1904 manufacture date (traditional estimates)
1904 shipment date, according to Spann's Guide to Gibson
Mandolin, Style A3
Factory order number unknown
Here's a great example of Gibson's early mandolin production. In the first couple of years the instruments were a bit primitive, and they evolved quickly. By 1905, things were pretty well set. This one is typical, with its "reverse" neck angle, and high, flat arched top. It's all original, except the label, suggesting that it took a trip back to Gibson for some repair after about 1910. No, that's not real tortoise shell in that pickguard. Gibson used only celluloid right from the beginning in 1902. Take a close look at the back, where you can see the numerous short distinct medullary rays that are typical of beech. Most of the really early Gibson mandolins had walnut back and sides. Later, birch became the standard material for the "A" series.
Typical of the period, this one has a dyed maple fingerboard, a very narrow neck, and very light, thin top and back plates. Unlike later instruments, the top is fully carved hollow under the fingerboard area. Notice also, the early tailpiece, with its original cover (the hole is original too, although I haven't a clue why they put it there). You can see the brass showing through under the nickel plating. Later tailpieces (through the 1920s at least) don't wear this way because they were made of solid nickel sheet.
DB - note the unusual early flowers inlaid on the peghead. Fingerboard is bound and has some radius to it, appears original. Case has more of a "bump" than later ones, very nice purple lining
From Gryphon Strings.
Frank Ford is on of the founders of Gryphon Strings. Frank is world-renowned as a master repairman and an expert on vintage mandolins. Gryphon often carries very nice vintage mandolins. Frank is also the author of Frets.com, a website well worth the visit for instrument fans, luthiers, and repairmen