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The Reiner Mandolin Collection Coming Up For Sale

By Dan Beimborn
May 27, 2012 - 1:45 pm

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Earliest instrument in the Dave Reiner Collection, 1905 Gibson A4 Mandolin #5544. Photo credit: Dan Beimborn.

Earliest instrument in the Dave Reiner Collection, 1905 Gibson A4 Mandolin #5544. Photo credit: Dan Beimborn.

It's not too late. You can turn back now.

Click the "X" in your browser window or simply push back from the computer and shut down. Just walk away if you must! Still with us? Prepare to view examples of some truly remarkable collector-grade instruments.

Dan Beimborn of the Mandolin Archive asked for our help in getting the word out about the sale of the Dave Reiner Mandolin Collection and we were happy to oblige.

And what a collection it is.

Dave has long been a supporter of the Mandolin Cafe, and knowing this would mean we'd get the first look at some incredible instruments he's acquired over the years we can now say you won't be disappointed at what you're about to see.

A fan of the Mandolin Archive, Dave invited Dan to Boston to document his collection, and in the process he compiled over 500 photos of Dave's instruments, now a permanent part of the Mandolin Archive (linked at the bottom of this article).

Dan offered to record his experience visiting and documenting the collection in writing and the results appear below. Enjoy!

The Reiner Mandolin Collection

I started the Mandolin Archive nearly 10 years ago as a recreational technical project that lined up with a favorite hobby. The technical work was quite fun and rewarding, but it's always been the people I've met through the site that make it worth doing.

The Archive email box gets a lot of messages. Sometimes they come from civilians, or non-musicians wondering if I can help tell them details about a family heirloom. Luthiers and repairmen also get in touch quite often looking for parts, photos of an obscure feature, or for introductions to like-minded souls they could speak to about a particular restoration.

One particularly fun group I hear from is the people who collect vintage mandolins.

I don't know quite what it is about these old instruments, but sometimes a little voice speaks to us and tells us "one is not enough." Sometimes the voice even says "ten is not enough," and here's where we meet our protagonist.

Dave Reiner first got in touch with me by email many years ago, sending in photos and serial numbers for a few instruments. I started to remember I'd seen his name before when a new submission would come in, and I started to notice his name popping up on the Mandolin Cafe Classifieds quite often too.

1924 (Loar Period) Gibson H4 Mandola #74902

1924 (Loar Period) Gibson H4 Mandola #74902. Truss rod H4 mandola. Arrow end tuners, emerald green case, strong flame figure on back, amazing playability and tone. Ding on top lower bout, possible old repair near top scroll. Fantastic and rare example of archetype Loar period Mandola.

1924 (Loar Period) Gibson H4 Mandola #74902
Photo credit: Dan Beimborn

Dave popped me a note last winter that really caught my eye. He let me know that he had amassed a large collection of collector grade Gibson mandolins — examples of all the best stuff and in spectacular condition. He let me know that he was reaching retirement age so it was time to move them on. He asked if he could entice me over to visit and help photograph and document the collection before he started selling pieces.

I'm generally powerless to resist when I have a chance to see multiple F4s, A2zs, a Loar period H4 mandola, some Orville-labeled early pieces, and all in a house where the dad, his wife, and his sons play together in The Reiner Family Band. Taking photos of mandolins is another favorite hobby. It's quite tricky to get it just right, and often next-to-impossible to have more than a single subject at a time to work with. It took a fair bit of time to appease the travel scheduling gods, but once that was all in place I was ready to take pictures.

1921 Gibson F4 Mandolin #65435

1921 Gibson F4 Mandolin #65435. Back with unusual Neapolitan or "Skunkburst" finish. Three clear stain colors applied in a single vertical stripe instead of the usual circular sunburst. Sides also matching. Black top, nice crisp clear scroll carving on this example. Nice warm tone.

1921 Gibson F4 Mandolin #65435
Photo credit: Dan Beimborn

When I arrived at Dave's house, it was already quite late in the evening, so time to turn in. He had me staying in the music room which had all of the cases on a shelf. I only peeked in two of them that night, because I knew I'd be powerless to resist playing them and making a noise.

