This is, by anybody’s standards, one of the finest Gibson mandolins produced in the post-Lloyd Loar era, made during the year following Mr. Loar’s sudden and unexpected departure from 225 Parsons Street. The statistically minded will be enthralled to know that this was made just after the middle of 1925. Thank you for asking: per Gibson records, the first numbered instrument of the year 1925 was 81201, the last number was 82700; they made only 1499 serialized instruments that year. The median (maybe July 1st?) serial number was 81950. Thusly, by extrapolation, this may have been made in mid-August 1925. We find all this fascinating, as do you. This “out of the woodwork” major discovery in our esoteric little universe falls in between two Ferns listed in Darryl Wolfe’s essential compilation of Gibson F-5 mandolins, titled The F-5 Journal. Darryl’s records include a prior Fern, #81657, whose neck had unfortunately been refinished, which had a dotmarker inlay at the 3rd fret and gold hardware and following this one, a subsequent Fern whose number is #82348
This August 1925 example has a rubber-stamped Factory Order Number (8231) visible through the treble f-hole. It presents with the elaborate “fern” pearl or abalone inlaid headstock under the “The Gibson” script pearl headstock logo; its headplate is bordered in crème-black and then ivoroid outermost. The fingerboard is ivoroid bound with a black line under the binding; the elevated tortoise shell celluloid pickguard with the matching side bracket, the top and the back are bordered in the same ivoroid–black purfling with ivoroid binding outermost. The tailpiece is gold-plated and etched “The Gibson” at center in cursive script with a diagonal line above and below, and its perimeter is etched with filigree; this premium period tailpiece has no floral carving as lower level models had. The tailpiece shows a blackening of the gold plating on the lower bass side and other more minor signs of gold wear overall. The back of the mandolin is two-piece in moderately curly maple; the sides and one-piece maple neck are also curly maple. The back of the neck shows light indications of playing in the form of small, shallow nicks of little or no consequence. Its original tuners proffer twin gold-plated etched plates and removable small pearl buttons with a screw at the end of each shaft. The original nut is mother of pearl; the bridge base bears the “Pat’d. Jan 18-‘21” stamp; the pickguard has its “Pat. Mar.30 ‘09” stamp.
Provenance: the current owner told us that his dad owned and ran an oriental rug shop in Harrisburg, PA in the 1920s. This gentleman surrounded himself with fine things – he acquired the accoutrements of taste and wealth, as Mick Jagger mentions. He purchased this mandolin new in 1925, got married in 1927 and his shop went out of business following Black Friday in 1929. Even though its original owner possessed what is arguably the finest mandolin one could purchase in 1925, said individual never learned to play and so the instrument remains in solidly excellent condition.
The mandolin has never been out of the care and protection of the family to which it has belonged, and, has, ever since the late 1920s, seldom been taken out of its original compartmentalized case – the semi-rectangular hard shell with the red velour lining. Consequently, it shows only minor signs of use and wear, some light scratches and dings here and there, chiefly seen on the top but also on the sides, back and back of neck; the mandolin shows finish checking – on both sides of the headstock, but occasionally elsewhere as well. There are two drips of glue on the inside back of the instrument – one longer drip below the fingerboard extension and the shorter one directly below the bridge. Nobody sees these, of course, they are deep inside and have probably always been. In the interests of full disclosure, all three of the red ribbons that cover the case lid supports are torn; the case lid supports are fine. We thought you’d want to know.
The larger headstock scroll (treble side) was once broken off (but hey, so was Bill Monroe’s) and restored; it is not terribly noticeable. Our workshop is gluing a crack in the ebony bridge top – but if that doesn’t work we’ll provide and install a replica prewar bridge top and put the original bridge in the case pocket. The bridge base will remain original. We are performing the always welcome set-up and restring, and gluing a small area of loose fingerboard binding “around the horn” at the bottom of the peninsula. When we have finished our specialized, meticulous rejuvenation procedures this will be one superb sounding and bodaciously clean clam cocktail. If owning the second most famous mandolin on the planet earth (sometimes called an “unsigned Loar”) is your cup of mead, please phone or email for more information and let us know, in one hundred words or less, how badly you need to own this potion of pleasure. THIS WAS $102,585 BUT is NOW ON SALE FOR: