Gibson mandolin from 1938 valued at more than Dh200,000

Here's why the 90-year-old Gibson F-5 mandolin might strike a chord with music lovers and investors

Gibson F-5 mandolin. Scott Tsai / Retrofret Vintage Guitars
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This well-preserved Gibson F-5 Model Carved Top mandolin has gold-plated, pearl-button Waverly tuners; a sunburst lacquer finish; a maple back, sides and neck; spruce top; and an ebony fingerboard. It comes in its original black hard-shell case. It is valued at Dh214,000.

Despite being manufactured in 1938, the one-owner instrument has plenty of volume and clarity, a crisp and powerful sound, moderately low action with room to go higher or lower, and a good “chop”.

Gibson F-5 mandolin. Scott Tsai / Retrofret Vintage Guitars
Photo by Scott Tsai / Retrofret Vintage Guitars

Since Gibson was founded in Michigan in 1902 – with Orville Gibson first patenting a mandolin design – its instruments have found favour with the likes of Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Carlos Santana, Elvis Presley, Tom Petty, Eddie Van Halen, Eric Clapton, Roy Orbison, Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon.  

By the time this piece was manufactured, mandolins had taken a backseat, overtaken by the more popular guitar. Not many people were willing to pay US$250 (Dh900) for the mandolin in the post-Depression era, so very few examples of the F-5 model exist, rendering this specimen more rare and, as such, more precious.    

Currently in possession of Retro Fret, a Brooklyn store that specialises in vintage banjos, mandolins and guitars, the instrument has been reconditioned by Gibson mandolin maestro David Harvey, and mounted with a reproduction pickguard. The original is included, but has suffered some celluloid decay.

Other rare examples at Retro Fret include a Gibson Advanced Jumbo Flat Top Acoustic Guitar from 1937, and a Ken Parker Custom Arch Top Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitar from 1991.


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