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Thread: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

  1. #1
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    Well, this thing has gotten to the $ level where I'm unlikely to bid on it, so we might as well discuss ...

    https://shopgoodwill.com/item/145333935

    If that is an original Foam Green custom finish, then this would be one of the rarest of '60s Mandocasters. But I am not an expert in vintage Fender custom finishes, and I doubt anything definitive can be ascertained from an SGW photo. What do y'all think? Original or refin?
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    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    Impossible to say for sure without an in-hand inspection, but it could very well be an original finish. If not, it's a first rate relic job. And while there are folks out there who are capable of doing fine relic jobs, it would seem to me that it would be unusual for one of them to relic a Fender mandolin.

    I found this listing interesting enough to do a little research. Not a whole lot of info is available on these, but using my dog-eared 2nd edition of Gruhn's Guide as a reference, I would date at least the neck of this instrument as circa 1961.

    I don't know where Goodwill got the info on a change in "body style." A limited comparison with other instruments from established dealers leads me to believe that unless I am missing something, Goodwill's statement about it being unique to 1956-57 is not accurate.

    The slab rosewood fingerboard looks correct for c. 1961. Foam Green was indeed an available color at that time.
    If the instrument is authentic, it might be of considerable interest to a Fender collector.

    Pictures of the control cavity, the wiring, the codes on the pots, the back of the pickup, and one of the end of the neck would be essential for correctly dating and confirming the state of originality of the instrument. I doubt that you'll be able to get that from Goodwill, though.

    It is undoubtedly an old Fender though. Although I don't consider myself an expert on these instruments, I see a lot of things that look right, and don't see anything that looks glaringly wrong. But bid at your own risk. The price is getting to the point where bidding is a gamble if the finish is not original. And after reading Goodwill's disclaimer, it seems likely that they will not honor any returns except perhaps if the shipper breaks it in half.
    Last edited by rcc56; Jun-03-2022 at 9:33pm.

  3. #3
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    The SGW statement about the body style is exactly backward. The Mandocaster was introduced in 1956 with a slab body, which this does not have. The contour body was introduced the following year. I don't know what the seller means by "it was changed over to look more like a Stratocaster"; the Mandocaster body shape stayed pretty much the same from 1957 to 1976. I have seen photos on Reverb of what purports to be a prototype Fender mandolin that did have more of a mini-Strat shape, but Fender never sold or marketed such a thing.

    The case and the "Original Contour Body" decal are correct for the early '60s, but not the '50s. At the current price there is no upside on this if it turns out to be a refin, although it would be cool to own and would look nice next to my seafoam green (but not really) FM-984.

    I remember Mandolin Bros. selling a Lake Placid Blue Mandocaster years ago, and Sam Bush used to play one. Never heard of a Foam Green one before.
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    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    OK, I found a pic of a '56 with a slab body. Every other instrument I found had a body similar to the SGW mandolin.
    And I would expect a 50's model to have a maple fingerboard.

    I used to own a '62 Jazz Bass. It was one of the last of that model to have a rosewood slab board. But because of the low production numbers, the slab rosewood boards might well have lasted a bit longer on the mandolins. I do note that the SGW mandolin has a "Pat. Pend" decal. I can't find another Fender mando made before '63 that has a similar decal.

    So we're back to where we started. No way to accurately date the mando or authenticate the finish without opening the instrument up. Let's call it "early 1960's with possibly original custom color finish" and get some sleep.

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    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    Martin, here's the problem. Some years back, when Gruhn Guitars was still at the Broadway location, George told me the following story:

    George had an old custom color Stratocaster in house for authentication. George thought it looked right, but wasn't 100% sure. So perhaps the top Fender refinishing expert [whose name escapes me] happens to walk in the store, and George asks him to look the guitar over. The fellow looks it over, and is ready to pronounce it good, but decides to pull the pickguard off to make sure. When he takes the guard off, he sees his own signature. He had refinished the guitar himself many years ago, and had done so many of them that he didn't remember the instrument. He had been fooled by his own finish job.

    I wish I could remember the fellow's name. Couldn't find it on the web. I'll recognize it if I hear it . . .

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    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    But it does have the most-often-missing bridge cover!

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    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    I remember Mandolin Bros. selling a Lake Placid Blue Mandocaster years ago, and Sam Bush used to play one. Never heard of a Foam Green one before.
    This one looks more like Lake Placid Blue than Sea Foam Green to my eyes, but I'm no vintage Fender expert.

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  10. #8

    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    nice looking instrument!

  11. #9

    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    I believe that the "double line" Kluson tuners debuted in 1964. Of course, the strip may not be original but I somehow doubt it.

  12. #10

    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    So what color is it? The posting said ‘teal’, which is what it mostly looks like on my screen; so I looked up Fender color charts, which seem to be based on contemporary auto paint colors. The charts, of course, don’t accurately represent much, but Sea Foam Green isn’t close.
    All this is new to me: Is the value of this genera strongly connected to the rarity of paint color? Wouldn’t a ‘custom’ color be potentially a one-off - and why would this be at all interesting unless some famous performer had ordered it?
    Clearly a pretty arcane marketplace.

  13. #11

    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    Hard to say if the finish is original -- the lacquer checking would lead us to believe it is, but that, too, can be faked by a good refinisher. From Fender's list of available colors back then, I would say it is closest to Lake Placid Blue that has probably yellowed slightly with age and nicotine smoke over the years. Sometimes the color can change completely to green (from blue.) This is commonly seen in Fender guitars and basses when the pickguard is removed, there is a clear outline dividing the faded/aged color and the pristine original color underneath. Again, hard to say on this mandolin unless the pickguard and neck are removed for verification.
    Here is a picture of a 1965 Fender bass showing this effect. Click image for larger version. 

