have all stood above the rest. When I played the first one it was sort of an "ah-ha! that's the sound I am looking for" moment. I am vain and like fancy things, and am more likely to play something I find beautiful to look at, hence the MF5.

    This will undoubtedly be a used purchase. I don't mind a few scratched in exchange for the thousands of dollars one saves vs. new. I know it is obviously ideal to try before one buys, but in the event that I find an unbeatable price on one that I can't drive to, I was wondering if the Cafe could comment on if there are any years of Collings production known to be better or more consistent than others.

    I know there are some years (like in the 1970's) that Gibson was notorious for spotty quality, and my time looking for electric guitars has shown similar patterns of "good years" and bad. I know Collings is known for consistency, but is there anything in particular I should look out for?

    Thank you all so much for your help!

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    Collings instruments to tend to be particularly consistent and good, in my opinion. I did have an MF that was pretty thin sounding. It was whatever the most bare-bones entry-level F is. I bought it over the internet and quickly traded it away. But the other ones I've had have been nice. Some think the As sound better than the Fs. I don't have an opinion on that, but I do have an MT2 that is just killer good.
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    Default Re: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    They were not around in the 20's So, I'd avoid one claimed to be a '23 Collings
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    Default Re: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    To prove mandroid's point, according to the Collings website, the company started building mandolins in 1999.

    I don't know whether Collings started building A's and F's at that time, or started with one style and then added the others, but I'm sure that many others here can provide that info. Even though Bill Collings had been building guitars for around 25 years by that point, I'm guessing that he still went through quite a learning curve during his first few years of building mandos, so I'd go for something that was built after his first five years of building that model. Earlier ones were probably really good, but the later ones are probably better.
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    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    Iíve been following Collingsí work for a long time and they donít do anything halfway. The instruments themselves show this, but a tour of their shop (around 2010 in my case) would quickly remove any remaining doubt.

    Iíve never owned an MF but I do have an MT. Iíve played several other MTs in shops. Two sounded better than mine, and one in particular sounded better than any other mandolin Iíve ever played. But mine sounds wonderful too. My experience is that everything they make is great, but some are naturally better than others.
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    Default Re: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    I think Collings started with the MF's first and in the early 00's added the MT's. Fit & finish on every Collings I have played are great. Most have sounded good and several have sounded great. I've played a few MT's in stores that sounded better (to me) than the more expensive MT2 sitting next to them. Some people don't like their neck profile (V) with the standard 1 1/8" nut, YMMV. It's always better to play first, but it is unlikely that you'd get a clunker buying sight unseen. If buying remotely, you can ask for at least a 48 hour window for a trial of the mandolin & return (minus shipping). If you bought a used Collings and later decided it wasn't your lifetime mandolin, you could probably sell it on the Cafe for what you bought it for.

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    Default Re: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    If there was one word to describe Collings products it would be consistency. I’ve never played a bad one. And in my worthless opinion the A’s are the bomb diggity. Neck profiles are a rounded V and fit comfortably in the hand. There is a compound radius on the fret board that makes for an easy playing instrument, fit and finish is the best. Loving my MT2
    J.Lane Pryce

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    Default Re: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    Iíll add another vote of confidence. I owned an MT for a few months I got in a trade for an OM. I got to A/B it with a Silverangel Econo for 5 or 6 months trying to decide which one to keep. The Collings fit and finish was immaculate, and it was one of the easiest playing mandos Iíve had. Neck was comfy, set up spectacular, and notes popped out of it, but it could also be soft and sweet. Tone is more in the ďmodernĒ spectrum, though, and I was really digging the drier, more traditional tone and bass response of the SA. But, youíve already stated your preference for their tone, so youíre good there. I ultimately settled on keeping the SA, but, in fairness, the SA was an old familiar friend, and I also got a much better trade in value on the MT.

    Iíve had the pleasure of playing numerous Collings mandolins at Lowe Vintage, TME, and another local store whose name escapes me. They were all very good mandolins. A couple of the MT-2s and upper tier F styles were as good as any other mandolin Iíve played up to the Gilchrist price range. Not joking, their top tier can be exceptional. Good luck!
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    Default Re: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    I have tried many a Collings, and not a klunker in the bunch.

    That said I would really really try to avoid buying an instrument I hadn't tried, or at least get a 48 hour return policy. "In the event that I find an unbeatable price on one that I can't drive to," I would really consider using the "savings" to fly out there and and give it a test run.
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    Default Re: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Soper View Post
    I think Collings started with the MF's first and in the early 00's added the MT's. Fit & finish on every Collings I have played are great. Most have sounded good and several have sounded great.
    They built A models first in 1999, and F models a couple of years later. See serial numbers on Collings website. I’ve owned a number of MTs and MT2s. I like ‘em, prefer MT2s, though, for the red spruce.
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    Default Re: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    Howdy Russ.
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    Default Re: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    The Collings basic MT is IMO, is one of the best values of any tone-bar traditional mandolin out there. They can be found used fairly easily, not because owners are 'dumping' them, really the opposite....it's because they really get first time or entry players hooked on great sounding mandolins (which they are) I would not hesitate at all to pick up a used MT and never look back.. A bread and butter MT could be considered a life-time instrument.

