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Thread: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

  1. #1
    Site founder Scott Tichenor's Avatar
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    Default Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

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    Some of this information has appeared elsewhere on the web but I just heard about it and spoke with the author on the phone today. Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941 is a 300 page book set to be published around the first of May and contains a lot of information I think many of us will be interested in reading. From what I gather, there are quite a few missing pieces of the Gibson puzzle that will be presented here. Just one piece of that is the names of most of the employees pre-WWII and of course with that comes some first-hand information. Joe is a genealogist by profession.

    Here's a list of the contents of the book Joe (Spann) sent me:

    Table of Contents:

    Acknowledgements Page iii
    Introduction Page iv
    Chapter 1 - The Factory Page 1
    Chapter 2 - The Employees Page 13
    Chapter 3 – Vendors: 1925 - 1931 Page 45
    Chapter 4 - Factory Order Numbers Page 63
    Chapter 5 - Serial Numbers Page 189
    Chapter 6 - Dealers & Wholesalers Page 193
    Chapter 7 - Teacher-Agents Page 225
    Chapter 8 - Artists & Endorsers Page 235
    Chapter 9 - The Instruments Page 251
    Appendix A – Gibson Banjo Models (1919-1941) Page 265
    Appendix B – Gibson Production Totals Page 285
    Appendix C – 1941 Production Costs Page 286
    Appendix D – Gibson Ephemera Page 287
    Sources Page 295

    At the end there are eight pages of color photographs which show a small portion of Steve Huber's collection of rare Gibson ephemera.

    There are 24 charts included, as listed here:

    Gibson Employees: 1915 – 1945
    Factory Order Numbers: 1902 – 1916 Series
    Factory Order Numbers: 1917 – 1923 Series
    Factory Order Numbers: 1924 – 1925 Series
    Factory Order Numbers: 1925 Banjo Series
    Factory Order Numbers: 1925 – 1931 Series
    Factory Order Numbers: 1927 – 1928 Banjo Series
    Factory Order Numbers: 1931 – 1933 Series
    Factory Order Numbers: 1934 Series
    Factory Order Numbers: 1935 Series
    Factory Order Numbers: 1936 Series
    Factory Order Numbers: 1937 Series
    Factory Order Numbers: 1938 Series
    Factory Order Numbers: 1939 Series
    Factory Order Numbers: 1940 - 1945 Series
    Numerical Serial Number Index: 1905 – 1947
    Letter Prefix Serial Number Index: 1938 – 1940
    Gibson Dealers: Circa 1935
    Gibson Teacher-Agents: Individuals
    Gibson Teacher-Agents: Schools & Studios
    Gibson Endorsers: 1917 – 1942
    Gibson Brand Instrument Models: 1903 – 1941
    Kalamazoo Brand Instrument Models: 1933 – 1941
    Recording King Brand Instrument Models 1929 – 1940

    Ron Middlebrook at Centerstream tells me that we should have books to sell by the first week of May. The retail price is $39.99.

    --------------

    More to come on this bit of information...

  2. #2
    Mandogenerator Mike Black's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    Very cool! I want a copy. Sounds like a good birthday present doesn't it Scott? Thanks for the heads up.

  3. #3
    Site founder Scott Tichenor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    Indeed, Mike, you who shares the same birthday. You can get mine from Elderly . Hmm, somehow I temporarily closed the thread there for a bit. Didn't mean to do that.
    Last edited by Scott Tichenor; Nov-20-2015 at 12:45pm. Reason: correcting redirected link

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    Very interesting and thanks for the alert. Now, if they can solve the Handel tuner mystery...
    Jim

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    Formerly F5JOURNL Darryl Wolfe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    Very cool....he really knows his stuff and has a much broader interest in all things Gibson. He posts on the Martin Guitar Forum and is very respected. The Martin Forum has a vintage section that addresses all things with strings with the expected emphasis on Martin Guitars
    Darryl G. Wolfe, The F5 Journal
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    Registered User Joe Spann's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    Hello Everybody,

    Thanks for the kind words about my soon-to-be book. The publisher (Centerstream) tells me that we should have copies available for sale by the first week of May. Distribution is through the Hal Leonard Organization, so almost every music store on the planet should be able to order them.

    Additionally, I will be selling a limited number of autographed copies directly. The price will be $39.99 plus shipping. At this time I'm simply compiling a list of people who would be interested. If you would like to have your name added to this list, please send me an e-mail to banjospann@msn.com and I'll let you know when the books arrive!

    Joe Spann

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    Hillbilly007 Gary Watkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    Email sent. Count me in!

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    Registered User evanreilly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    Ahhh...
    The mysteries of the FON revealed!!!!!

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    Registered User f5loar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    Bobby Osborne is going to be p***ed when he finds out his 1925 Fern is not a 1925 Fern!!!! Oh my!!!!!!!

