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A Special Saugatuck Antique
One of hispurchases that Fred Jones madefrom Bob Taft who ran an antique store on Butler Street one-of-a-kind mandolin, manufactured by Orville Gibson of the famous Gibson Co. of Kalamazoo. Itwas strung like a mandolin but shaped to resemble a lyre. Experts theorize that although it was playable,it was created more as a displaypiece than a working mandolin. The instrument appears in a1982 book AmericanGuitars by Tom Wheeler Bob Tafttold Jones that he had acquiredthe instrument from a Holland antique dealer about 1945.
The purchase price Taft asked forwas $1,500 which Jones paid in installments,making the final payment inSeptember of 1976. Because by then Jones was living in Casper, Wyoming,where he worked as a deputy sheriff for Natrona County, t was the following yearbefore he could get back to Michiganto pick up his purchase. At that timehe took it to the Gibson Co. in Kalamazoo for appraisal and refurbishing.In July of 1977 a Kalamazoo newspaperran a story about the mandolin in which the reporter described Taft as aVermont antique dealer, a move that Jones said he made because Taft did not want reporters around asking questionsabout the instrument.
After the building of a protective caseand the refurbishing of the instrument it was recently sold to Bill Gates afounder of the Microsoft Corporation, who's a collector of rare instruments, fornearly a quarter of a million dollars, according to Jones, making it a veryspecial Saugatuck antique.