The Gibson A3 mandolin. I was talking to our bass player last night at the gig and he mentioned picking up a mandolin to fool with. This antique was my first real mando of any quality and it has survived a very long time. This model was made back in the heyday of mandolin orchestras, when everyone had a mandolin laying around the parlor next to the piano. They were built well, with good materials and fine, if not utilitarian, type craftsmanship.
They must have made a million of them and there are many survivors. This A3 was the middle of the road as far as features and ornamentation. These flat back “tater bugs” have a unique sound and differ quite a bit from modern designs and builds of today. They also differ from Gibson’s milestone mandolin achievement, the F5 Florentine model. These models built under the supervision of Gibson engineer and designer, Lloyd Loar, are sought after models that have crazy mad price tags. The A style mandolins can still be found for much more modest sums but can bring higher prices if they are in great shape.