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Thread: Need help valuing mandolin.

  1. #1
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    Default Need help valuing mandolin.

    I have a Vega f-hole cylinder back mandolin c.1920 by serial number 38168. It is a Bauer Model as stated on the front headstock plate. I'm trying to put a value on it for insurance but I cannot find this design anywhere online so I am turning to you for help. I have attached photos.
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    Last edited by flfortun; Sep-29-2021 at 9:28pm. Reason: Photos didn't upload correctly

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    Your photos did not attach correctly. You'll have to try again.

    I don't recall seeing a cylinder back with F-holes.
    Prices for plain models with oval holes in decent condition are running between $1200 and $1800 or so these days.

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    This is a pretty special and unique mandolin.

    Never seen a Vega cylinder back with F hole...or what appears to be a 2-piece bridge.

    The fact that it has a "Bauer" nameplate rocks more than a few boats.

    Can you post some more photos? Any ones will do.

    Let's document the wazoo out of this and hope we can scare up some more information.

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    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    Hard to price this one. It is, if not a unique example, a very rare one.
    If I didn't know better, I would suggest that the top is an old replacement, but it looks authentic to me.
    I will suggest that the bridge is not original to the instrument.

    I'll make two proposals about this instrument:

    1. That it was a prototype or one of a very small run made for George Bauer, the same fellow who took over the S.S. Stewart Company and ran Stewart's sons and eventually the Stewart Company itself out of business. From what little we know about Bauer's history, he was apparently not the kind of guy you would want to do business with for very long.

    2. That the design and location of the F-holes was inspired by Shutt mandolins.

    I will suggest that you send pictures of this instrument to Jim Bollman, who probably knows more about the old Vega company than just about anyone else, and see what he has to say about it. He can write an appraisal for a reasonable price. He can be reached through www.banjohangout.org; or The Music Emporium in Lexington, MA would know how to get in touch with him. I'd also send pictures to John Bernunzio of Bernunzio Uptown Music in Rochester, NY.

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    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    This is worthy of a bowl of popcorn! Pretty darned cool!
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  8. #6

    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    The pickguard cutout for the ff hole is Shutt-like as well. A very cool and rare instrument.
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  9. #7

    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    Yours is the 2nd Vega cylinder back with F holes I have seen and heard. Back in the day, I played in the Providence Mandolin Orchestra and one of the members had (still has?) a blond Vega CB with F Holes. She is sitting front row center in this picture from 1999. It has birds eye maple back and sides and the tuner cover plate is engraved with Giuseppe Pettine model. Beautiful mandolin indeed and I would say it is priceless (or $5k for insurance purposes).

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    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

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    Last edited by lenf12; Oct-02-2021 at 10:56am.

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    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    I want to thank everyone for your input. I thought this was a unique mandolin since I couldn’t find another one anywhere online. I am eager to follow up on your suggestions and will let you know what I find out.

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    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    No one has asked: Is there a label inside this instrument?
    Bill
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    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    There is no label Bill.

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    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    Funktastic. You could put any value you want on that, as long as you're comfortable paying the premium, because you'll never find another one. $5K may be a good rule of thumb.

    Oval-hole cylinderback Vegas can be had for between $1K and $2K, but they are not particularly rare compared to this.
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    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    Whoops! I misread the intent here. The OP is looking for insurance value, not what he can sell it for.

    It is a Walter K. Bauer cylinder back. Bauer wrote and edited some method books and was a well-known teacher. He is also famous for his hatred of F-5 mandolins.

    This is not a one-of-a-kind and is actually a catalog instrument. It probably should be valued (for selling purposes) around the same as an upper-end cylinder back. One reason it is rare is the selling price. A Loar signed F-5 would sell IIRC for $250. Here's the catalog listing.

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    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    Muy coolioso, Jim.

    I'm guessing this is then from a Vega catalog...? Or somewhere else?

    Is there a date from the catalog?

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    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    Interesting catalog copy, Jim. The one pictured by the OP has the pickguard screwed into the top like a Shutt, not elevated with a support like the catalog pic and the pic from lenf12. Maybe they made a budget model of that one? There might be a mark on the top where the pickguard support used to be.
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    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    Muy coolioso, Jim.

    I'm guessing this is then from a Vega catalog...? Or somewhere else?

    Is there a date from the catalog?
    I have a pink-covered photocopy of an old catalog I think I acquired from a collector in upstate NY. Vega often didn't date these but I am guessing late teens/early 1920s. The address is 155 Columbus Avenue, Boston might indicate the era and it shows some banjos that might give a better date: Vegaphones, Vegavox, including a couple of models with the word "New!": budget tenor called the Crescent and a high end model called the Moderne. Perhaps folks who know tenor banjos might help with a more accurate date?

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Grieser View Post
    Interesting catalog copy, Jim. The one pictured by the OP has the pickguard screwed into the top like a Shutt, not elevated with a support like the catalog pic and the pic from lenf12. Maybe they made a budget model of that one? There might be a mark on the top where the pickguard support used to be.
    I see that mark on the edge where the PG bracket would have been.

    I also contacted Dr. Paul Ruppa, Vega expert, who should be showing up here soon for an examination of this patient.
    Last edited by Jim Garber; Oct-06-2021 at 12:40pm.
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    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    Here's a short bio-pic about Walter Kaye Bauer:

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    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I also contacted Dr. Paul Ruppa, Vega expert, who should be showing up here soon for an examination of this patient.
    "Calling Dr. Ruppa, Dr. Garber, Dr. Ruppa!"

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    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Grieser View Post
    Interesting catalog copy, Jim. The one pictured by the OP has the pickguard screwed into the top like a Shutt, not elevated with a support like the catalog pic and the pic from lenf12. Maybe they made a budget model of that one? There might be a mark on the top where the pickguard support used to be.
    Good eye, Don.

    At first I thought that big screw must have been a repair job...but after looking in my files I've seen some Shutts with a mighty big screwhead like on this Bauer.

    And some without. Don't know if those screws were original.

    None of the Vega cylinderbacks I have in my files have raised fingerboards. Were they available on higher end Vega models?

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    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    Thanks for sharing the photos!! That's a new one for me. It's unusual and as a Vega fan, your f-hole, 2-pt cylinder-back mandolin is a treat to see. The Vega serial-number list that I use dates the mando build-date as 1920.

    There are a few red flags. With no in-person eval and without comparables, I'd be more conservative in pricing and consider the value reasonable at $1,300.

    In 1985, I spent 2 wks in Wethersfield, CT studying with Walter Kaye Bauer and his wife Helen. It was an incredible experience. Jim Garber is right, Bauer was not a fan of Gibson mandolins. He refered to them unkindly as "lumber yards" and "painted ladies." His opinion.

    I have no corroboration, but Walter told me that at diferent times he toured with Lloyd Loar and that he was one of the Wm Place Jr Plectral Quartet members. He also said that he initially studied music theory with a mail-order course created and run by one of my mando-history heroes, A. J. Weidt.

    Jim G, thanks for offering the Bauer Model catalog entry and the link to the charming Walter Kaye Bauer video. . . (I'm not really a doctor). Here's some WKB background jpegs - the handwritten WKB label was found on the back of the massive mando-bass pickguard after an accident - the silhouette image on the Crescendo cover depicts Walter conducting one of his orchestras.

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    Last edited by Dr. P; Oct-07-2021 at 11:26am.

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    Ciao, Dottore

    Thanks for the recollections and photos.

    Isn't Sig. Bauer holding a slab of "lumber" in the inset photo?

    You might get a half-dozen F4s out of that basso confundo.

    I suppose we can forgive him for his misogynist metaphor.

    Would be very interested to hear how the f-hole comps with the oval Vega cylinder backs.

    Glad that Jim's telepathy still reaches all the way to Wisconsin.

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    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    Thanks for this video Jim, although the narrator seems unduly harsh when he describes Bauer as "adapting his unspeakable classic technique to the four string banjo". Then again that could explain some banjo playing I have come across.
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    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    Thanks for the catalog image Jim. Certainly important for the historical context of this model. I wonder how many were made, and how many have survived? We know of two from this thread.

    Regarding the pick guard support. I will attach photos (I'm still learning how to do this) showing where the support would have been. The support must have broken off at some point and maybe the screw was used as an alternative means of attaching the pick guard.

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    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    Thanks for your input DP. Would you elaborate on the red flags that you referred to in your post?

    The mandolin belonged to my great-uncle Tony, Anthony Loprate, who was from Hartford, CT and knew Walter K. Bauer and may have even played banjo with him. Uncle Tony also played a 1925 Weymann Style 4 Tenor banjo which I also have. Both instruments were passed down to my dad when Uncle Tony died, and to me when my dad passed away.

    Interestingly, I grew up in Wethersfield, CT and went to Wethersfield High School with a girl whose last name was Bauer. It would be nice to think that she was related to Walter K., but I really don't know.

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    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    Jim and Don mentioned the pickguard. Here are two photos showing where the pickguard support would have been. The pickguard is still supported by the block, which has the hole into which the support would have gone.

    Frank

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    Default Re: Need help valuing mandolin.

    I studied with Walter in early July of 1985. I went with the Bauers' daughter and her children on the 4th to a nearby Park for the Independence Day celebration. I'm sorry, but I don't remember her name.

    I still think that it's great to see your rare Vega mandolin and suspect that it sounds and plays as well as all the other Vega mandolin-family instruments I've played. I am a big fan of Vegas and your having a vintage one with family ties is extraordinary.

    The issues listed below might be misguided because I haven't ever seen your mandolin up close.

    Red flags solely based on apparent condition issues shown in the photos - the bridge is not original or even in the style of Vega bridges from that period. It looks like the top of the mando has sunk some (not unusual for Vega's of that vintage) and that adjustable bridge could have been used to elevate the strings to a playable height.

    There's no tailpiece cover.

    From the signs of wear on the top, it looks like your great-uncle Tony played the Vega often and a bit roughly. The frets could be worn down and in need of replacement.

    The apparent repaired crack on the back is not invisible and the checked/crazed finish is not a plus.

    The missing hanger for the pickguard, the hole on the side and the screwed in pickguard reinforce the idea that the instrument has not been treated with care.

    Aesthetically, and this is just a personal bias, I prefer the look of clear finish.

    I hope these observations are helpful - Paul

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