Kentucky
Kentucky KM-300E 5-string, late 1980s. $700.
I bought my first electric mandolin in December 1989, with money I had earned from a week's worth of busking Christmas carols on the viola in downtown Seattle. It was one of these: a Kentucky KM-300E 5-string, imported by Saga from Japan. I pressed it into service in the college jazz ensemble/pep band; I remember playing licks from "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" on it during basketball games. Ah, those were the days.
     Somewhere along the way I let that instrument go, and it was almost 20 years before I found another one. This isn't going to replace my beloved Bacorn in my affections, but it's a worthy axe nonetheless. Neck and comfort-contoured body are solid ash. It has a height-adjustable Tun-O-Matic bridge with individually adjustable saddles. Nickel hardware, including a standard Gibson-style tailpiece and closed-gear tuners. Black/white pickguard with tone and volume controls. Single-coil pickup. Standard mandolin scale length of 13.875 inches, flat rosewood fretboard. Attractive tobacco sunburst finish.
     It has a few small chips, dings, etc., and some player wear, and there's a small hole drilled along the bass edge below the lump scroll, where it would appear that someone was thinking about moving the strap button. (Whoever it was must have thought better of it; the strap button remains in its customary place on the upper bass bout.) The neck is nice and straight and it plays comfortably. Yes, a string is missing in the photos, but the mandolin will be restrung before it's shipped to you. Includes a rectangular hardshell Saga case which, although not original to the instrument, is from the same period and a pretty close match.
     The KM-300E was discontinued not long after I bought mine. Examples of them are thin on the ground. If I were running a museum I would keep this one, but I haven't the space, and anyhow it should be out there getting played. Please don't confuse this mandolin with the 4-string Kentucky KM-300E currently sold by Saga. That's an inferior, entry-level instrument; this one has 5 strings and is, in my humble estimation, a better mandolin.
     See more photos, hear a sound clip, or for more information. $700 plus shipping. 48-hour approval period.