One hundred years ago, the archtop mandolin was still a relatively new instrument. Of course, this new style—with its carved top and carved back—was spearheaded by a clever luthier named Orville Gibson. In July 1917, the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Co. opened production in its new location at 225 Parsons Street in Kalamazoo, Michigan. From that location, Gibson would go on to build first the most iconic mandolins and then later some of the most iconic guitars ever made in the United States.
This Gibson A-2 rolled out of Kalamazoo in 1921. In those days, the Gibson mandolin design was rapidly evolving—somewhere in between the turn-of-the-century old time mandolins and Lloyd Loar's F-5, which would introduce the critical bluegrass sound. This A-2 features the classic A-model teardrop shape with a carved Spruce top, carved Maple back, and a bound oval soundhole. The A-2 isn't the most basic Gibson mandolin, so it's got a little more style with a Sheraton Brown finish, two wood-inlaid rosettes, top, back, and fingerboard binding.
This 1921 Gibson A-2 finds us in nice shape after the last 100 years. There are the expected bumps, scuffs, and bruises, but it is in excellent structural condition and it's a fantastic player. The original tuning machines have been replaced with Golden Age Restoration machines, so it's easy to keep this old Gibson in tune. The original bridge has also been replaced with a new adjustable ebony bridge. This bridge stands straight and tall and matches the carve of the top, so it is a great driver for tone. The adjustability is a nice plus.
The original tailpiece on this 1921 Gibson A-2 still does the trick nicely, and although one edge is slightly crumbled, the original pickguard has made it through the first 100 years. This mandolin even includes its original case. This A-2 produces a sweet, mellow sound that only comes with age. It's hard not to love the pearl-inlaid "The Gibson" script on the peghead. There are songs in this one!