We don't know the whole story behind why this early Gibson A-4 has two pickguards, but our guess it may have been to accommodate an order for a left-handed version. (Later, when Gibson was using elevated pickguards, they would simply add edge dots to the other side of the neck, mount the pickguard on the other side, set-up using a nut and bridge for left-hand stringing and presto! A left-handed Gibson mandolin!) For this A-4 the job was made a bit easier thanks to the inlay design in the pickguard being symmetrical. But it's the end result that counts and with gleaming black finish and those curly pearly pickguards set off by the herringbone rosette, this old mandolin makes quite a fashion statement. Look in the soundhole and the paper label shows Orville Gibson himself, with trademark moustache, staring back at you. How cool is that?
This has its original inlaid Handel tuners and the early Gibson tailpiece with cover. We've known this mandolin for over 25 years, since it has been strung both right-handed and left-handed we know the bone nut is newish and the bridge may be as well. The finish on the back, sides, and neck appears to be original. Frank Ford did some French "over-polish" to the top, and repaired a crack down near the tailpiece. These early Gibson mandolins have more narrow necks than later models, more like the necks on the bowl-back (Neopolitan) style mandolins that were the standard when this A-4 was built. It was also more lightly constructed than later models and so is strung with lighter strings (.010-.034). But don't let that fool you, it's still plenty loud and lots of fun to play.