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Thread: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

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    Registered User midyearguru's Avatar
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    Default Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    I was in a recent discussion about vintage F style oval hole Gibbys. Some have stated that they are starting to become more recognized and that their value will be on the rise. Opinions please.

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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    F-4's have decreased in price since their high about 12 years ago, when a really clean 'teens model could bring as much as $7000. Today, the same instruments are being listed for 5k to 6k. But F-2's are going up, and are starting to approach the prices of F-4's.

    I don't currently see any large increase in interest in the oval hole Gibsons. Seems like folks still want F holes and a long neck, even though most folks don't play much in the upper registers. There does seem to be some current interest in modern oval hole instruments with long necks.

    Personally, I have always preferred F-4's to F-5's.

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    Registered User midyearguru's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    1927 F2. All original, MINT condition, and celebrity owned provenance (DAWG).Click image for larger version. 

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    Smile Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    Totally different animal from an F-hole mandolin, in my opinion. I've had several F4s (8 in last 40 years)and none of them worked in a large ensemble and certainly not in bluegrass. With that in mind, I don't really see why they would take a jump up in value. Many advertised at $6000 upwards but I don;t know if they actually sell at that. I know Carter's had about 4 at $5000 for a good long while.

    I bought one 3 months agon(1919 F4) from Gruhns, very much cheaper and it is a great mandolin for playing at home or perhaps duo or trio. I really love this latest one and am keeping it. I think it is the scarcity of clean ones which may mean they retain a good value but I don;t see any pros playing them anywhere in gigs so that should tell you something. I think they are for certain people, like myself, who love the old Gibson thing.

    I noticed today that Elderly have a 1915 one at $6500 and it is a beautiful mandolin with Handel Tuners. Be an idea ot look there in 10 days time and see if it is still there.

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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    This right here is one big reason I keep wanting one.



    Had a chance to get one a couple months ago for $4000 or so. It's crazy to me to think that was an irresistible deal. That's way more than I've ever spent on anything. Disappointed when someone beat me to it. Oh well!
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    Whole lot of Jimmy Martinís records have a F4. Red Rector played s lot of bluegrass on an oval hole Ato Z (?)
    Even Mr. Monroe recorded a couple with a F2 or F4 I forget which

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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    My head is often turned by listings of F2's and F4's: I do think as artistic eye-candy, they are the pinnacle of mandolin design. Having neither seen nor heard one up close, I wonder if one of the oval F's would be an "upgrade" from my '23 A1 snakehead in terms of sound or playability, or if it would simply be a "bling-ier" version, at higher cost, of the same. I know it's hard to generalize, but thoughts on this from those who have compared them first-hand?

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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    I have both A & F Gibson ovals. Love both. As a general rule, the Fs are a “bling-ier” version, not necessarily better playing or sounding. But bling-ier is cool.
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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    Having had both Gibson F4s and an A4, the F4 seems to have a less "tubby" sound, though I cannot explain why. A huge difference in the playing is the F4s have a more slender neck. The necks of the post Loar necks seem even more slender. My Hester is the best of all worlds. Slender neck and a great oval not tubby tone.
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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    Quote Originally Posted by red7flag View Post
    Having had both Gibson F4s and an A4, the F4 seems to have a less "tubby" sound, though I cannot explain why. A huge difference in the playing is the F4s have a more slender neck. The necks of the post Loar necks seem even more slender. My Hester is the best of all worlds. Slender neck and a great oval not tubby tone.
    Do the F4's of all years have a more slender neck than snakeheads? Is there a difference pre- and post- Loar? One of my "complaints" about my snakehead is the narrow nut width: wish it was a smidge wider.

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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    A general rule is pre 21-pre truss rod, the necks have a stouter wider neck. They tend to slim down once the truss rod enters the picture. I think the pre 21s tend to have that more robust sound. Don't hold me to that in every case. I have a '21 truss rod paddle head, that is somewhere in between. Not as bright sounding as my snakehead or a deep as my '17, a more stout neck like the '17. It is the loudest of the 3. My '21 F4 is more like my '17 A4.
    Post Loar era, all bets are off. They can be all over the map.
    As our friend Jim says, the only thing consistent about Gibson, is it's inconsistency.
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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    The rims of the A models are deeper than the F2,4,5 which may account for the greater bass.
    A model rims are 1-1/2” deep
    F model rims are 1-3/8” deep

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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    I love the F-4 design over the F-5 with my favorite being the early F-4 3-point.
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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    This right here is one big reason I keep wanting one.



