Pickin’ a pricey tune | AspenTimes.com

Pickin’ a pricey tune

Naomi Havlen

The “holy grail of acoustic instruments” was played at The Great Divide music store in Aspen yesterday – a mandolin that dates to 1923 and is worth $100,000.

Great Divide owner Sandy Munro was the lucky one strumming what he referred to as the holy grail, as was Munro’s friend and mandolin maker Tommy Hicks.

The instrument is one of the 180 or so made by Lloyd Allayre Loar during his time with the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Co. in Kalamazoo, Mich., in the 1920s.

The masterpiece is owned by Michael Jones, an Aspen resident who Munro considers an important player in the world of vintage instrument trading. Because of Jones, The Great Divide includes a back room full of vintage instruments for sale – many for over $10,000.

“His thing isn’t selling them – it’s acquisition,” Munro said.

The collector has had an ad in Vintage Guitar Magazine for the past 30 years and is regularly called by people with instruments to sell. The Lloyd Loar Gibson F-5 mandolin at the store Tuesday was found by Jones on e-Bay.

Munro said Jones drove to Green Bay, Wis., to buy the instrument. The mandolin has all of its original parts, and a label that says it was tested and approved by Lloyd Loar, signed on July 9, 1923. Like a violin, the mandolin is made from maple with a spruce top.

Loar, born in 1886, was known as a classical mandolin virtuoso as well as an acoustical engineer.

His innovations brought the acoustic world the first “f” holes ever seen on fretted instruments like the f-shaped holes on a violin. The holes on Loar’s F-5 mandolin allowed sound to be projected to the last row of the audience, Hicks explained.

Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass music, had a Loar F-5 mandolin from 1923 that was valued at $2 million, Munro said.

Jones is taking the instruments out of Great Divide for the Dallas Guitar Show this weekend. Munro said he is taking along the Loar mandolin to show it, but has no plans to sell it.

Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com

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