Results 1 to 20 of 20

Thread: Gibson A-4, Teens vs 20s

  1. #1
    Registered User Mike Buesseler's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Whitefish,MT
    Posts
    1,528

    Default Gibson A-4, Teens vs 20s

    There is a really good-looking Gibson A-4 in the classifieds. I think itís from about 1924. $5000.

    I recently bought a 1915 A-4, had it refretted and set up beautifully. I have less than $3000 in it.

    Besides the truss rod in the Loar-period instrument, is there really a lot of difference between these mandolins? Iím specifically curious about the sound comparison. I love my Ď15 A-4 and itís hard to imagine one that sounds a lot better.

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Gainesville, FL
    Posts
    2,564

    Default Re: Gibson A-4, Teens vs 20s

    I have a 'teens A-4, along with some others, and it meets all my needs. I wouldn't spend 5grand just to get a "24.

  3. The following members say thank you to Denny Gies for this post:


  4. #3
    Teacher, luthier
    Join Date
    Oct 2017
    Location
    Southeast Tennessee
    Posts
    2,640

    Default Re: Gibson A-4, Teens vs 20s

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buesseler View Post


    Besides the truss rod in the Loar-period instrument, is there really a lot of difference between these mandolins? I’m specifically curious about the sound comparison. I love my ‘15 A-4 and it’s hard to imagine one that sounds a lot better.

    In my experience, except for those who prefer a smaller neck, no. While I acknowledge that every mandolin is different, they can all be loosely described as being either good, very good, or not good at all.

    I will note that I had a late [circa 1930] A-4 pass through my shop a few years back. After I cured its intonation problems, which necessitated replacing the fingerboard, it turned out to be a pretty durn good mandolin. But not as good as some of the best 1910's A-4's that I have played, and better than some of the others.

  5. The following members say thank you to rcc56 for this post:


  6. #4
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    St. Paul, MN
    Posts
    1,450

    Default Re: Gibson A-4, Teens vs 20s

    Well, I will say that Loar era one really looks clean. Like, wow. Even the case looks nice from what I can see in the one photo.

    As it has EVO frets and has been gone over by Bruce, it's probably worth that much to someone.

    Is it better than an earlier one? Depends on what you have and what you value. If sound is number one, then maybe not. If you want one of the nicest examples out there, then this might be it.

    To my mind, that's getting into a worn F2 territory, so would have to consider that.

  7. #5
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    Posts
    3,423

    Default Re: Gibson A-4, Teens vs 20s

    Quote Originally Posted by Denny Gies View Post
    I wouldn't spend 5grand just to get a "24.
    Who needs to spend 5 grand to get a ‘24?
    1924 Gibson A Snakehead
    2005 National RM-1
    2007 Hester A5
    2009 Passernig A5
    2015 Black A2-z
    2010 Black GBOM
    2017 Poe Scout
    2014 Smart F-Style Mandola
    2018 Vessel TM5
    2019 Hogan F5

  8. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to pheffernan For This Useful Post:


  9. #6

    Default Re: Gibson A-4, Teens vs 20s

    The 1915 A4, if there are no issues, will be hard to beat for that oval hole sound. IMHO the '24 one falls into that category of rare and like snakeheads, somehow more desirable. Maybe to the collector but if yours is all set up perfectly then I'd see it being as good, at least. May even look better with the HANDEL TUNER BUTTONS. Strings, bridge material, set up all come into it. e.g. I find that a rosewood bridge works much better than ebony on my 1919 F4. Also bone nut as opposed to pearl. I'd be content with what you have but are we mandolinists ever content?

  10. #7
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Rochester NY 14610
    Posts
    16,967

    Default Re: Gibson A-4, Teens vs 20s

    The 1924 date of manufacture makes it "Loar era," which means a premium market asking price -- regardless of whether it's a better mandolin than one made five years earlier or later.

    At least that seems to be how pricing's going now, from what I've seen. There may be some additional price justification in having an adjustable truss rod, but IMHO the ghost of Lloyd L is what's kicking the price up.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  11. #8
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    Posts
    3,423

    Default Re: Gibson A-4, Teens vs 20s

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    The 1924 date of manufacture makes it "Loar era," which means a premium market asking price -- regardless of whether it's a better mandolin than one made five years earlier or later.

    At least that seems to be how pricing's going now, from what I've seen. There may be some additional price justification in having an adjustable truss rod, but IMHO the ghost of Lloyd L is what's kicking the price up.
    I’ve always thought that the snakehead was just a recognizable visual cue signaling other developments (adjustable bridge, adjustable truss rod, more narrow neck, profile, etc.) favored by modern players.
    1924 Gibson A Snakehead
    2005 National RM-1
    2007 Hester A5
    2009 Passernig A5
    2015 Black A2-z
    2010 Black GBOM
    2017 Poe Scout
    2014 Smart F-Style Mandola
    2018 Vessel TM5
    2019 Hogan F5

  12. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to pheffernan For This Useful Post:


  13. #9
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    Richmond, Virginia
    Posts
    7,582

    Default Re: Gibson A-4, Teens vs 20s

    snake heads sound different than paddle heads.