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    Registered User Bill Halsey's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    Tom, do you mean Bobby's '26 Fern (84251)? As of a year ago, he had a complete pedigree on that one -- and on his Loar, as well.
    ~Bill~
    "Often wrong, but never in doubt."
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    Registered User f5loar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    Every interview I have seen of Bobby's he consistantly has always called his Fern a '25 including the one he just did for the cafe.
    The Loar has a dated sticker of Dec. 1, 1924, no arguments there but his Fern is well past the '25 numbers and his FON will put it past '27. Grisman has a '25 Fern.
    This new book is going to change lots of old dates that they thought they had.

  12. #12
    Registered User Joe Spann's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    The discussion about Bobby Osborne's F-5 (serial #84251 - FON 9140) provides an opportunity to demonstrate the kind of information available in my new book.

    In chapter 4, there are detailed charts showing the chronology of the various series of Factory Order Numbers (FON's), along with an explanation of what they mean and how they were used. Batch #9140 was a group of F-5 mandolins which were produced in the latter part of 1928, say maybe September.

    In chapter 5, there is a new, corrected index for numerical serial numbers, along with an explanation of how and when serial numbers were used. A serial number of 84251 means that Bobby's mandolin received it's final inspection in January 1929, had the paper label applied and was shipped.

    So, my book helps us to understand that the mandolin was produced late in 1928 and shipped very early in 1929.

    Joe

  13. #13
    Registered User Bill Halsey's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    Terrific!
    ~Bill~
    "Often wrong, but never in doubt."
    --Ivy Baker Priest

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    Registered User f5loar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    He's going to be really p###ed now ! I already knew this but it's a shocker to someone who believes something was one date after having it for over 50 years.

  15. #15
    Registered User Bill Halsey's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    I'd sooner think that the exact year would matter very little to the owner of such a fine sounding instrument. Bobby's a player, not a collector nor a speculator -- it is what it is, and always has been.
    ~Bill~
    "Often wrong, but never in doubt."
    --Ivy Baker Priest

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    Registered User f5loar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    Well if I had bought and paid dearly for what I thought was a nice '57 Chevy BelAir and it turned out 50 years later I had bought a '62 Chevy Nova it would make a difference no matter how fast it ran. Back when Bobby got his Fern from Charles Bailey about all he knew was it was not like Bill's cause it had more fancy pearl up there and didn't have that other label signed by some dude at Gibson with a date on it. He bought it on how it sounded and performed in his hands and he made a life long choice back then.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    I've always felt that Bobby's Fern was a 1927, but, shipped in 1929 you say?? Built in late 1928??
    What year are all the '29's then???
    I am a little suspect here. Are they from the 30's?
    I don't think so, myself.
    Ken

  18. #18
    Registered User f5loar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    Ken, If you go back to those older vintage guides by Gruhn/Carter and others of the 20's/30's serial nos. they said they were only estimates using only approximent last numbers. It's only been in the past 6 years or less that documentation with dated receipts have changed those estimates both in banjos and mandolins. I've known for some time confirmed by Gibson that F5 no. 83660 shipped new in August of 1928. That number is before Osborne's which would put Osborne's in there around early 1929. What I am seeing is they made far less instruments during the great depression and before and after it then was first estimated. You got to admit those are some lean years for F5 production. Even the Great Yoda said "Few and far between the F5 they were."
    So yeah, those we use to think were '29's are more like '32's and '33's. No doubt those luthiers making the signed Loars were still around in early 30's. You don't see a big change in the F5 until around early 1935 which also was a time begining in 1935 the FON were much easier to date. IMO the really good F5 luthiers had all retired by 1935 as you don't see any Loar like qualites after 1935.
    Just as the Jim Mills book opened up new revelations on dating banjos this book by Joe will do the same.

  19. #19
    Registered User Bill Halsey's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    Quote Originally Posted by f5loar View Post
    Well if I had bought and paid dearly for what I thought was a nice '57 Chevy BelAir and it turned out 50 years later I had bought a '62 Chevy Nova it would make a difference no matter how fast it ran. Back when Bobby got his Fern from Charles Bailey about all he knew was it was not like Bill's cause it had more fancy pearl up there and didn't have that other label signed by some dude at Gibson with a date on it. He bought it on how it sounded and performed in his hands and he made a life long choice back then.
    Agree -- darned good choice, too. I imagine that $350 may indeed have been a dear price for a Fern in 1954, but I think he got his money's worth.

    BTW, Bobby said it was people at Gibson who told him that, judging from the serial number, it was a 1925 Fern with a dot on the 3rd fret. He also said that a couple of years ago George Gruhn had eventually changed his own opinion from 1925 to 1926 on this instrument. But, that was then.

