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Thread: New member with an old mandolin

  1. #1

    Default New member with an old mandolin

    Hi.

    I found this mandolin at a flea market and bought it for close to nothing.

    According to my googleling it's a Fratelli M. & G. Casella from around the 1920's Catania, Sicily but I could be wrong.
    The reason for this assumption is that i found a document on a homepage (link) depicting a model that very closely resembles my mandolin.

    I hope some of you can help me out a bit and provide with some more qualified information about my new mandolin.
    Also, since I bought it very, very cheaply, it would be nice to know how much it was worth.

    And now, pics:

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  2. #2
    Confused... or?
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    Default Re: New member with an old mandolin

    No expert here but looks pretty sweet to me, especially if the inlaid tortise-shell pickguard is all there. It's tough to tell from the photos, and that may be the first question from the real experts.
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  3. #3
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: New member with an old mandolin

    I think you nailed the ID. That is what the stamp says. No reason to doubt that. It looks like a perfectly serviceable Italian bowlback, simply adorned but will prob be fine as a player. From what you intimate, I am pretty sure it is worth much more than you paid. OTOH, don't expect to put your kid thru college from the proceeds of the sale. Are there any cracks and warpage?
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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: New member with an old mandolin

    Mario Casella was indeed a Catanese maker of instruments. Apparently for awhile he also worked with his brother Gaetano. I' have some examples from both in my files. Unfortunately, I don't know much about the particulars of the men.

    Catania has had an extensive history of instrument including mandolin production, though a much of this ended during the war as the city was heavily bombed. Some Catanese luthiers survived, or began again after the war and continue to this day.

    Both i fratelli and Mario (by himself) made quite a range of mandolins, from some more plain models to those quite exuberantly decorated. While the various Sicilian makers are sometimes sniffed at by devotees of the Roman mandolins, the Casellas' work seems to be of very good quality.

    Mick
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: New member with an old mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    While the various Sicilian makers are sometimes sniffed at by devotees of the Roman mandolins, the Casellas' work seems to be of very good quality.
    ...or the devotees of the mandolin makers of Naples, for that matter. I believe that the Catanian makers' instrument designs would be closer to the Neapolitan makers rather than the Roman FWIW. The OP's instrument certainly falls into that category.
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    Default Re: New member with an old mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    ...or the devotees of the mandolin makers of Naples, for that matter. I believe that the Catanian makers' instrument designs would be closer to the Neapolitan makers rather than the Roman FWIW. The OP's instrument certainly falls into that category.
    If it walks like a duck, and sniffs like a duck.

    Mick
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: New member with an old mandolin

    I've never heard a duck sniff, but we've seen some Catanian mandolins that aped the Roman design and others that looked more Neapolitan. But it seems only Catanian luthiers found it necessary to brand the tops of their mandolins.
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    Default Re: New member with an old mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I think you nailed the ID. That is what the stamp says. No reason to doubt that. It looks like a perfectly serviceable Italian bowlback, simply adorned but will prob be fine as a player. From what you intimate, I am pretty sure it is worth much more than you paid. OTOH, don't expect to put your kid thru college from the proceeds of the sale. Are there any cracks and warpage?
    Well, in Danish kroner, I paid what amounts to little more than regular menu at McD so all in all, quite a steal ;-).
    But... It has not survived completely unharmed.

    As far as I can tell there has been a small crack on the front and on the back that has been repaired.
    They were repaired very well so no structural problems there.

    The pickguard is also slightly warped but not serious enough that it's even noticeable unless you get very close to it.

    Another thing I've noticed is that the dark circle around the sound hole probably is old glue and not ornamental as previously thought. Because if I compare it to the example I found on an Italian page then the location is quite consistent with an ornameltal ring that might have come off some time ago.

  9. #9
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: New member with an old mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    I've never heard a duck sniff, but we've seen some Catanian mandolins that aped the Roman design and others that looked more Neapolitan. But it seems only Catanian luthiers found it necessary to brand the tops of their mandolins.
    Not really so, Martin. DeMeglio (as well as some others) used a stamp on some of their tops. This DeMeglio stamp looks a bit less like it was heated up over a campfire.

    Trouble is when you are driving herds of those mandolins up the coast, they're likely to get mixed up.

    Sometimes the Catanese builders mixed metaphors. I have a Puglisi "mandola" with a canted top and carved maple back stained a very Gibson-esque wine color. Go figure.

