Frank Ford: This instrument came to visit us at Gryphon quite a few years ago, and I took these pictures at the time. It had recently been to Gibson for "restoration," including refinishing with lacquer. I don't know if this is the original color, but it certainly is the original configuration. Many of those very early Gibsons were made with black tops. Like most others of its age, it has a cedar top, and walnut back and sides. The neck is figured maple, and the whole instrument is stained the same color. For reasons I'll never understand, the higher grade Gibson mandolins had friction pegs, while the lower models had gears. I wish I'd taken a better shot of the label, which, if you peer closely, you'll see is rectangular, characteristic of the very first Gibson instruments. I don't recall whether this one had a serial number.
Dan Beimborn: I believe this is lyre mandolin #2 as referred to in Walter Carter's Gibson Guitars: 100 Years of an American Icon book. The fact that it has a picture of a lyre mandolin on it's label (as seen on this image) is cited in the book as evidence that there was one made previously to it (which appears slightly different in look to the one it is inside!). Wether this mandolin was crafetd by Orville himself, or as a prototype in the early Gibson comapny is not speculated on, but the label with the "lyre" on it graced many of the very early 1900s Gibson instruments.
An additional feature to note is the tailpiece cover, which is probably from 1904-1910.. the earliest ones have holes in them
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