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Thread: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

  1. #1
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    Default Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    I have a chance to buy a Gibson Custom Master Model here locally. It is a beautiful mandolin and apparently it is a one off. The wood for back & sides is highly figured. The construction is a cross of models with a Sam Bush neck and a Doyle Lawson body. Built in 2012 and signed by David Harvey. It has never been played but has been stored in it's case for the last 9 years. I was not terribly impressed by the tone, but then it's never had a chance to open up with little to no playing. It is in mint condition. Not a scratch nor ding. It looks better than any mandolin I've played new in a store. Seller is asking $9k which is less money than I've seen most Master Models go for.

    My question is, because it's not been played should it be worth less or worth more as a used instrument? Are there less buyers in the world for a custom Master Model? Is it a smaller group of pickers that would want to own this instrument? Would only a collector want to buy it? I'm not a collector. Would a regular Master Model have better for re-sale than a custom one off?

    The reason I ask is because I am totally tempted to buy it, but I am worried that if I buy it and don't like it, will I be able to re-sell it? or will it just sit forever waiting for the right buyer? I am also worried that I will buy it and then be afraid to play it and scratch it so it will just end up sitting in it's case for more time. I've never owned a mandolin this beautiful and my main mando now is fairly dinged up from constant playing and gigging.

    So many of you guys here are more knowledgeable than I and have experience and advise that might give me some insight. I apologize in advance for such a lame question.
    Last edited by Nashville; Dec-05-2021 at 7:24pm.

  2. #2
    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    Assuming you're buying an instrument to play it, if you don't like the sound now, don't buy it. If you think other strings, pick or different room will enhance the sound, good luck to you.

    If its too pretty to play, unless you want to hang it on the wall with its highly figured back showing off, what good is it? Or learn to play without beating up your instrument.

    Its clear to me that you don't want to buy it, so don't.
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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    It seems to me you do want to buy the mandolin and you’re looking for justification to take a chance on it. If it’s a really good price, you could always play it (carefully) for some time and, if it doesn’t live up to your expectations, sell it for somewhere near what you paid for it. I’m new to the mandolin world, but based on what I’ve seen on the internet, that seems like a low price for a mint condition custom master model.

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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    Remember, even the F5G has the "Master Model" label inside. A true Master Model will 99% of the time be varnish finished and have a serial number "V-70XXX".

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    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    If you don't like the sound of the mandolin don't buy it.
    I've had my 1993 Gilchrist A3 since it was new and while it has matured over the years it sounded fantastic when it was brand new.
    At this point in my life I would only buy an instrument that knocked me out. I would never count on it getting better.
    Bill McCall above is right on.

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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    Sounds like you have choices here. Look for a played-in instrument that is worn equally to that playing, or a new-condition instrument that hasn't been played-in yet. Most likely you won't find a new-condition mandolin that is well played-in. And, wear and tear decreases the dollar value of the instrument.

    Guaranteed, if you play the instrument in question, it will get worn, even if you're obsessively careful. Stuff happens... And when it does, you'll have a played-in instrument which shows wear and tear.

    Oh, and keep in mind, if it is a varnish finish MM, varnish can be much softer than nitro lacquer.

    That said, if it were me and I had that kind of money dedicated for a mandolin, I'd be sorely tempted to get this one you've described.
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    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    Quote Originally Posted by KMaynard View Post
    Remember, even the F5G has the "Master Model" label inside. A true Master Model will 99% of the time be varnish finished and have a serial number "V-70XXX".
    ^^^THIS!! I'm not convinced this is a true varnished Master Model. And $9k is definitely too much $$ for a modern, lacquer Gibson F5.

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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    As others say above - if you like the basic sound of any instrument it might improve, but if you don't, it's likely you'll never be happy with the sound however much it changes. Initial reactions seem to work with instruments.

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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    My own take is to pass on this one. Although it sounds like a cool instrument, if you're not impressed by the tone now, you probably won't be when it opens up.
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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    While I appreciate everybody's replies, no one actually answered my questions. All replies focused on whether I should buy it based on my initial perception of tone, which is perfectly valid because that is generally the #1 reason a player is looking to buy a mandolin. But my questions were a bit different.

    1) Because this mandolin has not been played should it be worth less or worth more as a used instrument? is a "mint" condition instrument worth more?

    2) Are there less buyers in the world for a "custom" Master Model? Is it a smaller group of pickers that would want to own this instrument? Would only a collector want to buy it?

    3) Would a regular Master Model have better re-sale value than a custom one off?

    4) I am worried that if I buy it and don't like it, or change my mind as many of us do, will I be able to re-sell it? or will it just sit forever waiting for the right buyer?

