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Thread: Do Martin mandolins fetch higher or lower prices than Gibsons?

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    Registered User poul hansen's Avatar
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    Default Do Martin mandolins fetch higher or lower prices than Gibsons?

    In the guitar world Martins are more desirable than Gibsons(i.e. more expensive) but I don't hear much talk about Martin mandolins, everyone wants Gibsons although it looks to me as if Martins are more rare, which normally drive desirability and prices up.
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    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do Martin mandolins fetch higher or lower prices than Gibsons

    Martin mandolins are predominantly flat-top with a cant and flat backed with oval sound holes. They tend to have a shorter 13" scale. Overall, they don't project as well as the carved top/back Gibson oval hole mandolins with a 13 7/8" scale and MUCH less projection than an ff-hole carved top mandolin. The Gibson F5's signed by Loar are very rare and very pricey because they are considered the penultimate for Americana music (Bluegrass especially), but were originally designed to play classical music in mandolin orchestras. OTH some folks love the more mellow tones from the Martins for folky music especially. Martin did make some carved top ff-hole mandolins, but IMHO they don't stand up to the Gibsons.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do Martin mandolins fetch higher or lower prices than Gibsons

    Quote Originally Posted by poul hansen View Post
    In the guitar world Martins are more desirable than Gibsons(i.e. more expensive) but I don't hear much talk about Martin mandolins, everyone wants Gibsons although it looks to me as if Martins are more rare, which normally drive desirability and prices up.
    Rare doesn't always equate to value. If you look at what has driven the mandolin, acoustic guitar and banjo markets in the last 60 years or so it has been the instruments that were the choice of the people at the top of the game, nothing more, nothing less.

    Martin made their bowlback mandolins that are still sought after by some of the bowlback folks. Their cant topped flat backs are sweet sounding little instruments but few are looking for a lilting sweet sounding mandolin. Most are looking for the sound that the Gibson made. Martin also made their carved top models that never really captured a big piece of the market. The Gibson style mandolins have owned the mandolin market primarily because Bill Monroe played one.

    I know dozens of people that would argue the point that Martin's are more desirable than Gibson guitars by the way. I own Martin's, I've owned Gibson's. They both have their place in the market.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Do Martin mandolins fetch higher or lower prices than Gibsons

    You want "rare"? A college roommate, in the mid-60s, owned a Ford Taunus. Nope, not a US-built Taurus, which didn't exist yet, but a German-built small sedan. He'd boast that nobody EVER re-sold their beloved Taunuses, unlike those silly VW's that everybody wanted to get rid of, as evidenced by the volume of classified ads.

    Of course, we had to keep reminding him that he had cornered the North American market!
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do Martin mandolins fetch higher or lower prices than Gibsons

    Martin mandolins -- the canted-top, flat-back ones -- are wonderful instruments, immaculately made, with a sweet, clear sound. The carved-top Martin mandolins, either oval-hole or f-hole, are also very well-made, but sound a bit subdued compared to other carved-top mandolins. I have an old (1919) Martin Style A, mahonany body and spruce canted top, and I'm quite fond of it for folk music, Celtic tunes, etc.

    However, the Martin mandolin sound doesn't work well in bluegrass music -- where the more aggressive punch and greater volume of a carved-top, f-hole Gibson mandolin (or one of the many Gibson-patterned similar instruments) has pretty much become the standard. Since bluegrass music is currently where mandolins are most visible -- and audible -- the Gibson style has sorta "cornered the market" for those who want to play that style.

    Martin phased out of the mandolin business almost completely 50 years ago. Gibson, who as you point out made many more mandolins than Martin, has continued to produce them based on the carved-top style of construction they introduced at the beginning of the last century. Most of the other mandolin makers discussed on the Cafe make similar-styled instruments, though a couple of good-sized companies building for the Celtic-European music market are making flat-top instruments.

    As accurately pointed out, the supply of Gibsons is much larger than that of Martins; however, the demand for bluegrass-type mandolins is many times larger than the demand for ones with the "Martin sound." A mid-level 80-year-old Gibson "A" model will command a higher price than a fancier Martin of the same vintage. I have both types of mandolin, and value each for its particular sound and style.
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    Registered User red7flag's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do Martin mandolins fetch higher or lower prices than Gibsons

    I am a happy owner of a 1930 Martin Style C mandolin. This is the flat top with the cantilevered back for the top. It is in the middle of selections with A being the most plain (mahogany) and more common and E being (rosewood) lots of bling and fairly rare. As Allen and Ed commented, it is a sweet wonderful sounding instrument that is just perfect for folk, especially English folk (think of something like Greensleeves). I would love to have a HD-28 with Brazilian Rosewood and Adirondack Spruce top. Because the Martin mandolins are not as sought after, I was able to get this mandolin with the same basic specs at a price I could afford. I have played it in jams and never felt that it did not fit in. But, I would not play it in a hardcore grass jam.

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    I am a happy owner of a 1930 Martin Style C mandolin. This is the flat top with the cantilevered back for the top. It is in the middle of selections with A being the most plain (mahogany) and more common and E being (rosewood) lots of bling and fairly rare. As Allen and Ed commented, it is a sweet wonderful sounding instrument that is just perfect for folk, especially English folk (think of something like Greensleeves). I would love to have a HD-28 with Brazilian Rosewood and Adirondack Spruce top. Because the Martin mandolins are not as sought after, I was able to get this mandolin with the same basic specs at a price I could afford. I have played it in jams and never felt that it did not fit in. But, I would not play it in a hardcore grass jam.
    Tony Huber
    1930 Martin Style C #14783
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