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Thread: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/29448034172...torefresh=true

    Quite the story here; too bad the former owner didn't realize he was probably removing the original finish!
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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    So, to sum it up in a word - Oops!

    Reminds me ... Once upon a time, a couple of guys in my band and I went on a bit of a road trip up the Keys to Islamorada, more than eighty miles away, to go bowling in the only lanes in the Keys. We stopped at a couple of pawnshops along the way. In one, we found an old stand-up bass painted white, no idea why - now I know that perhaps it had been in a mariachi band. Don't remember how, but we got it in the car. We didn't strip the paint, though. In fact, we had a friend airbrush a beach scene onto it, with palm trees and the sun and blue sky over turquoise water. It was tacky but beautiful.
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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    Well, it was done at a time when if the instrument wasn't pristine looking, might as well strip and refinish. Did that with my first electric bass. Remember, 40 years ago, these were still "used" instruments, not "vintage".

  5. #4

    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    Maybe off bass here, but I think of the ‘30s big bands looking ‘modern’ with a white piano and bass, but couldn’t find an illustration. Brown wood was old-fashioned in furniture too, as it is now (!). White tuxedos, sculpted music stands, mirrors.
    I still twitch a little when I see a violin in pink metallflake…

  6. #5

    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    I am reminded of that Johnny Mercer song that Rick Nelson had a big hit with back in the early 1960s. The case has a rivet in the compartment lid and that pairs well with this mandolin assuming its number is 49XXX. Could be a nice buy for somebody if it stays low. The blurb states that all the original parts are included- would that be the tailpiece and bridge, and pickguard and clamp I wonder?

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    Yeah, right? I've never seen that before. (OK, I don't get around much, not as much as some of all y'all.) Funny, I didn't even notice that at first. I was too struck by the plain wood. Never seen that, either!
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    I don't know... 1981 was 40 years ago. I was certainly into "vintage" instruments back then and would never have refinished even in those bad old days. In fact I think I bought my 1919 A3 from Mandolin Brothers around 1977. Best sounding A model on their mandolin wall. I was not fond of the finish but I liked the tone. Plus my dad was born in 1919 so that was a plus. Here's my dad and me back in the late 1970s.

    Here's the eBay seller's story:
    You are bidding on a vintage instrument..."The Gibson" Mandolin. I believe this is from the 1920's. The story from the man that I purchased it from was that he had bought it about 40 years ago, in New Mexico. He bought it from a mariachi band, who had painted the top white to match their outfits.
    He had the paint removed from the top of the mandolin, and never finished restoring it. It sat in a closet until just recently. The top is bare wood. All the original parts, and the case are included. The words " The Gibson" and a design are inlay at the top of the mandolin. Nice colors. There is some very small nicks on top, and some scratches on the side, these are documented in the photos. This is a project.

    There is a label on the inside, however the only numbers that I can see are 49113, in the number area. I am not positive that these are the numbers. This is what I can make out.

    Patent date is February 1, 1898, and March 30, 1906.

    Please refer to the photos for exact condition of the item, I am not an expert. I will try to answer any questions the best that I can. I will also send more pictures if needed.
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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    In 1979 Pete Alenov of Pete's Guitars in St. Paul told me to refinish my Fender Jazz bass as it was worth "nothing" in the condition I purchased it in. So, back then different dealers had different standards. (This doesn't take into account the differences between electric and acoustic either).

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    Seller has a 1-piece bridge and tailpiece (I received photos) but there's no sign of a pickguard.

    A 49xxx SN matches a 1918 ship date according to Spann.
    Last edited by mrmando; Oct-21-2021 at 3:37pm.
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    Any guesses about tonal/finish issues if this thing was a) sanded to the wood or b) slathered with methylene chloride, or c) both?

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    Registered User TheMandoKit's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Platt View Post
    In 1979 Pete Alenov of Pete's Guitars in St. Paul told me to refinish my Fender Jazz bass as it was worth "nothing" in the condition I purchased it in. So, back then different dealers had different standards. (This doesn't take into account the differences between electric and acoustic either).
    In about 1985, I was in a vintage instrument shop, trying out some guitars. A guy came in with a guitar that he wanted to trade or sell. The owner looked at the guitar and quoted a number, commenting that it had been refinished and that reduced the value significantly. The guy protested that the refinish had been done by that shop. The shop owner shrugged.

