Gibson A #73275
This mandolin was bought in a music store in Pittsburg as an A-4; and to some it may appear to be such, although it is curiously missing some A-4 appointments. However the sound…it simply must be heard to be appreciated! This is as good a Gibson oval hole mandolin as we have ever seen. And, as promised, there is a mystery; here is an assessment of our investigation:
Gibson mandolin serial number #73275 with the FON (11877). The FON, or factory order number, was a number assigned to a given batch of instruments that were usually of the same appointments. FON #11877 is a batch of style A: with a Sheraton Brown finish on top; birch back and sides; a plain snakehead-shaped peg head with no inlay or logo; a one-piece neck; ivoroid binding on the top only; the sound hole rosette (ring around oval hole) consists of two very small wood rings tight together with black outside and between (the entire inlay is less than 1/8 wide); fingerboard has pearl dot position markers with no side dots. Thanks to Gibson scholar and author Joe Spann, who has aided with our investigation; he has, in his records, just such a description of Gibson A #73366, FON #11877, which is from that same batch. It is our belief that this mandolin left Gibson in 1923 with this configuration.
However, current appointments and details of #73275 include: The snakehead peg head has “Gibson” inlaid in pearl (seemingly the distinctively crude work of Howard W. Goff who cut pearl for Gibson in 1935-1937). Otherwise the overlay is unadorned black. The Rosette is also consistent with style A, not the double rope pattern associated with A-4. The finish is a lovely dark maroon sunburst with lacquer top coat that seems to be more consistent with the style F-5s of the late 30s than any of the A models of that period; there are signs of sanding under the finish on top, back, sides and back of neck; top binding is grained ivoroid while the back binding is white; the truss rod is typical of 1923 specs, but the truss rod cover is a larger one as used in late 30s on through the 1950s; there is an additional truss rod attachment screw hole hidden by the current truss rod cover that has been plugged, thus giving indication that it once held a smaller cover. The back and top do not appear to have been removed. The neck also also appears to be original, as is the fingerboard, but there are yellow side dot markers.
Our initial impression was that the mandolin had been sent back to Gibson in the late 1930s for a dramatic "upgrade” in specifications and we were hoping to uncover evidence to that effect; however, again thanks to Mr. Spann, there is no record of this serial number having been received or sent out in the Gibson Shipping Ledgers between March 1935 and September 1951.
After all this, there are still many questions: this does appear to be the work of Gibson, but why does it not show up in the ledgers? (If this happened after 1951, the logo would have been a more modern script…all the work does point toward the late 1930s or early 40s). Was this perhaps the instrument of a factory employee? Or did it belong to someone locally in Kalamazoo who brought it back for this upgrade in person? Despite all my efforts, there are still many questions!
Suffice it to say, this is a wonderful mandolin, absolutely structurally sound, perfect neck profile and action, and quite a joy to play. It is a mandolin with a mystery, for sale now for $3250, includes original case!