The morning showed just the kind of light I love to see — a thin cloud cover that would help minimize reflections. I decided I would separate the jobs of photography and examining the instruments in detail, so we started off in chronological order.

I photographed instruments for about four hours then had a break and first really started playing them a bit. It's really hard not to tune up and strum when you have so many nice ones to look at. I couldn't go strictly chronologically. Too many things I'd never had a chance to really try before that I had to get to first.

1922 Gibson A4 Mandolin #69619

1922 Gibson A4 Mandolin #69619. Unusual/unique lemon yellow case appears all original.

1922 Gibson A4 Mandolin #69619
Photo credit: Dan Beimborn

I took about 20-30 minutes with each instrument in-hand, and took as much time as I could to play and enjoy them all after. All sorts of really cool features cropped up: a unique Neapolitan sunburst, a gorgeous set of early engraved Handel tuners, a double-stamped FON, a clearly original and so-far unique lemon yellow interior A-model case, some un-scraped inlay finish, Virzi labels, visible locating pin marks on pegheads, differences in cases and case goodies, and just a wonderful variety of tones and sounds from them all.

Reiner Collection Instruments

L-R: 1915 Gibson F4 Mandolin #28162, 1923 Gibson Snakehead A2Z Mandolin #74946, Gibson F4 Mandolin #17564 with 1912 shipment date.

Reiner Collection Instruments
Photo credit: Dan Beimborn

We went back out into the breach when the dreaded noontime sun had departed, and I made my way into the last third of the instruments. When the outdoor light faded, it was time for a bit of dinner and music with Dave & Sons. I was given free rein to select any mandolin in the house, which took a bit longer to decide than I reckoned on. It's hard to pick a favorite. Sort of like mandolin speed dating. You get a glimpse of everything, but those are often just reminders for which ones to try again in more detail later.

The next morning was an early start and the final push. Dave was operating a rotation system where a new instrument would be "on deck" while I was photographing the previous one. I'd work my way through a preset list of shots to get and try to take anything else that grabbed my eye, about 20 pictures of each mandolin. A bit into the morning I knew I was in good shape, so more time to play. That morning there were two A2zs, an A4 with Virzi, multiple Loar period F4s, and a truss-rod H4. It was heaven.

A few particular favorites stand out in my mind. The H4 nearly killed me in looks and tone. The A2zs now rank as the top 2 I've ever tried. An early teens F4 with gorgeous violin-like varnish on a single-piece back, combined with the sharply-carved scroll ridges the early 2-point F4s share also knocked me flat. I just sat and stared at the "Skunkburst" for 10 minutes without speaking.

Many thanks to Dave for his hospitality. He tells me he will be listing the mandolins for sale in the near future. Keep an eye on the Mandolin Cafe classifieds!

Additional information

List of all instruments in collection:

1923 Gibson F-4 - #74123

1923 Gibson F-4 - #74123. Very nice Loar period F4. Peghead shows sign/dot of the locating pin for putting the peghead overlay on (just above the letter e in "The" ). Arrow-end tuners with nicely blued center screws, great tone and volume. Emerald green case. Nicely figured back with fine varnish crazing.

1923 Gibson F-4, #74123
Photo credit: Dan Beimborn

1917 Gibson F4 Mandolin #42406

1917 Gibson F4 Mandolin #42406. Red sunburst, purple case, unusually nice Handel tuners. Very nice condition, shiny finish. Back has a very nice soft warm sunburst.

1923 Gibson F-4, #74123
Photo credit: Dan Beimborn

1920 Gibson F4 Mandolin #58562

1920 Gibson F4 Mandolin #58562. 1920 manufacture date (traditional estimates). Sunburst finish, red case, marbling on tuner buttons.

1920 Gibson F4 Mandolin #58562
Photo credit: Dan Beimborn


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Reader Comments

May 27, 2012 02:23 PM
Oh goodness.......
Jim Ferguson
May 27, 2012 02:30 PM
Spectacular collection. Thanks for sharing.
Chip Booth
May 27, 2012 02:40 PM
Beautiful instruments! I used to have a transition period A4 with a yellow case that was almost certainly original.

