Ask anyone who has ever worked in a music store. We’ve all dreamed about a customer who would come in to the store with an old banjo or guitar, and casually mention that they have a dozen more at home just like it.
For the greatest majority of retail clerks and owners, this scenario never materializes. It remains in the realm of fantasy. But for Jeremy Chapman at The Acoustic Shoppe in Springfield, MO, the dream came true when a man named Michael Savage stopped in earlier this year to see if they might be willing to work a trade for a 1920’s Gibson tenor banjo.
As a professional grasser, and a student of vintage instruments, Jeremy knew exactly what he was seeing, and further discussion revealed that Savage’s father used to work on instruments as his profession in the 1950s. It was during this time that his dad, Doc Savage, began collecting classic pieces.
“Mr. Savage came into our shop one day because his grandson was interested in picking up the banjo, and he wanted to see if we would be interested in trading one of the old Gibson 4 string tenor banjos he had from the ’20s. I got really excited to see these old banjos and started talking to him about their history, and after filling me in, he said, ‘if you’re interested, I also have about 20 old Gibson mandolins you might want to see.’ I told him that I happen to play mandolin and would absolutely love to see them.
He told me about his dad who used to be an authorized Gibson repairman in Monroe, LA and that he also had a signed Loyd Loar mandola. After he left I looked up Loar era mandolas and was thinking maybe an H3 or H4, blue booking at $9,000-ish, but didn’t think it would be the H5 which the bluebook has at $72,000-$98,000.
A few days later he comes back and starts carrying in some old Gibson cases, I go out to help him, and it takes about 6 trips to get everything. I’m getting very giddy at that point, but can’t wait to open the oblong oversized Mandola case. I look at the label and see the H-5 model and really get excited. It’s had a refinish done at some point, and will be getting a restoration from David Harvey, but still a very rare piece.
He said he could tell from our excitement that we were the right people to sell them for him since he never learned to play, and we started writing out an inventory of what he was leaving. He stopped us and said not to make a list, if he didn’t trust us, he wouldn’t have left them.”
To help with identifying and valuing all these instruments, Jeremy contacted his friend, David Harvey, who is in charge of mandolin production at Gibson, and then packed them all up for a trip down to Nashville.
“We spent a few hours going over the instruments; what was original, what needed repair, what they were worth in their current condition, and what they would be worth after restoration. We were so impressed with David’s knowledge about each instrument, that we asked if he could come do a seminar about what we had, as well as bring some of his own collection.”
So this weekend, Harvey and his friend Frank Ray will be in Springfield for a seminar on the history of Gibson instruments, and specifically on the ones in Mr. Savage’s collection. Displayed will be:
- 2 1924 F5 Loyd Loar mandolins
- 1921 “Bellson” F4 mandolin
- 1915 H-4 mandola
- 1915 K-4 mandocello
- A-2 mandolin from the “teens”
- A-3 mandolin from the “teens”
- A-4 mandolin from the “teens”
- 1960s A-5 mandolin
- 2008 July 9th Master Model F-5
- 1910 F-2 mandolin
- 1914 F-4 mandolin
- 1916 A-4 mandolin
- 1916 A-1 mandolin
- 2 1919 A-2 mandolins
- 1920 F-4 mandolin
- 1922 A-2 mandolin
- 1922 TB-1 banjo
- 1920s TB-2 Banjo
- 1928 Gibson UKE-1 ukulele
- 1932 Epiphone Adelphi mandolin
- 1938 Martin 0-17-T guitar
- 1957 Gibson Archtop tenor guitar
- 1962 Gibson Hummingbird guitar
- 1966 EM250 Gibson Florintine mandolin
The seminar is scheduled for Saturday, September 13, at 4:00 p.m. at The Acoustic Shoppe. The Savage collection is on display all this week at the store.
Tickets are available for the seminar for $15; $12 for members of the Greater Ozarks Bluegrass Society. For more details, contact The Acoustic Shoppe by phone at (417) 720-1223.