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Thread: Gibson mando date and model?

  1. #1

    Default Gibson mando date and model?

    Inherited a couple mandos from my great grandfather. A gibson I think is a 1930 ish? And a harmony "bat wing" h35. The gibson has no serial number on it anywhere. The harmony has serial number 0099h35, was this the 99th mandolin of this model made? Ive been picking around on the harmony but dont dare touch the gibson haha.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

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  3. #3
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

    Actually the Harmony has no serial number because Harmony didn't put serial numbers on their instruments. That is a model number. Look inside the Harmony with a flashlight. Are there any other numbers visible? Anything like S-XX or W-XX?

    On the Gibson look inside the sound hole towards the neck. Are there some numbers stamped on the neck block? That would be the Factory Order Number or FON.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

    Show us the tuner units on the Harmony- they changed style in the 1970s and I think they may well be those Grover made units. If there is a date stamp it will be above and incorporated in the "MADE IN USA" marking which is fairly small and is often smudged. The Gibson script logo is a type used from 1933 and that model of mandolin was last made in 1934 if it is an F2 but I think it is an F4- last made in 1939. Again, the tuners may help date it.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

    This is an F4 with Kluson tuners. The date given is 1936 but it may have been shipped a little later as Gibson began using Kluson tuners in 1937. It seems to be the case that Gibson instruments could be made then finally completed for sale some time later which would explain such an anomaly.

    http://www.mandolinarchive.com/gibson/serial/93933

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

    Nick, do you see any major differences between the OP's and the one you linked to?
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

    Clearly, there is no fleur de lis in the headstock- I have been trying to find when that was last used but it is proving elusive. I posted that link up because it shows the Kluson tuners but I have a feeling the instrument in question will have Waverly engraved bell style.

    Edit: I have found a catalogue photo of a wide body A50 dated 1937 with the fleur de lis, so it may have been used to the very late 1930s. Other differences are the binding on the headstock and guard plate- I am again not sure when that headstock binding was dropped but it must be 1936 or before. Another observation, is that the "1936" mandolin has Gibson Phillips screws which it is reckoned were first used in 1939, so I think it may well have been shipped a lot later than is suggested. Mind you, the OP's mandolin has them too! Perhaps, they have both been back to Kalamazoo?
    Last edited by NickR; Feb-22-2021 at 4:04pm.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

    The headstock on the OP's is bound, the logo appears to be inlaid and the bridge wheels are totally different. The bridge could have been changed but I'd be at least looking for the bound headstock. Look for those items first. You're comparing apples to oranges.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

    Mike, my edit came after you had posted this comment above and I had not refreshed the page. My posting of the link was to show tuner units but you are right those other details are crucial. Let's hope we see the tuners of the two instruments. I think it interesting they both have those Phillips screws holding on their truss rod plates. Perhaps, they had their necks looked at by Gibson at some point?

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    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

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  11. #11

    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

    I checked for a fon no such luck. I gave George Gruhn a call and had him look at the gibson he and the other guy who have both written books on suck topics say its a 1941 f4 with f5 pick guard and some odds and ends. Im having it appraised by him soon. My great grandfather ordered this direct from gibson after the war when that was how you purchased a new one. Special order. As for the lack of serial and fon... beats me it sounds amazing though. The harmony has only 0099H35 and a blue blotch of ink. The headstock of the harmony also has the black top piece thats cut out over white not printed or inlayed.

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    Registered User slimt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

    Nice Mandolins. I sure like that F4 though.

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    Actually the Harmony has no serial number because Harmony didn't put serial numbers on their instruments. That is a model number. Look inside the Harmony with a flashlight. Are there any other numbers visible? Anything like S-XX or W-XX?
    The 0099 is a lot number, I think. Date stamps would be either F-xx (first half of the year) or S-xx (second half of the year), right? I've never seen a W-xx.

    We know this was made in the USA since it has the engraved headplate; we can be pretty sure it isn't a '65 or a '72 because it doesn't have a truss rod (yes, the truss rods went away for a few years and came back again); we know it was made before 1973, when the model number was changed to H-835. If anyone knows for sure when Harmony started using those high-ratio Grover tuners I'd love to hear about it ... they show up on most of these instruments that I've seen, and the ones that don't have 'em usually have tuners that are obvious replacements.

