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Thread: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    Hi Everybody!

    I'm new here, so forgive me if this has already been discussed. I was just gifted my Grandfathers Gibson A3 mandolin. I believe it's a 1917. It has some wear and tear like separation at the bottom seam, but it's otherwise in pretty good condition. I have 2 questions.

    1. I would like to get it restored to working order. I am in Southern California. Does anyone know any good luthiers in the area? I don't mind driving. Or should I send it to Gibson to be restored?

    2. Does anyone know anything about the A3 mandolins? My grandfather died before I was born but I am the only one who takes after him musically. He loved this instrument and I would love to know as much as I can about it.

    Thank you in advance!Click image for larger version. 

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    Looks to be mid teens. If you post the serial number and the, so called, factory order number - which will be stamped inside somewhere near the neck block - somebody will tell you the exact date.

    Clearly I’m unable to advise on Southern Californian luthiers but somebody will - welcome to the forum.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    Very nice!

  4. #4
    Teacher, luthier
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    Default Re: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    Absolutely do NOT send it to Gibson. They have neither the resources nor the knowledge to work on antique instruments.
    I'm afraid I do not know of any luthiers I can recommend in Southern CA, but someone here will.

    At the time this mandolin was made, Gibson offered four models with the teardrop body shape. The A-3 was one below the top of the line, which was the A-4. The natural or "pumpkin" top finish was standard until a year or two after this mandolin was built. Then the top finish was changed to an opaque "ivory" finish. A-3's were built from the company's incorporation in 1902 until the model was discontinued in 1922 or '23. In 1917, the list price was $70.91 and the dealer's net cost was $40.00. A case was extra, with a dealer's cost of $5 to $8 extra.

    Yours still has its original tuners, bridge, tailpiece, and pickguard. Be sure that you hold on to them.
    Natural top A-3's were built in rather small numbers and can be considered to be slightly rare.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    Hi Katie,

    You may enjoy seeing this catalog page that describes your grandfather’s A3 mandolin. The back and sides are described as maple but most were made with birch.

    Mark

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Mark Lynch

  6. #6

    Default Re: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    Thank you so much! This is great information. Especially about not sending it to Gibson. I want to keep it as close to current condition as possible, just working order. I found a highly rated Luthier right near work so I made an appointment to get it evaluated with him.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    Wow this is amazing! How did you find it? Thank you!

  8. #8

    Default Re: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkELynch View Post
    Hi Katie,

    You may enjoy seeing this catalog page that describes your grandfather’s A3 mandolin. The back and sides are described as maple but most were made with birch.

    Mark

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Do you know any luthiers in Maryland? I will be out there this summer and can bring it to somebody there.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    Not Southern CA, but Gary Vessel is in Modesto and will do your mandolin right!

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    Yes, Marc Glickman in Frederick MD is an expert at restoring vintage Gibson mandolins. He has worked on most of my collection.
    Send me a private message and I can put you in touch with Marc.
    Mark Lynch

  11. #11

    Default Re: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by luthier88 View Post
    Not Southern CA, but Gary Vessel is in Modesto and will do your mandolin right!
    Excellent! Do you have an e-mail for him, by chance?

  12. #12
    Registered User slimt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    That looks like a Nice Mandolin.

  13. #13
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    I got my first Gibson, a mid-'teens A-1, from my grandfather's attic, after he'd passed away and we were emptying his house prior to selling it. Apparently the mandolin belonged to his second wife, who was a musician -- there was a no-name gut-strung banjo, and a B & J Victoria bowl-back mandolin, in the attic as well. I think I met Alice, his second wife, once when I was three years old or so, but she pre-deceased my grandfather.

    And that, folks, is how I got started playing mandolin 50+ years ago. Nothing better than carrying on a family tradition, whether it's mandolin playing, moonshining, or anything in between.
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  14. #14
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    My first Gibson was a 1919 A-3 whiteface. It was the best sounding A-model on Mandolin Brothers’ wall. Excellent sounding. Best of luck in restoring it and I hope you will play it as well. So cool that it was your grandad’s.
    Jim

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    Default Re: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    Mccabes in Santa Monica should be able to help.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    Contact Nowell Siegel at Living Tree Music in SoCal 818-895-2093, www.livingtreemusic.com.

    I understand that Nowell isn't taking in any repairs until May, due to COVID, but he's an excellent mandolin luthier. I'm certain he has plenty of experience restoring and repairing the teen's Gibsons.

  17. #17
    Registered User Patrick Melly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    [QUOTE=billykatzz;1818554]Contact Nowell Siegel at Living Tree Music in SoCal 818-895-2093, www.livingtreemusic.com.

    I recommend Nowell Siegel also; he knows old Gibsons well. His shop is in Panorama City, in the San Fernando Valley.
    Patrick Melly

  18. #18
    Registered User Tom C's Avatar
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    Default Re: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    Lucky. Most of us get the bowl back mandolins from our grand fathers.

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  20. #19
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    So great! I've kept my A3 for over 35 years. Second owner. When I got it it needed work - neck was bowed and the seams separated. Well worth the repair bill back then and remained stable since. Mine's white, but otherwise the same. Just love it!

    f-d
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    '20 A3, '30 L-1, '97 914, 2012 Cohen A5, 2012 Muth A5, '14 OM28A

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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    Katie, that is wonderful for you to have inherited such a nice instrument! Family history is an even bigger plus. Sorry I can’t help with a luthier but, they are out there. And I agree, sending it to the factory would be a waste of time. Find someone local, learn to play it and remember your grandfather.
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

  22. #21
    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    Was going to recommend taking it to Living Tree as well - how lovely to have inherited your grandad's mandolin, and what a beauty it is, hope it gives you many years of enjoyment!
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  23. #22
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    Congratulations and welcome to the Café!

    I'll agree with those recommending a local luthier. As much as there may be a good one as recommended in MD - and I was going to suggest my guy in CT when you take your trip east - it would complicate matters with shipping, safety and insurance being issues best left alone. Someone within easy driving distance is best, in case of any issues that come up during the repair. Don't be put off by the waiting period. Any luthier worth hiring will have a waiting list.

    And a tip of the Humor Hat to Tom C for his astute observation. It's a fair assumption that the vast majority of inherited mandolins will be some sort of bowlback or other not-too-interesting-nor-valuable instrument. You've much to be thankful for, despite the circumstances. And I would like to offer my condolences for your loss, even though you never knew him. If you hang around here a while and read through some of the threads, you'll see how often this comes up. And furthermore, you'll learn a lot about the mandolin in its many forms and functions.
    Last edited by journeybear; Apr-09-2021 at 3:50pm. Reason: Thought of something else
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  24. #23

    Default Re: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    Hey Journeybear, who is your guy in CT?
    Last edited by Eric L; Apr-09-2021 at 8:19pm.

  25. #24
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Grandfathers Gibson A3 Mandolin

    George Youngblood, in Guilford. His waiting list was nearly a year long when I was up there last June. Circumstances being what they've been, he might have got caught up some. Hopefully he'll have fixed up the two I left with him by now, or soon. It's about time to check.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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