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    Default Re: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    The first model was the MT2. I used to own one just past #100. Then came the F-styles. And the MT and MF models came after that.
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    Default Re: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lane Pryce View Post
    Howdy Russ.
    Howdy back atcha, Lane!
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    Default Re: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    I’ve owned probably close to 40 Collings mandolins over the years and some very early ones. The necks were rather thin and v-shaped on the early ones, but they are some of the finest sounding mandolins on the market. I remember playing an F5 which was in the serial number 70’s range that was phenomenal. There were two other well known players there that day. One had just received his new Gil model 5. His jaw just dropped at the tone his friend was getting out of the Collings. He asked the price $6500. He’d just spent $23k on the Gil. It was the first time I’d ever seen him sooooooo quiet.
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    Default Re: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    I agree M I played a pre-owned varnished F5 at The Podium in MSP about 10 years ago, was an early s/n ..drop dead amazing. One of those 'would of, could of, should of...." look backs.

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    Default Re: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    It sounds like you're leaning toward an F, but if you decide to go for an A the early Collings MT2's are excellent buys. I have #74, and the tone is incredible! There's a few key differences from the current MT2s (different neck profile, tailpiece, inlay) that make them especially interesting if you happen to prefer them. Also, you have to imagine that Bill was closely overseeing every detail and dialing them in since they would have a huge impact on the reputation of the business. Here's a video of a much better player than me demoing mine... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CliN1mxypI
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    Default Re: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    Quote Originally Posted by ivancook View Post
    It sounds like you're leaning toward an F, but if you decide to go for an A the early Collings MT2's are excellent buys. I have #74, and the tone is incredible! There's a few key differences from the current MT2s (different neck profile, tailpiece, inlay) that make them especially interesting if you happen to prefer them. Also, you have to imagine that Bill was closely overseeing every detail and dialing them in since they would have a huge impact on the reputation of the business. Here's a video of a much better player than me demoing mine... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CliN1mxypI
    Not to put too fine a point on it, but Bill was closely overseeing most details even up until his death. That doesn't diminish the instruments being built today, because whoever is voicing the new ones is doing an amazing job. The last two I bought (which was in late 2019/early 2020) are phenomenal. They hold their own against my Heiden.
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    Default Re: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobar View Post
    Not to put too fine a point on it, but Bill was closely overseeing most details even up until his death. That doesn't diminish the instruments being built today, because whoever is voicing the new ones is doing an amazing job. The last two I bought (which was in late 2019/early 2020) are phenomenal. They hold their own against my Heiden.
    I'm not suggesting that he wasn't heavily involved in later years, or that the current ones are not up to the same standard. I'm sure they are all wonderful because that's Collings' genius; don't just design a great instrument, design the system to consistently produce them. But when you're Collings and you roll out a brand new instrument family there are going to be a TON of eyes looking to see how it goes and the additional amount of effort to operationalize production is huge. I can't imagine that it didn't require more of his focus initially.
    2001 Collings MT2 - #74
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    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    Back when I lived in VA there was a big weekend jam called Cabin Fever. Pretty much mando heaven. Everything you can think of was being played there from Loars on down. One of the best mandos that showed up every year was a stock Collings MF5. Just a killer instrument. A friend had an MF5 Varnish that just paled in comparison. Still a really good mandolin but that stock MF5....it had it! More than one of us tried to buy it but the owner knew what he had and was an excellent musician. He certainly pulled great tone out of it.

    Moral of the story.....your average Collings is a damn good instrument. If you're lucky there are some that are truly exceptional!

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  38. #21
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    Default Re: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    Quote Originally Posted by sgarrity View Post
    If you're lucky there are some that are truly exceptional!
    I ran across one of these and alluded to it in an earlier post: 2009 at the late great FQMS in Louisville, KY. It was a very plain MT and the most amazing mandolin Iíve ever heard or played. We had a new baby and two other small children, so I was full-blown Dad-broke and had to leave without it. But someone got one helluva mandolin with that one!
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  40. #22
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    Default Re: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    I know of no years to avoid as you have seen here quality control is consistent. I had a MT that I was very fond of. I don't recall the year, but I think around 2016. I was the second owner. The tuners were very tight and I lived with them for about a year being reluctant to reach out to Collings with me being the second owner. Finally I broke down in frustration and called. They could not have been more helpful. They asked me for the serial number and then sent me a voucher # and phone number to contact the maker of the tuners. In two days I had new tuners and return packaging to send back the old tuners.
    Good customer service is what great companies do.
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  42. #23
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    Exclamation Re: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    20 20 has been a pretty difficult year for everyone, maybe Collings included ?

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    Default Re: Collings MF5 - Any years to avoid?

    They posted some of their NAMM instruments on their website a week ago. They seem to be doing fine.
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