Gibson A-4 Carved Top Mandolin (1918)

Gibson  A-4 Carved Top Mandolin  (1918)
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Item # 9029
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Gibson A-4 Model Carved Top Mandolin (1918), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 50870, red sunburst top, dark stained back and sides finish, birch back and sides, spruce top; mahogany neck with ebony fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

The Model A-4 was Gibson's highest priced "A"-style oval-bodied mandolin for much of the company's early history. This example is from the height of the company's mandolin era, dating to 1918 when Gibson was THE major force in that market. By this point, "The Gibson" mandolins had been given the "modern" sharper neck angle and higher bridge and the sound is more fully developed compared to instruments from earlier in the decade.

This period's A-4 features include a red sunburst top over dark cherry back and sides finish, elevated pickguard, carved one-piece ebony bridge, ivoroid tuner buttons, and a pearl fleur-de-lis under the Gibson logo on the headstock. The body and fingerboard are single-bound and the sound hole is bordered with a large ring of ivoroid in between half-herringbone strips. This is not a perfect example but remains a lovely-sounding playable piece of Art Nouveau, and another example of the instruments with which Gibson first conquered the fretted world.
 
Overall length is 25 3/4 in. (65.4 cm.), 10 1/4 in. (26 cm.) wide, and 1 7/8 in. (4.8 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 is a very good sounding A-4, with some older repair work but in quite attractive and in solid playing condition. The original varnish finish shows scuffs and dings, most notably on the back. There was a long grain crack to the top, running almost its entire length from the neck block by the treble foot of the bridge almost to the lower rim. A second smaller grain crack sits above this one from the front edge to the upper sound hole rim. There are likely the result of the original pickguard offgassing long ago; they have been neatly sealed up and are completely solid but visible. This area is almost completely covered by a beautifully made repro pickguard, using the original bracket clamp.

The sharp "V" seam on the back of the neck has been rounded down by play wear just a tiny bit just over the center laminate on the spine, with no finish added. All hardware is original and intact except for the replaced pickguard. The original tailpiece cover has lost some plating mostly on the treble side. This is a fine gigging A-4; it plays extremely well and sings with a warmer, richer sound than many topped by a nice, woody overtone. It is ready to go complete in an original Gibson period HSC, itself in surprisingly good condition for 100+ years on. Very Good + Condition.