Finding a John D’Angelico mandolin at a reasonable price is like winning the lottery. He made, according his logbook, just 47 mandolins out of the approximately 1,163 pieces he is thought to have built in total, or at least there are just 47 entered into his log book. How many of these were made in roundbelly is not known. In our forty years in business we have found (and sold) only one other Neapolitan D’Angelico mandolin. John D’Angelico apprenticed to his uncle Ciani starting from the age of nine. That was back in 1914. By 1932, at age 27, he was ready to spin off on his own and opened his first shop on the same street as his then late uncle’s larger production facility, Kenmare Street on New York’s Lower East Side. It is not improbable to believe that when his uncle got orders for mandolins they would have been for of the roundbelly persuasion, and so the notion of a young John making a Neapolitan mandolin when requested by a player is expected. What is unexpected is how few of them are still around. Neapolitan mandolins are quite fragile, and one must take diligent and continuous care of them at all times. They are, some might say, the Humpty Dumpty of fretted instruments or, we guess, the incredible, frettable, egg.
This mandolin is decorated in the style of its time, and conforms to the standard description of its genre. The headstock shape has its two winged ends, and sports a center hump that’s indented. Said ‘stock is overlain with Brazilian rosewood. The unbound ebony fingerboard has 17 full length frets, plus three partial frets in the fingerboard extension that forms a sort of French curve. The neck joins the body at the 11th of them frets. The mandolin measures 24 ¼” in total length, 8 ¼” in body width at the face at the widest part, it is approximately 6” deep at the angled plane in the top, where the face angles back. It has a tortoise shell or celluloid inlaid pickguard between the twin concentric ring oval soundhole rosette made up of two rings of black-white-black and one inner ring of crème around the orifice. The top is likewise bound in black-white-black. The continuous sides and back are comprised of glorious Brazilian rosewood with 16 decorative rib separators (“suction, nurse, stat”) of what might be maple. Its possibly Adirondack spruce top has mellowed to a lovely burnished orange; the back of the neck is one piece of solid mahogany and, while it shows minor indications of playing time it is largely unscathed after 8 decades. In point of fact, the entire instrument is considerably cleaner of condition than one would normally expect from such a revered and beloved name as Johnny D.
The owner of this D’Angelico mandolin is interested in selling this piece in the condition in which it presently is (how do you define “is?”). The playing action is somewhat elevated, and so it is our feeling that under the best of circumstances this mandolin could use a neck reset; it is missing its tailpiece cover; it has an approximately 6” long, meandering back crack plus a back seam separation measuring around 4”. There are two areas, around the crème bound, multi-ply bordered central souindhole where the celluloid binding is slightly pulled away from the purfling. If one closely examines the tuners, which on the surface appear to be original, one can see that one of the two tuner plates was in the past replaced since, on the bass side plate there are three screws holes but on the treble side plate there are 5 – and of the five two of the holes have never been drilled. Otherwise they are the same style and color metal plates. The ivoroid buttons are, comparing one side to the other, slightly different colors.
This is a minor point (no pun intended) but the fret ends are sticking out the sides of the unbound fingerboard (due to dryness – the very same dryness that caused the cracks and minor binding separations). This instrument shows light normal signs of use and wear including dings, scuffs, scratches, scrapes, chips and finish checking -- we are compelled to say that to fulfill the requirements of the “National CYA Act of 2009.” There are some not terribly scary horizontal cracks plus finish deterioration in a small section positioned on each side of the tailpiece base, probably due to the pressure of the screws; there are tiny chips or nicks on the edges of the fingerboard. In other words, this mandolin is cosmetically “very good plus” but structurally only “good” condition, at best, but, because it is a John D’Angelico hand-made mandolin we feel any modern mandolin collector worth his or her salt (or salt substitute) will want to own this because it was made by the greatest American independent guitar builder of the first two thirds of the 20th century.
NOW ON SALE! OUR PRICE WAS $4118 BUT NOW ON SALE FOR: