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Here at the archive we are always interested when something unusual crops up, and this mandolin has 2 features that really grabbed our eyes. First off, the tailpiece cover has just a bit of wear on it at the base, from which you can see the layers of silver plating over the brass substrate. It also has two half-circle cut-outs, which shows that it would be also at home on a K5 or L5 trapeze-style tailpiece. Finally, the case has a the least common silk interior with a blue lining, and is currently the only one of these we have pictures of in the archive.

A great batch of new photos

Every now and then I get a chance to clean up my backlog a bit. Here are some you may have missed, great photos added to entries for

70281 - The first Loar-signed F5
71635 - David Grisman's "Crusher"|
72060 - Feb 8 1923
73729 - Alan Bibey's Loar
75255 - A unique K5 mandocello
95155 - Sam Bush's "Hoss"

Thanks to all the contributors of these images, and please keep them coming!

Lloyd Loar discovery: July 9th Sidebound #73997

One of the best parts about running the archive is when someone contacts you to see if an hierloom Loar-signed F5 is anything special. That happened to me recently when the family that owns 73997 got in touch a few weeks ago. It turns out this particular mandolin is one of the most sought-after Loar configurations, a sidebound July 9th signature, just like Bill Monroe's. Darryl Wolfe has taken some photos, and we're happy to share them here

10-string F4 from 1911/1912

Original Gibson custom work? Check. Single-piece back? Check. 10-strings, and custom-cut handel tuners on a bizzare huge F4-style peghead? Check.

Here's a new listing for an instrument that turned up about a year ago, now with serial #11606 confirmed by the anonymous owner.

Jamie Wiens' mandolins

I've had a listing of Wiens Mandolins here for a while with a teeny link at the top of the page. Jamie's recently provided me with details on most of the instruments he's built so far, so I thought I'd draw a little more attention to this gallery. I'm a fan of Jamie's work (I have #23!), and I highly recommend him.

When Snakeheads Attack

Suddenly snakeheads seem to be the big thing in the vintage market again. Known for their pegheads that slope away from the body of the instrument giving the appearance of a snake's head, these mandolins mysteriously hail from the 1922-1924 range just like Lloyd Loar mandolins. Why they stopped making them and reverted back to the old "paddle head" in 1925 when Lloyd lleft the building is anybody's guess

This photo and another 15 updates courtesy of Charles Johnson

Pee Wee Lambert's Loar

Loar-signed F5 mandolins from the golden age of bluegrass are thin on the ground. This Loar F5, #71628 was formerly owned by Pee Wee Lambert. It has recently been restored by Steve Gilchrist back to a much more accurate and original hue.


Here are some great new photos of what is known as "The Parrot Loar". This is a fascinating instrument, the first "production" Loar after the prototype and Loar's personal 10-string mando-viola. At one time this instrument had parrot decals on the front as well. it has been photographed here showing the painted back and with the top restored and decals removed

Stolen: Lloyd Loar Mandolin #76550

A flowerpot March 31, 1924 Virzi Loar mandolin with silver hardware was stolen from the Bright Angel Lodge in Grand Canyon National Park on September 4th, 2007. Please help us find this instrument. If you have any information please contact Anyone having information, please contact Ellis at 1-800-289-8837 X107.

One of the Last 3-point F4 Mandolins

Here are some wonderful photos of a late 3-point F4 provided by the anonymous owner. By 1910, Gibson was starting to make changes to their instruments in a burst of creativity similar to the push in the 1920s during the Loar period. By the time 10395 was made, the Tailpiece cover had changed it's shape, the label no longer bore Orville Gibson's face, and the pickguard was no longer inlaid. Shortly after this example, Gibson would change the body shape to remove the 3rd point, a design that would be retained until approximately 1922 when the first F5s were made.

Gibson Junior Instruments

For a brief period, Gibson offered "Junior" models of their Guitars, Mandolins, and Banjos. The pair pictured here are both Snakeheads from 1924 and 1925 respectively. Gibson Ajr Snakeheads tend to have a particularly nice tone compared to their more ornamented bretheren, and they are often overlooked by players and collectors alike.

You can also take a look at the Gibson Junior Instruments Brochure in pdf format to see how these were originally marketed

Oldest Known Gibson Factory Instrument

We've recently added some images to Style U Harp Guitar #2502, which has the lowest known serial number on any Gibson factory instrument. Note the extra-wide soundhole, and the very thick pieces of wood that were used in the carving process. You can also check out what out friends at harpguitars.net have to say about #2502.