    Had a chance to get one a couple months ago for $4000 or so. It's crazy to me to think that was an irresistible deal. That's way more than I've ever spent on anything. Disappointed when someone beat me to it. Oh well!
    Ry Cooder's playing an F4 is the exact reason I bought mine. Got it from Mike Holmes (Mugwumps) in 1975. Still have the receipts: $200 on March 3rd, $200 on April 4, and $600 on May 14.

    Inflation Calculator tells me that my $1000 is worth $4888.74 in today's dollars.

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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    Your inflation calculator presents an average value. Inflation affects different commodities differently. And that's only one factor among many in play, which again vary widely among different commodities with different characteristics.

    But even so, what that gives you is still a good bit lower than current asking prices for similar instruments - even without the provenance or knowing the vintage. There are four F-4s in the classifieds now, prices ranging from ~$6000-~$7500, and one F-2 for $5000. So you seem to have done well for yourself. Above and beyond having a fine instrument like that to enjoy for 45 years.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    I think that a well-preserved F-4 is the most beautiful Gibson mandolin. F-hole mandolins lack the ornamental rosette that centers the body, and focuses the eye; if the F-4 has the "torch & wire" headstock inlay, the look's absolutely splendid.

    Musically, it's the oval-hole, flush-necked sound, not competitive with the F-5 in terms of percussive "cut," but full and rich. Already owning an F-5, I bought a 3-point F-2 to play in a Celtic band I joined in the 1980's Paid around $1,500 in 1985 or so. I've traded the F-5 this year, but I still have the 3-point.

    A lot of the discussion around f-hole vs. oval-hole, etc., revolves around different individual tastes and music style preferences. As always, market prices reflect -- not perfectly -- supply and demand. There were a lot more F-2's and F-4's made than F-5's "back when," but hardly anyone's making oval-hole F-models now, so the supply's not growing even if demand increases.

    Which is of course the standard condition for price inflation.
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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    I agree with AllenHoppkins about the F4 beaing the most beautiful. Whilst I absolutely love the look of something like a 1927 F5, the soundhole rosette on an F2 or F4 really does stand out and make a statement. I think the sunburst F4s about 1917 to 1921 look best. The earlier shaded top ones can look great but a sunburst one with the rosette just beats everything.

    Although Gilchrist and a few others have copied the rosette and looked great, the F4 copies without it never look as good to me. It;s odd that non of the cheaper copies have ever done that. Not to my knowledge anyway.

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    Registered User midyearguru's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    I purchased this 1916 F4 last year for $3600 with original case. I find it to be stunning beautiful with all the inlay, Handel tuners, etc. The neck is much more "robust" than my 1927 truss rod F2. I like the feel of the F4 more than the F2.......it took me a while to get used to the F2's thinner neck. My original question regarding current market values is because the F4 was purchased from the grandson of the owner, a family friend and I didn't know if it was a "good deal" or a "generous contribution" to his grandad's estate.. I never (I know "never say never") plan to sell either but am interested for insurance purposes.Click image for larger version. 

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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    Quote Originally Posted by midyearguru View Post
    I purchased this 1916 F4 last year for $3600 with original case. I find it to be stunning beautiful with all the inlay, Handel tuners, etc. The neck is much more "robust" than my 1927 truss rod F2. I like the feel of the F4 more than the F2.......it took me a while to get used to the F2's thinner neck. My original question regarding current market values is because the F4 was purchased from the grandson of the owner, a family friend and I didn't know if it was a "good deal" or a "generous contribution" to his grandad's estate.. I never (I know "never say never") plan to sell either but am interested for insurance purposes.Click image for larger version. 

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    You got a bargain. I'd insure it for $6k if it wasn't covered by a homeowner's or renter's policy.

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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    Eye candy time. A Mandolin player must be prepared..
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    A Ď21 F4 & a Harvey F5
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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    You'll often hear negative comparisons of old A's/F2s and F4s to old Gibson F5s, but really, most of the F-5 players just don't know how to handle a Gibson roundhole. (There can be differences in the sonic qualities of individual instruments, some are killer, others rather mediocre.)

