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Thread: Sovereign Mandolin

  1. #1
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    Default Sovereign Mandolin

    Hello,
    This is a mandolin I was given as a gift less than a year ago. It is my first, and I'm having a blast learning to play it. I know little about it - best I've heard is that it is likely mid-20s and I've seen on the internet that Oscar Schmidtt bought out the Sovereign line? Does anyone know anything else about this type of mandolin?

    Thanks so much!
    Bob
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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

    And here are a few more pictures...
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  4. #3

    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

    Or was it that Kay/Harmony bought out the Sovereign line from Schmidtt? Sovereign was a Harmony product in the 1960's. This mandolin is quite similar to a Weymann Mandolute.

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  6. #4

    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

    ...

    Sovereign was the higher-end Oscar Schmidt brand, then they also had La Scala and Stella brands as well. Hilo was their Hawaiian guitar brand from back then, too.

    OS vanished around 1940 and the names of their brands were sold to Harmony. You see Harmony releasing new OS-named instruments (Stella and Sovereign) in late 1939 (?) I think.

    Your mando dates to around c.1920-1925, just as you suspected. RE the Weymann mandolute comment -- yes and no -- these have a more distinct canted top design and they sound like a darker, saucier version of the canted-top flatbacks (with the teardrop shape) produced by Lyon & Healy, Harmony, and Regal at the time. The Weymanns tend to be deeper-bodied and with less of a cant (almost just domed) and higher, thinner bracing, which produces more of a refined tone with (generally) sculpted bass.

    Does that make sense?

    My short-of-it? These things kick butt after they're gone-over and setup.

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  8. #5
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

    It's nice to have a proper, easily searchable Sovereign thread. I figured Mike E would dive in on this, so I am glad, Jake, that you picked it up. I don't know much about them, other than they do seem to be a notch above ordinary and I tend to toss in a desultory bid when they pass by on ebay. Typically, good looking mandolins. Here is one I have in my files which looks very Chicago to me (unlike Bob's) though my guess this is also '20s and predates the Harmony era (or perhaps that started sooner.....) I have seen some very nice bowlbacks under their label as well.

    This would seem a good place for folks to weigh in with a few more examples. I don't have good Mandolute images in my files, but that would also be a nice pair of photos to comp to illustrate Jake's point.

    Mick
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  10. #6

    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

    Definitely predates the Harmony era... I've worked on that same design about a dozen times in various OS-named (and distributor named) variations from the '20s. You can check em out in some reprint catalogs, too -- fun stuff!

  11. #7
    Registered User 8ch(pl)'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

    Nice instrument.

  12. #8
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    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

    Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts and insight into this instrument! I quickly fell in love with it, and I'm excited to see where things go from here.

  13. #9

    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

    Hello! Joined just to post in this thread. I have a Sovereign M280 that is from the 90's I believe but I haven't seen any made that recently anywhere else or been able to find any information on it at all. It was purchased from a local music store in Dickson, Tn called Mary's Music I believe. It is basically the same as this one but darker.

    http://www.elderly.com/vintage/items/90U-5011.htm

    Does anyone have any information on it or links to material where I can learn more about it? Thanks so much.

  14. #10
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    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

    Yours is an imported mandolin that was brought in under a few different brand names and is related to the mandolin in this thread only by name, there is no connection by builder.

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  16. #11

    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

    Gotcha. Thanks so much. Where can I find some information about it?

  17. #12
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    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

    The quick answer is that you probably won't find any definitive information. These didn't set the world on fire and the company that used the name probably didn't use it very long.

  18. #13

    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

    So basically, they were just knock offs? It seems like if there are enough out there that people know kind of what happened with them that there would at least be a site dedicated to bashing them! Ha, I appreciate all of your feedback.

  19. #14
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    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

    Honestly I think you'll find at least one picture of a similar mandolin in the worst scroll of the last century thread but it won't give you any more information.

  20. #15
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    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

    I thought I'd renew this thread with my newly acquired Sovereign...Except for having a replacement bridge, it is all original and in great condition with the original canvus end-loading case.. Plays very nicely and I'll agree about the "darker, saucier" comment.