Updated Images Layout

I've been catching up on all the various goings-on in the world of web pages since the mesozoic period when I learned HTML. The results so far are some new visuals when you look at individual pictures. Try toggling full screen mode with the f11 key (if you're running windows or Linux). This will hide your start bar and toolbars, but they'll come back if you press f11 again.

Torch and Fire CD Released

My new CD is titled Torch and Fire. Regular Mandolin Archive readers will recognize the Schultz Loar from this home page (March 31, 1924 signed Lloyd Loar F5 #76547) which appears on the majority of the tracks on my new CD, and indeed inspired it.

Tim O'Brien, Mike Bub, Zan McLeod, Kevin Macleod, Craig Harbauer, and Chipper Thompson appear as guest artists, along with London Irish mandolin ace Mark Conyard. Hop on over and check out the Schultz Loar in action on the mp3 audio sample clip!

Charlie Derrington Memorial Fund

Our friend Charlie Derrington's life ended early on the first of August when he was killed in a traffic accident. We're happy to support the Charlie Derrington Memorial Fund that was set up by friends and family of Charlie to benefit the wife and daughter he left behind. Please join us in making a donation to Charlie, his support and guidance was a very large help to the Mandolin Archive, as well as other mandolin interest groups both on and off line.

Here's a short video clip showing Charlie doing what he loved, playing a Lloyd Loar mandolin. Charlie's name was put on the map when he repaired Bill Monroe's Mandolin after it was smashed to splinters by a vandal. Here are the before and after views of that well-known instrument.

Another Look at 73485

I've recently had my hands on 73485, and have completely replaced the pictures with some new ones. It's quite a feeeling to have a 1923 Loar with a 1930s finish on your lap. The look says "Sam Bush Period" but the tone is archetypal Loar.

1910 Gibson Harp Guitar with Radiused Fingerboard & Virzi

Harp guitars are farily obscure instruments to start with, but when you see one with an apparently original radiused fingerboard (trapezoidal) and a retrofitted virzi tone producer, you've definitely left Kansas. This wonderful instrument was photographed by Elderly Instruments, and comes from Stan Werbin's personal collection

Nearly Mint-Condition 1910 Torch & Wire F4

Here's a fantastic Torch & Wire inlaid F4 that is sitting in my living room right now. At serial #9100, this old-timer dates to around 1910, just when the raised pickguard came into being with 2 violin-like chin rest clamps. I've always thought that these are the absolute pinnacle of the early Gibson aesthetic, with wonderfully sharp scroll carving, subtly figured backs with very early sunburst shading, and the most elegant peghead inlay Gibson ever produced.

Two newly documented Loars: 73485 & 73486

Loar F5 numbers 73485 and 73486 (information pending) were both made known to us this week. Pictured is 73485, a very interesting instrument that is making us re-think some of the theories on how some Loars manage to have features of later periods in Gibson's history. Also nice to see here are some of the picks described in the service manual (the "Kork Grip" picks listed on page 9).

New Exhibit: 1923 Gibson Service Manual

According to the introduction, the service handbook was supposed to be kept in the case of the owner's Gibson. We're not really sure if these were included with new instruments because only one copy is known to exist. The pages are full of tips and advice, lists of parts that were available at the time, advertisments, and a few pictures & diagrams to help you understand your vintage Gibson instrument.

1922 Loar Resurfaces, Spent last 50 years on Top of a Piano!

A wonderful 1922 f5 has just re-appeared to us after many years in obscurity. Kindly provided by the anonymous owner are several first look images to see. One of the earliest serial numbers, this one has a light finish and several other interesting features we hope to document in more detail very soon.

Bill Monroe's Mandolin on Display at CMHF

CMT has the scoop on how Nashville Philanthropist Bob McLean made it possible for Bill Monroe's legendary Loar mandolin to find a new permanent home at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee.


Torch & Wire with Star & Crescent Pickguard

This mandolin (F4 #5713) is really hitting on all cylinders. Orange finish, inlaid pickguard with Star & Crescent motif, Torch & Wire peghead inlay, tree of life on the fingerboard, and unplated brass hardware, it's a joy to look at. From the good folks at Elderly Instruments

What's it Like to Have a Loar in the House?

