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Thread: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

  1. #1
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    Default Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    Hello. I'm looking to buy my first mandolin and I figured the right place to get information would be here. I play guitar and I have quite a collection.

    The lessons I've learned about buying guitars is that you don't have to spend an enormous amount of money to get a quality instrument but it's better to buy something that IS quality over something that isn't.

    I have an adverse opinion on Chinese made guitars so I don't want a Chinese made mandolin. My budget is $3000, tops, but I'd prefer to be under $1500 on this purchase in order to not get grief from the "boss". I'd like to be able to sell what I buy and get close to my purchase price if I choose to sell.

    The mandolin sound I prefer is that of Zeppelin and Heart and the others I've heard in Rock. I don't dislike Bluegrass, it's just not my thing. Neither is country.

    I have recording equipment including nice mics but something with electronics would be nice.

    My Reverb watch list includes a mint condition Nashwood “Djangolin” for $2000, a 1999 Bluett F4 in excellent condition with a Fishman for around $3000, a 2007 Collings MT in good condition with a Baggs Radius for around $2000, a new Northfield Calhoun for around $900, a Weber Bitterroot with a K&K twin in good condition for around $2000 and a 1920s Martin Style A Koa in very good condition with no issues and an original case for around $1200.

    Have I chosen well and which would you choose from that list or would you choose something else?

    Thanks for reading this and for your input.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    I added to my watch list a 2014 Pava A5 in excellent condition with a K&K pure mini and a Superior case for around $3000.

  3. #3
    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    I'd rule out the Martin. They're nice instruments but not really what I'd think of as born to rock. I think you'll want f holes, which also rules out the Calhoun and the Bluett. Those are fine instruments, but I think the Pava, Collings or Weber would suit you better. Can you check them out before buying?

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  5. #4
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    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    No, I'm going through Reverb and the only reason to send it back would be if the item is not as described. Also, if I'm spending more than $1500, I'm going to finance it at 0% interest and that'll be done with "Affinity" through Reverb as well.

  6. #5
    Registered User Steve 2E's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    I would check out some of the Cafe sponsors sites. I know Elderly uses the same financing as Reverb and most others have financing available. They also have return policies so you don’t have to buy as-is. Just a thought.
    Other than owning a Koa Martin I haven’t played any others on your list, but I think I would go for the Pava.

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    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    I would purchase a pava from the mandolin store. They do financing, and their customer service can't be beat.

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    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    It's probably worth researching whether you want a flat top or a carved top and an oval or F hole. There are always subtle differences between mandos but flat vs carved and F vs oval are not so subtle.

    If you want a flat top you wont go wrong with the Calhoun.

    If you want carved top f hole the used Collings MT will do everything you need it to.

    If you want a carved top oval hole I don't think you can beat the Pava oval that The Mandolin Store has on sale for $2400.
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    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve 2E View Post
    I would check out some of the Cafe sponsors sites. I know Elderly uses the same financing as Reverb and most others have financing available. They also have return policies so you don’t have to buy as-is. Just a thought.
    Other than owning a Koa Martin I haven’t played any others on your list, but I think I would go for the Pava.
    That's a great idea. I didn't think of that.

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    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    Great ideas that I didn't know about, which is why I came here. Thanks for the help.

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    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    If resale is a consideration, Collings holds its value very well. I used to have a MT and a Silverangel Econo at the same time. Both were excellent instruments, and I actually kept the SA (because I really liked its bass response) and turned the Collings (+ some cash) into a mandocello. A couple years later I wanted to trade the SA for a Skip Kelley A that’s my current “baby.” One dealer expressed no interest, and one offered me less than half the trade value of the Collings. I eventually did trade it towards a Weber octave at TMS, and Dennis gave me a very fair trade value for it (and also sold it in less than a day), but it took getting someone who really knows mandolins and does enough volume to know that he’d be able to easily sell it. Gibson also tends to hold its value well.