    Additional information about playing it and listening for tone. We were in a public space which was noisy and I was very hesitant to play it hard because the instrument is mint. I couldn't fully put it through the paces. And the strings were 9 years old although they look shiny. So I was playing softly and very carefully, but not the way I normally play. It was difficult to fairly judge the tone.

  18. #11
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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    If it doesn't have "it" now, there's no reason to believe that it will have "it" later.

    An unplayed instrument is still used after its initial sale from an authorized dealer. Kind of like driving a new car off the lot, parking it, and selling it a month later. Since it is a very clean used instrument, it will bring more than one that is worn, but still significantly less than one that is new with warranty.

    There have been so many custom models built in recent years that variations in individual appointments usually have little to no effect on the market value. As far as the potential number of buyers, the difference between a stock model and a custom one is probably not very much. The determining factor is the favorability of the price.

    In most cases, the same can be said about "collector's value". Predicting the ease of salability and future value of the instrument is a gamble at best.

    Gibson's indiscriminate use of the Master Model label in the modern era has made the designation almost meaningless, except for the purpose of identification.

    If you don't love the instrument, don't buy it. Expecting a quick and profitable resale later is risky. It is just as likely that you would have to take a loss or sit on the instrument for a long time.

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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    To succinctly answer your questions:

    No, I would not buy it. It sounds like an oddball instrument.
    The market for a “proper” Master Model would be much more efficient should you decide to sell.

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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    Quote Originally Posted by Nashville View Post
    1) Because this mandolin has not been played should it be worth less or worth more as a used instrument? is a "mint" condition instrument worth more?
    A mint instrument is generally worth more purely for condition.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nashville View Post
    2) Are there less buyers in the world for a "custom" Master Model? Is it a smaller group of pickers that would want to own this instrument? Would only a collector want to buy it?
    I don't think that there are fewer buyers for custom instruments, which usually have desirable features.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nashville View Post
    3) Would a regular Master Model have better re-sale value than a custom one off?
    I suspect not. Custom mandolins tend to be priced higher, as do their depreciated used versions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nashville View Post
    4) I am worried that if I buy it and don't like it, or change my mind as many of us do, will I be able to re-sell it? or will it just sit forever waiting for the right buyer?
    I am more worried that this instrument is not a true Master Model but a Gibson F5 Custom made for The Mandolin Store that is being passed off due to labeling ambiguity:

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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    Quote Originally Posted by Nashville View Post
    While I appreciate everybody's replies, no one actually answered my questions. All replies focused on whether I should buy it based on my initial perception of tone, which is perfectly valid because that is generally the #1 reason a player is looking to buy a mandolin. But my questions were a bit different.

    1) Because this mandolin has not been played should it be worth less or worth more as a used instrument? is a "mint" condition instrument worth more?

    There's always a depreciation hit with a used instrument.

    2) Are there less buyers in the world for a "custom" Master Model? Is it a smaller group of pickers that would want to own this instrument? Would only a collector want to buy it?

    If you're having reservations about being able to re-sell, perhaps this iisn't the mandolin for you. Whether a "collector" would be interested in a one-off oddball is problematic. Certainly having unusual features would deter all those who were not interested in these exact features.

    3) Would a regular Master Model have better re-sale value than a custom one off?

    See above.

    4) I am worried that if I buy it and don't like it, or change my mind as many of us do, will I be able to re-sell it? or will it just sit forever waiting for the right buyer?

    You can always re-sell an instrument. How much you get for it depends on how desperate you are to sell it. Trading is also an option.

    Additional information about playing it and listening for tone. We were in a public space which was noisy and I was very hesitant to play it hard because the instrument is mint. I couldn't fully put it through the paces. And the strings were 9 years old although they look shiny. So I was playing softly and very carefully, but not the way I normally play. It was difficult to fairly judge the tone.
    I would go back and play it as loud as I cared to; if you're this concerned with cosmetics, perhaps a new instrument is not the best route for you to follow. Used instruments have a more mature sound, come pre-distressed to alleviate your angst, and are less expensive than new instruments of the same style and quality. Take some pictures, note the serial number, factory order number and label specifics, and post them up for a more thorough discussion.

    9 year old strings that are unplayed will sound about the same as new strings of the same type. It's usage that causes changes.