I recently had the fabulous experience of borrowing The Schultz Loar for four months, culminating in a recording session in Nashville. I've chronicled my experiences with this wonderful instrument in my Loar Diary. In the coming days I'm also going to add many new photographs of this instrument that I took with my digital camera.

Simple Curves: 1916 F2 #26287

Sometimes I really prefer the cleaner look of an unbound F2 scroll to the fancier F4. Chipper Thompson is a musician friend of mine, and he plays a mean mandolin. This one has a rattlesnake rattle inside the soundbox, a traditional appointment that gives it an extra hint of menace when played. If you prefer a third point on your F2 pictures, here are some pictures of pokey, the new mandolin in my house.

Catalogs, Advertisements, and Articles

We've been doing little housecleaning here at the archives for the new year. First off, here're a couple of views of the Gibson Junior Instruments brochure.. Page 1 and Page 2 in large jpeg format, or in a single 1Mb Acrobat PDF file.

You might have noticed that we now have a link for articles at the top of the page. George Gruhn has written an article on Orville Gibson's Last Mandolin to help us innagurate this new section.

Next off, if readers happen to have a collection of original Gibson catalogs or brochures they wouldn't mind sharing with the archvies, please get in touch. We're aiming to eventually have every original Gibson catalog available here at the archives.

Wintergrass 2005, John Reischman's Loar

I took approximately 350 pictures at Wintergrass this last weekend, these are my personal favorites of the bunch. Some of the best shots I've ever taken, if I do say so myself! There were at least 6 other Loars at the festival that I have still in the camera, plus an absolute gaggle of Gibsons from John West..

April 12, 1923 F5 # 72853
February 18, 1924 F5 # 75327
December 20, 1922 F5 # 71634

Spectacular 1921 Gibson F4

Here's a gorgeous old F4 submitted by Mark Stutman over at Folkway Music. There aren't many of these old beauties around in condition approaching this one, even the case looks brand new! Especially nice to see unusual features such as the original Aluminum bridge saddle in place

Nugget Mandolins Archive

Here's a new feature getting started at the Mandolin Archive, Nugget Mandolins. Since they first appeared on the scene, Mike Kemnitzer's "Nugget" mandlins have been turning heads and tickling ears. We're working with Mike to add records for the many mandolins he has built, but please contact us if you have one you'd like to share pictures of on the Archive!

We've also added an Advanced Search Page with some more interesting collections of unusual instruments indexed therin. There's a new big push to add instruments here from the lengthy notes of Charles Johnson, more being added each day.

Support Your Local Mandolin Archivist

Here's a mousepad made from highly detailed photos of F5 #72052 taken by Frank Ford, our favorite Mandolin photographer. Available now for $12.99 at the Mandolin Archive Goodies Shop (more products a-comin')

Pictures of the Earliest-Known Gibson Factory Mandolin

Here's a great Early Gibson A model with images provided by Rick Van Krugel of Mandolirium. Check out that early bridge, paddle peghead, and flat pan back! This instrument is numbered 2526, with experts guessing that the original Gibson serial number series started at 2000 or 2500

Have you seen #72052?

New pictures of this wonderful February 8th, 1923 signed Loar from Gryphon Strings help us ring in the new year here at the mandolin archive

Rare White-Topped Mandocello Found

Lowell Levinger has done it again, coming up with this incredible white top mandocello. First one of these I've ever seen. The white top on the A3 is uncommon, but was a standard catalog item. Frank Ford of Gryphon Strings took some fascinating pictures of this white finish F2 a while back.

Newly Discovered,March 31 1924 Fern Loar #76547

The Schultz Loar resurfaced recently when owners Jack & Sharon Schultz did a web search on "Lloyd Loar", the signature they saw inside the mandlin they'd inherited. Lavishly photographed in remarkable detail, this wonderful 1924 Fern certainly dazzles us here at the archive. An inside source tells us the sound is pretty special too, and it is soon to appear on a new recording. Details on that will be posted here as they come forward.

Bill Monroe's Lloyd Loar Record Added

Bill Monroe's famous Lloyd Loar F5 Mandolin was really the reason this archive was started. Such a symbiotic relationship between a musician and an instrument happens once in a generation

One of the First Gibson Instruments

Here's one of the very first known Gibson instruments, a Lyre mandolin hand-made by Orville Gibson. The instrument has an image of itself on it's own label, which leads to some interesting theories about the instrument that came before