A Century-Old Gibson Lloyd Loar Mandolin | Find of the Week

This week's Find of the Week is a museum piece: it's a 1923 Gibson F-5 mandolin designed by Lloyd Loar.

For those unfamiliar, Lloyd Loar (1886-1943) was an acoustical engineer and instrument designer known for his work with Gibson in the early 20th century, including the L-5 hollowbody guitar and the mandolin listed here. Later in life, he was an early proponent of the electric amplification of string instruments. He introduced many changes to the instruments that Orville Gibson initially patented, including an f-hole to replace a round soundhole, and tuning the tops of the instruments so that the instrument's sound chamber was resonant to a particular note.

This is a 1923 Gibson F-5 mandolin.

Each of the original F-5s were signed by date by Loar himself for as long as he worked at Gibson. The best-known F-5 was marked "July 9, 1923" and would be owned by Bill Monroe, often credited as the forefather of bluegrass music. Other proud owners of the model include Chris Thile of Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers, as well as Led Zeppelin multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones.

A century after it was built, this particular all-original F-5 has been listed in excellent condition. It features a carved maple body with a spruce top, a light sunburst finish, 14 frets, a smooth tuner operation, and weighs in at just over two pounds. It also comes equipped with a Virzi Tone Producer, an oval piece of wood mounted inside the instrument's body cavity to provide a secondary vibrating surface for improved dynamics. As the seller, North Carolina's Dream Guitars, writer: "The Loar era has forever changed the definition of the American mandolin, and here we have a pristine example of his early magic that's inspired so many generations of builders and players."

Needless to say, this instrument is one of the rarest instruments we've come across on Reverb in recent months. Be sure to check out the full listing for more photos and information, and make an offer on this artifact of folk music history today.

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