    That said, this mandolin might be worth some refinish work if it can be had for a decent price. Didn't someone go through refinishing an A3 and post progress and results here a few (5-6) years ago? Don't remember who it was, but I seem to recall that the end result was nice.
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    I get the impression that refinishing an instrument only tends to reduce an instruments value when you’re trying to sell it rather than buying it.

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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    In looking up the SN at the Mandolin Archive (which puts it at 1919), I noticed some other examples from then that had white finishes. Excuse my ignorance, not having seen many photos of white mandolins before, nor ever in person, but isn't this color finish standard? Wouldn't that have been quite possibly the reason it was purchased for the mariachi band in the first place, because it fit their color scheme? So wouldn't the person who purchased it from the mariachi band member and then stripped it - if they are the same person - be a dunderhead for having done this? Just wondering ...

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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    My two cents based on working at a vintage guitar shop. Using a vintage pre-CBS Fender Stratocaster as an example of a blue chip investment, 30 years ago a refinished strat could be purchased for $1000, whereas a mint original one was $6500+, 20 years ago a refinished player grade strat was $3500 and a mint custom color strat could bring as much as $25K.

    This was all before eBay changed things, IMHO. The mint original guitars stayed high priced, while beater guitars started bringing more money. Someone discovered the "parts" value was worth more than the entire "refinished" guitar -- so guitars began to be taken apart and sold piecemeal, like they do at an auto junkyard.

    Most "project" instruments generally sell for more than I think they should on eBay. Vintage mandolin parts have value, which affects the price of player grade instruments.

    As time goes on and these instruments get even older the "collector" market seems to loosening their standards. Similarly, in the antique car world 50 years ago, only an original paint car would bring top money -- a car with rust or repainted was basically considered junk. Nowadays, cars repainted and restored to new condition can bring huge money.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    In looking up the SN at the Mandolin Archive (which puts it at 1919), I noticed some other examples from then that had white finishes. Excuse my ignorance, not having seen many photos of white mandolins before, nor ever in person, but isn't this color finish standard?...
    Using this useful but not infallible guide to vintage Gibsonia, "Ivory" finish A-3's were made by Gibson 1918-22, when the A-3 was discontinued.

    The likelihood of a mariachi band buying a Gibson A-3 new to match their outfits, other instruments, whatever, in 1920 is probably not high. However, spotting a used ivory-topped instrument in a dealer sometime later, and snapping it up partially because the musicians liked the color, is plausible.

    However, no reason to suppose, as the former owner apparently did, that the mariachis "painted" the A-3 to match anything. A-3's were made and sold with the ivory finish for the last few years of their production.
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    Possibly quiescence but since this thread started the price jumped quite a bit? Wondering if any of the pick guard hardware or tailpiece is there? Would make a difference in the value.

    "Didn't someone go through refinishing an A3 and post progress and results here a few (5-6) years ago? Don't remember who it was, but I seem to recall that the end result was nice."
    - There was a project several years ago about a Gibson oval hole restoration project with luthiers/contributors of the Cafe. Several luthiers took a part of the project and then passed it along to someone else. I believe Gail Hester did the final finish work? I believe it was a fund raiser for something initially. It did come up for sale a few years ago. I thought that would be an awesome mandolin to own.

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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    The likelihood of a mariachi band buying a Gibson A-3 new to match their outfits, other instruments, whatever, in 1920 is probably not high. However, spotting a used ivory-topped instrument in a dealer sometime later, and snapping it up partially because the musicians liked the color, is plausible.
    Well, yes, to be sure. But also, I never said nor implied the band member bought it new; I simply said "purchased." And yes, from a dealer, or pawn shop, time-honored sources.

    It's easy to misread posts, or just a word here or there. For instance, in the OP there is the locution "he was probably removing the original finish" - which, if I'd known about the typical white finish of later A-3s, I would have picked up on the joke right from the start.

    And yes, Steve, I also often wonder whether chatter on the forum affects bidding, and if so, how much. Discretion being the better part of bidding, I tend to refrain from talking about something I'm interested in. That doesn't stop most people, though ...
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    Registered User TheMandoKit's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Northwest Steve View Post

    "Didn't someone go through refinishing an A3 and post progress and results here a few (5-6) years ago? Don't remember who it was, but I seem to recall that the end result was nice."
    - There was a project several years ago about a Gibson oval hole restoration project with luthiers/contributors of the Cafe. Several luthiers took a part of the project and then passed it along to someone else. I believe Gail Hester did the final finish work? I believe it was a fund raiser for something initially. It did come up for sale a few years ago. I thought that would be an awesome mandolin to own.
    No, not that project, this was an A3 that was refinished with an ivory top. Can't remember who it was... Maybe Bruce Harvie?

