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Thread: Going rate for an post-Loar 1920s Gibson A4?

  1. #1

    Default Going rate for an post-Loar 1920s Gibson A4?

    I'm considering purchasing an Gibson A4 of some sort. I'm interested in the post-loar era vintage, since those mandolins received many of the Loar era inventions (truss rod, refinement in neck size, adjustable bridge), but presumably don't come with the same price tag as the Loar era ones.

    That said, I'm not sure what would be a fair price for such an instrument. Assuming all original parts, original case, structurally sound, cosmetically good or very good condition. What is a reasonable range to pay for such an instrument?

    edit - ugh, and excuse the typos in the title of the thread... "Going rate for a post-loar 1920s Gibson A4?"

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Going rate for an post-Loar 1920s Gibson A4?

    Still maybe $2000 to $3000, depending on condition. Perhaps a shade more if all original and squeaky clean.
    Some people have been asking more than that for a long time, but they don't seem to sell at higher prices.

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    Registered User Glassweb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Going rate for an post-Loar 1920s Gibson A4?

    The post-Loar, non-snakehead A4 models are some of the best sounding oval hole mandolins that Gibson ever produced. Every one I have played has been exceptional!

    Pricing-wise I agree with rcc56 above.

  4. #4
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Going rate for an post-Loar 1920s Gibson A4?

    I would tend to agree with both comments above but when I see the ones listed in the MC classifieds they are 4 K and above. If I were in that price range then I would take a good look at the A-4 by Andrew Mowry that the Mandomutt has for sale at the moment...

    http://mandomutt.com/2009-mowry-a-4/

    NFI
    Last edited by Charles E.; Jul-17-2022 at 2:56pm.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  5. #5

    Default Re: Going rate for an post-Loar 1920s Gibson A4?

    Thank for the information. A related question - are 1910s A models and post-loar 1920s A models priced similarly? I see a lot of teens for sale; the relative scarcity of the post-loar mandolins combined with their more modern improvements suggests to me they may command a sightly higher price.

    The many teen A4s that can be found through the well established shops seems to be listed at $3000+. I suspect these are examples of the higher asking prices rcc56 is referring to, but I can't rule out that the valuation of Gibson teens differ from the post-loar mandolins.

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    Default Re: Going rate for an post-Loar 1920s Gibson A4?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    I would tend to agree with both comments above but when I see the ones listed in the MC classifieds they are 4 K and above . . .

    NFI
    Yup. Sitting unsold. The one at $4k has been on the market for a long, long time.

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    In response to joh's question, the paddle head truss rod models may bring a little more than teens models, but that depends on the buyers.
    Except for the snakehead fans, many of the oval hole buyers don't seem to care much about the presence of truss rod, and replica 20's style replacement bridges are easily available to those who want them.

    Bottom line is that we don't see truss rod A-4's in large numbers. Mandolins were starting to fade out of popularity about the time truss rods were introduced, so Gibson wasn't building nearly as many of them as they did in the 'teens.

    Anyone interested in these later A-4's should check the intonation. I had a circa 1930 - 1932 model that had the frets so badly misplaced that I had to replace the fingerboard on it. Once I got that done, it was quite a good sounding mandolin.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Going rate for an post-Loar 1920s Gibson A4?

    rcc56 - as always, I very much appreciate the knowledge and perspective you bring to the forums. Thank you.

    It is surprising to me that oval hole buyers don't value the presence of the truss rod. Repairing a bowed or warped neck that lacks one is much more expensive, no?
    I also would have thought that these post-loar mandolins would be perceived to be sonically superior (on average) due to receiving other Loar improvements that trickled down from the F5s. Some A4s have Virzi tone producers, which suggest to me that Loar and post-loar oval holes likely received other Loar initiated refinements that changed their sound.

    The quality control of the fret spacing certainly is alarming. Is this a widely known issue - i.e. would you expect a respectable retailer to check for this and not it in the description? Have you also observed it in the years that more immediately proceeded Loar's departure (i.e. '25, '26, '27)?

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Going rate for an post-Loar 1920s Gibson A4?

    Actually, severely warped necks on 'teens A models are rare. The necks were generally quite sturdy, and usually hold up well unless subjected to overstringing, poor care, or adverse environmental conditions.

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    Yes, a common belief is that instruments made 1922 through perhaps 1932 sound better. I call them as I hear them, and my experience has been that the year of construction is not a determining factor in the sound quality of oval hole Gibson mandolins. I've heard strong and weak ones built any time from 1910 until the 1930's. The average quality may have gone down during the thirties, but I also remember a particularly good F-4 from 1939.

    The c. 1932 A-4 that I replaced the fingerboard on sounded quite similar to a lot of A models that were built during the teens.

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    I first became aware of out-of-tolerance fret spacing on old Gibson instruments a little over 20 years ago. Since then, I have measured quite a few of them; both mandolins and guitars. The degree of error varies from instrument to instrument. Many are not off far enough to disturb the average ear, others can be a little frustrating but can be made tolerable with some tempered tuning and a little experimentation with the bridge placement, and a few are positively awful.

    Most retailers are still not aware that there were problems. And no, it bears no connection whatever to Loar's association with the company. Problems occur before, during, and after his tenure. They are perhaps more prevalent starting about 1920 and extend at least until WWII. The worst I have seen were in instruments built in the early 1930's.

    Several well known owners of signed F-5's have had fingerboards replaced or fret slots relocated to correct intonation problems. While there is a common belief that the Loar years were a period of impeccable quality control for Gibson instruments, that belief is not accurate.
    Last edited by rcc56; Jul-18-2022 at 1:54am.

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  10. #9

    Default Re: Going rate for an post-Loar 1920s Gibson A4?

    I also vaguely recall reading that Gibson had discontinued some (all?) of the A models for a several years in the late 20s and early 30s. I wouldn't be surprised if expertise and tribal knowledge what lost during that time that lead to, on average, worse A model mandolins in the 30s.

    I wish I could remember where I read that I will try to find a source.


    -------

    Those are very interesting observations regarding the fret spacing. Nearly impossible to evaluate for an online shopper, but something to be aware of nonetheless.

    I had also heard of F-5 Loar owners having fret boards replaced, etc. I always assumed it was because of normal wear and tear from age... Not original construction issues, aha!

  11. #10
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Going rate for an post-Loar 1920s Gibson A4?

    1924 Gibson A Snakehead
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    Registered User Steve Roberts's Avatar
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    Default Re: Going rate for an post-Loar 1920s Gibson A4?

    [/QUOTE] I first became aware of out-of-tolerance fret spacing on old Gibson instruments a little over 20 years ago. Since then, I have measured quite a few of them; both mandolins and guitars. The degree of error varies from instrument to instrument. Many are not off far enough to disturb the average ear, others can be a little frustrating but can be made tolerable with some tempered tuning and a little experimentation with the bridge placement, and a few are positively awful.

    Most retailers are still not aware that there were problems. And no, it bears no connection whatever to Loar's association with the company. Problems occur before, during, and after his tenure. They are perhaps more prevalent starting about 1920 and extend at least until WWII. The worst I have seen were in instruments built in the early 1930's.

    Several well known owners of signed F-5's have had fingerboards replaced or fret slots relocated to correct intonation problems. While there is a common belief that the Loar years were a period of impeccable quality control for Gibson instruments, that belief is not accurate.[/QUOTE]



    Bob Smakula of Smakula Fretted Instruments has strong opinions on this subject and wrote an article for Old Time Herald on Gibson fretboard intonation-

    http://www.allenguitar.com/smakula.htm

    Bob has replaced the fingerboards on two old Gibsons for me, the first a teens A that had terrible intonation, and the second a 1920ish F-4 that had decent intonation but badly worn frets. I can say with certainty that both instruments played better with the new fingerboards. Bob even salvaged the fretboard binding on the F-4 so it is hard to tell that the fingerboard is new.

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  14. #12

    Default Re: Going rate for an post-Loar 1920s Gibson A4?

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    That does appear to be in real nice condition!

    This one popped up on my reverb feed today: https://reverb.com/item/50152167-192...nish-with-case

    It's not the mandolin for me, but you don't see too often a natural finish A4! And the matching case interior to go with it - super cool.

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    Default Re: Going rate for an post-Loar 1920s Gibson A4?

    I have seen several '22's that would not play in tune, but a 1mm shim at the end of the fingerboard moving the nut back cured it nicely.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Registered User Glassweb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Going rate for an post-Loar 1920s Gibson A4?

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    Not gonna happen...

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