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Mandolins

The mandolin is a string instrument derived from the Medieval lute. This small-size lute, first documented in the 1300s, was called several names, including the Italian name "mandola." A smaller version of the mandola was called a "mandolina." Mandolins were popular in Italy and traveled with Italian immigrants to the United States during the second half of the 19th century. By 1900, mandolins were found for sale throughout the United States through merchants such as Sears, Montgomery Ward, and Lyon & Healy.

Mandolins constructed prior to 1905 had a flat top and a bowl back, similar to the lute. In 1905, Orville Gibson of the Gibson Mandolin and Guitar Company designed a mandolin based on the violin with a carved top and a flat back. This new style of mandolin was further modified by Gibson and his successor Lloyd Loar into the '20s. Mandolin music took a leap in popularity in the '30s when bluegrass musician Bill Monroe introduced his unique mandolin playing style to radio audiences. The mandolin continues to be used widely today, especially in acoustic pieces of classical, country, and rock music.

Gibson mandolins are the most highly sought after by collectors today. The best Gibson mandolins were the F style, especially those designed by Lloyd Loar. Gibson's F-5, designed by Loar, is considered to be the best mandolin ever made. Mandolins signed by Loar on the inside label sell for the highest prices. Gibson antique mandolins from the 1890s and early 1900s are also highly regarded by collectors.


Quick Facts

  • In the late 1800s, mandolin orchestras became widespread in the United States. These groups performed using mandolins, guitars, mandolas, mandocellos, and mandobasses and often included 50 to 60 musicians
  • The mandolin has been used in acoustic ballads performed by famous rock musicians including Rod Stewart and the band Led Zeppelin
  • In 2002, Bill Monroe's 1923 Gibson Lloyd Loar F-5 mandolin sold for $1.125 million. The mandolin is now on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee

Recommended Items at Auction

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BEAUTIFUL 1922 MARTIN F HOLE MANDOLIN 2-15
Nov 06, 9:00 AM MDT
BEAUTIFUL 1922 MARTIN F HOLE MANDOLIN 2-15
by Davis Brothers Auction
Est: $1,000- $1,500
$552 Bids
1910 Leland Style A Mandolin
Oct 29, 9:30 AM EDT
1910 Leland Style A Mandolin
by Merrill's Auctioneers & Appraisers
Est: $150- $250
$1000 Bids
Mandolin Instrument
Nov 20, 10:00 AM CST
Mandolin Instrument
by Donley Auction Services
Est: $50- $100
$250 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Mandolins


Merrill's Auctioneers & Appraisers

Merrill's Auctioneers & Appraisers

Donley Auction Services

Donley Auction Services

Davis Brothers Auction

Davis Brothers Auction