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Thread: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

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    Default Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    Does, or did, the mandolin world suffer much from fakes of collectible, or even high quality recent instruments? Violin faking in various ways seems to have existed almost as long as violin collecting. Recently guitarists have had to watch out for 'Chibsons' on Ebay, and vintage wines have been faked at auctions. So how about mandolins?

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    Default Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    Good question. I suspect that the majority of guitar fakes are likely to be “bolt together” electric guitars. Unless it’s simply a matter of sticking a posher logo on the headstock, high end acoustic guitars and mandolins are unlikely to be faked due to their relatively small market share and because they simply wouldn’t sound or play right.

    I’m aware that fiddles have been faked for years - a fiddle playing accomplice (now deceased) of mine had one with a Stradavarius label inside. He bought it whilst he was at the RNCM and it dated from the early 18C.

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    Default Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray(T) View Post
    Good question. I suspect that the majority of guitar fakes are likely to be “bolt together” electric guitars. Unless it’s simply a matter of sticking a posher logo on the headstock, high end acoustic guitars and mandolins are unlikely to be faked due to their relatively small market share and because they simply wouldn’t sound or play right.

    I’m aware that fiddles have been faked for years - a fiddle playing accomplice (now deceased) of mine had one with a Stradavarius label inside. He bought it whilst he was at the RNCM and it dated from the early 18C.
    In the old days, people had different ideas of patent and copyright than we do in the contemporary west -- and they still do in Asia, a contributing factor in western trade wars with China. For centuries, a writer, for instance, would add to another writer's work, re-write or print a book with the changes, or even write an original essay, then consider it a compliment to the original author to put that author's name on the new piece. Similarly, as all modern violins were influenced by the designs of Stradivarius and the other luthiers of Cremona, violin makers would put his name in their violins either to show respect for the Master or to tell their customers that this is a violin in the style of Stradivarius. I inherited a "Strandivarius" made in "Cremonius" in the 18th century myself. Luthiers tell me that it's actually German from about 1870. I don't think most of the pseudo-Stradivarius violins out there were meant to defraud anyone. The original owner of my violin would have to be pretty gullible to buy a brand-new violin that he believed was built nearly two centuries earlier. (Added: Still, I admit to being excited, fifty years ago, at seeing the name Stradivarius stamped in my grandfather's violin.)
    Last edited by Ranald; Feb-26-2021 at 11:18am.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    The mandolin world has it's share of fakes, some good some really bad. Some are better than the originals.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray(T) View Post
    Good question. I suspect that the majority of guitar fakes are likely to be “bolt together” electric guitars.
    Perhaps surprisingly, I get the impression that some of the best and most common deliberate guitar fakes are of Gibson Les Pauls, there are many YouTubes explaining the clues. We're talking about guitars with 'Gibson' on the headstock, not Les Paul style guitars with another maker's name on the top. Online auctions of course make selling fakes so much easier, and there's a lot of consumer goods faking - boring mid price things like hair dryers, PC memory cards and so on - not just 'Bolex' watches

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    Default Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    I have always been wary of buying Gibson banjos because of the number of conversions and "fakes" that are out there in the market. Like Mike says above, "Some good, some really bad". I guess the sage advice is still "Buyer beware".
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    Default Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    Not fakes as much as re-makes, "conversions" as we call them -- e.g. F-4 bodies with new "F-5" tops, extended necks, re-made by respected and reputable luthiers. The same luthiers used to build "F-5 copies," complete with "The Gibson" on the headstock; often not with faked "Gibson" labels inside, just copying the outward appearance of Gibson F-5's. Now "F-5 copies" are generally identified by those who make them -- and not labeled "Gibson."

    I have a 00 Martin guitar that started out as a 1940 00-28G classical, but 40 or so years ago was given a new top and neck (not by C F Martin, but by an individual luthier), converting it to a 00-42 clone. Is it a "counterfeit" 00-42, a re-make, or what? Similarly, I have a '20's Gibson Mastertone GB-3 "ball bearing" guitar-banjo, that's been re-necked by Bernie Lehmann here in Rochester, making it sorta an RB-3 five-string. Would either be considered a "fake?"

    I'd say this type of un-authentic instrument, designed more as a tribute to the original, isn't really a "counterfeit" in the sense that the question is posed. Which is not to say that these instruments haven't been passed off as originals in many cases. There are quite a few cases where cheap instruments are given phony labels or logos, and hawked on eBay et. al., but in the sense that a counterfeit is made to resemble the original, these don't really qualify -- anyone with a bit of knowledge or research can ID them as fakes.

    We've all seen "Givson" instruments sold in India, for example. On the other hand, when guitars from a legit Asian maker like Takamine first came out, they copied Martins down to the type face of their headstock decals. Nothing on them said "Martin," but you couldn't tell them from Martins from ten feet away. There's a fine line between making a tribute to a well-known and respected instrument, and making an instrument designed to fool buyers into thinking it's "just as good."

    When I worked (briefly) in an instrument store, you'd get quite a few customers looking to buy a "Guild Madeira," for example. We were always clear that Madeira guitars were made in Japan, imported by Guild, but not made by Guild. Easy to get confused, ain't it?
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    Default Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    I guess the re-make instruments can be seen as doing the musical community a favour in some ways (repurposing instrument that would otherwise be trashed) if done well and explicitly.You could end up with a nice instrument for a lot less money than the original 'real thing'. There's also 'bitsa' instruments constructed from the insurance claims pile...

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    Default Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    Let's not forget the honorable category of what is called a, "Bench Copy", where a luthier (Usually a violin maker) will painstakingly copy a venerated original. Everything down to each nick and ding, the wood grain, the color, the signature - everything as exacting as possible. I played such a beautiful instrument that Jamie Wiens made of a Loar mandolin. The Bench Copy represents a very high level of luthier skill to produce.

