Gibson (used, 1924) Lloyd Loar H-5 mandola, signed March 31, 1924

Tag No 39-2695 Used
This item is NOW ON SALE!

#76488, Cremona brown sunburst, Original-No-Virzi, in very good plus condition with form fitting original hard shell case.

Back in 1918 Gibson Musical Instrument Co. formally hired a gentleman named Lloyd Loar, who had worked for them in other capacitiesto act as the company’s “Acoustic Engineer.”  Professor Loar was a musical theorist who had many ideas about sound transmission and distribution.   His theories, brought to practice at the Gibson factory on Parsons Street in Kalamazoo, Michigan actually (in our opinion, at least) changed the course of American musical history.   He did not do this heavy lifting entirely alone, he worked with Gibson then president Guy Hart and other members of Gibson’s supervisory and administrative staff.  During his tenure at Gibson, that lasted until and through December 1924, the changes brought about by this group included:  the elevated fingerboard and slimmer neck shape that allowed for great playability and projection, instruments built to violin principles which design changes affected the curvature and carving of the top, rims and back, newly introduced twin f-holes to instruments which, up until then, had oval or round soundholes, necks that have an adjustable truss rod (up until then the support system was non-adjustable) and a bridge that is also two-piece and adjustable.  

Having contributed to these structural and design changes, and more, Mr. Loar is said to have walked the production area, inspecting and approving the product being completed, and if it met his criteria he signed a special label affixed to the back that reads:  “The top, back, tone-bars and air-chamber of this instrument were tested, toned, and the assembled instrument tried and approved, (date), (Lloyd Loar’s signature), Acoustic Engineer.”    In addition, normally speaking, the label in the bass f-hole indicated that this was a Gibson “Master Model” – meaning “highest grade” - as seen through the bass f-hole, and the Loar-signed label is typically below the treble hole.  In this one instance - fascinatingly enough - Gibson, on a Friday late afternoon, put the labels inside in reverse order.  Gee, that's beyond exciting - can you imagine - in reverse order?!  It's like an upside-down airplane stamp.  Loar signed only Gibson’s -5 series instruments, and lest we forget, this company’s debut of the Lordly -5 series instruments also came about during his short tenure.   These four seminal instruments, positioned at the pinnacle of creativity, innovation and sonic resplendence, include the L-5 guitar and the K-5 mandocello both of which share the same body (one has six strings, one has 8), the F-5 mandolin and this here H-5 mandola.  

We present to you a Florentine style f-hole mandola, one of the world’s first and few,  having the large body scroll on the upper bass side, two large body points on the treble side, a triple-bound pickguard that follows the upper point design, a two-piece adjustable ebony bridge, and a slide-on tailpiece cover, etched “The Gibson,” that has oxidized on its ventral surfaces,  most likely from perspiration of the player.  Finish is worn along the lower bass edge from the arm of the player; there is an area of dullness on the bass side back, also from body contact.  There is hand wear on the back of the neck where the finish is, in places, worn down to the wood, but the sunburst effect is still evident on back of neck.  The headstock matches the body, having two smaller scrolls and one point at the center.   Tuners appear to be the original four-on-a-plate with pearl buttons; top and back of body are bound, and the comfortable neck with its double-fret extension is also crème celluloid bound.  

Its stunning Florentine headplate is pearl inlaid with the always welcome script “The Gibson,” logo and below that a large abalone and pearl “fern” is inlaid thereunder.  It has been fitted with a newer, standard, black, bell-shaped, mandolin-appropriate truss rod cover on the headstock, held in place by two screws to replace the wholly out of character pearloid (multicolored) one that the original owner provided it.  However, the pearloid one is in the case.    Its hard shell case is black exterior, green velvet interior and there are old flatpicks, or parts thereof, inside said case.  However, the lower edge of the case lid is shedding black Tolex the way your ball python sheds its old skin.  This is called ecdysis when it happens to your ball python, but on a Loar period hard shell case we just call it dried out glue along the case lid edge. 

We were told by the seller that the original owner of this instrument played in an orchestra located in Baltimore - but he adds it was not the famous Baltimore Mandolin Orchestra. Looking at the instrument it is obvious that that person played a lot - constantly; continuously, and with great enthusiasm, over a very long period of time.  The result of this dedication includes normal signs of use and wear on the instrument including frets that, when we received it, were flattened and proud with divots – and so our staff of crack lutherists have professionally refretted it, and now it plays like Mercury, himself, whose feet and ankles are mysteriouisly covered in chicken fat.   The original frets reside in the case, along with a plethora of olden flatpicks, some old string packages (Black Diamond and Mapes), a blow-into tuner, a leather-on-one-side, furry-on-the-other side string holder pouch made for the Lydia Pinkham Medicine Company to hold your fetid, resinous Asafoetida pills once used as a prophylactic against disease.  We discovered that two tooths were missing on the original tailpiece base so we replaced the base in haste, just in case, and the original resides in the pocket (see the photos in our array), and so is the original ebony bridge saddle.  

There are, as we said, normal scratches, dings, scuffs, scrapes and nicks, plus hand wear on the back of the neck up to around the 8th fret, a small area of finish erosion on the lower bass bout to the left of the slide-on tailpiece cover, where the player’s arm passed over the face, discoloration in the darkened crème body binding, especially in the scroll area, the bass side, and on the cutaway where white binding shows through the worn places.   There is one very small dent in the neck binding, bass side, 5th fret.   The tailpiece cover, which was originally silver plated, has lost a considerable amount of its delicate plating, especially on the bass side where the arm likely made contact, and the etched “The Gibson” found thereon is, as a result, less distinct.   When it came to us its original ebony bridge top (that is, the saddle) was broken.  We tried to epoxy it, but that didn't work, so we actually hand-carved a professional replacement bridge top, installed it, and put the original saddle in the case pocket where it will spend the rest of eternity.    

We proffer to our most steadfast and loyal readers (and also, of course, to you) an example of the finest, rarest and most unimaginably desirable mandola that the bluish planet called earth has ever seen.   If this were a Stradivarius viola (of which it is, of course, the most direct equivalent to the violin family), it would be valued in the many millions of dollars.   What an amusing diversion then is the amazing-but-true news that this “best-there-is” style of mandola – rarest kind you can find – the centerpiece of the crème de la crèmeona quartet - is available to you at a mere trifle - nay, a veritable smidgeon.  A cosmic joke (the immaturity of our fretted instrument marketplace), one has to laugh!  As Tom Waits famously sings:  “Get it fast, before he loses his mind.”  If your thoughts are obsessed with the triangulation and acquisition of the Lloyd Lorian Lollapalooza, (F-5, H-5, K-5, L-5), this should be where it all begins.    

It is said that only 19 Gibson signed Loar H-5 mandolas have been discovered as having been made, in total, so far, (see The Mandolin Archive website).  This unbelievable fine and most dear mandola is priced very modestly.    I have taken all new photographs, now that it is in the showroom, hale and hearty.  Please enjoy them with your family beside you.


Our Cash Discount Price is $75,000.00.

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Additional Photos (click for expanded view)

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This item is NOW ON SALE!

Video Demos

Andy Statman is, by anyone’s standards, one of the finest mandolin players in the United States. We find it interesting that Wikipedia gives him primary credit for being a klezmer clarinetist (Wiki doesn’t capitalize the K) and then, oh yes, also as a bluegrass/newgrass mandolinist. We, who have been lucky to have known him since the late ‘60s, stand in awe of his prodigious talent.

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