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Thread: Help with a purchase decision

  1. #1

    Default Help with a purchase decision

    I had to return my Kentucky KM-756 because of some issues discovered and discussed here at the cafe regarding the tuning machines. As such, I now have a store credit at Musician's Friend that I need to use.
    I have been offered a brand new Kentucky KM-850 for no additional cost and free overnight shipping to compensate for my troubles, however, I found this beautiful used Martin mandolin: and I was wondering if this might be the smarter option as far as value.

    I was hoping some of you could give me some insight on this mandolin as far as if you think it is worth what they are asking, what do you think about the condition of the mandolin, are you familiar with the sound quality of these particular mandolins, etc... Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    By the way, they also have a couple of really nice older Gibson "A" styles also that I looked at but know nothing about.

  2. #2
    Teacher, luthier
    Join Date
    Oct 2017
    Southeast Tennessee

    Default Re: Help with a purchase decision

    The Martin is a style 2-15. That particular model mandolin is not considered to be desirable by either players or collectors. Martin's oval hole mandolins will be better instruments-- they never did learn how to build good f-hole mandolins.

    Kentucky mandolins are reasonably well built. Most of them are student model instruments. Eventually, you would probably want to upgrade.

    The oval hole Gibson A models can be very good mandolins if you find the right one. They do vary considerably in quality of tone and projection. Many of them will need at least some set-up work, and they often will play better with a modern set of frets. If you are interested in one, you should budget accordingly, and have a good player try it out to make sure the sound is good.

    Most of Gibson's older F-hole A models were rather mediocre at best. I have played Eastman 505 mandolins [$769 new, $500 used] that were better instruments than many of the old Gibson A-50's that I have played. Gibson A-40's were bottom of the line and tend to be weak instruments.

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Help with a purchase decision

    The Martin appears to be pretty competitively priced assuming it is in good all-round condition- and it also has an original hard case, which of itself is worth a reasonable sum. However, it is not a mandolin type that is particularly sought after as mentioned already. The Martin may be good value and what you have to decide is where you go from here- and whether you are happy to experiment with a mandolin that may become a keeper or might just be an instrument you own for a while as you find what you really want long term. My first decent mandolin, I still own- but back then, one was not spoilt for choice- getting a good mandolin that was affordable was a huge challenge. Here is one on eBay right now- it is probably too expensive:

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  6. #4
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Mar 2006
    Rochester NY 14610

    Default Re: Help with a purchase decision

    Depends on what kind of music you're gonna play. The Martin is a quality instrument, and has value on the vintage market. The Kentucky probably would work better for bluegrass playing. It's true that Martin's carved-top mandolins don't get the respect of carved-top Gibsons et. al. of the same vintage.

    If you have a chance to try both instruments at the GC, see what you think. I'd personally go for the Martin, 'cause they're kinda "rare birds" and there are a lot of Kentuckys around, but it's your money and your choice.
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  8. #5
    Teacher, luthier
    Join Date
    Oct 2017
    Southeast Tennessee

    Default Re: Help with a purchase decision

    A Martin 2-15 might be hard to sell later.

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  10. #6
    Pittsburgh Bill
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
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    Default Re: Help with a purchase decision

    I can't help you with a definitive answer to your question but I would like to point out something that I have touched on many times. Buy from a Cafe sponsor! Cafe sponsors not only provide an excellent set-up, which may have no consequence to you if you feel confident to do your own set-up, but offer other valuable services.
    When doing a set-up they recognize a turd when they see one. They do not pass these along to their customers and if they do, they do so with full disclosure. They typically return these to their manufacturer rep. Now where do these turds go? To the big box chain stores and then on to their non-suspecting customers.
    Buying from a Cafe sponsor also helps support this wonderful resource.
    Just my humble opinion.
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  12. #7
    Fatally Flawed Bill Kammerzell's Avatar
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    Dec 2015
    Annapolis, MD

    Default Re: Help with a purchase decision

    I'd go with the Kentucky KM-850. I've played around with all the old Martin's and Gibson's I've ever wanted to.
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  14. #8

    Default Re: Help with a purchase decision

    I think I am going to go with the Kentucky KM-850 for now. I liked the sound of my 756 and it's my understanding that the 850 and 855 are built in the same workshop as the higher end Kentucky 1000 series mandolins. I do know the 850 has Gotoh tuning machines which have to be better than the Saga tuning machines on the 756 which is what the major issue was that caused me to return it in the first place. Thanks to everyone for your input and advice.

  15. #9
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Westchester, NY

    Default Re: Help with a purchase decision

    It looks like the Martin is no longer available. I owned one just like it also from the 1940s in excellent condition and it was pretty underwhelming as a mandolin. Personally the simple Martin A flattops would be a better choice if you wanted a vintage Martin mandolin. It also took quite a while to sell it for well below retail price. I think the OP made the right decision.

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  17. #10
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Jan 2009
    St. Paul, MN

    Default Re: Help with a purchase decision

    Yeah, that Martin model is one of the few I have no interest in getting. OTOH, the KM-850 is a good mandolin. Played one early last year and was very impressed. Good sounding instrument.
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  18. #11
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Sep 2002

    Default Re: Help with a purchase decision

    Hm, admittedly my experience with Martin 2-15s is limited, but my friend Edd has an exceptionally nice one that sounds great, whereas I've never much cared for the tone of the Martin oval-hole mandolins. I guess that makes me a contrarian. In terms of collector value, though, it seems ill advised to pay more than $800 for a 2-15; there will always be one or two available at or below that price. The Musician's Friend one seems to have been sold. More than you wanted to know about electric mandolins.

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