Gibson H2
Gibson H2 mandola, 1922, acoustic. $4,500.
Here is a rare, rare bird: a truss-rodded Gibson H2 mandola from 1922, shortly before the H2 was discontinued. Gibson mandolas in general aren't particularly hard to find, but the sunburst H2 is far less common than the plainer H1, and since Gibson quit making H2s the year the truss rod was added, only a select few have truss rods. Serial number is 68678 and factory order number is 11604, corresponding to ship and build dates of 1922.
     I obtained this from Australia, which is all I know of its history. It had seen a lot of playing time and then sat unused for a number of years, but has had the necessary repair and setup and is ready for another 98 years of action. There is honest player wear but no cracks, separation, or sinking. 15-3/4" scale. 21-fret ebony fretboard, soundhole, back, and top are all single-bound in ivoroid; it has the fancy soundhole rosette. Mahogany neck with ebony center strip and ebony back button; 2-piece birch back and sides. Ebony headplate with "The Gibson" logo and fleur-de-lis headstock inlay. Medium-grained 2-piece spruce top.
     So let's talk about repairs. When I got this, the original 2-piece adjustable floating ebony bridge had been glued to the top, and was not quite in the correct position for optimum intonation. (Gibson mandolin-family bridges should never be glued down.) Repair wizard Paul Stroh managed to get it unglued and correctly seated without damaging the top, but there is some dark residue visible on the fretboard side of the bridge from the incorrect placement. Paul also replaced the first five frets; replaced the original tailpiece base (which was missing 2 teeth) with an intact one of similar vintage; replaced the rusted and bent pickguard support arm with a new brass rod; and repaired one of the case latches. All other hardware (pickguard, pickguard bracket, endpin, tailpiece cover, bridge, tuners, stainless steel truss rod cover, and the remaining frets) appears to be original.
     The Geib hardshell case is worn and isn't original to the instrument, but is of the correct period. The handle's original leather cover has been replaced with heavy-duty black tape. The instrument itself has a straight neck and comfortable action. Fine oval-hole mandola sound, with a bit of "tubbiness" and above average volume. I'm of the opinion that the truss rod adds some sustain and focus to the sound of an old Gibson; whatever the reason, this one has a nice voice and might even open up further with some more playing time.
      Whether you're looking for an alto-voiced instrument to use in a mandolin ensemble, or need something in a different register to accompany singing or spice up the sound of your band, a Gibson mandola will help you stand out from the crowd. This is a really, really nice one; it's from the highly prized "Loar period," and as I mentioned, it's one of the rarest of Gibson mandolas.
     See more photos, call 425/772-0231, or for more information. $4,500 plus shipping. 48-hour approval period.