F-5 Fern, July 9, 1923


July 9, 1923, is the most famous date in the history of the Gibson F-5 mandolin, because that was the day when Gibson's Lloyd Loar signed the F-5 that Bill Monroe would acquire. Loar couldn't have known the fate of the instrument that ended up in Monroe's hands, and if any single instrument stood out from the others that day, it would have been this one, serial number 73755, which was the only one with a fern-pattern inlay on the peghead.

Prior to the surfacing of this instrument, March 31, 1924--over seven months after this mandolin was dated--is the generally accepted date for the first ferns. (There is a fern dated Feb. 18, 1924, but according to F-5 expert Darryl Wolfe, its appointments indicate that it could not have left the factory until 1926.) Wolfe's assessment of this July 9 fern is that its appointments are consistent with July 9, 1923. It has the double-layer pickguard of early F-5s (and is, in fact, the last one made with the double-layer guard). Its pickguard shape is also consistent with July 9 and earlier. It is the only known Loar-signed fern that does not have a Virzi Tone Producer. If it is not the earliest, it is certainly the earliest known F-5 Fern.

The neck was reset and the fingerboard refretted by noted Nashville luthier (and former Gruhn employee) Hugh Hansen. This mandolin has a fine sound to match its historical importance. It is offered at the reduced price of $180,000.

For further appreciation...

Full front | Pickguard | Bass side of body | Treble side of body | Tailpiece | Scroll | Signature label | Serial number label

Peghead | Back of peghead | Back view | Back of body | Back of scroll

Mandolin in case | Case closed | Case open