Museum: Gibson Guitars

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1924 Gibson F-5 Fern

Serial # 76547, signed by Lloyd Loar on March 31, 1924. Virzi Serial # 10114. The 'Schulz' Loar, or 'Carter' Loar, as this one is known, is one of a very small handful of Loar-signed 'Fern' F-5 Master Model mandolins built in 1924. The Fern Loars are often regarded as the most refined and evolved incarnations of the F-5 model, and many feel that the instruments of this very small group represent the apex of Lloyd Loar's design and Gibson's build quality. With its Virzi tone producer, carefully applied varnish finish and Cremona sunburst, exquisitely carved scroll, top arch and recurve, and beautiful 'Fern' inlay with richly hued blues and greens, this instrument is truly nothing short of spectacular.

Gibson F5 number 76547 was discovered by the Grandson of its original owner, one Charles Carter (who's name is engraved into the instrument's sterling silver truss rod cover), some ten years ago in Washington State. The instrument was previously undocumented, and hadn't then been played in over six decades. It is the stuff of legend -- completely original, in breathtaking condition, and in need of no repairs whatsoever. It was the proverbial 'under-the-bed' find, and sent waves of excitement rippling through the mandolin world upon its discovery. Dan Beimborn, of the Mandolin Archive, calls this one "A time capsule" and "the Holy Grail find" in his A Loar Diary -- an interesting read all about this particular instrument, and his tenure with it shortly after it was discovered.

There are bluegrass mandolins, and then there are those few very special ones such as this F5 that are Beyond Bluegrass. The instrument has an elegance of tone that is supreme and uncommon, and a richness and balance that is unfindable in lesser instruments. It is articulate and proportioned, with expressive subtlety and a fidelity that's undeniable. Perhaps the tonal response of this instrument is what Lloyd Loar was imagining as he worked to improve Gibson's mandolin -- It's easy to imagine his satisfaction upon signing the label that bares this F5's serial number.

The instrument of choice for a modern bluegrass-rooted acoustic instrumentalist, or Newgrass player -- F5 #76547 is the mandolin of a lifetime, and then some.

A completely original instrument that is without repairs, or modifications to its finish, and shows no structural flaws of any kind. The F5 was played professionally by Charles Carter on the radio in Pennsylvania for some time, and was clearly well loved and very well taken care of. The finish is beautiful and largely unworn, save for the back of the neck, and the instrument appears to have spent the entirety of its time in its case when not in service. Much more recently the first 6 frets have been meticulously replaced, and the original bridge has been swapped for a well-fit Darryl Wolfe reproduction. The original parts still accompany the mandolin along with a few period picks found in the case. The instrument's top arch is perfect, its neck angle is perfect, and its fretwork and playability is perfect. The sterling silver plating on the tailpiece and tuners remains in fine condition, as do its original pickguard, mounting hardware, endpin, tuner-gears and buttons, and original nut. The instrument's headstock scroll is unbroken, although there are expansion and contraction craze-lines in the finish along the joint in the wood. There are no finish touch-ups anywhere on the instrument. We can imagine no finer Loar-signed Fern F5.

The case is original to the instrument and in good working order. There are scuffs and areas of missing covering along its outer edges, and the inside cloth's wear is consistent with that of the mandolin.

In addition to the many photographs presented here, please visit this instrument's listing on The Mandolin Archive for many other photographs. Note, though, that the photos on that website were taken about a decade ago and might differ slightly to the instrument as it appears today.

Click HERE for our hi-def video feature of this F5 Fern

For further information on this F5, please correspond directly with Mark Stutman, owner of Folkway Music, vintage instrument specialist, and our head repair-person. He can be reached by email at mark@folkwaymusic.com, or on the phone at the any of the numbers listed at the top of this page.

Please note that this instrument is not housed in-store, so please call ahead to schedule a viewing; we'll be happy to accommodate.

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