    BTW, Mr. Banana Dog if you could get a closeup shot of the label in your mandolin, I'd greatly appreciate it...

    Mick
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  10. #10

    Default Re: New member with an old mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    BTW, Mr. Banana Dog if you could get a closeup shot of the label in your mandolin, I'd greatly appreciate it...
    Hi Mick

    I'm not sure what label you're referring to.

    The first picture shows builders mark branden on the top and the last picture shows the remains of a "Fabbrica Italiana" sticker inside the sound hole.
    Other than that I really can't see any other labels.

    Toni

  11. #11

    Default Re: New member with an old mandolin

    @brunello97

    Is this the label you're referring to?

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: New member with an old mandolin

    Yes, Toni, thanks. I guess I was expecting the label might have a bit more information on it, given the other Casella labels. This looks quite generic.

    Mick
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: New member with an old mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by bananhunden View Post
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    From the pic above it looks like that generic "Fabrica"label is pasted over another one, You can see the border of the label underneath.
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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: New member with an old mandolin

    Whose your optician, Jim? I've got to come to NYC for my next pair of glasses.

    If that's so we ought to be able to get a 'make' on that border below.

    Mick
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: New member with an old mandolin

    That border did not match any of the Casella instruments in my files. Mick posted a couple of the label variants and the others I have in my files are similar. Possibly that border belongs to a label of the store or distributor who imported or sold it.
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  16. #16

    Default Re: New member with an old mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    From the pic above it looks like that generic "Fabrica"label is pasted over another one, You can see the border of the label underneath.
    Hi Jim.

    Actually upon closer examination there is only that label, the top of it is just damaged.
    The lower part of the label, inside the sound hole, clearly shows that it's just a generic label with the "Fabbrica" print.

    It sounds like the value of my new instrument is steadily declining

    Toni

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: New member with an old mandolin

    Well, Toni, that depends on how you define "value". It is a rather modest mandolin to begin with and not something that you might expect to make much money on if you were to resell it.

    The detailing is a bit rough but even modest Italian mandolins have what our friend Martin Jonas describes as a 'shimmering' sound. (A quite lovely description.) If it is something you might get set up to play, I imagine its value may be quite ascendant.

    The labeling/stamping on many of these old Italian (and American) made bowls can be quite shadowy. It is hard to always be certain who made what and which mandolins may have been made elsewhere and simply stamped or labeled with a maker's name. I believe some folks did both--built some and also marketed some made elsewhere. There are tales of herds of mandolins (or parts) being made in Sicilia that then relabeled by shops in Napoli and Roma. Not sure that the Casellas were involved in this, but the wide disparity in the quality of these examples opens some questions.

    Many of us here quite like maple (adorn) bowls and this one looks quite nice. The provenance of your mandolin may be less important than its condition and playability. Get some nice (very) lightweight strings and make some music. I'm not a McDonald's aficionado, but I can imagine their prices to be quite low. The strings may set up back as much as the instrument.

    Mick
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    Default Re: New member with an old mandolin

    I did string it up with some light weight strings and it sounds quite lovely. Shimmering is actually a very apt description.

    I really wasn't planning on selling it. The reason for the rough appraisal was actually because of my insurance company but I won't bother with it if it's not worth that much.

    At the end of the day it's my first mandolin and I'm already quite taken with it so I'll just play the hell out of it until one of us breaks .

    Thanks for the help guys. It's nice to know that I wasn't completely off to begin with.

    Toni

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: New member with an old mandolin

    It is probably a Casella and there is still a possibility of a another label under that "Fabrica" one. Value, as Mick says, is what it is -- prob not 4 figures but decent quality antique and worth playing. make sure you use light or ultra light gauge strings.
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    Default Re: New member with an old mandolin

    Casella.

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    Default Re: New member with an old mandolin

    Sorry for the inconvenience. I am a student at the University of Technology of sound and musical instruments industry in manufacturing of musical instruments. As part of my thesis I undertook the restoration of a guitar Fratelli Mario & Gaetano casella. I am looking to find information about the two men. I send you some photos of this guitar to see the restoration procedures. Thank you for taking the time for me and I hope you answer soon.

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    Default Re: New member with an old mandolin

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  24. #24
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: New member with an old mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by bananhunden View Post
    At the end of the day it's my first mandolin and I'm already quite taken with it so I'll just play the hell out of it until one of us breaks .
    It looks like the mandolin to do it with too. Enjoy.
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