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Thread: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    Hi, I used to play mandolin in high school over 30 years ago and loved it, but ended up becoming a jazz double bassist by profession. I've always had it in the back of my head that I would pick up mandolin again for fun. So, my girlfriend recently inherited her grandfather's old Gibson mandolin. His whole family played instruments and they all played together in bands playing that mountain music, I hear. I never met him. When I would hear about this mandolin I always assumed it was probably from the 40s or 50s. Then I actually got it and was shocked to find that it looked more like the 1920s to me. Then I found and ran the serial number inside the body on the Gibson website, and it seems to be possibly from 1908. It doesn't tell me what model it is, and I am completely unfamiliar with old Gibson mandolins, or mandolins in general. In high school I played a cheap hundred dollar mandolin and dreamed of having a new Gibson after I played my teachers. I was hoping people here could help me sort it out before I take it up to my local music shop, Chuck Levin's. We are definitely keeping it and I'd like to possibly have it brought up to the finest playing condition it can be, though my fat flattened mushroom calloused bass fingers struggle to play on it. Based on looking at pics on the internet my guess is that it's possibly an A-junior, based particularly on the clam shell looking tail piece. The serial number is 8283 and I'll post some pics. It seems to be in great condition to me. Even the strings are still playable, though dull, and the action seems a little clumsy to me, though that may just be my inability to play well yet. The one thing that baffles me is the bridge feels plastic to my girlfriend and me, but we could be wrong and we debated it back and forth as to whether it could actually be ebony or not. I haven't cleaned it yet so forgive the dustiness. Thank you in advance!
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  2. #2
    Registered User slimt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    I think this would be a A junior Gibson from around 1924. Nice Mandolin. You should get it repaied and up to playing condition before polishing it up. Make sure all the original parts are kept with it as well. And it has a ebony board

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    Hi Mandular,

    Congratulations. You have a 1926 Gibson model A Junior. The type of tuners, the type of pickguard clamp on the side, the shape of the peghead (“snakehead” to today’s collectors) and the number stamped inside 8283 (the factory order number) all bear this out.

    The tortoise colored binding on the back is not original and must have been a later addition. Yes, the bridge is ebony.

    You mention Chuck Levin’s music store in Silver Spring, MD. I live about a mile from there. I’m happy to look it over for you and can recommend a good local luthier familiar with vintage Gibson mandolins.

    Send me a private message and we can get together.

    Mark
    Last edited by MarkELynch; Feb-09-2021 at 9:51am.
    Mark Lynch

  4. #4

    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    Thanks, Mark! I'll PM you when I get chance later. I'm actually headed up to Chuck's today because I need to get something, I was going to bring the mandolin but sounds like I don't need to. I'd love to have you look it over and recommend some luthiers. I'm actually interested in something like an octave mandolin or mandola in the future since I've got the fat fingers, and I think an octave mandolin would actually fit some of my ambient modular explorations tonally as well, so would love to pick your brain if you know anything about them as well....

  5. #5

    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    I think the tortoiseshell binding is original to some of these mandolins in this period. This one does not have the snakehead and is a little older.

    http://mandoweb.com/Instruments/Gibs...olin-1923/2182
    Last edited by NickR; Feb-09-2021 at 10:15am.

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  7. #6
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    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    Thanks for pointing that one out, Nick!

    I guess anything is possible but the A-Jr was intended to be a quality carved budget model but without embellishments.
    I suspect the back-only binding was added to Mandular’s instrument during a repair, perhaps the back was removed or the back shrank and the binding was an effort to make the edges flush.

    Mark
    Mark Lynch

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  9. #7
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    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    I'm actually wondering if that binding was used by Gibson when one of these needed a repair. I was under the impression that they didn't have a bound back but they could have used it to help cover up a later factory repair. Having two examples would point me in that direction.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  10. #8

    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    Here is another with the binding. You have to sign in to see more photos but it is mentioned in the blurb:

    https://entertainment.ha.com/itm/mus...a/7034-54864.s

    These A models have it as well- they are close in number:

    http://www.mandolinarchive.com/gibson/serial/72201

    http://www.mandolinarchive.com/gibson/serial/72700

    http://www.mandolinarchive.com/gibson/serial/73113

    The descriptions for 73156 and 73166 mention it but no photos were posted for either.

  11. #9
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    Mandular, congratulate your girlfriend on a very nice inheritance. "Snakehead" A-Jr.'s are quite in demand as vintage Gibsons go; four figures at least, though maybe not as much as they're trying to get for this one.
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    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    The Gibson fold-out brochure featuring the Junior line of instruments.

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    Mark Lynch

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    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    Here is another with the binding. You have to sign in to see more photos but it is mentioned in the blurb:

    https://entertainment.ha.com/itm/mus...a/7034-54864.s

    These A models have it as well- they are close in number:

    http://www.mandolinarchive.com/gibson/serial/72201

    http://www.mandolinarchive.com/gibson/serial/72700

    http://www.mandolinarchive.com/gibson/serial/73113

    The descriptions for 73156 and 73166 mention it but no photos were posted for either.
    Nick, thanks for pointing these out.

    The Archive links you sent are all for the A2 model which most certainly have binding on the front and back.

