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Thread: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

  1. #1

    Default A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    I am looking to get an oval-holed Gibson A. Could someone point me to a source of information on
    - the differences between the A0, A1, etc?
    - relative merits of a truss-rod, paddle-head, snake head?
    - differences of the Gibson A of different years (I have been warned that mandolins from certain years are more likely to have their fronts cave in - is that real)?

    What am I looking for? I either play solo or with a small band (mainly folk or eastern european). I love the sound of a 1918 Gibson A I have, but I need to send it in for work.
    My main priority is the sound and not the collectors value.
    I suspect that there have been many posts or web-sites that cover this info, but seem to miss it on searches of this forum.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Capt. E Capt. E's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    What is your budget on buying a new vintage Gibson oval? In general, I would suggest you get an A-2 or and A-4. You should be able to find one in superb playing condition for under $2000 ( I was lucky to buy my virtually mint condition 1920 A-2 for only $1200, so bargins are out there). The snake head instruments were made during the Lloyd Loar Era (1922-1925) and bring a considerable premium. A fine snake head A-2 sells in the $4000+ area. A hole instruments with a truss rod are all 1922 and later, some pre-Loar era and all post Loar era instruments have paddle heads. All snake head instruments have truss rods (except for the A-Jr). A truss rod adds mass to the neck and many people believe improves the sound. I am not so sure about that. My A-2 does not have one and I am very happy with the tone etc. If I were you, I might look for a paddle head A-2 or A-4 made in the 1920's.
    Look through the mandolin archive and acquaint yourself with them. http://www.mandolinarchive.com
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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    This guide might be of use to you: http://www.mandolincafe.com/archives...a/gibsona.html
    1924 Gibson A Snakehead
    2005 National RM-1
    2007 Hester A5
    2009 Passernig A5
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    2018 Vessel TM5
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    There was an A2 1922 in the classifieds for $1600. I have the same mandolin and it is the best sounding A I have heard.
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    Capt. E Capt. E's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    I'll second that. My 1920 A2 is the best Gibson oval I have ever owned (a total of about 10 over the years). One of the best values out there.
    Jammin' south of the river
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  8. #6

    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Thank you so much for the input. Some very good suggestions.
    - What is the advantage of a truss rod or not?
    - Are there some years in the 1915-1935 one should avoid (poor construction)?
    Sorry of these are slightly ignorant questions.

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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    I myself like the truss rod and I have had Gibson A's pre and post truss rod, I still have the post truss rod.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  10. #8

    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Quote Originally Posted by SMSimon View Post
    ...
    - What is the advantage of a truss rod or not?...
    1) You can adjust the "relief" ( bow ) in the neck due to age or string tension change.
    2) Offers precision in adjusting relief during re-fret. This is nicely explained in a Stewart-Macdonald explication but I can't remember if it's simply on their web site or in a commercial booklet.

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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Paddleheads have several things going for them. The first is lower price (snakeheads go for 50%-100% more). They also have the wide, comfortable fingerboard. If you appreciate that feel, you may probably find (like me) that, however much you like the snakehead sound, the fingerboard feels narrow and cramped. Maybe the ideal would be a truss-rod paddlehead (~1927-28 and later?), but these are quite bit more rare.

    Many if not most of these 80-100 yr old instruments are going to need some work. You can look for one that has already had that work - common things might be planning and refretting a bowed fingerboard, cracks/separations repaired; tuners replaced - or you can hunt for bargains and then invest in having the work done. Lots of old Gibsons will have a top arch that is slightly flattened or even dipped (mine do), but tops rarely "cave in" unless a brace comes loose.
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Late '21 and '22's have the Loar improvements including truss rod, but still have the wide neck and paddle head. Great sounding and still a Loar if that trips your trigger.
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    ...Great sounding and still a Loar if that trips your trigger...
    I have a bit of a problem calling every Gibson mandolin built during Lloyd Loar's tenure with the company, a "Loar."

    The "Master Models" where Loar signed the label, sure. And, perhaps, even the "unsigned" Master Model instruments, which he presumably would have inspected and signed, had he not left Gibson.

    But any A-2 or A-Jr. built during that period? The "Loar" or "Loar era" designation is already used to hype up asking prices. Surely this was a period where Gibson mandolins were built to high standards -- though not every one's a gem. But Lloyd Loar didn't, as far as we know, inspect and approve every single mandolin Gibson sold while he worked there.

    Unless we feel that Loar's aura somehow permeated every inch of the Kalamazoo factory, the "Loar" designation may be more of a seller's gambit than an actual deserved added valuation. IMHO, of course.
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Guess that was mentioned already. by me no less
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  17. #13

    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    Guess that was mentioned already. by me no less
    I have that same problem with vintage 1963 Corvairs and Corvettes -- both are really cool old vintage Chevy's right????

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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    I have been considering selling my 1917A1. If your interested there are picture in profile.

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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    One relative merit of a truss rod is you can have a thinner neck. For most guitar players, this is not a recommendation. For me, with arthritis, it was a major selling point. Just to add that info.

    As for the differences, I recall someone posted the faces of the oval A's showing the cosmetic differences in rings around the soundhole. My A-1 has a single ring; a friend of mine picked up a lovely A4 with, I think, two rings in fancier design. there are other differences, but those are fairly indicative of model, iirc
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    I have that same problem with vintage 1963 Corvairs and Corvettes -- both are really cool old vintage Chevy's right????
    My dad did a camper conversion on a 63 Chevy Greenbriar, very clever piece of design work, I kind of wish I still had it!
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    I have that same problem with vintage 1963 Corvairs and Corvettes -- both are really cool old vintage Chevy's right????
    What was wrong with the 63 vette? I thought it needed to be brought up to date.

