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View Full Version : Mandolin - What are good brands? Where to buy used?



JamieFromOntario
11-10-2011, 06:03 AM
I want to get a new mandolin for my spouse. She's currently using a chinese-made "Smoky Mountain" which we got for around $100 CDN.

I realize that mandolins are substantially more expensive than ukuleles. Anyone have any ideas about what I might be able to get for say $500? Are there any brands I should look-for/stay-away-from?
I would like to buy used - where can I go online to find people selling mandolins like people sell ukes in the marketplace here?

If you've got one that's better quality than a really low end starter but not a super-fancy custom, please let me know. Maybe we can make a deal/trade/etc.

peewee
11-10-2011, 06:58 AM
I have no idea, but here's where I would start:

http://www.mandolincafe.com/

Still kicking myself over the fender mandolin I didn't buy at a garage sale years ago.

Magoosan
11-10-2011, 07:04 AM
As with Uke's, it depends on how much you want to spend. The standard in the industry since the early 1900's has been Gibson. Can't go wrong there. In terms of used, there are also many. Top national sellers are Mandolin Bro's on Staten Island in New York, and Elderly in Michigan. As Peewee mentioned above, mandolincafe is a good place to educate yourself and they have an excellent classified section.

Bill

coriandre
11-10-2011, 07:07 PM
I have a Michael Kelly that I really like. Kentucky and Eastman are also good brands. Gibson and Weber are the prefered makers but they cost high dollars. Mandolin is a fun instrument that you may enjoy also.....a christmas present for both of you ;)

JamieFromOntario
11-11-2011, 05:41 AM
I have no idea, but here's where I would start:

http://www.mandolincafe.com/

Still kicking myself over the fender mandolin I didn't buy at a garage sale years ago.


That's the first place I looked...but they don't have much of a marketplace section like we do on this forum.

However, another member pm-ed me with a few suggestions on places to find used mandos: Gianni Violins seems to have quite a few used ones, all set up and at a reasonable price.

thanks for the input everyone!

thistle3585
11-11-2011, 04:36 PM
The cafe has a HUGE classified section. There are 211 ads in their classifieds right now. Nonetheless, I'd highly recommend getting a used A style. Being used, you would be more likely to get one that is properly setup as opposed to paying $500 for a new one then having to spend another $100+ to get it setup properly. Few new instruments come ready to play. I would highly recommend getting a Mid-Mo or Big Muddy if you don't mind a flat top. If you're interested in an A style with F holes then I have a 96 Flatiron Performer for sale.

itsme
11-11-2011, 04:42 PM
As with Uke's, it depends on how much you want to spend. The standard in the industry since the early 1900's has been Gibson. Can't go wrong there.
Those older Gibsons are highly prized. I have a 1917 A-1 I haven't actually played in a few years, but there's no way I'd part with it.

But I have no knowledge or experience with their newer models.

lookingforcurly
11-12-2011, 12:14 AM
Here is my path. First of all I really favor quality North American hand made instruments. My guitars are Collings, Huss and Dalton, and Larrivee. You will never find me playing a far east imported guitar.

That said, my first good mandolin was a '50 Gibson A-50. After a year I replaced it with a late 80's Carlson era Flatiron and that was a significant improvement. I sold the Gibson for $100 more than I paid for the Flatiron. Then a year later I played a shop worn Eastman at Appalachian Bluegrass in Baltimore that impressed the hell out of me. Bought it, sold the Flatiron, and pocketed $200. About 2 years later I swapped a mandola made by a small luthier in Nova Scotia for a Michael Kelly mandolin and cash. Sold the Eastman a month later. Quite frankly the Michael Kelly was the best of the lot in sound, volume and playability, and by far the cheapest. With each step up I actually pocketed a bunch of cash, about $600, and ended up with a better sounding and playing instrument. I don't know if all Michael Kelly's are as good as this one, but I believe the Eastmans are very consistently good. One key with the Michael Kelly is that it had a VooDoo setup. I think this may be part of the key, however all the others were well set up too. My 2 bits.

rogueang
01-04-2012, 05:49 PM
My best friend has an ovation Mando and it was $900...on sale. It is the most beautiful warm mandolin I have heard. Ovation makes a cheaper one in their celebrity series that is just as beautiful and I have played andLOVED. I think it was around $270

butlersdog
03-15-2012, 05:00 PM
I want to get a new mandolin lessons (http://takelessons.com/category/mandolin-lessons) for my spouse. She's currently using a chinese-made "Smoky Mountain" which we got for around $100 CDN.

I realize that mandolins are substantially more expensive than ukuleles. Anyone have any ideas about what I might be able to get for say $500? Are there any brands I should look-for/stay-away-from?
I would like to buy used - where can I go online to find people selling mandolins like people sell ukes in the marketplace here?

If you've got one that's better quality than a really low end starter but not a super-fancy custom, please let me know. Maybe we can make a deal/trade/etc.

Well it depends on what category of playing your spouse is, intermediate or professional. But you can go ahead and try Kentucky KM-140S or KM-150S. I own one Kentucky mandolin right now.

Goats Can Eat Anything
03-15-2012, 06:14 PM
+1 on the Mid-Mo/Big Muddy -- I have one and it was CHEAP, but sounded better than all of the fancy looking things...

If you're going to drop a grand, look to Breedlove.

If you're really serious and want something that looks like a classic mando, look to Collings and their MT line (A-style) -- very handsome, well made, and sounds great. Used you can get in the door at slightly less than two. New, it's a touch over two and up to three depending on your taste for bling.

But, my advice is to start simple -- Mid-Mo/Big Muddy (same people) is a spartan mandolin, but one that will carry you far. They are built here in America by people who stand behind them. I had an issue with a loose part in mine and the owner of the company took care of me in the best fashion. There is never too much that can be said for a good company that stands behind its work. I'd do it again. Check Willies in MN or Gryphon in CA or anywhere else they are sold...

Bill Mc
03-15-2012, 06:32 PM
Last week I received my Breedlove Quartz 00 from Elderly Music. 2002 model. I purchased it used in "excellent condition" according to the description. Well they were wrong. The mandolin is in mint condition. It looks like it sat in a closet in a case for ten years ! Not the slightest scratch, set up beautifully, and a real nice tone. Used is the way to go with a reputable dealer like Elderly.

Goats Can Eat Anything
03-15-2012, 06:36 PM
Couldn't agree more about Elderly -- I have bought several instruments from them including my pre-war Martin six string. They are truly a class act!

Bill, thanks for sharing your good experience about them. I should have mentioned them!

uke4life
04-07-2012, 04:32 AM
I would highly suggest:

The Mandolin Store http://www.themandolinstore.com/Scripts/default.asp

Greg Boyd http://gregboyd.com/

I've bought mandolins from both over the years...Great guys and great instruments...There are some great import mandolins that will give the bigger names a run for their money...If you want to move up to some top end mando's or just look and drool..Check out:

Tom Ellis (had one of his F's and it was PHENOMENAL!!! and he's a damn nice guy) http://www.ellismandolins.com/index.html

Lynn Dudenbostel (Chris Thile's mandolin of choice!!! and he's a damn nice guy too) http://www.lynndudenbostel.com/

Stephen Gilhchrist (not stateside, but make great mandolins...Loved his limited run pancake mando!!!) http://www.gruhn.com/

And of course..Gibson, Collings and Weber are great instruments too!!!