Up for sale, a 1923 Gibson F4 mandolin in exceptional condition and in perfect working order. A very rare model with relatively small production totals, the F4 was the highest tiered F-style mandolin available before heading into venerable F5 territory. This instrument also benefits from being produced during the renaissance of Gibson mandolin craft during the brief window when Lloyd Loar was overseeing production and reinventing the instrument. While oval-soundhole Gibson mandolins have carved out numerous genre niches, perhaps the F4's most high-profile use has been in the hands of Ry Cooder.
With 12 frets clear of the body, a carved Adirondack spruce top, carved curly maple back and sides, and an ebony fingerboard and bridge, these traditional tonewood ingredients ensure an extremely lively and dynamically responsive sound. The neck integrity and ease of setup also benefits from the presence of a truss rod, a feature first seen on Gibson mandolins circa 1922. This F4 delivers a tone that's detailed, broad, and rich, with incredible complexity and midrange cut. With a crack-free body and boasting its original Red Sunburst varnish finish, this F4 is simply stunning in its presentation, professionally setup here at Mike & Mike's Guitar Bar to play its best with fresh nickel strings.
The neck has a deep V profile carve, measuring .960" deep at the 1st fret and 1.080" at the 5th. The bound ebony fingerboard features large pearl dot inlay and original slender bar frets which show a touch of wear on the crowns of the E and A strings on frets 1-5. The mandolin plays easily up the 13 7/8" scale, and the nut measures 1 1/16" in width. The nut is a replacement, carved from bone and scalloped between the string courses. The headstock features "The Gibson" script text and flower pot inlay, along with the original truss rod cover. The stock open-gear tuners are intact and turn smoothly, and while there are a couple of the usual partial repaired splits on the treble-side headstock scroll, the scroll does not appear to have ever been fully off the instrument.
The body features the original carved and compensated floating ebony bridge, along with the original tailpiece, fitted with a modern, antiqued nickel cover. The white oval label is visible through the soundhole with original penciled serial, and the FON is in the high 11,000 range. There is also an additional “guitar hospital” badge below the white oval label dated to '81, presumably for the nut work or when the headstock scroll was repaired.
The Red Sunburst finish is extremely vibrant, one of the last varnished finishes before Gibson started spraying lacquer in the second quarter of 1925. The finish highlights broad curls of flame figuring extending across the back and sides, and the finish is 100% original save for a tiny line of touchup on the treble side of the neck profile at the heel. There is faint pick wear across the soundhole, and a few minor marks on top, particularly on the bass-side lower bout, and just a few ancillary minor scuffs and marks on the body as a whole from the past century. The neck shows light palm wear partially through the gloss on the profile, primarily behind frets 1-5, and there's a tiny amount of binding shrinkage away from the nut on the treble side.
A modern USA-made hardshell case with a zippered vinyl exterior is included.