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Thread: Hoping to identify my no-name mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Hoping to identify my no-name mandolin

    Greetings all. I almost made this request on AGF (Acoustic Guitar Forum) where I'm a regular, but figured I'd tap into a much better knowledge base here.

    Bought this no-name mandolin for $100 probably 30 years ago and gave it to my dad. He was an accomplished fiddler and so was able to play chords and melodies on Christmas morning when he got it.

    It became mine again by default when he passed in 2002. I've managed to sort out the chords and melody to Losing My Religion and a couple Mellencamp things, but I'm far more proficient on guitar, so that's why I've not progressed any further.

    Here's my question: WHAT IS IT?

    No visible markings anywhere. I thought I found something once, but it was Pop's last name and driver's license number engraved in the back of the headstock (like everything else he owned - including BOTH engravers, lol).

    It appears to have a slightly wider nut than any other mandolin I've seen anywhere, closer to 1 1/4" than to 1 1/8". Works better for me with medium size guitar hands.

    Not imagining that it's anything special. Just curious. It stays in tune, plays nicely and sounds good (to me anyway).

    Thanks for looking.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  2. #2
    Teacher, repair person
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    Default Re: Hoping to identify my no-name mandolin

    It's an example of a generic imported mandolin that was available in the late 1970's and early 1980's, probably made in Korea. Some had labels with various names pasted on the peghead, some did not. They were very cheaply made, and many of them did not hold together. I'm happy that yours did, especially since it was a gift to your father,

    Except for the sunburst finish, it's identical to my first mandolin, which cost me $40 new in 1979. Where I lived in southern New England, they were all you could get except for a few new Epiphone A models or an old Strad-o-lin, Harmony, Kay, or the occasional oval hole Gibson.
    I played mine for about 8 months, then replaced it with an old Strad-o-lin that needed tuners and a tailpiece that cost $75. I gave the Korean job to a lady friend and taught her how to make the two-fingered G, C, and D chords. Within a year, the top caved in. She was upset, although I told her it wasn't her fault. I now wish that I had bought her another mandolin, but since I was young and not too smart, that idea didn't occur to me.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Hoping to identify my no-name mandolin

    Very helpful, and pretty much what I suspected. Thank you.

    I suppose every intact instrument seems rugged (until it explodes). But having bought/sold/traded probably 100 guitars over 50 years, this one seems very solid. Perhaps like with cheap guitars, an example of overbuilding with plywood, etc., as opposed to something finer with a lightweight solid piece tone-wood top. Just speculating.

    From a little research, it seems that there are indeed wider-than-standard necks and nuts, as is the case with this one. And I'm glad that's what it has. I'm always amazed at how articulate big guys can be on such a tiny instrument.

  4. #4
    Teacher, repair person
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    Default Re: Hoping to identify my no-name mandolin

    Well, if you ever want to move up to a better mandolin without breaking the bank to order one with a wide nut, the old Gibson oval hole mandolins made between 1910 and 1921 average a nut width of 1 3/16", sometimes a little more. Sound quality varies from mandolin to mandolin, but they made a lot of good ones, and many of them are still around.

    One of the plainer A models in good condition can be had for $1200 - $1800. If you ever decide to go in that direction, it wouldn't hurt to budget a few hundred extra for a set of modern frets-- the mandolin will play much easier.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Hoping to identify my no-name mandolin

    Wow. Or maybe not wow. Actually, no surprise when I think about it, prices for good brands seem to jump right up there, just like guitars. I'd have to be much more dedicated to playing this instrument before committing that kind of cash. I just pull it out for a few minutes every month or two.

    While we're comparing mandolins to guitars, does my non-name maybe look like a knockoff of something more legit? Happens a LOT in the 6-string world.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Hoping to identify my no-name mandolin

    Some later Kay mandolins were made that kind of looked like that, but they might very well have come from the same overseas factory.
    As far as better grade instruments are concerned, Gibson did not use that body shape, nor even Harmony.

  7. #7
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hoping to identify my no-name mandolin

    It's one of these.
    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
    --M. Stillion

    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
    --J. Garber

  8. #8

    Default Re: Hoping to identify my no-name mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    It's one of these.
    It is indeed one of those numerous no-name/off-brand mandolins. More so, I have learned what it is not. While I didn't expect for a moment that it was anything special, this serves to nail that down with great certainty. Thanks for the very informative lead. Now I know.

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