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Thread: Wurlitzer Mandolin Help?

  1. #1

    Default Wurlitzer Mandolin Help?

    I have a vintage Wurlitzer mandolin that I have had for a number of years, but I know nothing about it.

    It is in playable condition and has a K&K pickup installed internally.

    Any thoughts about how much I could sell it for?
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  3. #2
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wurlitzer Mandolin Help?

    Well, Rudolph Wurlitzer was a chain of music stores, and as far as I know, didn't build any of their own instruments, commissioning various manufacturers to build instruments with "Wurlitzer" labels. C F Martin made guitars and ukuleles for them in the early 1920's, though my normal source, Longworth's book Martin Guitars: a A History, doesn't list any mandolins made. The somewhat Martin-esque look of your instrument sorta tempted me -- the headstock shape is like the short-lived Style D mandolin from the 19-teens -- but Martin fingerboards didn't extend over the soundhole, as a rule.

    So, somewhat at a loss to ID the maker; maybe others will do better. I did find a similar-appearing koa Wurlitzer mandolin on sale, asking price $499. Yours being rosewood, with more ornamentation and a pickup installed, you might ask a couple hundred more, see what interest you got.
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  5. #3
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wurlitzer Mandolin Help?

    Too bad the plates on the back of the headstock are missing. The tailpiece isn't original and it wasn't made by Martin.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  7. #4

    Default Re: Wurlitzer Mandolin Help?

    It looks to me like it could be a genuine Larson Bros instrument. Can you photograph the back of the headstock where the neck meets it with that strap removed? It has to be mentioned that Harmony made mandolins in a similar style to be sold by third parties. The value shown in this link below is an "estimate" and they are usually very low and have little meaning in many cases. Obviously, as mentioned above already, your mandolin has lost its original tailpiece and tuner cover. The tailpiece could be replaced quite easily. Edit: Does the ebony ( I am assuming it is genuine ebony) of the fingerboard show under the binding- it appears to in photo 8? This is a Larson feature.

    https://www.skinnerinc.com/auctions/2287/lots/27

    https://www.worthpoint.com/worthoped...olin-518370503

    Your mandolin may have had a fancier engraved tailpiece cover like this one which would involve you with getting the tailpiece- they are common and cheap- the cover less so. https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Man...wAAOSwf5RgW3wh

    I wonder if this cover plate would fit your mandolin? I imagine their shape was pretty standard but you might get the seller to send you a cardboard template or buy it on a sale or return basis.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Mey...gAAOSw169fUl9x
    Last edited by NickR; Mar-30-2021 at 3:31am.

  8. #5

    Default Re: Wurlitzer Mandolin Help?

    I now see that your mandolin has three screw holes on the headstock at the top to fix the plate on which probably means that the plate in the eBay auction is probably wrong for it but you might ask the seller for some dimensions. On another matter, I see that the tuners- or one of them only has a screw to attach it- the other tuner unit has lost the screw. It is pretty much reckoned that Harmony did not bother screwing the tuners in- relying on the tuners to locate through the holes in the headstock and the plate on the back to keep the tuners steady! Here below is a mandolin that I bid on while it was for sale on eBay. I assumed it was a Harmony made Supertone but the buyer who repaired it has identified it as from the Larson Brothers. At the bottom you can see some extensive comments from me and him about its attribution and I conceded that he was right although I cannot see the ebony from the board under the neck binding! The final comment from someone else suggests that the volute- which I asked you to photograph is not a definitive Larson feature. Certainly, the photos you have posted- which give us a glimpse inside the body suggests that the mandolin has been well made and finished off- not just on the outside.

    https://jakewildwood.blogspot.com/20...ade-fancy.html

    Finally, this mandolin may well have been sold by Sears, Roebuck as a Supertone- but before that company bought Harmony in 1916- and quickly moved all its models there for manufacture. On that basis, Harmony sometimes made its own versions of the instruments that had previously been made by other companies but as Jake pointed out, there are clear differences- especially on the inside.

