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Thread: Mandolin Pricing?

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    Registered User Ky Slim's Avatar
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    Default Mandolin Pricing?

    Realizing the can of worms this may open I've been sitting on this question for a while now. What drives mandolin pricing? If it is simply supply and demand there must be an awful lot of people looking to buy mandolins. Builders are turning them out, one could even say "cranking" them out. The used mandolin market isn't shrinking - mandolins aren't just disappearing. There does not appear to be anything close to a shortage of mandolins.

    I'm not trying devalue or undercut or disrespect any builders talent for their craft. I'm not trying to bring into question the value of any instruments that are currently owned and/or for sale. I understand that in life prices only go one way - Up. I'm just curious if there is some standard of measurement for value that prices are derived from. Also, I will say that I am not currently in the market to purchase a mandolin (or anything) at the moment.

    I don't want to ask too many questions or open too many cans. Please don't chop me up for asking - What drives mandolin pricing?
    Last edited by Ky Slim; Yesterday at 9:02am.

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    Default Re: Mandolin Pricing?

    Perhaps supply and demand?

    Depends on what you seek and seems to vary, builder to builder. Apparently, pandemic demand was high. One prominent domestic builder has temporarily ceased mando builds to catch up on guitar production. Builders may be passing on pandemic related costs that they can’t absorb.

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    Default Re: Mandolin Pricing?

    There seems to be a lot of demand out there. For example, Girouard's wait list is 2 years now and there are others in the same boat.

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    Registered User RFluke's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Pricing?

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/c...d-Demand-Story

    I thought this was interesting, and it might give you some answers.

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Pricing?

    Supply and demand, or market forces are important, but when we get into the "higher end" market, especially hand built mandolins, branding becomes much more important for determining prices.
    We've been through this before around here, but when we face facts we can see that quality has limits. All builders have access to the same materials, all builders can learn proper building techniques and either learn to do excellent finishes or "farm out" finishing to someone who does, etc. etc.. In short, when top quality is reached there is no 'better', only 'different'. If we look at prices of top quality mandolins we find a huge range from moderate for hand built instruments to 5 figure prices. Why? Largely branding. Some names command much higher prices in the market than others.
    Here's where the whole 'bargain' thing comes along. As I've said several times, we must learn to judge quality on our own to find the bargains; those mandolins built to top standards that don't have a name capable of bringing in top prices. It gets a little more complicated for those buyers who consider resale value when making an initial purchase, but if one is looking for a mandolin to play, and learns to judge quality for him/herself, bargains are out there!

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    Default Re: Mandolin Pricing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ky Slim View Post
    The used mandolin market isn't shrinking - mandolins aren't just disappearing. There does not appear to be anything close to a shortage of mandolins.
    Awful lot of people selling mandolins for a living that do not agree with this. An awful lot of people that do not sell instruments for a living do not agree with that assessment. It's factual right now that availability is way, way down compared to pre-pandemic. Because there are instruments available that are visible does not mean there has not been a dramatic change in availability. As previously pointed out, this article provides a lot of insight. What we are hearing and seeing is this is actually continuing to get worse, and it's a lot of retail and manufacturing sectors from a wide range of industries impacted, not just stringed musical instruments. When it corrects/reverses is an unknown.

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    Default Re: Mandolin Pricing?

    Agree with the above. I bought a Blues Jr amp at my local Guitar Center a few weeks ago, and it was really shocking how empty the walls were. In the past most of it was entry-mid level guitars and basses, but there were always a ton of them. I bet only 1/3 (or maybe a little more) of the hangers had instruments in them. And, the acoustic room was even worse. With mandolins I get it (see the Weber story, production and import issues from China, etc), but the electric guitar shortage really drove the point home to me.

    Same for used cars not manufactured domestically, as we learned during a recent buying experience, which was actually really low pressure and haggle free due to the scarcity…

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    Default Re: Mandolin Pricing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ky Slim View Post
    What drives mandolin pricing? If it is simply supply and demand there must be an awful lot of people looking to buy mandolins.
    I'm guessing that before the pandemic, there was a pretty established and consistent equilibrium between supply and demand. The companies and the luthiers knew about how many mandolins they could sell each year, and produced accordingly, with the luthiers closing their waitlists when the demand wonderfully exceeded what they could supply.

    One of the many bizarre situations created by the pandemic involved tens of millions of Americans being unable to buy what they needed due to job losses, along with tens of millions of Americans being unable to buy what they wanted due to travel restrictions, sports and performance cancellations, bar closures, etc., even though their employment was not affected. You can also add the stock market gains into that. So, some of that disposable income was reallocated into instrument purchases, creating a demand that the supply couldn't meet.

    Quote Originally Posted by sunburst View Post
    Some names command much higher prices in the market than others.
    ...if one is looking for a mandolin to play, and learns to judge quality for him/herself, bargains are out there!
    I learned that on my visit to Carter's and Gruhn's four years ago. My buddy and I played probably 20-30 mandolins in the $5-25K mandolin range, and my absolute favorite was a year-old Apitius F5, which was going for around $6,500 at Carter's. When I checked Carter's website a month or so later, it was gone, but all of the other more expensive mandos were still there.
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    Registered User Glassweb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Pricing?

    I agree with what John H said earlier in the thread... once you get to a certain level of instrument it's more about "different" than "better". And, of course, the name on the headstock.

    Another point... I bet a bunch of us have played instruments made overseas with an under $1,000 price tag that just shocked us. I played an Eastman oval-hole the other day and I could only shake my head... an absolutely pro-quality instrument for under $1,000. Unreal...

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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Pricing?

    If I exited retirement, my consulting fee would be over $200/hr.

    It takes 100 hrs to build a mandolin, or so I've seen.

    At my rate that'd be $20,000 bucks! Then there are supplies - the wood for the mandolin, so that's another $500 to $1,000?

    They are out there, but most builders do not get $20,000 for an axe.

    Even retail pricing at $10,000, means the item is wholesaling at something much less. So, do factory workers make $50/hr at Gibson or Collings?

    I think it's buckle-up and spend wisely.

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    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Pricing?

    I'm sure it changes over time for a solo maker. I would suspect in the beginning the price is driven by the cost of production. Over time, price can reflect the demand for your instrument, better cost analysis, brand recognition and perhaps endorsing players.

    btw, I doubt productivity in small shops is growing by leaps and bounds to 'crank out' mandolins. Orville and Lloyd might marvel at some new machinery and tools, but really, not a lot has changed in the last 100 years in the production process.

    And not everyone has the same taste or 'value' criteria, which leads to different pricing concerns, for both buyer and seller.

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