A mandolin question

Discussion in 'Fred's Barcalounge' started by Jelly Roll Horton, Mar 26, 2020 at 1:59 PM.

  1. Jelly Roll Horton

    Jelly Roll Horton Synchromatic

    Nov 10, 2017
    Portland, OR
    I hope this isn't just too far off the GT map for discussion, but I have a 110 or so-year old American Conservatory bowl back (tater bug) mandolin that is in fair condition, or maybe very good, considering its age. The tuners all work, there are no cracks or splits, and it stays in tune.

    I have had this mando for about 50 years, but never played it, so I've been considering finally learning mandolin and trading this up for a better, newer A style, and am wondering if anyone of you musical instrument guys knows anything about the AmCon mandolins and or their value. Should I just restring it and play it? Or use it as wall art? Or sell it for...how much? Or try to trade up? (Yes, that is a Gretsch in the lower left corner of the photo :) )

    Waxhead and thunder58 like this.
  2. thunder58

    thunder58 Super Moderator Staff Member

    Dec 23, 2010
    tappan ny
    Admin Post
    I would keep it considering it's age and any stories behind it . I really appreciated the mandolin when a friend gave me one years ago before she moved , a Harmony tear drop . Not an expensive one , but it did inspire me to get a better one . I have a great beginner mandolin , F-style , The Loar model 520-VS . Think it was about $350 used . But I'm just a strummer and strum for fun . Think about purchasing a good used one . I've been real happy with mine . BTW - there is a lot of Mando love here on the forum IMG_0010.JPG IMG_0012.JPG
    Waxhead likes this.
  3. drrohle

    drrohle Synchromatic

    Jan 3, 2014
    Hays, KS
    I'm torn on this issue. I hate to see any instrument be relegated to "wall art" if it's playable and not a very rare and valuable antique. If you can and more importantly want to play it, I'd say go for it. That's how I learned to play guitar at the age of 58. :cool:
    Jelly Roll Horton and thunder58 like this.
  4. Pine Apple Slim

    Pine Apple Slim Country Gent

    Dec 14, 2011
    North Alabama
    Cant speak to the brand, but in general tater bugs arn't generally favored, are hard to sell, and don't bring much. Even in good condition, probably worth more as wall art than a player.
    I'd keep it, put some strings on it and play it, and save up fro a decent used A model.
  5. wabash slim

    wabash slim Gretschified

    Feb 10, 2010
    lafayette in
    Some round backs can be worth some money. Condition would play a big part. I have an old Lyon & Healy myself. A and F models are easier to play, especially for those of us with a prominent gut.
    Jeff67 likes this.
  6. Pine Apple Slim

    Pine Apple Slim Country Gent

    Dec 14, 2011
    North Alabama
    Maybe contact Elderly Instruments, or other big acoustic shop and see if you can work out a trade.
    The Eastmans A's starting at around $500 are nice instruments. Nowhere in the same league with Collins or a good Gibson of course, but decent all solid wood carved top mandos.
    thunder58, section2 and wabash slim like this.
  7. Bertotti

    Bertotti Friend of Fred

    Jul 20, 2017
    South Dakota
    Just go to mandolin cafe and ask. Keep extra light strings on it make sure it is well humidified first. How are the frets? Some of these are a few hundred some a bit more. My 1911 Vega bowl back was, well I don’t remember exactly what I paid it was either 350 or 500$. I think bowl backs have a great tone. I also have a carved made to spec A model but I wouldn’t get rid of my Vega for anything. Get her strung up and give it some serious playing time to wake up. If it is a decent one it will sing just fine!
  8. section2

    section2 Country Gent

    Dec 21, 2016
    If you're shopping for a good beginner's mando, another brand to consider is Kentucky. I have a KM-500 and I'm quite happy with it. It's a nice all-solid wood A-style mandolin, and I believe it only set me back about $275 brand new. (I found it on sale in 2014. The street price might be higher on the newer models.) It suits me quite well for strumming basic chords, which is about all I've learned how to do.
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2020 at 11:17 PM
    thunder58 likes this.
  9. wildeman

    wildeman Gretschified

    May 10, 2015
    I like bowl backs but they aren't worth much, i saw a super clean Martin go for around $650.00 recently....that's a pre war Martin!
    If it was mine I'd string it with extra lights and play it for a while, then decide if i needed a A.
    I got a great student A for under $100.00 used, its a Johnson and its all solid wood and plays and sounds way better than it should for that price, i think it was more like 50 buk! Look for one of those. 20190630_104910.jpg 20190630_104904.jpg
    section2 and Jelly Roll Horton like this.
  10. Jelly Roll Horton

    Jelly Roll Horton Synchromatic

    Nov 10, 2017
    Portland, OR
    I tried to register at Mandolin Cafe, but the registration wouldn’t register, and there is no way to contact them. That was disappointing. I don’t know how to humidify it, but I live in Oregon and the air we breathe is about 40% water. :p
    Bertotti likes this.
  11. The mandolin cafe probably has manu posts about similar instruments. I was able to log in and post the other day, so dont give up on that. They are a friendly sand informative bunch. Kind of like here without bigsby. That being said, take small steps if you want to play it. Light gauge strings, and watch everything as you bring them to tension.
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