    Over the past 40+ years, I have had the chance to plonk on a half-dozen of the sainted Loar F-5s, and none of them really rang a bell for me. A few were rather mediocre sounding, imo, at least in my hands. People have also handed me their Gilchrists to check out, and easily the best sounding one was a (rare) Gilchrist oval hole F4 a guy in Maine named Ed Ashley had. I believe it was later sold to stained-glass master Art Stern in California. I'm not sure if it has moved on to another owner.

    Besides the old 20s F4, I also have a beat-up no truss-rod 1919 A, which sonically can match the 4. It also has an original aluminum bridge saddle. After playing on the A for awhile, the F4 seemed rather dull and thunky in comparison, so I replaced the ebony saddle with one made from deer antler, which is somewhere between metal and ebony in brightness. These are the two mandolins used on almost all of my recordings. This instrument came in-and-out of Joe Dobbs' Fret & Fiddle in St Albans WV at least a half-dozen times before I traded a 1969 Gibson A50 (teardrop with f-holes and a very thin, almost Telecaster neck) for it. After I had it for a week (try-out basis) it dumbfounded me how person after person would bring it back to Joe after 6 months to "trade up" for some F-hole w/scroll model of some make!

    Tone and such is (always) over 50% in the hand/fingers of the player, regardless of the instrument. I use lots of left-hand vibrato, and electric guitar techniques (in both hands). I use a wide variety of right hand attack angles and force. I also use of plenty of left hand slurring, and pick+fingers in the RH. Oval holes behave differently depending on the attack and volume. (You also tend to have longer sustain and bass response on roundholes as well).

    An F5 will usually have the same tone quality whether you are playing soft or playing loud. With roundholes, the tone changes with the strength of attack. I attribute this to controllably overdriving the top. Combined with the RH vibrato, chokes/bending, it's possible to get a stinging electric guitar tone out of the instrument. I found that I'd have to work twice as hard on an F-hole instrument to get the sound I prefer, But then again, my preference is more for Hendrix/SRV/RT than Mr. Bill.

    Niles H

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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    For me there is nothing like a a Gibson F2 or F4. The sound of an old Gibson oval is what I like. The gap in price between these and the F5s seems bigger than the gap in mojo, and I expect that prices to rise.

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  34. #23
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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    A lot of comments seem to imply, "there were a lot made, so they aren't rare." This is true. In the teens especially, Gibson was making a LOT of mandolins to supply the public demand, and they certainly had a superior product. Even today, these mandolins play well.
    But, based on how many were produced......there still aren't a lot for sale at any particular time in the marketplace. Is it because people hang onto them? I don't know, but the fact remains. Whether it's an F2 or and F4, there isn't a lot out there.

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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    Well, everything is relative. Gibson made somewhere in the neighborhood of 48,000 total instruments between 1910 and the end of 1919, including mandolin family instruments, guitars, and their earliest banjos. 2500 instruments were built in 1910, 6780 in 1919. Of those 48,000, F-2's and 4's were the most expensive models, and were produced in much smaller numbers than the various A models.

    I suspect that perhaps only half of Gibson's production during those years survives in playable condition.

    During the 2010's, Gibson, Martin, Fender, and Taylor were each building around 2000 instruments every week, or 100,000 a year.
    Makes you wonder who's gonna buy all of them.

    Anyway, F-4's can usually be found pretty easily. At most times, 3 or 4 can be found among the 10 or so best established vintage dealers. F-2's appear to have been made in smaller numbers. As a result, we see less of those.

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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4 mandolins.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    Whole lot of Jimmy Martin’s records have a F4. Red Rector played s lot of bluegrass on an oval hole Ato Z (?)
    Even Mr. Monroe recorded a couple with a F2 or F4 I forget which
    FYI, the F4 on Jimmy's recordings is mostly his own, which he bought at some point for his then brother-in-law, tenor singer Paul Williams to use. I believe, Jimmy still owned it until his passing. Red Rector's mandolin was a 1921 (or '22) A4. Bill Monroe borrowed Connie Gately's F4 for the Big Mon session, 12/1/1958.

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