    I’ve played Collings and Pava, and can’t imagine you being disappointed with either. Kelley A5s are around 3000+/- new, but tend to sell used in the lower to mid 2000s. I really like mine and feel like it compares very favorably with some much more expensive mandolins. My other mandolin is a Rigel CT-110,which I also like very much, and their pickup system sounds good. Some of their A styles can be found for 1500 +/-.

    Don’t mean to muddy the waters, just throwing out some ideas. Agree with those above regarding checking with Cafe sponsors as well, as you know you’ll get a mandolin that’s well set up and ready to roll. I’ve had good experiences with TMS, Elderly, Fiddler’s Green, and Lowe Vintage. Carter’s was also great to visit, though I didn’t buy anything from them (well, not yet, anyway )
    Chuck

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    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    Yes Pava... check the reviews. Had to get this in before the "Yankee" gets here.

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  18. #12
    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    The Collings MT or the Pava, you aren't likely to regret either one. Buying a good instrument used is the way to go.
    -Dave
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    Way too many other instruments

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  20. #13
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    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    Girouard !!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  22. #14
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    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    A friend of mine sent me here. He said "Those guys are all gentlemen and they have really nice gear." I think he has a Red Diamond mandolin added to his vast guitar and amp collection. His name here is mrnorton1

    I've heard of Elderly Instruments but I've never done business with them. I know of Carter's from Fretboard Journal/The Truth About Vintage Amps.

    I build power lines and had to drive six hours down to Cupertino to help over the next few days with the wind storm that's expected. I'll check out those sites and the sponsors here. You guys have given me some valuable information. My buddy says I want a spruce top for the sound I'm looking for. I'm not likely to be playing out, just messing around at home in my "studio".

    I really appreciate all the input and the additional suggestions. Thanks!

  23. #15
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    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    I've played the Bitterroot and while it was throatier than I wanted, you wouldn't regret it for that price range. It's not as nice as the $3000 choices in this discussion but it is like $1900 nicer than my first mandolin. Felt good in the hand and played smooth.

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  25. #16
    not a donut Kevin Winn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    If you're in Cupertino, you should stop by Gryphon in Palo Alto.

    They have an MT, a Pava plus a few others you should consider (Northfield A5 Special or the F2S), but play everything they have. One may speak to you...

    Could also head down to Sylvan in Santa Cruz for more of the same.

    Both by appt only, though, so call first.
    "Keep your hat on, we may end up miles from here..." - Kurt Vonnegut

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  27. #17
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    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Winn View Post
    If you're in Cupertino, you should stop by Gryphon in Palo Alto.

    They have an MT, a Pava plus a few others you should consider (Northfield A5 Special or the F2S), but play everything they have. One may speak to you...

    Could also head down to Sylvan in Santa Cruz for more of the same.

    Both by appt only, though, so call first.
    I just don't have time to go check out mandolins in person. I'm driving a company bucket truck and we're working 16 hour days. When I'm released, I'll be driving back up to Humboldt County and that a good five or six hour drive on company time. How do you think I can afford to buy a mandolin? Lol. I'm pretty much resigned to the fact that I'm going to have to buy without ever being able to play it beforehand.

    The good news is that the "boss" has discovered my secret plan and has given her blessing so ANY mandolin close to my original budget is on the table including private sales. She said I can borrow from our savings and pay it back to us. I chose well at wife picking.

    I have a few more for you fine gentlemen to review for your opinions. Believe me, I'm taking in everything you're saying. What do you think of this Loar era Gibson 1927 A4? https://reverb.com/item/35965707-gib...-mandolin-1927

    This Weber Fern Traditional A? https://reverb.com/item/34656146-web...body-w-f-holes (I MAY be able to slide out to Oakland and plunk down some cash and get this for closer to $3000).

    Here's a Skip Kelley but it's a redwood top. https://reverb.com/item/30620521-ski...dwood-top-2017 Side note: I live in redwood country and I have a redwood Tele from an unknown maker. I just don't know how a redwood acoustic instrument would sound.

    There's the Collings MT GT. https://massstreetmusic.com/collecti...mt-gt-sunburst.

