Mandolin Brothers, Ltd. is recognized as one of the foremost authorities on American vintage fretted instruments. We are recommended by major manufacturers, including Gibson, Martin, Fender, Rickenbacker, Gretsch, Guild, Ovation, National, Dobro, D’Angelico, D’Aquisto, and dozens more as a premiere source of accurate valuations. We have appraised numerous collections, including those of the C F Martin Company Museum, the estates of the late CF Martin III and Merle Travis, the collection of George Fullerton, and many more.
Mandolin Brothers can appraise an American fretted instrument by personal inspection but not always by email. If your instrument requires our seeing in person to determine originality of any and all components, finish, wiring, solder joints, pickups, etc.) then an appointment is required. You may bring the instrument in or ship it to us. You are responsible for all shipping and insurance if you ship. If you can bring it in, by appointment, you will find travel directions on our website.
- Email appraisals – from photographs and the owners’ description . . . $100 per item. Not every piece can be evaluated this way and we reserve the right to demur in taking on such an evaluation if it is a piece that absolutely has to be seen and examined.*
- Showroom appraisals of instruments such as acoustic guitars or mandolins. Such pieces cannot generally be "taken apart" (as an electric guitar can) and so less time is involved in “vetting” them. . . $200 per item.
- Showroom appraisals of instruments that must be examined inside and out, and fully annotated, including vintage Fender and Gibson electrics, prewar flathead Gibson Mastertone banjos, and other instruments that could conceivably have suffered substitution or alteration of parts, components, wiring, routing, refinishing or overspray. These require the full forensic analysis that only our repair shop can provide, involving copious notes and a lengthy written description . . . $300 per item.
*Because they need to be fully examined in person we cannot do email appraisals of ‘50s and
‘60s Fender or Gibson electrics, or prewar Mastertone flathead banjos, or
original 5-string prewar Gibson banjos, or certain prewar Martin guitars. There are probably some other instruments we
cannot appraise by email. Even early 1970s electrics by Gibson and Fender are
becoming more valuable and we would prefer to do a “full forensic analysis” of
those as well.
Here's how to obtain a written appraisal: You could send us emailed photos. Minimally we need just five of them – one showing the full front, tip to bottom, one showing the full back, tip to bottom, one showing front of headstock, one showing a close-up of a detail you think we should see and one showing the carrying case. Try to keep the size of each photo file down to around 150 to 200 Kbs or less. Or, if it's easier, take regular snapshot photos of your guitar, banjo or mandolin and regular mail them to us. Some people have sent us color print-outs of their digital shots (by regular mail) and that seems okay too. In your message provide us your full home address, so that we can send you a letterhead copy of the appraisal by regular mail, and all your various telephone numbers so we can phone you if we have questions. You can either phone or FAX in your credit card number or (if sending photos by mail), or enclose a personal check, bank check or money order for $100 US per item to be appraised by email.
To reiterate: our fee is $100 for a photographic appraisal, such as by email, plus postage reimbursement if it needs to be mailed by Postal Service to foreign locations. For in-house appraisals where electron-microscope scrutiny is not required, the fee is typically $200 for a flattop, archtop or regular electric guitar or bass, ukulele, and most banjos or mandolins. For a type of appraisal called a "complete forensic analysis” the typical fee is $300 - this would apply to the likes of a prewar flathead Mastertone, a vintage Fender or a Gibson electric where every square inch of the instrument, inside and out, needs to be intensely examined by both our sales staff and our repair staff in order to determine originality. This type of appraisal takes longer, (2 to 3 hours) so leave yourself a block of time while we gather around the piece like physicians bearing leaches did in the Dark Ages. There are half a dozen great restaurants within 2 blocks on either side of our showroom.
For an email appraisal, enclose, too, a brief note as follows: I would need to know the brand, model & serial number, and information about the cosmetic condition, including notations of any sign of use or wear. I would need to know about the structural condition including the instrument's repair history and about any repairs or adjustments now needed, whether any sort of set-up is required; whether a "neck reset" is required. A neck reset is required whenever the action is uncomfortably high and there is no way to lower it by means of truss rod, bridge saddle. Any acoustic guitar whose bridge has been shaved or that has a very low saddle, almost to the quick, needs a neck reset. Does it have any cracks or seam separations? I would need to know about its playability (the action - when tuned to pitch with a fresh set of new strings of appropriate gauge -- how is the string height off the fretboard at 10th fret, is it difficult to press the strings down when it's tuned to pitch with a fresh set of light gauge strings? Is the bridge saddle set in the "middle" of its range, or is it set at the lowest position, or the highest? Does the neck show any waviness when you sight the fretboard from the headstock end? Is the neck dead straight, forward bowed (warped) or back-bowed? Is there a “rise at the end of the fingerboard over the body” is there any “up-and-down” convexity and concavity on the neck or the fretboard? If it does show playing wear - where does it show wear and how deep is that wear - does it penetrate through the finish and down to the wood? Does the truss rod - if it has one - work as it should in both directions? Has anybody checked? Is there room left on the bridge saddle to lower the action further if required? How about its originality -- are there any replaced or missing finish or components, is there plating wear on the plated metal parts? And the type of carrying case -- what color outside, what color inside, is it original or newer, is it chipboard, hard shell, hard shell case with zipper case cover, canvas carry-bag, zipper gigbag, no case? Last Question: "What's the 'worst' thing you can say about your instrument?"
For more information, drop us an email from here. You may also call us at 718-981-3226, 718-981-8585 or fax us 24 hours a day at 718-816-4416. We will be glad to help in any way we can.