    Mark
    Mark Lynch

  15. #12

    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    Mark, I just wonder if from time to time there were anomalies because bodies that might have been earmarked for one model were used in another. After 100 years it is impossible to know for sure and it may well be the case that the binding was used in a Gibson factory repair. I know that my 1923 A2 which is close in its number to those I have listed has the cream celluloid binding to the top and back. However, it seems that tortoise was quite common at this time for some reason.

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    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    Mark, I just wonder if from time to time there were anomalies because bodies that might have been earmarked for one model were used in another. After 100 years it is impossible to know for sure and it may well be the case that the binding was used in a Gibson factory repair. I know that my 1923 A2 which is close in its number to those I have listed has the cream celluloid binding to the top and back. However, it seems that tortoise was quite common at this time for some reason.
    I have always assumed that Gibson did what they had to do to get orders out. If that meant using one body that had already been prepped and making it a lower model I would assume they did that. The OP's mandolin is showing up as 1927 but that's I think that's pretty late for that pickguard clamp. I think one thing that Joe Spann's book has shown is that there were instruments waiting around to be completed a few years later and shipped. The OP's I suspect might be a repair just due to the size of the binding and no binding on the top. Some of the examples that you've posted have two different types of binding and both the top and bottom are bound. That looks more like "Let's get this order out the door, use whatever you have" to me.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  17. #14
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    I have always assumed that Gibson did what they had to do to get orders out. If that meant using one body that had already been prepped and making it a lower model I would assume they did that. The OP's mandolin is showing up as 1927 but that's I think that's pretty late for that pickguard clamp.
    Right, it's a '26 FON according to Spann.

    I am pretty sure this isn't the first time I've seen tortoise back binding on a Junior.

    Barring any serious issues (is that a crack under the strings in photo #2, or just a scratch?) this should be worth $1250–1350, methinks. It'd be worth more with a period hardshell case.

    One of the most important mandolin albums of the past century, Howard Frye's Gypsy Mandolin, was recorded with the artist playing an A Junior.
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    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    Sorry, I need to correct myself, the links are for model A1’s, the A2 was replaced by the A2Z by this time.

    Regardless, none of these are A-Jr’s


    Quote Originally Posted by MarkELynch View Post
    Nick, thanks for pointing these out.

    The Archive links you sent are all for the A2 model which most certainly have binding on the front and back.

    Mark
    Mark Lynch

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    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    Why bind the back and not the top?

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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    I grew up in Silver Spring!

    Got my first mandolin there too. That was in the '60s. A lot has changed, but for Chuck Levin's!

    Big fan of these Gibsons! Heck, I'd type more about yours, but all seems to be chatted about! For an octave mandolin, I'm having a lot of fun with my Eastman!

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    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    That has the potential to be an awesome mandolin with a wonderful family heritage!

    Regarding OMs, I can attest to Eastman’s build quality, and it’s hard to beat at that price point, esp if you’re going for that arch topped punch. Pono makes some very nice flat tops, and you can sometimes find old Flatiron bouzoukis for sale at very reasonable prices (I play bass, too, but the longer scale was tough for me to do anything but chording/rhythm on). I’m currently loving my Weber Bitterroot A style F holed OM with a 20 inch scale length, and Max Girouard is making some awesome GBOMs, but the latter two are getting up there in price point. For intro instruments, Eastman, Trinity College, Gold Tone, and Pono are probably your best bets.

    But, for now, congrats on the new mandolin!

  23. #19

    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    Thanks for all the information and feedback, everyone! I was able to meet up with Mark yesterday and he was able to shed a lot of light on this A-jr. He was able to recommend a luthier in the area who I plan on scheduling with around summer. He also showed me some of his vintage mandolins as well as a recent build and they were all gorgeous. I look forward to getting this in perfect shape for playing and also acquiring something like an octave mandolin or mandocello in the near future as this gave me the bug.

  24. #20

    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    My two cents, FWIW. First, nice instrument! Second, I'm not sure if you are tempted to restring it before taking it to the luthier -- if you are I would suggest lubricating the tuner gears first. I learned the hard way after unboxing a hundred-year old Gibson and trying to tune it only to have one of the tuner buttons crumble in my hand! (and the buttons looked fine.) It was a "why did I do that?" type of moment, based on being too excited with my purchase. Sounds like you are taking a more logical approach. Good luck with it!

  25. #21

    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    Thanks! I did actually tune it up at first. I got lucky thankfully that nothing like that happened. The strings are loosened now though until I can take it in to the luthier.

  26. #22

    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    That may not have been a high-end model in its time, but it has come through the years far better than most.

    I'd get it "tuned up" by a good mandolin luthier and keep it !

  27. #23

    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    Definitely keeping it! My girlfriend just discovered another one too! I have no idea what it even looks like yet, but can't wait to see what it is.

  28. #24
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandular View Post
    Definitely keeping it! My girlfriend just discovered another one too! I have no idea what it even looks like yet, but can't wait to see what it is.
    Even in Gramps's day nobody could stop at one.

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  30. #25
    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need help identifying Gibson Loar era mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandular View Post
    Definitely keeping it! My girlfriend just discovered another one too! I have no idea what it even looks like yet, but can't wait to see what it is.
    There are quite of few of us who prefer the sound of those 20s A models to any mandolin.

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