  9. #6
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wurlitzer Mandolin Help?

    I saw all of those mandolins on Reverb identified as Larson's as well. The problem is that generally the majority of mandolins identified as Larson built were never anywhere near either of the the brothers. Don't fall into that trap.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  11. #7

    Default Re: Wurlitzer Mandolin Help?

    Indeed, my second sentence in my first post mentions the Harmony made mandolins that are very alike- Jake points out some of the differences in the debate we had after he posted the mandolin on his site. I stopped bidding once the price reached a certain point because I believed it to be Harmony made- not a Larson. Jake has, however, made a strong case for it being a Larson. Here is another mandolin- very similar which he describes as "Larsonesque" and I assume its internal features lead him to believing it was not made by Larson. He mentions the other one I posted above and questioning its origins in the light of this new example.

    https://jakewildwood.blogspot.com/20...-mandolin.html

    Certainly, if I owned the mandolin in question, I would try to get a backplate and a crown or cloud tailpiece irrespective of the maker. Getting it looked at my someone with the requisite knowledge would be very helpful although I would hope that what Jake has written would help in this process but it may not be provable.

  12. #8
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wurlitzer Mandolin Help?

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    Indeed, my second sentence in my first post mentions the Harmony made mandolins that are very alike- Jake points out some of the differences in the debate we had after he posted the mandolin on his site. I stopped bidding once the price reached a certain point because I believed it to be Harmony made- not a Larson. Jake has, however, made a strong case for it being a Larson. Here is another mandolin- very similar which he describes as "Larsonesque" and I assume its internal features lead him to believing it was not made by Larson.

    https://jakewildwood.blogspot.com/20...-mandolin.html

    Certainly, if I owned the mandolin in question, I would try to get a backplate and a crown or cloud tailpiece irrespective of the maker. Getting it looked at my someone with the requisite knowledge would be very helpful although I would hope that what Jake has written would help in this process but it may not be provable.
    Unfortunately there is so much bad information out there about what is and isn't a Larson that you're better off assuming it isn't. This isn't a new problem.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  13. #9

    Default Re: Wurlitzer Mandolin Help?

    No, I agree- there are plenty of instrument for sale "made by Larson" but nearly all are most definitely not made by Larson. I certainly don't want to build up this mandolins owner's hopes up high but it is worth giving it close scrutiny even if to rule out Larson and possibly rule Harmony in!

  14. #10
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wurlitzer Mandolin Help?

    I agree with Mike. The Larson Brothers were planning on laughing at the confusion they caused above by rarely ever identifying the majority of their work. I don't see how Jake makes a strong case—he seems more to have a hunch based on how they play and sound.

    One small detail is often a help in identifying Larson instruments. It is that strip on ebony under the binding on the neck. I don't know if Larsons only did it but in combination with other features would point in their direction. My one very possible Larson instrument is a Maurer bowlback. Here are pics of the side of the fretboard.

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    I have two Leland instruments (standard and piccolo mandolins) and Jake also thinks that all the Lelands were made by the Larsons. Again, it is possible but we can never be 100% sure. Jake does mention the numbers on the bracing and that could be a Larson feature. The OP's does have that.

    In any case, the OP instrument could be nice player but I think, in current condition with missing or non-original parts, that its market value would be lower than Allen's assessment.
    Jim

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  16. #11

    Default Re: Wurlitzer Mandolin Help?

    Jim thanks for the info- I did mention that strip of ebony in my first post and I also mentioned in my second [post that it did not seem to be present on the instrument that Jake confirmed to be Larson made. To reiterate, I have advocated caution since my first comment but getting what might be described as the more "definitive" aspects of a Larson build mentioned might quickly prove this mandolin was not made by the brothers, or it might suggest more research needs to be done- and that would be up to the mandolin's owner. He may be local to an authority- he may not be and that's what is probably needed in the final analysis. It's a nice instrument and if it was mine, I would sort out the tailpiece and start looking for a plate no matter the maker of this mandolin!

