Gibson F-7 Carved Top Mandolin (1934)

Gibson  F-7 Carved Top Mandolin  (1934)
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Item # 7817
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Gibson F-7 Model Carved Top Mandolin (1934), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 91693, sunburst top, dark back and sides finish, maple back and sides, spruce top, mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard, original black - red line hard shell case.

The 1930s F-7 is one of the rarest of all Gibson mandolins, as well as a historically interesting *and* very distinctive-looking and sounding instrument. This prime example dates to the year the model was introduced: 1934. The F-7 had a sadly short career -- it was only available through 1939. The F-7, along with the very similar F-10 and F-12, was intended as part of a line of f-hole master-grade instruments to complement the superlative but extremely expensive F-5 mandolin, which at $250.00 was out of reach of all but the most well-heeled players in the Depression era.

Unfortunately, player interest in the mandolin was quite low at that time, and there was little demand for any expensive mandolins at all. While the similarly-positioned L-7, L-10, and L-12 guitars were quite successful, the three mandolins vanished nearly without a trace, with only the least expensive F-7 lasting more than a year in the catalog.

This early F-7 features a typical Gibson sunburst finish on the top with a dark shaded back and sides, similar to the better known L-7 guitar. There is elegant shaped pearl inlay on the fingerboard (in a variation on the "Nick Lucas" pattern) and a pearl fleur-de-lis on the headstock. Originally retailing at $125.00 (plus case), the mandolin was half the cost of an F-5, but still priced above nearly all other extant mandolins during the Depression. The structural design of this trio of instruments is a bit odd to modern eyes as they combine the f-hole, scroll body construction of the F-5 with the shorter neck of the older oval-hole F-4. The scale length is the same, but the neck is sunk further into the body, pushing the bridge further back towards the tailpiece.

Despite this apparent oddity, the F-7 sounds great with a distinctive guttural bark, if not quite the full bright projection of its longer-necked cousin. This is a fabulous mandolin for either player and collector, and a very uncommon find in a pre-war Gibson artist model. All of Bill Monroe's early recordings in the 1930s with his brother Charlie were cut with a 1935 F-7, and this instrument is fully worthy of that sonic heritage.
Overall length is 26 1/4 in. (66.7 cm.), 10 1/8 in. (25.7 cm.) across at the widest point, and 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 13 3/4 in. (349 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/16 in. (30 mm.).

This superb example is the cleanest F-7 we have ever seen, showing only some very minor wear to the finish; mostly just tiny pick dings to the top. The lacquer still shines like it did in 1934, and all hardware is complete and original. There is one very small spruce grain repair on the bass side of the fingerboard, which is only noticeable on close inspection. Not only is this example spectacularly well-preserved, it is also the best-sounding of these we have heard, with plenty of ring and bark. We can't imagine a better string band or duo/trio mandolin, and this is absolutely a world-class instrument for both player and collector -- a different animal than the F-5, but in its own way equally compelling. Comes complete with its very clean original HSC. Excellent + Condition.