May 27, 2012 03:03 PM
Quote from Chip Booth: Beautiful instruments! I used to have a transition period A4 with a yellow case that was almost certainly original. End Quote

I think it's the exact same one Chip, ding at about 11 above soundhole.

*edit.. checked the case wear too, same instrument for sure
Chip Booth
May 27, 2012 03:46 PM
Huh. I got this instrument from a lady in the US north east about 5 or 6 years ago. As I recall she was the third owner and knew the general lineage of the instrument, which I think was all local to her. I traded it to Greg Boyd maybe a year later.

Just checked, yep, same serial number! I will be interested to see how the sale goes.
May 27, 2012 04:07 PM
Interesting. I was quite partial to that one myself- really nice crisp tone, and quite a beauty as well with that curly red back.
May 27, 2012 04:26 PM
So when and where are they going to be for sale?
May 27, 2012 04:35 PM
If I can stop drooling , must go out and buy a lottery ticket......
May 27, 2012 04:45 PM
I think Dave's going to list a couple on the cafe classifieds soon
Larry S Sherman
May 27, 2012 05:48 PM
Does he collect fiddles too?
May 27, 2012 07:03 PM
I do not want that H-4. I do not want that H-4.
What a gorgeous collection. Smashing shots from Dan. Thanks so much for sharing this, Dan and Dave.
May 28, 2012 03:59 AM
I met Dave around Christmas before last - he has family here and visits occasionally - and we got together for a pleasant if brief picking session. First Café member I have met, and had a very nice time with him and his wife and son. I recall him saying something about not bringing the F-4 this time, probably in response to my expressed desire to play it (the one in his avatar). I had no idea that was but one of eight! :disbelief: Somehow that didn't come up in conversation, nor the extent of his fine collection. Now I have to wonder which one he meant. ;) And here I have been so proud to have a nice old H-2. Well, I suppose it's a start, with a long way to go to catch up. smile

Might be nice to post a group picture, perhaps over at the Groupings thread. With a warning for viewers to be seated and have taken their medication first, of course. Can't have people keeling over at the sight of so much magnificent mandolinnery in one image. smile
Dave Reiner
May 28, 2012 05:04 PM
Quote from mandopixie: I do not want that H-4. I do not want that H-4.
What a gorgeous collection. Smashing shots from Dan. Thanks so much for sharing this, Dan and Dave. End Quote
You're welcome! That H4 would test anyone's resolve ... ;)
Don Fardo
May 30, 2012 01:53 PM
Beautiful collection...of course you realize when the revolution comes these will be redistributed among the people. People like ME.
June 01, 2012 07:49 AM
I am a newbie (7 months now) and if I could buy six of these I would have a mandolin for each of the 7 songs I know. I think I have developed MAS:crying:
WOW! I am beginning to see what this is all about......and I like it......can't afford it....but I LIKE IT! Is there a "pill" for this?:confused:
June 01, 2012 10:19 AM
Quote from dubblestop: ..
I am beginning to see what this is all about......and I like it......can't afford it....but I LIKE IT! Is there a "pill" for this? End Quote

If you find one, I need a prescription (Just between the two of us, I think a few others may need one, too).
Darryl Wolfe
June 01, 2012 01:05 PM
What an amazing "gaggle" of fine Gibson instruments. Dan's photography captures the "what this is really all about" in things
Al Bergstein
June 08, 2012 07:43 AM
This reminds me of a spectacular collection of old mandolins, the whole family of instruments that dated back into the mid 1800s that I stumbled upon at DeKalb, Illinois. Just outside Northern Illinois U.gates is a small music store on the second floor of a building. I met the owner who's name now escapes me, but he also had a spectacular collection, the best I've ever seen. My meeting with him was around in 1998.

Does anybody know him and whatever happened to that spectacular collection?

I assume that he may have sold it off in pieces over the years on this board. I sort of thought the Reiner collection may have been it. But he wasn't in Boston.

He had collected instruments in the late 60s in Chicago, he said. Old makers that had gone out of business and had stored instruments in a warehouse, that he bought. I'd love to see a collection of photos of some of the pre-1900 models that he had, along with the stories he had of their makers.
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