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Thread: 1939 Silvertone

  1. #1

    Default 1939 Silvertone

    I have the opportunity to purchase a mint condition 1939 "A" style Silvertone with original case and warranty card for $200 which includes shipping. Can anyone tell me if this is a good price or is that just about what it's worth or is it worth less than that? Any information is greatly appreciated.

  2. #2

    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    It is unlikely to be from 1939 because the Silvertone brand- the new name for Supertone did not come into existence until 1940. The commonest mandolins with the Silvertone brand were made after WW2 and were made by Kay and were variants of their 1939 "pear shaped" mandolins that are often referred to as "A Style" but Kay never used this Gibson term. As for its value, you need to post some photographs. This listing below of a Kay made mandolin sold by Spiegel as an Old Kraftsman in 1941 which appears to have never been played is a stark example of value in today's market. Getting an exact fix on price may be difficult, a good hard case from the era can enhance the value and free shipping is another bonus. Post some photos if you can.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Old...p2047675.l2557

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  4. #3

    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    Here are a couple of pictures that I hope can help you identify the year. Click image for larger version. 

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  5. #4
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    Your mandolin has replacement tuners. That takes it out of that mint category. I think you're dating it a few decades earlier than it was made. The instrument itself was made by Kay in Chicago for Sears. Generally you have to check the neck joint of these. They are notorious for failing. If it's solid then consider yourself lucky. Somebody put some time into polishing that thing. They weren't that shiny when they were new.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  7. #5

    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    Okay thanks very much. I was just going by what the owner told me. I wasn't aware that the tuning machines were not original. I think I'll pass on this one.

  8. #6

    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    Just to add to Mike's observation, losing the original tuners makes it just a little harder to date the mandolin. However, the headstock shape and the logo and case date the mandolin to the late 1950s as he suggests. My guess is that it originally had Kluson tuners and they either had brittle buttons- or just as likely, they were removed as they are worth a bit in good order. The mandolin has the kind of less expensive single piece tailpiece and although the mandolin is apparently in good order, it is probably a bit high in terms of price but not silly. However, you have commented that you will not go ahead. I saw it on Gbase and the seller has been reducing his price. I would have been happy to buy that Old Kraftsman had the seller been happy to ship it as I need a set of tuners just like it has- and I have others of a similar vintage I could have swapped on to it which were used by Kay at the time but I suppose I would have yet another old Kay mandolin! These old mandolins can be a source of good parts. Likewise the tailpiece cover on the Old Kraftsman is worth about $50 alone.

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  10. #7
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    I would suspect that the original buttons crumbled. I would also guess that you can see the impressions for the Kluson tuners under the tuners that are on it now.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  11. #8

    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    It is possible that at the bottom of the current set there are signs that the old tuners have left behind. Mind you, what with the Kay Old Kraftsman that is on eBay now for a mere $1500 and this sale below of the Silvertone warranty card at $70, the sky really is the limit for the prices that are floated! Reality, is somewhat different.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-195...8AAOSw3rxf523o

    The sooner I can find a decent set of those oblong plate tuners for my mandolin, the sooner I will stop running into these wonders!

  12. #9
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    Nick, which tuners are you looking for?
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  13. #10

    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    They are oblong tuners as used on Gibson mandolins in the 1930s with five screw holes before the move to Kluson products. I have them on my Wards Model 1642 (Gibson A50 derivative) and the buttons are cream. They are on that Old Kraftsman I posted up above. The posts on the top two tuners are very bent on the mandolin and although they do work, I would ideally get a new set. I have seen them on Kay mandolins from the late 30s and early 40s but most of the time, the buttons are black. It's possibly an excuse for searching eBay! The missing gear was replaced by my luthier and he ordered me to make no attempts to straighten the pegs as once broken replacing the worm gear and peg is a bit of a chore! I know the job can be done but probably not by me!

    Click image for larger version. 