    I was shocked by this old sale from six weeks back!https://www.ebay.com/itm/Rare-Vintag...cAAOSwl09gMBcu

  17. #12
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wurlitzer Mandolin Help?

    Ah, the never-ending Larson debate! As a battered and despised (won't say by whom) veteran of "Larson wars," I did emerge with two Stahl instruments which have been sold to me as "guaranteed" Larson Bros. manufacture, a mandola and a mando-bass.

    The mandola has the ebony side strip on the neck mentioned above, and I'm pretty sure it's authentic L. make. Better than "pretty sure" on the bass, 'cause I have a pic of one of the Larsons holding it:

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    Woulda been nice if they'd taken more pics with their instruments...or signed them... Ah, that Swedish modesty and reticence...
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  18. #13
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wurlitzer Mandolin Help?

    I didn't know you'd snagged that bass. That's cool. More pictures please.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  19. #14
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    Default Re: Wurlitzer Mandolin Help?

    For the record: All Larson instruments with bound sound holes have the binding inlayed or mortised into the wood, rather than just glued to the perimeter of the sound hole.
    Other manufacturers also occasionally mortised their sound hole bindings, but not often.

    The Wurlitzer mandolin looks like quite a nice instrument, but it did not come from the Larson shop.

    Also, there are only three brand names that were exclusively built only by the Larsons. Those brands are Maurer, Euphonon, and Prairie State.
    A few of the more common brands that were sometimes made by the Larsons and sometimes by others includes Stahl, Dyer, and Stetson. And although the Leland name is sometimes associated with Larson, many of the Leland instruments were built by Lyon & Healy.

    And to complicate the matter, the Larsons built a fair number of un-branded instruments.

    Larson built mandolins have a very light back brace. If a flat back mandolin has a square or rectangular back brace, it was made by someone else.
    Last edited by rcc56; Mar-30-2021 at 7:32pm.

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  21. #15
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wurlitzer Mandolin Help?

    I'm with the esteemed J Garber and M Edgerton on this.

    I'm very glad that the "it's probably not, but maybe it's a possible Larson so let's just say it could be Larson because I really want it to be a Larson..." craze that's gone on here is finally sobering up.

    There are more so-called "Larsons" out there than splinters from the True Cross.


    This is certainly one of the so called "Leland" mandolins that I am convinced were made by Vega for L+H (and others).

    It certainly is not a Harmony.

    I also have a "Wurlitzer" labeled "Leland" model that is identical to the other proper half dozen or so L+H Leland models I have (except for the label.)

    Yes, I really like these mandolins....

    As Mike rightly puts it, a huge amount of misinformation about the LarBros has inadvertently, or advertently, been spread, some of it here.


    While this "Vega-Wurlitzer-Leland" has it's bridge in slightly the wrong place, as with Vegas (and as far as we know...only Vegas and no other Larsons) the design positions the bridge below the cant.

    As much as I love Jake, he's mistaken here, likely led astray by misinformation in the Larson Bros tome.

    The SNs on the bracing on these are identical (type font, location) that Vega used on their "Hegemony" Line (Empire, Conqueror, Victory, Domination, Conquest, Annihilation, etc.)

    And those mandolins...sold typically by Ditson but also others also had clear Vega details such as the head to neck joint, neck profile, body shape....and the bridge located below the cant.

    (To be sure, Ditson also sold some Hegemony mandolins that were not made by Vega and the difference between the models is very clear....)

    All that aside....I think these are great little mandolins.

    I'm not alone, Carlo Aonzo borrowed mine during a workshop and refused to give it back. He loved it, too.

    Mick
    Last edited by brunello97; Mar-30-2021 at 11:06pm.
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