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Thread: Doug Unger Mandolin??

  1. #1
    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Doug Unger Mandolin??

    What am I missing here? a $9,000 A5 from a builder I'm not familiar with, misrepresented tuners, and NO CASE.....for $9,000?? The inlay looks nice though.....

    http://www.elderly.com/vintage/items/90U-6191.htm

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    Registurd User pjlama's Avatar
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    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    He must be somebody special. I have no idea either but Eldery either screwed up the pricing or knows something we don't.
    PJ
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    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    Gibson F5 'Harvey' Fern, Gibson F5 'Derrington' Fern
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    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    Unger has a pretty fanatic following as a luthier and builder of highly ornate banjo reproductions and replacement necks. The inlay work on that mandolin is the real deal, not just some transfer or laser cut stuff. I don't have a clue as to how his mandolins sound, but Bernunzio had one a few years back that a friend had played and said was excellent. As for the price? Well, that's a fine line, but Elderly isn't known for giving stuff away.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    John Bernunzio used to have one or two of Unger's banjos and mandolins in his inventory pretty much full-time. I never played one, since the prices were beyond my means and I wished to avoid temptation. The inlay work was always exceptional, and from what I gathered this was the main selling point -- like the old "presentation" instruments that builders used to make for special occasions or special customers.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    From what I understand from some mutual friends, DU is a real character and a true artist but doesn't make many instruments. The truth is in the playing, of course and I would imagine that this will; either sell to someone who is looking specifically for a mandolin made by Mr. Unger or plays it in person and is enthralled. Tho not the highest price for an A model is it certainly up there just below Dudes and Gilchrists (and actually above the Model One Gils).
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    Registered User mtucker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    Quote Originally Posted by sgarrity View Post
    What am I missing here? a $9,000 A5 from a builder I'm not familiar with, misrepresented tuners, and NO CASE.....for $9,000?? The inlay looks nice though.....
    dunno....that mandolin was listed on Elderly's website for several months at $4,000 or 4,500 ... it disappeared, now back for $9k...perhaps mispriced. edit: second thought, maybe it was listed on Bernunzio's website...don't remember which...?
    Last edited by mtucker; Aug-24-2012 at 5:49pm. Reason: text added

  8. #8

    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    Doug Unger is the real deal --I mean REALLY the real deal! His workmanship is flawless. If you want to see what "attention to detail" means you need to see Doug's work! I remember an F5 that he had way back in the 70's with an inlayed dragon on the back,a truly beautiful mandolin and maybe the best one ever, at least up to that date. He is considered the best pearl engraver in the country,if not the world. I recently saw some torch and wire head stock inlays that he did for a special edition of Collings guitars. Pretty stunning work.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    Doug Unger is an artist, and this is reflected in his instruments. Take a look at this F4 from 1983:

    http://www.intownguitarrepair.com/ig...yle_mando.html

    These appeal to collectors because of their beauty and to pickers because of their old time sound.

  10. #10
    Registered User mtucker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    Found a really nice tribute to the man and artist. Correction: the one currently on Elderly's site is a 2012 and nearly new...the one I saw last year for less moolah, was older than that.


    beautiful work, here's another example from Elderly's website.
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    Last edited by mtucker; Aug-25-2012 at 1:21pm.

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    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    mtucker........thanks for the tip. Really enjoyed it.

  13. #12
    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    His banjos are certainly works of art. The inlay work is fantastic. I wonder how his mandolins sound.....

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    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    On the one Elderly has, the way the perforated tailpiece matches the block inlay on the fretboard is real artistry!

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    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    I first met Doug around 1970 or so and have been good friends since then. I own two of his banjos and one of his mandolins. I've also seen other banjos and mandolins he's made, a torch and wire F-2 he renecked, hung out at his shop and played a fair amount of music with him. Doug has never failed to impress. First and foremost, you'd be hard pressed to find a better person: incredibly serious about his work with an insane sense of style and detail, he also knows way too many bad jokes.

    He's best known as the go to guy if you're looking for turn of the century, Fairbanks style inlay and engraving. For my money, I'd take his work over the original Fairbanks master Consalvi. Doug retired a few years ago from Kent State where he was professor of painting. I believe his paintings sell in a similar range of the mandolin in question. His banjos start around $5k and beyond the price of the mandolin.

    The Unger mandolin I have, in my humble opinion, is more attractive then the one at Elderly. It's more or less an A model with "humps" as opposed to point at the shoulders. It has "rope" type binding around the top that is alternating pearl and abalone. The headstock inlay/engraving is his own design.

    Sound-wise, it has a good bluegrass chop. It's surprisingly sweet. I've shown it to a Bluegrass mandolin player who said it's the best old time mandolin they've ever played. I've shown it to an old time player who said it was the nicest bluegrass mandolin they ever saw. I showed it to Hans Brentrup who spent a fair amount of time quietly looking at the details and finally looked up, slowly shaking his head, said, "don't ever sell this..." I do wish the mandolin had a little more volume and maybe more "headroom. I tend to play too hard.