    Someone with better search skills than I have could probably find it.
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    Sold for $900 plus $50 shipping. NFI. Also, I've noticed eBay is charging sales tax, which is added before you can pay, and can add up on larger purchases -- for those who are new to eBay, longtime eBayers will remember all purchases were not taxed, up until recently.

    IIRC, the A3 refinish from a few years ago was done by Spruce (Bruce). I believe he was out of town visiting his mother and was refinishing it for something to kill time. I believe he found a shade of Rustoleum spray paint that was very close to the original ivory. He then added some subtle arm wear to make it look aged.

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    Registered User jim simpson's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    Jeff, this A went for more that I would have been willing to pay. The A3's can sound pretty sweet though, probably worth it the buyer.

    You are right about Ebay charging tax according to your location (don't know how they handle Delaware?), Reverb also enforces the taxing. I got the unexpected surprise a couple of years ago when I won a mandolin for a few grand and there it was. I don't believe Ebay or Reverb has much of a choice in this policy.
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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    Now it can be told - 'tis I who am the happy owner of this mischievously manhandled mandolin. I've held off on saying anything until it shipped, feeling it to be not quite real until that time. But since it has, after a bit of wrangling and wangling that went well with the mangling, such has come to pass.

    For whatever reason, the two top bidders who had been going back and forth dropped out about the $800 point. So my bid of $850 either scared them off or put it beyond their limits. Add in tax and shipping and it came to not quite $1000 - a bit more than I'd have liked, but under my limit. It's being shipped to my luthier, who will have his hands full restoring this baby to playing condition, but fine, skillful hands they are. We've decided to go with a black lacquer finish, quite avoiding the original white which caused so much confusion and got it into trouble. Besides, that black is going to look badass. It needs some frets, too - the first six frets are beaten up badly, and seven is not quite so much; the rest look good. Seems whoever played it just lived in first position, and didn't get up the neck much, presumably being mostly a rhythm player. All told, I should have it in playing condition with about $1500 into it, not bad all in all. I'll be picking it up in May, along with the other two in the shop. I've really got to stop with this.

    What happened here is not so much that I had to have it, but that I wasn't able to talk my self out of it. Also, my MAS has been pinging, left with its motor running after I came in second in line for that poor beat-up - I mean, time-worn 1913 F-2 that Sue got a few weeks ago. A miss is as good as a mile, as they say, and such was not to be for me (though if she ever wants to sell ... ) So when this showed up, even in its condition, I was intrigued. Also, being able to see the grain this way was a big factor; it was alluring. I'd still like to get the full story about it - how it is that the previous owner stripped the white off it without understanding it was the original finish, and then left it like that - but the seller has been pretty uncommunicative. Now that it's out the door, she may be more forthcoming. I'm very curious about its history.

    I'll keep you all in the loop on its progress, of course. It should be delivered middle of next week. Looking forward to a report from my luthier about its condition and his final estimate for the rescue, resuscitation, and restoration.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    Congratulations, JB. It looks like you are accumulating a pile of vintage Gibsons IIRC. Keep up the good work!
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    journeybear,

    Glad the mandolin is staying in our Cafe' family. If you're going to a black finish, you might have your luthier change the sound hole binding from black to ivoroid. I had a basket case A3 that had been stripped, I made it a black top and did the binding swap.
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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    Congrats for getting it. Funny thing, almost suggested in my first post re-finishing with a black top.

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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white get it?

    Quote Originally Posted by jim simpson View Post
    If you're going to a black finish, you might have your luthier change the sound hole binding from black to ivoroid. I had a basket case A3 that had been stripped, I made it a black top and did the binding swap.
    There's also a two-tone binding around the top, a black strip inside the ivoroid. A black finish is going to put the kibosh on that. We kicked around the notion of a pumpkin finish, which would fit in with my plain As, but he says that's a good bit more doing. It sure would be a shame to lose those details. Maybe we should take it back to the original white. Why, oh why did that guy strip off the original white?

    And thanks, JG - it's gotten a little out of hand, this being my third acquisition this year, after some 7-8 years since my last previous purchase. Maybe I need help. I may have a problem. Admitting one has a problem is the first step toward recovery. Is there a 12-step program for MAS?
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