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    Default Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    Good point Billy - are there bench copy mandolins? I believe some pro classical fiddlers have bench copies of their $100K up historic instruments, that they use for orchestra bread and butter work. I hear first line bench copy violins can be $40K, so it's not a cheap option - it must take a lot longer to make one than a 'new' style instrument.

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    Default Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    While not specifically called bench copies, I can think of dated Red Diamond and Stanley that make every effort to copy the Loar sound and the look as close as possible.
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    Default Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    I asked Walter Carter about this when I interviewed him for the podcast. In the high end world it becomes a little less likely because a lot of times if you are buying from a shop that does it’s due diligence to be sure they are selling the real deal. One on one sales though, that seems more likely, especially after seeing some of the ridiculous ads on eBay.

    I think the reputable companies building copies are very upfront about it.

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    Question Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    well Not everyone can afford real Gibsons so there are Kentucky & several other brands Imported to fill the need ,

    a fake is one that copies the Brand name inlay , or gets close Ala 'Givson' ..


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    Default Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    Quote Originally Posted by maxr View Post
    Good point Billy - are there bench copy mandolins? I believe some pro classical fiddlers have bench copies of their $100K up historic instruments, that they use for orchestra bread and butter work. I hear first line bench copy violins can be $40K, so it's not a cheap option - it must take a lot longer to make one than a 'new' style instrument.
    Hey Max, per bench copy mandolins, see this thread and interview. https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...ssel-Interview
    dave berry

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    Default Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    That's an interesting interview with Gary Vessel, thanks for that.

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    Default Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    Gibson seemed to think so.

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    Default Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    No mandolin content, but interesting nonetheless.......at an outdoor flea market I once purchased a pack of "Sharpie" markers from a vendor selling a variety of brand new household goods, cleaners, tools, etc. It wasn't until I got home I discovered I had actually purchased "Shanrie" markers which had the same packaging, font, and colors as the original. I'm still trying to understand why someone went to the bother of faking something that costs so little for the original, in the first place?

    And, for the record, "Shanrie" markers are not nearly as good as the Sharpie brand......

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    Default Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    Some people, such as many Café denizens, actually benefit from fakes, inasmuch as they produce a lot of chuckles when discovered, and provide the opportunity to express humorous observations regarding them. Over the years there have been many such postings of these attempts at deception, in varying degrees of lameness. I can attest to have suffered from belly laughs resulting from the wit of fellow members as they scrutinize and comment on these fakes. How much they impact sales of real Gibsons, I couldn't say.
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    Default Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    Back in the late 60's and early 70's there was a laminated dreadnought guitar sold new in some music stores with the brand name C F. Marlin, in gold letters similar to the real Martin logo and made in Korea I believe. I worked in a Temple of Music store during that time and we sold them. They were designed to look like a D-28. I owned a real D-28 at the time and would go to great lengths to inform the naïve buyer, usually a parent that did not play guitar but was buying for their kid, that it was only a copy of a famous American made guitar with a label meant to confuse the unsophisticated buyer. Nevertheless some people bought them.

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    Default Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    Ebay is (reputed to be, m'lud) full of copies of the larger capacity memory sticks and SD cards. I bought a 'PNY 256 GB' Micro SD card suspiciously cheaply, and it wouldn't take that anywhere near that much data. When I asked PNY if it was a fake, they said 'Yes - we never made them that colour' - that's how careless the fakers are. There are also faked consumer goods of all kinds, like Bluetooth speakers.

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    Default Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    Just watched a documentary on Netflix called "Made You Look" about art fakes....basically bench copies meant to deceive. There is a line that comes up towards the end saying something close to "Copying art is fine........until you put another person's name on it.".

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    Default Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    That sounds about right. I saw a program about the famous British art 'copyist' Tom Keating. I think he said that he would put a clue in many copies which should have led an experienced art dealer to suspect it wasn't original, but whether they found it depended on how much they wanted to believe it was genuine. The implication was 'how much the end client wanted to believe it was genuine' - interesting.

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    Default Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    Quote Originally Posted by maxr View Post
    .... they found it depended on how much they wanted to believe it was genuine. The implication was 'how much the end client wanted to believe it was genuine' - interesting.
    The late Ed Roman was a big time Las Vegas guitar dealer and had many celebrity clients, dealing in vintage guitars as well as making custom, one of a kind guitars for stage use. His website is still up and he was very opinionated about certain topics such as vintage guitars and fakes. In fact, he has a section in his website where you can click on "rants!" Anyway, he states that he has seen so many convincing fakes of valuable guitars that the ONLY way to know if something is REAL is if you bought it at a yard sale AND paid nothing for it! In other words, once big money is involved -- be careful. FWIW, his opinion, not mine....

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    Default Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    The guy who first told me about Loars in 1972 at the same time told my how there were people making fakes to get in on the $4000 price. It's been discussed here before and some find it to be quite a secretive subject.

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    Default Re: Does the mandolin world suffer much from fakes?

    There are several excellent fake Loars that show up around here every summer in the big jams.

    The vintage guitar world is rampant with fakes and forgeries. Many people estimate that the "vintage" Fender market is about 1/3 forgeries; often the copies being better instruments than many of the originals. The 1958-1960 Gibson Les Paul is a perfect example. Most people accept that they made approx. 1400 originals but somehow there are around 1800 "originals" in private collections.

    Unfortunately, from a builder's perspective it is a sad state of the market when there is much more financial opportunity in faking other works than there often is in creating equal pieces under your own name...

    The art world is similar. I spent some time working in one of the world's great museums. While sitting in a room filled with Van Gogh paintings, one of the staff whispered into my ear, " 1/3 of them are known fakes...but I'm not risking my career to tell you which ones!"

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