    I kept the latter, but the former costs more.

    Cache does play into this; however. Be guided by your ears and fingers!

    f-d
    °papŠ gordo ainít no madre flaca!

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

  14. The following members say thank you to fatt-dad for this post:


  15. #10

    Default Re: Gibson A-4, Teens vs 20s

    The only plus factor I see with snakeheads is that the strings don't touch each other (as they do with certain other old Gibson mandolins) and the nut slots don't have to be sideways as much. I think the original Gibson mandolins would have been better if the headstock had perhaps been a little narrower at the top without actually going as far as the snakeheads, thus avoiding the strings touching each other.

  16. #11
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Outer Spiral Arm, of Galaxy, NW Oregon.
    Posts
    16,667

    Default Re: Gibson A-4, Teens vs 20s

    Maybe '22 saw the introduction of the truss rod , my paddle head A4 has a nickel plated TRC proclaiming it's presence..
    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

  17. #12

    Default Re: Gibson A-4, Teens vs 20s

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buesseler View Post
    There is a really good-looking Gibson A-4 in the classifieds. I think itís from about 1924. $5000.

    I recently bought a 1915 A-4, had it refretted and set up beautifully. I have less than $3000 in it.

    Besides the truss rod in the Loar-period instrument, is there really a lot of difference between these mandolins? Iím specifically curious about the sound comparison. I love my Ď15 A-4 and itís hard to imagine one that sounds a lot better.
    I have a 1913 A4, but the action is a little high with the fixed bridge. I've ordered an adjustable from Cumberland so that I can adjust the action. The tone on this instrument is so warm and lyrical. No comparison to my newer mandos.

  18. #13
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Asheville, NC
    Posts
    2,314

    Default Re: Gibson A-4, Teens vs 20s

    All of those prices seem incredibly inflated; you can get a damned nice modern mandolin for $3-5k that will be much more diverse, useful, and likely blow the doors off a 100 year old Gibson in a group setting. BUT, since the original posted asked:

    My notes show that generally:

    Teens A models will have ribs in the .100-.120: thickness; snakeheads are more in the .080-.075".

    Truss rods in the snakehead eras; triangular cherry wooden insert in the teens.

    Teens necks tend to be wider; snakeheads are much smaller and more narrow. I don't believe it is because of the truss rod. I think it is because Lloyd Loar who instigated the changes was a fiddle player and used to much smaller necks.

    Plate thicknesses, especially the tops tend to be approx. 20% thinner on snakeheads. Remember that is essentially 20% less beam strength, so it makes a big mechanical difference. You will also find some materials differences. Snakeheads tend to be maple backs but you will find some some variation with birch and maybe poplar backs in the teen years. I'm sure there are other one offs; anything was possible with Gibson...

    In layman's terms, snakeheads tend to be a bit warmer in voice and many like the smaller neck profile, but...some of the best overall sounding vintage A style mandolins I've played were from around 1915. They may not be quite as warm and tubby, but the added thickness cuts through the mix slightly better. All teens and 20's oval holed As have a different voice than the later 1930s and up A50 style mandolins.

    Those are all generalizations. No matter what year oval hole A you have, they will have a similar tubby voice and will never sound like an F5. The Griffith A5 is a completely different beast and is my favorite Loar signed F5!

    'Hope that helps.

  19. The following members say thank you to j. condino for this post:


  20. #14
    Teacher, luthier
    Join Date
    Oct 2017
    Location
    Southeast Tennessee
    Posts
    2,640

    Default Re: Gibson A-4, Teens vs 20s

    Well, for those who consider power to be of paramount importance, the three most powerful mandolins I recall playing were [in no particular order] an X braced Gilchrist F-5, a rather beat up Lloyd Loar signed F-5 with a Virzi [despite the conventional wisdom that all Virzi equipped mandolins are weak], and a 2 point D'Angelico oval hole mandolin. But I have my doubts that any of those three would stand up to a particularly aggressive fiddler or banjo player with a powerful instrument. And the only one of those three that had a tone that I found to be particularly appealing to me was the D'Angelico.

    As far as oval hole A's are concerned, I have found that they vary considerably in tone character and power. I know of a 1917 A-4 set up with a 1921 aluminum bridge that has a surprising amount of cut. Another strong one was an old early 'teens black A-4 that went through the hands of 2 well known professionals. I would not describe either of those instruments as "tubby."