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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    Even new strings still in the package, unless the new sealed packages, will age. I would ask if I could change the strings and play it with a little more vigor to see how it would sound. After sitting for that long I would want to play it for at least an hour, but better for a couple days. Doesn't cost to ask.
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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    Gibson has used the Gibson Master Model label on every mandolin they have built in the last 20 years or so. From the F9 model, F5, Ferns, to the actual Master Model. Gibson mandolins usually have 2 labels, one is the Gibson Master model label. The other is the label that gives the serial number and model distinction. This label would give you the info as to the Model of the mandolin F5 G, F9, Fern, Master Model. My Particular Gibson is labeled F5MSC, for Mandolin Store custom. Judging from the pictures I have seen of the instrument you are looking at, it is a lacquer custom mandolin not to be confused with a varnish finish Master Model. It will probaly have F5 C or something like that on the description label. The mandolin you are looking at is a very beautiful mandolin, with stunning wood. The fact that it is a one off mandolin makes putting a accurate or exact value on difficult. There's nothing to compare it to for reference. As far as resale potential, that would be a guess also. Nice mandolin but not every bodies cup of tea.
    That leaves you in a situation where you have to decide if this is the instrument for you and can you strike up a deal that makes you and the seller happy. If I were you, I would make arrangements with the seller to spend some time with this mandolin if I were interested in it. 9 grand is a lot of money to just through down on a whim. Nine grand opens the door to a lot of super nice mandolins, I would want to try and get the most bang for my buck. You are local to a lot of mandolins to test drive and experience. Good luck and happy hunting.

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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    Follow up info from label -
    Model: F5 CMM
    Serial#: 20113011
    I think that means January 13, 2012 and 1st mandolin built or finished or labeled that day. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	197946

    You can see it has a Sam Bush neck and a Doyle Lawson body. I assume the finish is Gloss Lacquer, not varnish.

    I think it needs new strings and a good setup after sitting in case for so many years. You can see in the photo that the bridge may be a bit askew. I did a quick test for intonation and I didn't notice it off much at all.

    So it's not a true Master Model. I am slowly learning about this stuff. But it is a beautiful Gibson mandolin.

  31. #18
    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    I might pay $7k if I really liked the tone. But definitely not $9k

    It’s reminiscent of the Goldrush model in a lot of ways. The Mandolin Store has also ordered a model they call the Cremona Rush.
    Sam Bush and Doyle Lawson really have nothing to do with this mandolin based on the info we currently have.

    You could always try reaching out to Dave Harvey. He’s on this site and also on Facebook. He might be able,to provide more detail. Assuming you’re still interested and the seller is willing to negotiate.
    Last edited by sgarrity; Dec-06-2021 at 7:00pm.

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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    I'm with Shaun. I would contact Dave Harvey. With the serial number and model number, he can give you plenty of info on the mandolin. Gorgeous back.

    Adam

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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    One thing to consider - if it hasn't been played, why is that? Sometimes it's because the instrument is a dog and will never sound much good - even Stradivari turned out a few of those. I assume that would also affect its saleability - how long have they had it?

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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    This old Mandozine interview with Charlie Derrington https://www.mandozine.com/media/CGOW/derrington.html has given me the most complete information I've been able to find on Gibson Master Models and other models, plus a good explanation of serial numbers, wood selection, labels and label signing, etc.

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  36. #22
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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    The seller bought this mandolin as an investment. He is not a player which is why it hasn't been played. As a collector his idea was to keep it in the case and untouched for the most part. He is the original owner and bought it directly from David Harvey.

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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    Quote Originally Posted by Nashville View Post
    The seller bought this mandolin as an investment. He is not a player which is why it hasn't been played. As a collector his idea was to keep it in the case and untouched for the most part. He is the original owner and bought it directly from David Harvey.
    I would like to give you my opinion on purchasing this beautiful Gibson Master Model F5. If you have the resources to acquire it, and feel like it is the "one" you would be happy to have forever, then BUY IT.
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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    Quote Originally Posted by Nashville View Post
    The seller bought this mandolin as an investment. He is not a player which is why it hasn't been played. As a collector his idea was to keep it in the case and untouched for the most part. He is the original owner and bought it directly from David Harvey.
    I'd let him take the risk on the investment then. All your questions are very difficult to answer in terms of how easy it would be to sell. Depends on the market at the time, if someone happens to be interested in this model, etc. A used instrument is used, but if you intend to play it and add to the wear and tear it's value won't be what it is if it is pristine, that's just the nature of the beast. If you are buying it and planning on playing it, you must be ready to accept that. Based on this whole thread, it sounds like a big pass in my opinion. 7k-9k can get you a great mandolin. I wouldn't settle.

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    Default Re: Gibson Master Model vs Custom Master Model - advice please

    Thanks for the link, it's the most I've seen from the legendary C. Derrington. What a great guy!
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