Gibson F-12 Carved Top Mandolin (1950)

Gibson  F-12 Carved Top Mandolin  (1950)
$3,700.00 + shipping
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Item # 11453
Prices subject to change without notice.
Gibson F-12 Model Carved Top Mandolin (1950), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # A-5449, sunburst lacquer finish, maple back and sides, spruce top; mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

The F-5 has always been Gibson's top-of-the-line mandolin, but for many years the F-12 was its plainer sister, the more affordable instrument for bluegrass and related styles. This F-12 dates to mid-1950, shipped on the cusp of June and July that year. If generally less well revered than the F-5 this is still a pro-quality instrument. Only 47 of these shipped in 1950 out of a total of just over 400 for the entire decade; at $275 in 1950 (plus case) this was still an expensive instrument for the time.

At the it was made interest in the mandolin was just picking up again mostly due to the growing popularity of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys. While Bluegrass music as a genre was still gestating, bands who emulated Monroe's sound needed a mandolin; if the one they ultimately wanted was an F-5, the F-12 was a more affordable choice and there was nothing comparable available from ANY other manufacturer.

The F-12 had just re-appeared in Gibson's line in 1948, somewhat changed from its very rare pre-war specs. It retained the classic asymmetrical body with an upper scroll, two points on the treble side and f-hole top. A sunburst finish graces the spruce top and maple back, which are single bound. The one piece mahogany neck has a single-bound, dot inlaid rosewood fretboard and unbound scrolled headstock. The fingerboard is not elevated over the top, and it lacks the F-5's extension but the neck is the full F-5 length unlike pre-war versions. The laminated beveled edge pickguard has a gold-plated support, the gold-plated tailpiece cover is a simple clamshell design. While admittedly no competition to anyone's Loar this now 70+ year old mandolin is a good player with a fairly bright cutting sound retaining a classic Gibson warmth underneath.
Overall length is 27 3/8 in. (69.5 cm.), 9 15/16 in. (25.2 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 14 in. (356 mm.). Width of nut is 1 1/4 in. (32 mm.).

This mandolin has seen some use over 70+ years, while showing typical wear overall it remains a good player with no structural issues. The finish shows heavy checking overall with some chipping and loss mostly around the back edges. The face is cleaner with dings and dents but less pick wear than some. The back of the neck has some light chipping on the edges and a deeper ding behind the 7th fret but other than that remains relatively clean.

The back center seam has been visibly resealed from the bottom edge, and there is a short crack repair off the cutaway. The top has some heavy check lines but is crack free. The headstock has a typical scroll repair; it has been solidly but visibly re-attached. The original Kluson tuners have been replaced with modern high quality gold-plated openback strips with real pearl buttons; there is a repaired chip off the top A tuner shaft. The original pickguard has had the re-inforcing bar on the underside replaced, the face has a few lumps off the upper edge but the guard is solid.

The original frets have been recently crowned and show minimal wear. The original pink-lined black case is somewhat worn in but solid. This instrument is naturally "reliced", well aged in and makes for a solid lower level Bluegrass mandolin with some play time and authentic history behind it. Overall Very Good + Condition.