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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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C.F. MARTIN & CO MANDOLIN BOWLBACK CIRCA 1900'S
Apr 14, 10:00 AM EDT
C.F. MARTIN & CO MANDOLIN BOWLBACK CIRCA 1900'S
by Imperial Auction
Est: $1,000- $1,200
$101 Bid
A RARE AND UNUSUAL ANTIQUE ARMADILLO MANDOLIN. 65 cm x 20 cm.
Mar 01, 10:00 AM GMT
A RARE AND UNUSUAL ANTIQUE ARMADILLO MANDOLIN. 65 cm x 20 cm.
by Hannam's Auctioneers
Est: £30- £50
£200 Bids
A mandolin probably Italian 61 cm.
Mar 01, 10:00 AM GMT
A mandolin probably Italian 61 cm.
by Hannam's Auctioneers
Est: £30- £50
£250 Bids
VIERCHÖRIGE RUNDMANDOLINE wohl Italien, 20. Jh.
Mar 08, 10:00 AM CET
VIERCHÖRIGE RUNDMANDOLINE wohl Italien, 20. Jh.
by Hargesheimer Kunstauktionen Düsseldorf
Est: €120- €240
€1200 Bids
Washburn (American) Mandolin in Original Case, Ca. 1880, W 7.75" L 24" Depth 6"
Mar 14, 11:00 AM EDT
Washburn (American) Mandolin in Original Case, Ca. 1880, W 7.75" L 24" Depth 6"
by DuMouchelles
Est: $150- $300
$700 Bids
C. Bruno & Son The Vernon Steel String Mandolin 1890s And Case
Mar 16, 12:00 PM EDT
C. Bruno & Son The Vernon Steel String Mandolin 1890s And Case
by RB Fine Arts
Est: $200- $400
$500 Bids
VIERCHÖRIGE RUNDMANDOLINE Wohl Italien, 20. Jh.
Mar 08, 10:00 AM CET
VIERCHÖRIGE RUNDMANDOLINE Wohl Italien, 20. Jh.
by Hargesheimer Kunstauktionen Düsseldorf
Est: €90- €180
€900 Bids
Vintage Korean Kay Mandolin String Musical Instrument W/ Case
Mar 12, 12:00 PM EDT
Vintage Korean Kay Mandolin String Musical Instrument W/ Case
by Akiba Galleries
Est: $25- $250
$250 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Mandolins


Hargesheimer Kunstauktionen Düsseldorf

Hargesheimer Kunstauktionen Düsseldorf

Hannam's Auctioneers

Hannam's Auctioneers

DuMouchelles

DuMouchelles

Akiba Galleries

Akiba Galleries