    I have a serial number stamped on the brace seen below the soundhole: 30 07642

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  21. #16

    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

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    Looks a lot like your mandolin. (in need of some repair obviously)
    Belonged to my grandfather. (more than 60 years old)
    Do you know how old yours is?
    It has a 1927 penny soldered to one of the tuning pegs LOL
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  22. #17

    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

    It is a 1920s Oscar Schmidt Sovereign with rope binding and that was done at that time for instruments with a "Hawaiian" flavour. On that basis, it looks like your mandolin may be made of Koa. Mine is spruce and mahogany.

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  23. #18

    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

    Thanks for the info.
    I notice that your pick guard is lifting up along one edge also, I guess this is normal for mandolins this old.

  24. #19

    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

    Here's a Koa Sovereign- people ask stupid money for these but I don't know if they get it! Some are more Ritzy looking than this model:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9lrhtlApoc

    The pickguard on mine is inlaid into the top and is still flush with the top and the binding all round.

  25. #20
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

    As I said around 10+ years ago (yikes!) on this thread: "It's nice to have a proper, easily searchable Sovereign thread...."

    Nick, the body shape on yours looks distinctly different from Splintered's...his having the distinct recurve at the body / neck joint similar to Notre Capitaine's and yours displaying the "Weyman-esque" body shape we see in OFB's post from a decade ago.

    My hunch is that Oscar Schmidt jobbed out a range of mandolins for different labels...likely some which they owned themselves....similar to L+H's practice.


    They might very well have had two different body molds they were working with at the same time, with both shape mandolins winding up with the same Sovereign nameplate.


    However, Splintered's, the one I posted and that of Mon Capitaine might very well be Chicago made. They certainly look like it.


    Reading back through the thread, I'm in general agreement with Jake...I keep an eye out for Sovereign instruments because some of them were a notch above the basic jobber flatbacks of the time, in material quality, craftspersonship and detailing.

    Other Sovereigns were mandolinas ordinarias, sin salsa.

    Mick
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  27. #21

    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

    Mick, that's interesting and I agree- the shape is most definitely like a Weymann and mine sounds really great, too. Whether or not they were made by other makers, I guess we will never know. I was comparing my Sovereign to the OS Tremolina I recently bought but there were not many similarities- or any as far as I could see This old Stella- which is more like a Sovereign- it started really high and has ebbed away in price over the many months but it is an interesting instrument but has major issues- to say the least!

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/18501363155...0AAOSwCxNhJCDZ

  28. #22
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

    Yes, Nick, Iíve been teasing Mike E and Jim G that they should pool their knowledge and write a book about the local PA / NJ / NY builders: Weymann, Bauer, Schmidt, Ricca, Favilla, etc.

    Even a stab at a comprehensive book on Schmidt, a la the books on Washburn and Regal, would be great.


    Hard not to assume some kind of link between Schmidt and Weymann.

    The Schmidt - Ciani connection is a fascinating story to unravel in its own right.

    Yep, that Stella is a bit of a mess.

    Someone here once posited that the notorious top cracking on Weymann mando lutes was due to an oversized neck block .. had some photos and a theory I wonít try to repeat here, but the Stella top cracking makes me wonder. The neck block might be a clue towards a common origin.

    Mick
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  30. #23

    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

    The bridge on this Sovereign is damaged, part of the plastic portion on the bridge has cracked off. wondering if I can find and/or make a plastic insert to repair.
    I've looked online, and so far can only find solid wood versions, or wood with plastic but not wide enough.Click image for larger version. 

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  31. #24
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    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

    I recommend a bone guitar saddle blank. Some guitar shops sell them. One supplier is AllParts. Another is Luthier's Mercantile. Thin to fit snugly, but not so tight that you crack the bridge. It helps to blunt the sharp edge on the bottom with a fine file. Then cut to size with the tools of your choice.

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  33. #25

    Default Re: Sovereign Mandolin

    You have a suggestion as per above. These old bridges appear on eBay quite often while Jake Wildwood who contributed at the start uses some new bridges that you can see on eBay if you search for "vintage mandolin bridge". This old bridge is not the same but it might do the job- although you will need to get the seller to measure the height and compare it to yours as if it is too short you would have to glue a shim on the base.
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/33448895455...wAAOSwHk9iUFJ1

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