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    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    Very cool. I’d like to pick one of these up some day, but the price is off putting given the uncertainty (and continued functionality of my 4 string ‘Bird…

    Also, love the Gruhn’s story about the refund guy

  16. #13
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    This might help some of you, for reference. Foam Green and seafoam green are not the same thing.
    https://www.vintageguitar.com/24640/...-in-the-1960s/
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  18. #14
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    I believe that the "double line" Kluson tuners debuted in 1964. Of course, the strip may not be original but I somehow doubt it.
    Excellent eye!

    I had to look this up. "Double line" Kluson tuners are those that say "Kluson" twice on the gear housing. They were introduced in 1965:
    https://www.kluson.com/faq.html#lines

    I don't know of a reason this couldn't be a '65 or later. The Mandocaster specs at GuitarHQ don't suggest that Fender ever stopped using rosewood fretboards on these (although the boards were maple for the first three years or so). And the Original Contour Body decal was used throughout the '60s.

    Anyone know when Fender switched from the original tweed cases to the black ones?
    Last edited by mrmando; Jun-05-2022 at 10:51pm.
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    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    There's conflicting info on when "double line" Klusons were introduced.
    My Gruhn's Guide 2nd edition says 1964.

    I avoid using tuners alone as the final determining factor for dating an instrument. It's not at all unusual to see newer tuners on an older instrument, and I have also seen the opposite.

    The fingerboard appears to be a "slab" rosewood board with a flat bottom. These came in on a few Fender instruments in later 1958, and were common on most models by 1961. Starting in late '62, thinner rosewood boards with radiused bottoms start to appear. As with many changes in specs on many instruments of many brands, the changeover from an older design to a newer one is gradual, and it may take as much as several years for a changeover to become complete.

    Generally, the best way to date an old Fender is to check the neck date, body date [if visible], date codes on the electrical parts [if original], and the style of other things that changed over the years, such as neck plates, decals, tuners, and knobs; and consider all of these factors to assign a date to the instrument. It is not unusual to find Fender instruments that left the factory with parts from 2 consecutive years.

    And on a low production model such as a mandolin, I wouldn't have a problem calling an instrument factory original if it had a neck date of 1962, a neck plate with an 02xxx serial number [a number that first appears in the '50's], and pots dated 1963 or '64 factory original. But on a high production model such as a Stratocaster or Telecaster, I would expect no more than a 2 year spread on the dates of the parts.

    Once more, we're back where we started. I want to see a neck date, pics of the body cavities, and pics of the electirical harness and pot codes before determining the date and state of originality of the instrument. And I'm not going to be reasonably sure about the finish on a Fender custom color instrument without having it in hand. Is it an old Fender? Yes. Is the finish original? Quite possibly yes, but no way to tell for sure with the info we've got.
    Last edited by rcc56; Jun-05-2022 at 11:28pm.

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    There was a batch of mandolin necks dated JAN 66 that lasted several years. I took apart a vintage Mandocaster a while back that was reported as a '72, and it indeed had '72 pot codes and a JAN 66 neck.

    Here's a later Mandocaster with the radiused fretboard end, so the changeover eventually did happen with the mandolins too. https://sacramento.craigslist.org/ms...487976320.html
    Last edited by mrmando; Jun-05-2022 at 11:52pm.
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    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    I have a Gibson guitar and the impressed number dates it to 1970 or 1971 while the pots all date it to 1976. I can only assume it was not finished for five odd years. It was certainly bought new in 1977 and was used on an album that year. I bought it from its original owner. It seems that an instrument could be stored for a while at Gibson and Fender may have had similar quirks for some reason or another.

    With regard to Fender cases, this site is quite a good authority and tells us:

    "In early 1964, Fender moved to a black tolex case with the (same) dark orange interior. This type of case was basically used till the end of the 1970's."

    This matches the tuners in terms of the year of introduction and may not be a coincidence.

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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    Am just about positive that's Lake Placid Blue. Had a ca. 1969 Jazz bass with the same color and fading. First bass I bought in 1981 and overpaid at $300.

    Either way, a very rare instrument. From what little I know, the fading happened in part from sunlight, but also smoke from bars, restaurants and lounges.
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    Correction: on double line tuners, the first line says KLUSON and the second line says DELUXE.

    My eyes ...
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    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    I think if I was in the market for one of these Fender mandos. This would be the one. Not often do you see Rare colors on these.
    Blonds and bursts seem to be the most common.

  25. #21
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Platt View Post
    Am just about positive that's Lake Placid Blue. Had a ca. 1969 Jazz bass with the same color and fading. First bass I bought in 1981 and overpaid at $300.
    I looked at the photos again on my phone, which has better color rendering than the crappy monitor I use with my computer. This mandolin is kind of like my wife's eyes—whether it appears green or blue depends on what's around it. Half the photos look more blue and half look more green.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    I don't know why one of you jomokes here doesn't upload a few photos for when SGW pulls them. Do I have to do everything here?

    BTW I did find on Pinterest a similar-looking one here: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/34832597088513326/

    Price is certainly getting up there, currently at $3500. IDK I am thinking it may be refinished but hard to tell with it not in hand. Possibly refinished a few decades ago hence the crackelure.
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  29. #23

    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    I've never seen one in blue, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. Possibly a custom order?

    $4K with 38 minutes left.......
    Last edited by Jeff Mando; Jun-08-2022 at 1:03pm.

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    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    Just went for $4,010.33
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  31. #25
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Fender Mandocaster on SGW

    Obviously someone thinks it's the real deal. Personally I couldn't afford to spend that much and then find out it was refinished. C'est la vie.
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