    There's a 2016 Collings MT with a honey amber top. https://reverb.com/item/38086602-col...with-gloss-top.

    Plus another 2012 one in better condition. https://reverb.com/item/38307748-201...mt-honey-amber.

    I saw the Pava Pro in the classifieds but I'm really not drawn to a black top. There's this Pava A5 Varnish but, for one, it's new and outside my budget. https://cartervintage.com/collection...a5-varnish-new.

    There's the 1924 Gibson Lloyd Loar F-5 but it's...well... $120,000, which is outside my budget.

    I WILL buy one very soon but you guys are a huge help.

    Thanks!
    Last edited by Torren61; Jan-20-2021 at 12:54am.

  28. #18
    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    That Skip Kelley looks amazing. Redwood makes for an excellent top. It's very resonant. It's also a unique-looking mandolin. In a world of tobacco-sunburst f-styles, that really stands out. If I had to buy one of these without playing it first, I would get that. Skip's known for making excellent mandolins. (He's also a regular poster here, and seems to be one of the nicest guys on the planet.)

    I wouldn't pay that much for a 1927 A-4. The snakeheads seem to go for $6,000 to $7,000, but that's a lot for a paddlehead. I don't think the Loar-era cachet is worth it. I had a 1928, and it had a lovely voice but I couldn't handle the neck. I also do think you're likely to be happier with f holes.

    Good luck and have fun. Please let us know what you end up getting so we can continue to live vicariously through you.

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  30. #19

    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    That 2012 MT has a lot of upgrades. Gloss top, Ivoriod binding, wide nut, and Waverly tuners. That's about as upgraded of an MT as you could get (this was before the torrified option).

    MTs are consistent mandolins and they're everywhere. You should be able to get an idea of the MT sound. You also want to see if you like a wide nut. It makes a difference to me and I prefer a standard. Many like the wide nut, many get used to whatever. It's worth checking out though.

    If both of those are a go, I would think that 2012 would be a great option!
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  32. #20

    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    Wait wait! Dig this:
    https://themusicemporium.com/product...urst-used-2007
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/165397#165397

    IMO an MT2 is significant upgrade and I found 2 for your budget. Worth consideration!
    This is fun!
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  34. #21
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    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric F. View Post
    That Skip Kelley looks amazing. Redwood makes for an excellent top. It's very resonant. It's also a unique-looking mandolin. In a world of tobacco-sunburst f-styles, that really stands out. If I had to buy one of these without playing it first, I would get that. Skip's known for making excellent mandolins. (He's also a regular poster here, and seems to be one of the nicest guys on the planet.)
    You could get some idea of the sound by watching this


    Agree that Skip is possibly the nicest guy you could talk to anywhere. I've got a deposit out for him to build me a two-point right now. I've been very casual in the emails, as not to rush him but the current mood is beyond eager. Shhh. Nobody tell him.
    What I play
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  36. #22
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    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    For your first mandolin I would probably recommend an Eastman , perhaps a used one just in case you don't stay with it !

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  38. #23
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    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by yankees1 View Post
    For your first mandolin I would probably recommend an Eastman , perhaps a used one just in case you don't stay with it !
    You make a good point. The thing is, I just don’t want a Chinese made instrument. It’s a personal thing with me and I’ll just stop there. If I don’t stick with it, I have sons and grandkids that are musically inclined and it would either be resold or passed down to one of them. But I appreciate your opinion.

  39. #24
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    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    That sounded great! Did it sound great to you all? (The Skip Kelley redwood two point YouTube)

  40. #25
    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Help: Looking To Buy My First Mandolin

    Yeah, it sounded great to me, as far as I can tell over laptop speakers. I also agree with Chuck above that a Collings MT2 is an awfully nice instrument. Nothing against the MT, but in the limited sample of each I've played, the MT2 has always been a cut above. The nice thing is that there are many, many fine instruments to choose from, and with your budget you're likely to get something terrific. If what you get ultimately doesn't ring your bell, you'll be able to sell it and search anew.

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