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  14. #11
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    I've broken enough of those trying to straighten them that I don't even try any more. I don't have any of those laying around.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  15. #12

    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    I'm pleased to know, that busting them is par for the course- I'm now old enough to be able to take advice! Never mind that you don't have any of that type in reserve- I'm sure they will turn up. It was frustrating that both times I saw them on old Kay made mandolins the seller would not ship. The other set I saw was also on a Kay branded to one of those Gretsch sub-brands, in great order and better still, it was in a nice G & S Gibson A model case that would have also been perfect for this particular mandolin. Interestingly, that pointed headstock and the Waverly tailpiece make the instrument just that little bit longer, and that has proved troublesome when finding a decent hard case. It has its original fibreboard case which is quite strong-better than the cardboard sort, but the mandolin rattles around inside it! It is now in an EM 150 case- that's too wide! I have given up trying to get it a snug home!

  16. #13

    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    I'd offer another perspective. $200 might be high for a Kay-made mandolin, but in the grand scheme of things, $200 doesn't buy much these days and I'd rather have a USA Silvertone than what $200 will buy in the current used "import" market. You'll probably never see a cleaner one. The changed tuners are a bummer, but probably work better than the originals did. If it bothers you, original tuners can be found on eBay, if you are patient. Otherwise, I'd say a lot of fun for $200, but certainly not an "investment" that will ever go up beyond that, IMHO.

  17. #14
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    Another perspective, given the opportunity I'd buy a Rogue and get Rob Meldrum's book but that's just me.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  18. #15
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    I'm pleased to know, that busting them is par for the course
    Including guitar and mandolin tuners I managed to straighten one. I know I've broken at least 3. It seems easy enough, you get the tuner in the vice and try to gently straighten it just to have it snap as you get it close to straight. I finally figured out it just wasn't worth the effort.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  19. #16

    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    Yes, just as you think you have succeeded, you end in total failure! Not good. My luthier explained something about the kind of steel composition/chemistry used and how it is brittle- not malleable. I can't remember exactly all the detail but before he married the guitar maker's daughter he worked with metal- so he's really expert when it comes to such areas of knowledge. I have seen a video of Dan Erlewine with a jig doing this trick but I think you need the right tools and plenty of experience otherwise it is going to be a litany of failure, for sure. The fact is, the tuners work and a set will turn up one day- they were also used on Strad-O-Lins, so I am surprised they do not show up more often- but I can wait and I see so many delights searching! The irony is, I have a 1937 set of Klusons that would be perfect- except they are wrong for this model which was made in 1936 according to the FON- Wards have stamped January or February 1937 inside it!

  20. #17
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    What amazes me is that they bent and didn't break in the first place
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  21. #18

    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    Cunning little atoms that can bend only one way- never to bend back!

  22. #19

    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    I have decided to use the $200 as a down payment on a very, very nice Levin which I know I will be very happy with.

  23. #20

    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    That's great! I hope you like it. Is it an oval hole or an f hole model?

  24. #21

    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    That's great! I hope you like it. Is it an oval hole or an f hole model?
    It's a model 41 F hole.

  25. #22

    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    Here are some pictures of the Levin.
    Click image for larger version. 

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  26. #23

    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    That looks great- a fair few steps up from the birch Silvertone. I have wondered how close these mandolins are to the Gibson A50 as I believe they are hand carved and seem to follow the A50 in terms of style although a bit fancier!. I posted up the back of the headstock of my Wards Model 1642 which I bought n eBay. This was the only hand carved mandolin Gibson made for sale by a third party. The only difference to the Gibson A50 model apart from the pointed headstock, is the lack of a truss rod. There was a crack on the top which my luthier fixed and he made an incredible exact copy of the guard- including the white beading just like the original which had rotted away in part.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  27. #24
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    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    I love those Levin headstocks, very cool design.

  28. #25

    Default Re: 1939 Silvertone

    You may have seen this from the Vintage Levin listing site. I sent a seller in Sweden some information on an old Harmony guitar in his shop and he told me he was the guy behind this site. Another of those unsung heroes that compiles all this stuff that is so useful to so many!

    https://www.vintage-guitars.se/Levin...dolin_info.php

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