    The only snakehead A-4 that I spent any time playing was a very sweet sounding instrument, but not a powerful instrument.

    Me, I'm less concerned with power than I am with tone.

    Unless the current market changes drastically, $2000 - $3000 will buy a top notch A-4, depending on condition and color. Add two thousand or more to that if you insist on a snakehead, but it won't necessarily be a better or worse instrument than a 'teens model. I will mention that there are several snakehead A-4's that have been languishing on the market for several years at asking prices of $6000. The sellers may be asking 6+, but they aren't getting it.
    Last edited by rcc56; Oct-28-2021 at 12:59am.

  21. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to rcc56 For This Useful Post:


  22. #15
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Bellingham, WA
    Posts
    23

    Default Re: Gibson A-4, Teens vs 20s

    I know it's none of my business, but as someone who keeps his eye on the vintage mandolin market, I often wonder how many years a seller will list a vintage Gibson at a certain high price before lowering it to current market value. I can think of a handful of instruments that are, in my opinion, way overpriced, yet they never budge, year after year. Clearly, the sellers are in no rush, or else waiting for a less educated shopper to make an impulse purchase.

  23. #16
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    Posts
    3,423

    Default Re: Gibson A-4, Teens vs 20s

    Quote Originally Posted by KCNelson View Post
    I know it's none of my business, but as someone who keeps his eye on the vintage mandolin market, I often wonder how many years a seller will list a vintage Gibson at a certain high price before lowering it to current market value. I can think of a handful of instruments that are, in my opinion, way overpriced, yet they never budge, year after year. Clearly, the sellers are in no rush, or else waiting for a less educated shopper to make an impulse purchase.
    I imagine that some of them bought those mandolins when the market was higher and don’t want to come out upside down / are hoping that the prices come back for them.
    1924 Gibson A Snakehead
    2005 National RM-1
    2007 Hester A5
    2009 Passernig A5
    2015 Black A2-z
    2010 Black GBOM
    2017 Poe Scout
    2014 Smart F-Style Mandola
    2018 Vessel TM5
    2019 Hogan F5

  24. #17
    Registered User zookster's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    120

    Default Re: Gibson A-4, Teens vs 20s

    I think we lose sight of who was working at the factory during what era. Those weren't CNC machines building the mandolins, but people --- quite a few -- and the skill of the indivicuals responsible for plate carving in particular has a lot to do with the sound quality of a particular instrument. Like anyone involved with vintage Gibsons, I have my favorite eras at the factory, and the instruments I have held onto reflect that fact. It has a lot to do with who was doing the work.

    A4 meant better materials, and supposed better sound, but this is not always the case. I recently traded for a '16 A-O pumpkin top, only intending to flip it, but it sounds so good I have been playing it regularly. (I think 1914-16 is one of the very good times in Gibson history).

    I own products from all three of the first decades of the company's existence. They have different strengths, but all sound very good.

    I am leery of statements like "all snakeheads sound great." Yes, some sound very good, probably due to who was doing the carving at that time. However, we all know no matter what you do, even instruments made from the same exact boards come out sounding a little different. If you like the smaller nut, that's a factor in your purchase, but it doesn't affect the sound. I suspect snakehead A4's carry such a premium partly because of their rarity, and also because they look so cool. A standard A4 from the same era is just as good an instrument, but it is worth twice what a mid teens brings? It depends on the tone, and what kind of sound YOU want.

  25. The following members say thank you to zookster for this post:


  26. #18
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Outer Spiral Arm, of Galaxy, NW Oregon.
    Posts
    16,667

    Question Re: Gibson A-4, Teens vs 20s

    Before the CNC was the 3D pantograph carving with a router motor..

    The guy who I Met in Oregon had 3D router patterns in Aluminum , he bought in Kalamazoo at the Parsons street moving sale

    when Gibson Corp packed up and left town .. to make F type bodies Front & Back ..

    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

  27. #19
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Kalamazoo, MI.
    Posts
    7,357

    Default Re: Gibson A-4, Teens vs 20s

    Yep, you have to remember that this state had a significant number of furniture manufacturers, the pantograph seat carving machine was applying furniture “gang cutters” to rough out tops and backs. The final work was done by hand but, we are not talking about everyone of the line workers being fine tuners of the plates they were carving, there were orders to fill. What we now find in modern CNC carved plates are vastly more closely finished before getting to the hands of someone trained more closely in what the desired product specifications are.
    Sorry that went way out there but, I wanted to echo mandroid’s statement.
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

  28. #20
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Asheville, NC
    Posts
    2,314

    Default Re: Gibson A-4, Teens vs 20s

    The unicorns and fairy dust left the factory long before Loar did and from what I've heard, they didn't have near the amount of fun that old Lloyd did at the office Christmas party just before he got fired.........

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •