How to Identify Mandolins

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You can identify a mandolin by looking for a number of key visual characteristics. Learn how to identify mandolins with help from the second-generation owner of the Appalachian Bluegrass Shoppe in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Banjos & Mandolins
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Emory Knode, here at the Appalachian Bluegrass Shoppe to answer the question how to identify different mandolin manufacturers or makers. First off the subject can be somewhat tricky because a lot of the times manufacturers will copy the shapes and styles of some of the great manufacturers. A good example of this Collings here which is an F style, we have a Weber which is an F style, we have a Weber, an Eastman which is an F style and to look at all three of those instruments, they are very similar to one another. These are just reproductions of a very very popular style of instrument. So the best way to identify an instrument is with its manufacturer's labels and logos. Clearly on the headstock of this instrument, we have the name Weber. Clearly on the headstock of this instrument the name is Collings and clearly on the headstock of this instrument the manufacturer is Eastman and to look at the logo you should look at it and make sure that it looks authentic, that it hasn't been altered or modified in any way, you know, to make sure that that is the authentic looking logo. Sometimes you also find most manufacturers will place inside the F hole a label telling the serial number, the make, the model, all the details about that particular instrument will be found inside the F hole of the instrument or if it happens to be an oval hole instrument you might find a label inside the oval hole. Occasionally you'll find an instrument that is an authentic instrument that does not carry any brand. For example this Gibson A style mandolin we have here is clearly marked The Gibson and looking at the logo and the way the Gibson was cut, the logo was cut, the type of script, the word the, it can also tell you what year the instrument was also manufactured in and in some sense of accuracy, different years the logo would change and they would change it around and what have you. Also you would find occasionally with lower end models, such as this model, you will notice there is no inlay in the fingerboard, there's no binding around the sides of the back, the headstock is very plain. This would be a lower model than what this model would be and the Gibson company didn't even take time to put a name on the headstock. It's completely blank and this is most likely the way this instrument came from the factory. However if you look inside the round hole here, you'll see a label that says, you know, the Gibson company. It has the patent dates and the model number and the serial number and the guarantee from the company. If you were to have an instrument something like this that has no identification on the headstock or the paper label has fallen off the glue has let loose and the paper label has departed ways with the instrument, there's things about an instrument that someone who is familiar with the different brands can look at and pretty much identify as being on band versus another brand but you've got to be careful because a lot of times people make counterfeits look very accurate and that should be left up to someone who has got experience in you know, different styles of instruments. So you know, obviously the best thing to know is the logo on the headstock, the label on the inside, also different manufacturers which sometimes have different type of headstocks, the way the wood is cut on this instrument versus the wood cut on this instrument would tell you that's a different manufacturer. This one does not have a logo on it. This one does not have a paper label but on the inside burnt in the back is a stamp that states that it's a Martin mandolin from Nazareth, Pennsylvania, also a very good way to tell. There are many, many, many styles of mandolins, many, many manufacturers over the years so once again it's always a good idea if you have a question concerning the type of mandolin and possibly who the manufacturer is, it's always best to consult an expert, someone who has got knowledge in that field. I'm Emory Knode here at The Appalachian Bluegrass Shoppe to answer the question how do you identify different manufacturers of mandolins.


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