This mandolin is being offered “as is,” due to subtle changes from originality and also some physical aberrations. There could be some areas in which its next owner may elect to have some work performed - or perhaps not. Few mandolins are as straight-forward and traditional looking as a Gibson A-1. It measures 25 1/2” in length, not counting the end pin, and 10 1/8” in width at the widest part, and sports a large central oval soundhole that, itself, measures 2 ½” in the horizontal and 1 ½” in the vertical, with an elevated faux tortoise shell fingerrest (more commonly called “pickguard”) on the right hand side of the soundhole and bridge, a “floating” ebony bridge, and, at the bottom of the face, there is that charming slide-on nickel-plated tailpiece cover that’s etched “The Gibson” with a floral pattern.
The black ebony fingerboard sports 20 frets and is bound on three sides in grained ivoroid. Said ‘board is inlaid with six mother of pearl dotmarkers in 5 fret positions (5, 7, 10, double dot on 12 and 15). The finish is original – being tawny pumpkin color for the carved, arched and wide grain spruce top, tawny port for the maple or birch (probably birch in 1916) back and sides. The back of the neck is mahogany and three-piece with a center stripe of pearwood. Its original ebony strap button with the mother of pearl dot resides in the expected place on the bottom side. On the Style A-1 the top is bound in crème ivoroid, but not the back or the neck; the ebony headplate is inlaid “The Gibson” in script mother of pearl; the oblong orifice is ringed with crème ivoroid and outside of that there are twin concentric purfling rings of crème and black parallelograms, circumscribed in black, separated by spruce.
Here are some of the things we noticed that are not 100% factory original. The back seam, for a distance of about 8” from the neck heel on each side, was once repaired. This repair is visible but, in keeping with the overall condition of the piece, is not much of a distraction. The area we need to talk about is the part on the treble side of the neck heel on the back – this area has become unglued, though for only around the first 1 ½”. This Wilbury does not appear to be traveling, or at least it hasn’t put its jacket on. This is one of the reasons the mandolin is being offered “as is.” Additionally, the fingerboard is slightly bowed and some of the frets are uneven but because the action is moderate at this action setting it does not buzz. If, however, somebody asked to have the action lowered (it doesn't need it) it would possibly buzz and if it did it would then require a refret in order to be played without buzzing and with a low action and this is not work we, ourselves, intend to perform. Presently the frets show normal signs of use. It has its elevated tortoise shell celluloid pickguard with the “Mar. 30, ‘09” patent stamp but the mandolin has, along the way, lost its adjustable side clamp (one part of the original clamp is inside the pocket of the case, but not the whole thing) and so a standard chrome-plated bracket was substituted on the treble side just under the binding. This attaches to the original tortoise celluloid connection post. It was done nicely and accomplishes the objective of keeping the pickguard elevated.
Its bridge base is the original ebony fixture, stamped “Pat. Sep. 21, ’09,” but the four original removable ebony bridge saddles it once had have been. . . um. . . removed, and replaced with a drop-in bone saddle. There is fine finish checking overall, normal signs of use and wear including the typical scratches, scuffs and scrapes, dings and nicks and at one point it had other tuners on it since there’s a small hole above each set of four-on-a-plate grained ivoroid button tuning machines that look in character with this era mandolin and may be the original tuners it came with.
A Gibson 1916 Style A-1 mandolin can, when in excellent and wholly original condition, sell for as much as $1995. This one is not $1995, because of the issues raised above. It is, instead, a handsome instrument producing fine sound, much volume and possesses look that only a 96-year-old Gibson mandolin can have, with original hard shell case, offered “as is,” as follows: