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Thread: Identify 100 year old mandolin

  1. #1

    Question Identify 100 year old mandolin

    Hi

    My great grandmother got a boyfriend at the age of 87, and he lived 10-20 years in Asia before moving back to Europe and meeting her. I have inherited his Mandolin which I'd like to restore and give to my boyfriend who loves historical stringed musical instruments for Christmas. The Mandolin is most likely bought between 1920-1940 but I'm not sure and it might be older. Can anyone help me gather more information about the Mandolin? I know he will appreciate all information I can pass on to him


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    Thank you! - May you get exciting mandolins for Christmas as well.

    P.S. The image quality seems to be reduced. I've made a Google Drive folder where you can see them in higher resolution here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folde...im?usp=sharing
    Last edited by SolveigF; Nov-22-2022 at 10:16am. Reason: Image quality

  2. #2
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identify 100 year old mandolin

    Until I saw that you had larger images I thought it was a Supertone mandolin made for and sold by Sears Roebuck in the US. I believe this is a 1920 Chicago-made mandolin made by Harmony Co. The tailpiece is very nicely engraved as is the pickguard.

    I see that it says Sovereign on the headstock which is a Harmony brand. This looks like an all-mahogany mandolin. The bridge does not look original to me.

    Here are the three photos larger. It looks to be in decent shape. A luthier can tell you how playable it is but it looks to be in pretty good shape.
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    Jim

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Identify 100 year old mandolin

    The tailpiece cover with that engraving is a style used by Oscar Schmidt ( I have an OS mandolin from the early 30s with that tailpiece design of engraving) and when this mandolin was made, Sovereign was an OS brand. The brand name along with Stella and one other was sold to Harmony in 1939 after this mandolin was made. I also own a circa 1930 Oscar Schmidt Hilo Hawaiian steel guitar that was retailed by the very same Hong Kong company whose name is on the mandolin case. Cleary, this piano retailer dealt with Oscar Schmidt.

    Edit: Here is a similar mandolin but not the same wood top- spruce. At some point OS started tacking on a plate with the name Sovereign on it- this style may predate that. The tuners on this one below make me think circa 1930 but it may be later. The bridge on this one is almost certainly original. https://reverb.com/item/13807446-sov...r-schmidt-used
    Last edited by NickR; Nov-22-2022 at 1:15pm.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identify 100 year old mandolin

    Sovereign was indeed an Oscar Schmidt brand name at the time this was built and it appears to be made of Koa not Mahogany. Don't do anything to restore this, you have an instrument that appears to be in excellent condition. What it does need is a setup and your local Guitar Center or mom and pop (with few exceptions) are not really the place to take them for that. If you can indicate where you are located we might be able to recommend someone that would be qualified to do the work. That's a nice instrument and whatever you do take care of the case as well.
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  8. #5
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identify 100 year old mandolin

    Thanks, Nick, for the clarification. Sounds like OS lasted until 1940 and Harmony bought them out and use the Sovereign brand.
    Jim

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  9. #6

    Default Re: Identify 100 year old mandolin

    We had a discussion about an old Koa Sovereign here not so long ago. The owner began to restore it which I think was a new thread. Here it is in the link on the first post- and it has that metal plate tacked on while it has the same engraved tailpiece cover and original bridge:

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...this-Sovereign

    With regard to the mandolin in question with its very flashy pickguard, my Hilo steel guitar also has the most amazing pickguard. Now, its fixing bracket to me yells out 1930s Czechoslovakia and I assumed it was an after market addition. This mandolin has got me thinking that maybe this piano retailer liked gaudy pickguards and may have added on the pickguard on my Hilo before it was retailed. On another matter, I am amazed that instruments retailed in humid old Hong Kong do not show signs of their time in the tropics! I saw an auction of a Gibson L-00 that had a Calcutta label inside and I have never seen so much warping and cracking but I suppose as an L-00 there would be a buyer who might have the expertise to try and fix it- or was hoping he had!

  10. #7

    Default Re: Identify 100 year old mandolin

    As your name is Scandinavian and you mention Europe, it might be a good idea to mention your homeland as maybe some of the European members here might be able to recommend someone to look at the mandolin. It could be that it just needs a suitable bridge but having an expert eye cast over it would be very helpful.
    Your mandolin's case looks to be American and with the retailer's name on it suggests it is original. My Hawaiian guitar- which has the retailers decal on the guitar headstock has a British Reliance case from the exact period it was made which makes sense as Hong Kong was a British colony. It could be the retailer got Oscar Schmidt of Jersey City, to ship the mandolins having bought the cases first but the retailer could have sourced cases from the USA and Britain dependent on need.

  11. #8
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identify 100 year old mandolin

    We do have a few members in Denmark. Hopefully one of them can suggest a luthier.
    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
    --M. Stillion

    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
    --J. Garber

  12. #9
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identify 100 year old mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    Sovereign was indeed an Oscar Schmidt brand name at the time this was built and it appears to be made of Koa not Mahogany.
    Good eye on the Koa, Mike.

    I agree this is from the NJ folks.

    Schmidt era Sovereigns are on my regular radar.

    Better quality and a range of innovations or one offs.

    Solveig's boyfriend is about to acquire a nice axe.

    Mick
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