Bacon Amateur #156, ca. 1921. $1,200.
Everyone knows about Gibson; most people know about Lyon & Healy; but fewer people recall that the Bacon Banjo Company of Groton, Ct., also competed in the carved mandolin market, at least for a brief time. With their own aesthetic and a good sound, these rare mandolins are of interest to both collectors and players. They were endorsed by classical player/teacher William Place Jr., making them the first "signature-label" carved mandolins.
     This is an example of the entry-level "Amateur" A-style model. (The others were the 4-point "Artist" and the 2-point "Professional.") Plain of appointment, it is similar in look and feel to a Gibson A-style. But in the tone department, it has more focus than a Gibson oval-hole and none of the tubbiness; rather, it has a pretty decent "bark." You could play bluegrass on this in a pinch; it would also be ideal for ragtime, jazz, or blues. Coffee-colored finish on a spruce top with single-ply binding; mahogany neck; 1-piece ebony bridge; black celluloid pickguard; 2-piece birch back and sides. Nice Waverly engraved "cloud" tailpiece, with a strap button that may or may not be original. Serial #156.
     The neck is in good shape but not perfect; there's a very slight "hump" in the upper frets that is too small to cause problems with playability. It's been played a lot. There is player wear on the side of the neck near the first few frets, as well as light pick scratches and a couple of blemishes on the top, another blemish on the treble side near the heel, wear along the treble edge of the back, and a chip out of the headstock. One of the D-tuner buttons has been replaced and one of the G-tuner buttons has a glued crack. The back and sides don't meet up perfectly at the tailpiece, but the joint is still tight. It's just back from a setup by my luthier, who shimmed up the nut, reglued a loose internal brace, and heat-treated the pickguard to remove a warp. Non-original hardshell case.
     If you're looking to fill a gap in your Bacon collection or just want something a little different, this might be the mandolin for you. See more photos, or for more information. $1,200 plus shipping. 48-hour approval period.