    I like the teens oval hole Gibson A- and A2 I had, and my current '22 A-2 is one of the best oval holed Gibsons I've experienced, more so than the paddlehead A-4s I've played. As of late, though, my interest in oval holes has greatly waned (probably something to do with my ever increasing craving for an f holed Ellis A).
    Last edited by WW52; Jan-27-2016 at 4:50pm.

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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    I think the early 20s pre-Loar era Gibsons are the best-kept secret without the premium prices. I have yet to play a 1921 Gibson that I didn't love.
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  25. #19

    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    If you ever get too tired of the oval holed gibbons let me know. I hope to be in the market soon (paying college tuition bills now)

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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I think the early 20s pre-Loar era Gibsons are the best-kept secret without the premium prices. I have yet to play a 1921 Gibson that I didn't love.
    I'm in agreement there. I still like them a lot and they look so good, too. I'm surprised their prices haven't increased more than they have. Mine's a keeper even after I get it an expensive new sister.

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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Quote Originally Posted by SMSimon View Post
    I am looking to get an oval-holed Gibson A. Could someone point me to a source of information on
    - the differences between the A0, A1, etc?
    - relative merits of a truss-rod, paddle-head, snake head?
    - differences of the Gibson A of different years (I have been warned that mandolins from certain years are more likely to have their fronts cave in - is that real)?

    What am I looking for? I either play solo or with a small band (mainly folk or eastern european). I love the sound of a 1918 Gibson A I have, but I need to send it in for work.
    My main priority is the sound and not the collectors value.
    I suspect that there have been many posts or web-sites that cover this info, but seem to miss it on searches of this forum.

    Thanks!

    Archives Here of course ... It Has Been been rehashed Many Times

    Have 2 1922 A's 1 Brown A (zip-0)Aluminum bridge top and an A 4 ebony wood Top..
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    I have a bit of a problem calling every Gibson mandolin built during Lloyd Loar's tenure with the company, a "Loar."
    While I agree that we are not talking signed F5 here we are talking about the time he worked at Gibson and most of all we are talking of the Loar improvements which previous A2's and all Gibson mandolins before didn't have. So no it is not a signed Loar, but it has the Loar improvements except the headstock and neck width. These are transition years 21-22. Still they are getting the Loar improvements and I am not trying to sell mine, if I did the truss rod and sound would increase the price above a teens mandolin not just the fact of it being a Loar. I have a hard time with the prices of the snake heads as mine sounsd every bit as good as any of them and an A2z being even more yet is marketing because of a z. Any mandolin made while Mr. Loar was at the factory and has the changes made to me is a Loar.
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    ...Any mandolin made while Mr. Loar was at the factory and has the changes made to me is a Loar.
    Well, I would disagree. Does that mean that every mandolin made subsequent to Loar's departure, but including "Loar improvements," which I would guess would basically mean adjustable bridge and truss rod if we're talking about A-models, is a "Loar?"

    The specific design changes in the F-5 mandolin -- raised fingerboard, f-holes, longer neck -- are definitely attributable to Lloyd Loar's design innovations. And, Loar signed the labels. So those are "Loars," no argument.

    But an F-5 built in 1935, incorporating all of Loar's design elements, is not called a "Loar." That designation, in the case of F-5 mandolins, is reserved for those mandolins Loar signed, and perhaps for a very few that weren't signed because Loar had left the Gibson company.

    I think there has to be more connection between a specific Gibson mandolin, and Mr. Loar himself, for it to be given the "Loar" name. Unless, as I said, the "Loar vibe" permeated the entire Gibson factory at that point, and attached itself to every A-Jr. etc. that was built there.

    Having a truss rod and an adjustable bridge doesn't make an A-1 a "Loar," in my book. And you're absolutely right that an exceptionally good-sounding mandolin from the "Loar period" should be more valuable than a less-exceptional one from the 'teens, or from any other period.

    By the same token, a really exceptional 'teens A-model should be more valuable than a run-of-the-mill instrument from the "Loar period." What bothers me is the idea that there's some sort of "Loar penumbra" that makes every instrument from that period, more valuable than any similar instrument built before or after.
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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Loar period makes some sense. But, that being said, simply because something was built while he was involved with the company does not make it "Loar"worthy, does it?
    The changes he (and others of the day) implemented are still in use today, if they are made by the parent company why can't they be referred to as "Loars"?
    Kind of a catch 22, no? I suppose the exhaled breath from the man was likely all over the shop so, there's that too.
    That would be 1922....
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Well in all actuality if Mr. Loar didn't build them they are really Gibson's with improvements designed by Mr. Loar. The time he was at the factory is the Loar era as referred to by many. While the A's don't have all the improvements they were also improved somewhat. Since Mr. Loar did not actually build any mandolins we are really talking about the era, but referring to the mandolin as Loar's, most would recognize they were made by Gibson workers in the factory when Mr. Loar was working there. I don't think to my knowledge he actually made an F5, but they are called Loar's, where do we draw the line, because they were a signed label or made in the era. We call a mandolin built by Mr. Brentrup, a Brentrup, but if someone were to have given Hans a better idea and he implemented it would we then call his mandolins by a different name? I think not. They are all Gibson's made during the Loar era are they not.

    Allen, thanks for the stimulating conversation. I am sure we are both right and it is just a matter of a difference of opinion.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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