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bgbass - Posted - 07/03/2010:  03:50:54

I have a B&D SULTANA SILVERBELL BANJO 4 string I got from my grandfather it is in real good condition the only number i can find is a 1 on the neck. Any info. about it woud b appriciated including how much its worth. THANKS FOR THE HELP MIKE

Polle Flaunoe - Posted - 07/03/2010:  06:14:28


Unscrew the 4 large thumb screws round the metal flange - the resonator back + flange will come off easily.

You´ll find a 5-digit serial number in two places inside the banjo.

For dating the banjo - go to my database:

Sultana´s were built between 1929 and 1939.

A B&D Sultana Silver Bell #1 (like yours) tenor (19 frets) in excellent/near mint condition will sell for appr. $2,000 at eBay - an example in good to very good condition for 15-25% less.

A Sultana plectrum (22 frets) will sell for 15-20% more than a tenor in the same condition.

For an estimate of its condition - do post detailed pics here at BHO.

An advice - a Sultana is a professional instrument - don´t let an "amateur" fool around with her. Some members here at BHO can/will for sure direct you to a skilled banjo luthier in your area.



jims38134 - Posted - 07/03/2010:  06:28:04

Post some pics and do be VERY CAREFUL putting the back on if you remove it. Carefully line up all four holes with the thumbscrews that hold it on before tightening. Jim

Polle Flaunoe - Posted - 07/03/2010:  09:22:56


Sultana´s do not have those small square solded-on metal pieces with an in-side thread - as found on mid 20s Silver Bell models - instead they have round inserts pressed into holes in the rim.

A much more sturdy solution - I´ve never had problems with these.

So Mike does not need taking special care, when mounting the resonator.


bgbass - Posted - 07/04/2010:  03:22:41

thanks for the responses here are some pictures. mike


Polle Flaunoe - Posted - 07/04/2010:  06:18:26


Well - she´s all original (except for the case) and she seems to be in generally excellent condition with only minor wear. The frets have maybe been replaced in the past - and maybe with a somehow wrong fret type - it´s a little difficult telling this exactly on basis of your pics.

She´s a mid/late 30s version - the original design was altered a little in ´34.

She´ll need a polishing, a replacement of the rusty hooks, the head and the bridge, most likely a fret dressing plus a fresh set-up - this will not be especially costly - compared with her value - only let a specialist do the work - this Lady deserves special care. Plus of course a suited soft or hard case.

If you´re going to sell her - do it as-is - the buyer will most likely want to have her reconditioned etc. him-/herself.

I estimate, that she at an international auction at eBay will bring $1,500-1,650 as-is.


I forgot mentioning, that she´s a tenor banjo.

Edited by - Polle Flaunoe on 07/04/2010 11:03:07

jims38134 - Posted - 07/04/2010:  08:29:39

Looks like a twin to mine. I'll share some pics with you if you drop me a line.

Polle Flaunoe - Posted - 07/04/2010:  10:23:03


Here´s a twin of mine - reconditioned/restored to mint condition - and re-built/set up to optimal professional performance:


Edited by - Polle Flaunoe on 07/04/2010 14:36:17

NYCJazz - Posted - 07/04/2010:  10:35:35

one issue that no one has brought up...

19 or 22 frets? Can't tell from the photos.

rudykizuty - Posted - 07/04/2010:  10:48:40

The fret markings on the side shot look like it's a tenor. Nice example. It deserves a better case.

Mike Casey - Posted - 07/04/2010:  14:54:54

A few years ago I bought a set of 4 Planet tuners in chrome with the large butterscotch buttons. I believe they came off of one of these Sultana banjos. They are very nice, but they are smaller than the peghead holes on my Gibson's. They sure do look sharp on the Sultana.

rudykizuty - Posted - 07/04/2010:  16:35:38

If they are Grover pancake tuners like the ones worn by this example, the original plating would have been nickel, not chrome.

Neither chrome or planet tuners were ever used as OEM on any Groton built B&D banjos that I know of.

Edited by - rudykizuty on 07/04/2010 16:37:09

Mike Casey - Posted - 07/04/2010:  17:12:47

rudykizuty Thank you for the information. I appreciate it.

jims38134 - Posted - 07/04/2010:  17:22:44

Weird, I didn't notice that they were Grovers...mine are Planet Pat Pend tuners and appear to be original. As do the ones on Polle's Sultana. Jim

Edited by - jims38134 on 07/04/2010 17:24:29

rudykizuty - Posted - 07/04/2010:  17:52:21

Hmmm....Jim, what year is yours and Polle's dated? The latest models I have are a '36 Senorita and '36 Serenader. They both have the Grovers. Perhaps there was a change with banjos built between '36 - '38 (???) I'd bet that either Polle or Ed Britt could give us the exact date of the change!! Thanks for pointing that out, Jim.

PS you're welcome, Mike, although I obviously gave some bad info. Sorry. However, I think it's safe to say that the chrome vs. nickel part was correct.


Edited by - rudykizuty on 07/04/2010 17:59:33

jims38134 - Posted - 07/04/2010:  18:13:29

Nickel for sure, not chrome if originals. My Sultana #1 dates to about 1934/5 per Polle's B&D aging chart.
By the way, if original amber colored (butterscotch), they are made of Catalin. Very cool apperance on the Sultanas.

