1924 Gibson F-5 “Lloyd Loar” mandolin

11 Jan

This week’s Antiques Roadshow (Tulsa, OK, Jan. 9th) featured a really interesting and rare instrument: A 1924 Gibson F-5 “Lloyd Loar” mandolin.  You could tell that appraiser Frederick Oster was excited to see the piece, and meticulously outlined everything that the young owner would ever want to know about it, finally valuing the mandolin at $175,000 (then you see the girl get excited, ha).

Watch the video at the Antiques Roadshow site, here.

Appraiser Frederick Oster with the Gibson F-5

GUEST: It was purchased by my great-grandfather during the Depression. He purchased it from, I believe, a neighbor who at the time needed some extra money, and he wanted his son, my grandfather, to learn how to play a musical instrument.

APPRAISER: Well, when you walked in with this, I saw the case, I went, “Oh, my God, I know what that is.” And I thought, “Can it be?” And I opened up the case and there it was, this wonderful Gibson F-5 mandolin. It’s the type of F-5 that’s very easy for us to identify the year from because I can tell that it’s what we call a Lloyd Loar model F-5 with this fern inlay in the peghead.

GUEST: Okay.

APPRAISER: Lloyd Loar was an acoustic engineer and great mandolin virtuoso who worked at the Gibson company back in the ’10s and ’20s. And he really was the father of the modern mandolin. And what he did to make the mandolin what it is today is… he did various things to it like internally, it has parallel tone bars.

GUEST: Okay.

APPRAISER: It has an elevated fingerboard, elevated over the body. It has two F holes, like a violin, and actually, similar to a violin, it has the bridge positioned around the center of the body, around the center of the arch. And it is arched like a violin and tap toned, meaning internally tuned. The thicknesses of the plates inside are tuned like a violin.

GUEST: Okay.

APPRAISER: And Loar was the first guy to do this to a mandolin. It also has a longer playing length of the neck. It has 15 frets to the body. Earlier mandolins had shorter necks. Gibson had been making these F-style mandolins from the turn of the century on, but this innovation in mandolin making was something that Loar excelled in, and this became basically the prototype style for all mandolins to come. Loar also developed this nice little, neat screw-in Pickard clip, which was a lot neater than the earlier ones. It has inside the Gibson label with serial number, as well… and the other side, it’s got the master model label. Now, this was the professional, master-grade mandolin that Gibson put out late 1922 and onwards. And these early ones, the ones made while Loar was at the factory from late 1922 through 1924, we call them Lloyd Loar model F-5s. This has the most beautiful what they call Cremona brown sunburst color to it. If I had to grade it in Gibson mandolins, or Lloyd Loar mandolins, I’d probably put it in the top ten percent of the ones I’ve seen.

GUEST: Wow.

APPRAISER: When did he buy it again?

GUEST: During the Great Depression. From what I understand, he paid $20 for it, and at the time, you know, it was estimated probably around $600 is what I’m told.

APPRAISER: Right, that being said, I would say these days, a correct asking price through a dealer in a shop would be about $175,000.

GUEST: Oh, my gosh! (laughs) Wow! It’s been in a closet in a farmhouse for many, many years.

See/hear one of these beauties in action:

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One Response to “1924 Gibson F-5 “Lloyd Loar” mandolin”

  1. Trish January 11, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

    Wow ..and it still looks in good shape!

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