1920s Lyon & Healy Style A Two-Point Carved-Top Mandolin

Heart be still, right? This instrument is not just painfully gorgeous, but it also sounds it, too. If you've never played a top-flight Lyon & Healy mandolin from this period, they're simply a few evolutionary steps ahead of the competition at the time. They have radiused fretboards, floating pickguards, high-grade wood, exacting sculptural details (including an amazing headstock design) -- all of the stuff one thinks of when talking about modern, high-grade instruments (I'm looking at you, Collings and the like).

This particular Style A is remarkable for two things, as well: it has the earlier asymmetrical two-point body (I prefer this look) as well as a dark, "brown violin" finish. It's original and I don't think I've seen it on any other Style A that I can recall, so it must've been either asked-for or limited to a small run of them.

It's all-original and came into the shop in pretty good order, though I did have to do a little work. The owner of this guy is selling it "for sale by owner" in the soontime so it was just in to get buttoned-up. It has "#1651" and "Style A" on the label in the soundhole. My Washburn book is missing in action somewhere in the house so I'm not sure if that number helps to date it.

Work included: a reglue to a sprung seam, a fret level/dress, compensation of the bridge, and a setup. It's now playing perfectly with hair-under 1/16" action at the 12th fret. Due to the short scale, I strung it up with 36w-10 gauges rather than the usual 32w-9 that I stick on many period instruments.

Condition notes: it's all-original and in excellent condition, save a slightly-mismatched back/side seam at the endpin and a little finish-muck showing near the bass side of the bridge (I had to move the bridge for better intonation).

It comes with: its original hard case (also in great shape).

These have a vulcanized-rubber headstock faceplate that's screwed onto the front. The nut is bone.

The fretting is quite accurate and the radiused board feels really good in the left hand. The frets still have a good amount of height after the level/dress job.

The tailpiece has an interesting built-in string-damper mechanism and -- of course -- an awesome cover.

The maple used for the back is superb. That's both flamey and full of birdseye figure. The company really went all-out for this one.

Let's also not forget the carve at headstock. This is the stuff mandolinists dream about.


Nick R said…
As far as I can discern from the book, there is an asymmetrical A style dated 1921- before that date they were symmetrical and had the longer scale which became 13 inches that year. These mandolins also have a separate numbering sequence, it seems. I assume the owner is quitting playing due to health issues- you would not be able to wrestle this mandolin from my hands!
Jake Wildwood said…
This one has the 13" scale, too -- I just posted the wrong specs with it. Oops! I'll have to measure it all again, sighhhhh. Thanks for the help!
Martin said…
We've seen one other brown Style A mandolin, and there's at least one Style A mandola to match (owned at one time by the Dawg!).

It is indeed from 1921 or later, but a photo of the label would be of the most use in dating it any more precisely. (Not for the serial number, but for the label itself.)
Alex said…
Gorgeous Jake. Aesthetically and Sonically.
How much is it selling for?
Jim Garber said…
That is a beauty, for sure. Only one correction for you and everyone else.

You say:"These have a vulcanized-rubber headstock faceplate that's screwed onto the front."

Sorry, it is not rubber but an early cellulose-based plastic called vulcanized fibre.

Unknown said…
I own a Lyon & Healey Style A (asymmetrical) mandolin. The label reads: "No.30 Style A Spcl." It is in amazing condition and until now I thought it may be the only dark brown face L&H out there! Based on your discussions, it would seem likely to have been made about 1921 as well. Now, I really have no clue why it was labeled as "Spcl"? Perhaps it has something to do with the longer 13 7/8 inch scale on mine... Any thoughts? or ideas would be appreciated. Kevin