Mike Casey - Posted - 07/04/2010:  20:09:19

These are original old Catalin buttons on old Planet tuners. I went back to look at them and they are nickel, not chrome. I compared them to a set of chrome tuners I have and that pretty well told the story... nickel. Still, as reported, B&D did not use Planet tuners so these came off of another make. I have a couple sets of these buttons and I use one set on an RB-18 which really does look cool.

jims38134 - Posted - 07/04/2010:  20:29:28

Look at this....

Edited by - jims38134 on 07/04/2010 20:48:04

Polle Flaunoe - Posted - 07/05/2010:  00:02:17

All Silver Bell examples from appr. ´26-´35, that I´ve seen, have Planet tuners (manufactured by Ludwig, I think).

On examples from appr. ´36-´39 I´ve seen both Planet´s and Grover pancakes.

Here´re f.ex. my Sultana and my Swing - both from ´38:


Edited by - Polle Flaunoe on 07/05/2010 00:03:24

rudykizuty - Posted - 07/05/2010:  02:41:57

Polle, thanks for setting straight my previous fouled up understanding.

I have a question about the Grover pegs. I'll PM you.

bgbass - Posted - 07/05/2010:  04:11:07

Thank you everyone for the great info. i am learning a lot about the piece thanks again mike

Polle Flaunoe - Posted - 07/05/2010:  04:27:38

Mike Casey,

A set of Planet tuners - inclusive of original Catalin buttons - in perfect working condition - can bring as much as $4-500 at an auction.

Did you know?


Polle Flaunoe - Posted - 07/05/2010:  06:23:51


I did suddenly get some doubts - are you sure, that the tuners on your ´36 Serenader and Senorita are "pancakes"?

Reason - Bacon did often use the cheaper Grover 2:1 tuners on these models in the 30s.

Here´s f.ex. a ´34 Serenader:


rudykizuty - Posted - 07/05/2010:  12:55:28

Yes, absolutely certain. They are exactly as they appear on your Swing. They are stamped on the back of the casing GROVER PAT. However, in both cases, they are fitted with ivoroid buttons, not catalin. (I tried taking a photo but my camera is now giving me trouble....grrrr)

I am really disappointed with their performance. They seem to have nothing more than 2:1 ratio and are very finicky. I am seriously thinking about replacing them, but have not gone through the trouble to remove any of them. Can you tell me if these have a 3/8" shaft or 9/32"?


rudykizuty - Posted - 07/05/2010:  14:10:16

UPDATE - The Mrs. got the camera working This is the peghead reverse of the Senorita.

Edited by - rudykizuty on 07/05/2010 14:12:02

jims38134 - Posted - 07/05/2010:  17:09:13

The Grovers like yours have a 3/8" (0.375") shaft per my calipers. jim

rudykizuty - Posted - 07/05/2010:  17:19:50

Thanks, Jim!! Much appreciated.

Polle Flaunoe - Posted - 07/05/2010:  23:08:19



By digging down my poor memory and my archives I´ve realized, that my Swing is in fact the first Silver Bell of mine having Grover "pancake" tuners. The rest have Planet´s.

I own a ´31 Senorita with the "cheaper" Grover 2:1 (small shaft) version - as shown on the ´34 Serenader picture (from Vinnie M.´s web site) above. I´ve seen these on other Senorita´s from the 30s as well - I´ve replaced some of them with ABM 2-Band small shaft tuners.

I´ve measured the pancakes now - Jim is correct - they have a 3/8" shaft - and also they have the "impossible" 2:1 ratio.

As mentioned in a private mail I´ve seen Vinnie M. "refreshing" old pancakes by drilling a tiny hole in the hidden side of the gear box and pressing grease into the gear box via this. Also the friction washers are often dried out and should be replaced.

Anthony - do consider a replacement of the poor working pancakes with 5-Star "Planet" tuners - they will fit the existing 3/8" holes - and they are perfect working - with a 4:1 ratio. I´ve used them many times. And they do look almost the same as the original Planet´s as used by Bacon - except for the buttons. You can purchase replica buttons, but you´ll have dress the holes a little.

Or - you could find some original Planet´s - however this will be expensive. I have a spare 20s set in perfect condition - I´m asking "only" $400 - plus shipment.


I´ve just now been mailing with Vinnie Mondello. I asked him about his re-greasing method and the results - his kind answer was:

I have done it on many styles now and I would say at least 50 percent were helped.
The ones with gears worn on one side from usage, it helps them less, but still somewhat.

So maybe this could be a first hand try!

Are you all aware of Vinnie M.´s fantastic site - showing the progresses in many of his restorings ?

I love following these on a regular basis - and I´ve learned a lot from them.

A really fine gesture by Vinnie publishing these "stories".

Edited by - Polle Flaunoe on 07/06/2010 01:46:18

rudykizuty - Posted - 07/06/2010:  02:59:44

Yes, I follow Vinnie's web site on occasion. It makes for very interesting browsing.

Also, thanks to both Jim and Polle for the confirmation on the tuner shaft size. I definitely would like to replace the poor working Grovers. I did 4 jobs over the weekend with the Senorita and have had it with them. The 5 Star planets are definitely a consideration. I have a set on my Vox and they work nicely. While planets may have been standard issue on most Bacons, I must admit that I am attracted to the idea of preserving this particular banjo's original appearance, if viable. So, I have also been curious about the reproduction pancake tuners being manufactured by Pavel Kristufek. Has anyone tried these?

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