This mandolin features a natural (well, more like pumpkin color) spruce top, contrasted with uniform brown sides, back and back of neck. Said sides and back are maple – the back showing considerably greater than normal figure and flamed, tiger stripe grain; the sides and the back of the neck show no special grain. This model has the inverted peghead and was made during Lloyd Loar’s tenure as Chief Acoustic Engineer, but he neither supervised nor signed A-style mandolins. The condition is excellent albeit showing standard light signs of playing time. There is a subtle indication that it has in the past had a hairline crack on the top, parallel to the bass side of the fretboard extension, both above and below the soundhole, terminating at the innermost purfling ring.
A little history, if you will. This is excerpted and mildly edited from a thread on the subject of the A-2Z on MandolinCafé.com dating back as far as 2002, and was submitted by Dan Beimborn, from Norfolk, England, the designer and author of the site: “There were models named A, A-1, A-2, A-3, A-4 from the very early days of Gibson until around 1922. The A-3 was a white finish instrument by this time, complete with a white pickguard, and some extra inlaid purfling around the soundhole and body. In the days of the snakeheads (the peghead shaped like a Christmas tree instead of a boat paddle), the A- model was discontinued, and the jovially named "A-2Z" (it has everything from A to Z!) appeared. A ‘true’ A-2Z is a blonde or natural finished top, a snakehead, extra body binding (black then white) as well as "A2-Z" on the Guarantee label. Generally, the snakeheads have a better reputation . . . the odds are in your favor that they will sound very nice. An A2-Z is a rare bird -- a blonde in a field of brown mandolins. They tend to stand out visually and do indeed look quite attractive. Then there's the fact that they were only made for a little over 2 years [Ed: 1923 and 1924 – both within the golden period of the Lloyd Loar signature instruments at Gibson] and the fact that they're well-known to collectors; so they tend to go for a premium.” Another user on the same website named RobAlan says: “, , . Everyone I've talked to seems to think they sound better than other Gibson As. . . .”
There are some typical (small) dings and scratches, minor scuffs and scrapes on the face, sides, back, back of neck (including hand wear), heel of neck, plus string changing marks on the headplate. In other words, it was played, and not just put away in somebody’s hope chest. The bridge bears the “January 18, 1921” patent stamp, the pickguard has the “March 30, ‘09” stamp and the side clamp its “July 4, 1911” etching. Its tuners are original with grained ivoroid buttons; its top and back are also bound in ivoroid, and the oval soundhole is not only likewise bordered but there is a triple ring displaying black-ivoroid-black purfling on each side and a wide swath of celluloid at the center - as soundhole rosettes go this is different from the norm. Its top is bordered in black with ivoroid outermost – which is a simple yet extremely attractive design - bold and elegant. The fingerboard is black ebony, inlaid with six mother of pearl dotmarkers in 5 positions; the nut she is carved of bone. It has the standard (this is quite common) hairline crack in the upper bass bout, 9/16th" from the bottom bass edge of the fingerboard, that extends from the black purfling line to the rosette, and then continues below the rosette for an additional half inch from the lower side of the black purfling around the oval to the creme binding on the soundhole. This has been glued and is not moving, but it wasn't moving before it was glued.
This extremely rare, extremely beautiful, natural top mandolin with the snaky style headstock, produces a sound that rings like the bells tolled by Quasimoto, the vertically challenged, hearing impaired, socially awkward quasi-musician who enjoyed a more or less permanent gig at the Notre Dame Cathedral. It is, in every way, “one of the good ones” (our highest possible compliment). Owning a Gibson prewar (in the year 1924 Lloyd Loar wore the floor, while indoor, midst the roar and the gore near the shore) A-2Z is like winning the Mega Millions Lotto game after buying just one ticket.