    This Batwing is missing its pickguard but everything else looks original. It is no Gibson and doesn't sound like much until you plug it in.
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

    Quote Originally Posted by 3genpicker View Post
    ...My great grandfather ordered this direct from gibson after the war when that was how you purchased a new one. Special order.
    So, he ordered it after WWII? Is there any remnants of a label of any kind inside the sound hole?
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

    OK, so Gibson was known to sit on unfinished instruments and sell them at a later time. Perhaps building larger batches than they had orders for. Here is a 1941 Gibson F5 (a different model) but it has the Fleur-De-Lis inlay so if the one linked to is indeed a 1941 that erases any problem with the inlay on the headstock. They were obviously still selling instruments with that inlay into the 40's. There are several examples in the Mandolin Archive of F-4's with the larger wheels on the bridge so either that was a stock item or a common replacement. The George Gruhn-Walter Carter book lists the F4 as being manufactured through 1943. That doesn't mean they stopped selling them and I'm sure if they had them you could buy one after the war. The tuners may be all telling because unless they were replaced the tuners used a few years earlier than the end of the war would have a had a glob of nickel plated brass holding the cog on and and a few years after the war they would have had covers over the gears. I would guess that they just cleaned house and used what they had to fill this order.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

    The Batwing tuners place it at the end of the Harmony Company's manufacturing days. Very late 60's very early 70's. The H35 piece of the number is the model number, nobody has ever found the definitive answer as to what the numbers to the left of the H were. The date codes if they were there would be F or S.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    The Batwing tuners place it at the end of the Harmony Company's manufacturing days. Very late 60's very early 70's.
    Well, OK, but that's kind of misleading with respect to this model. I don't believe I've ever seen a Batwing earlier than 1965 or later than 1974. So those tuners might well have been used for the entire U.S. production run of this model.

    Until very recently I was in possession of eight Batwings altogether. Four of them have sold and one is still at the luthier's, but if I'm not mistaken it's a '65 and it has those tuners.
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

    Harmony ceased production in 1975. They were importing instruments right before the end. I've seen Batwings with the normal ratio tuners so I know they weren't used the entire production time. I don't know if I've seen these before 1968 or 1969. For years I had a brand new set here in the box. They were also on a 1974 Harmony Monterey I had. I can't get you any closer than that.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

    The doyen of the Harmony Chicago Facebook page recently posted to say that Harmony lasted until 1977- which is later than is generally mentioned and it may be that the company had ceased production in 1975 and just sold imports, he did not mention this. Those tuners are the Grover type, apparently, used from the early 1970s after Waverly ceased to trade until Harmony closed down- whichever date that might be, making this mandolin from that period as Mike mentions. That's all very interesting about the F4- far from straightforward. As I noted, it has those Phillips screws holding the truss rod plate but the screws in the tuners are the earlier slotted type used, which were superseded by the Phillips screws in 1939. As Mike mentions, the tuners are the original style made before the USA entered WW2 as the gears are held in by screws. On that basis the earliest type from 1936 show a "patent applied" stamp on them and then the later patent number from 1938- you would have to take the tuners off to see these marks. However, if as suggested the mandolin was assembled in the 1940s, this is academic. It would be interesting to hear what the appraisal suggests as the instrument does raise interesting questions and as suggested may well have been assembled from what was available at the time.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

    Sometimes I wonder how much I've forgotten over the years. Martin is free to wonder the same thing.

    Harmony Batwing discussion
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

    ha!

    Well, I recently sold a '65 and as i said above, I think the one now with my luthier is also a '65 but I'll have to double check when I get it back. It is weird how the truss rods come and go ... they were used in '65, '69 and '72, but instruments from other years don't have them. I also just sold another one that didn't have a date stamp.

    Will try to do better documentation of any further ones I come across.

    From time to time I run into Jason Verlinde, the publisher of Fretboard Journal, or exchange email/texts with him. About a year and a half ago, he became aware of Batwings for the first time and asked me if I'd ever seen one. I had to break it to him gently that at the time there were six of them in my basement.
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    ...From time to time I run into Jason Verlinde, the publisher of Fretboard Journal, or exchange email/texts with him. About a year and a half ago, he became aware of Batwings for the first time and asked me if I'd ever seen one. I had to break it to him gently that at the time there were six of them in my basement.
    That's pretty funny.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    ...at the time there were six of them in my basement.
    I'd have moved 'em to the belfry -- assuming you have one...
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    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    I'd have moved 'em to the belfry -- assuming you have one...
    Now THAT'S pretty funny!
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    Default Re: Gibson mando date and model?

    Did Batson D. Belfrey play mandolin?
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