The first important distinction among Ibanez mandolins is the series. Mandolins of the 52X series, like the 524 and 527, featured all solid wood construction and carved tops. They are the focus of this website. Mandolins of the 51X series, such as the 513, were lower quality with cheaper parts, and are therefore not of as much interest and will not be covered on this web site.
Within the 52X series there are eleven models: 521, 522, 523, 524, 524CW, 524AV, 525, 526, 527, plus the later 528 and 529. For the purpose of discussion, we will group them into 4 categories, based on their features and rarity. These groups are not official but have some basis in the Ibanez catalogs of the time which designated the 524 model “Artist” and the 523 model “Pro”. In descending order they are:
Master Models: 527, 526
Made in smaller numbers to a higher spec, with some distinguishing construction and finish features. The 526 and 527 have a different neck joint with binding across the joint, feature fancy peghead inlay, and lack a pickguard.
Artist Models: 524, 524CW, 524AV, 525
Made in larger quantities with slightly lesser features, the 524 and 524CW are the most common vintage Ibanez mandolin. All 4 models feature the “fancy” fingerboard inlay and standard neck joint. The 524CW is simply a 524 in a “Cherry Wine” finish. The 524AV is a 524 with an upgraded, hand-rubbed “Antique Violin” finish. Model 525 is an oval-hole F-4 style.
Pro Models: 523, 522, 521
More features are removed to create a player’s mandolin and hit a lower price point. The 523 is a stripped down F-5 with no headstock overlay and simple block inlays. The 522 and 521 are variants of Gibson A-style mandolins.