    I currently own a snakehead A-4 (which Doug turned me onto) a '29 F-4 and one of the better sounding Bush F-5s. If things go south, the Unger would be the last to go. I'll try to have one of my kids post pictures. I'm anxious to hear people's opinion once someone's played it.

    Tom Mylet
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  17. #15

    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    the 9k mando is still there

    however, i attach a link which puts things into more perspective imho
    especially regarding the precision of hand cut inlay work

    take a close look at this stew mac link for the copy and the details in this type of artisanal work

    http://www.stewmac.com/tsarchive/ts0038.html

    to each his own
    its a beauty imho
    but
    there are duffs, ellis, etc

    that price puts you sorta close to Gil A

  18. #16

    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    There are Duffs and Ellis's, Gils and Dudes and Henderson's and a few others that most of us can name and they all cost. There is a small but elite group of very top of the line instrument builders. I think Doug Unger's work is up there with them and his inlay and engraving is next to none. The fit and finish of everything he does is flawless and the people that are most impressed with his craftsmanship are other craftsman. I think he's not as well known in the mandolin community because his mandolin construction is not as prolific as some others. He is, I believe, better known in the banjo community. Like Gilchrist, who has had a long time relationship with Gruhn, Doug Unger has had a decades long relationship with Stu Cohen of The Music Emporium and Eric Schoenberg. He's not new to the scene, just a little under the radar.

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    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    I met Doug Unger at the Washington County Fair in Marietta OH, back in the early 80's. I had been on stage sitting in on a couple numbers with my good friends The McCumbers Brothers, and Doug approached me later and asked to see my mandolin, a 1925 A-Jr.

    Doug noticed that I had aftermarket tuners on the Gibson, I explained that I had the originals in the case, and that I had no use for them and would be glad to get rid of them. Doug quickly corrected me, and strongly advised me to hold on to any and every thing that I might ever swap out on that mandolin...tuners, bridge, tailpiece, pick guard, whatever. He gave me a crash course on old instruments and the value of their parts that afternoon!

    I never forgot his kind manner, passion for the instruments, and the fact that he didn't try to take advantage of a naïve picker with his first pre-war Gibson mandolin. He is a class act in my book.

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  21. #18
    NY Naturalist BradKlein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    What an impressive shell engraver. Take a look at the headstock of the instrument that started this discussion a while back. Was there ever a lovelier fern?

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    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    I agree his inlay work is exceptional, but beauty doesn't make music. I would like to hear one of his instruments. Anyone out there got a sound byte or video of one?

  23. #20
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    Quote Originally Posted by George R. Lane View Post
    I agree his inlay work is exceptional, but beauty doesn't make music. I would like to hear one of his instruments. Anyone out there got a sound byte or video of one?
    Feature vid on Unger (mostly banjo & luthiery):



    Another banjo-oriented one:



    Couldn't find a mandolin feature...
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  24. #21
    formerly Philphool Phil Goodson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    I played the Unger A style mando last month at the Elderly booth at IBMA in Raleigh. The inlays were beautful. So much so that when I picked it up, I really didn't expect much of the sound. Figured that something that fancy looking probably wouldn't sound so great.

    I was surprised at the richness of the sound when I played it. Complex, smooth, ... nice. Even had a pretty good chop. Best mando I ever played?? No, not really, but definitely in the top 10-15 I've ever played.
    If judged just on the blank instrument, without a billion hours or inlay etching and such, I'd expect to pay maybe $4-5K for an instrument like this.

    Felt good in the hand too. Played nice. ("Noted good!" )
    Phil

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    Another ornate slight two-point model just listed in the classifieds by Music Emporium.
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  26. #23

    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    Doug Unger and Stu Cohen(Music Emporium) have been doing business together going back a long time. Stu is deep down a banjo man and Doug is famous for the necks he has done. The Music Emporium was in Pittsburgh several years before moving to Cambridge. Doug Unger was doing work for Stu when he was still in Pittsburgh.The Music Emporium has been in Massachusetts since maybe 1975--- at least. Doug did some Collings guitar head stock inlays for a special issue Music Emporium Anniversary model a couple of years ago. That is a dazzling mandolin!

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  28. #24
    Registered User bernabe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    Quote Originally Posted by Philphool View Post
    I played the Unger A style mando last month at the Elderly booth at IBMA in Raleigh. ...I was surprised at the richness of the sound when I played it. Complex, smooth, ... nice.
    I played it as well and was indeed a good mandolin

  29. #25
    NY Naturalist BradKlein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Doug Unger Mandolin??

    As with my fern post above (18)… what a flower pot!

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