    It takes a great deal of experience and self-confidence for a heavyweight appraiser to change his own long-standing opinion on a well-known instrument. At that level they know they must never stop learning, and that opinions are just that. This was one of Dario D'Attili's great strengths -- he'd never try to cover if he had to revise an opinion. He may have had to eat crow now and then, but he certainly had the highest respect of everyone in the industry.

    It seems unlikely to me that subtle historical date changes within such an enormous body of work as 39 years of Gibson production will have much effect on the valuation of most of the individual instruments of that period. Many pieces from those years may get moved around a little bit, but we will be richer for coming closer to knowing what the instruments have always known.
    ~Bill~
    "Often wrong, but never in doubt."
    --Ivy Baker Priest

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    Registered User f5loar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    The good people at Gibson, bless their hearts have been giving out wrong vintage dates for decades. They can't figure out a 60's from a 70's as numbers were used over again. They know less about their past then their future. I suspect George will be re-writting quite a few of his $50 appraisals after this book comes out. But does he get another $50 for going back to correct something he did wrong?

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    Formerly F5JOURNL Darryl Wolfe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    Joes work fits perfectly with what I have been suspecting for a long time. Instruments did not simply change overnight with regard to parts, inlay and finish when Loar left ....and they spent several years ridding themselves of backlog instruments before bulding completely new ones of certain types. We all along had validated proof that many Loar signed instruments were shipped new up into 1926. That fact alone puts many (what we thought) 1925, 1926 1927 instruments as suspect regarding their true date of manufacture

    Great work Joe
    Darryl G. Wolfe, The F5 Journal
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  22. #22

    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    Quote Originally Posted by f5loar View Post
    The good people at Gibson, bless their hearts have been giving out wrong vintage dates for decades. They can't figure out a 60's from a 70's as numbers were used over again. They know less about their past then their future. I suspect George will be re-writting quite a few of his $50 appraisals after this book comes out. But does he get another $50 for going back to correct something he did wrong?
    I don't think he did anything wrong. He made the best appraisal with the best information available to him at the time. Do we expect values to change all that much? Well, seeing how Bobby's mandolin went from a '25 to a '29 then I wonder if mine will jump in to the Loar era.

    I just feel bad for whomever is going to have to go back and update the Mandolin Archive.

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    Registered User Bill Halsey's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    As Andrew said...

    I believe the point here is that Gruhnís appraisals were not wrong when he wrote them. He was going on his lifetime of experience, based on the information available to him at the time, in the way he gathered it. Connoisseurship is an ongoing process, and it is public faith in an appraiserís integrity that gives his work value. If he accepts more recent work by another to be trustworthy, then itís up to him to call the shots on his own opinions.

    Relatively, this is nickel-dime stuff. To give this a little perspective, letís consider that the fact that 84251 is a Gibson mandolin is unquestioned. We are only looking at a few years difference in itís year of manufacture, which is not likely to alter its market value. The fact that it has been a famous musicianís instrument of choice for over 50 years may have as much to do with its value.

    Instruments of the violin family may have great potential market value, but with so many imitations and counterfeits made over several centuries, provenance becomes of central importance in those appraisals. Thus, an appraiserís opinion can make or break the value of a given fiddle or bow. These papers are often issued by dealers at a percentage of the instrumentís appraised value (sound like a conflict of interest?), and can cost thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars, since it is the appraisal that establishes the market value. This is one factor that distinguished DíAttili as a professional appraiser following his retirement from the Rembert Wurlitzer shop -- he was not a dealer, no longer represented one, and had no vested interest in any particular instrument.
    ~Bill~
    "Often wrong, but never in doubt."
    --Ivy Baker Priest

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    Formerly F5JOURNL Darryl Wolfe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    I'm with Andrew and Bill on this one. We know a bit more about Mars now than we did in 1970 too. The facts at the time are the facts at the time. The more info we get the more we know and adjustments get made

    It was not that long ago that we had one single 1922 F5 being known of and then nothing else before February of 1923, and there were only three prototype "1924 Fern Loars"
    Darryl G. Wolfe, The F5 Journal
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    Cafe Linux Mommy danb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941

    Quote Originally Posted by thistle3585 View Post
    I just feel bad for whomever is going to have to go back and update the Mandolin Archive.
    It's bad enough trying to keep up with submissions

    I'm really looking forward to the information here. The big motivation for me to do the archive was always to collect more primary evidence to see what we could find out.

    Information we've had to work with has always been patchy- filling in the holes with more documentation and evidence is really the best way forward. I fully expect information to crop up almost weekly that challenges theories and assumptions I've made. I'm looking forward to seeing what's been uncovered, even if it does mean writing some programs to update the estimated date to serial to FON correlations!
    The Mandolin Archive
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