A friend of mine called me about this banjo, said it was his grandfathers. I have no knowledge of openback banjos, so was hoping to pick the brains of the experts on here. The plate on the wooden square rod in the pot says Waverly 1902, and the bridge says Grover NON-TIP. Any remarks are welcome, originality, history, value, etc... Hope some of the pictures are ok. I thank you in advance for your time and generosity. Sincerely, Spencer Benge
The banjo could have been made by another company, but don't quote me. It seems to have been common practice for manufacturers to make banjos for other companies, distributors, and banjo teachers.
I only know Waverly as a parts maker, not a banjo maker, which was founded in 1918. One could speculate whether Waverly was the predecessor of the parts company, or a different Waverly company/distributor, or the name of a banjo teacher who sold banjos to students under his own name.
Things I noticed: the bolts holding the bracket shoes are hex, not screws, the tension hoop is grooved, the hooks are flattened (some call them "cobra hooks", I believe), and the neck is three ply laminated (maple with another wood up the middle). The rim is maple. Funny, but many of these features can be found on certain Retteberg & Lange banjos, such as some Orpheums. The inlay is not elaborate, so that would, imho, make it lower on the price scale. It would be interesting to see the tone ring - if there is one.
There are some very knowledgeable BHO members who can give you better info and can correct some of these thoughts. Good luck!
Thanks Paul R. You have provided some more very useful information to pass on. I apologize for my lack of knowing anything about this type of banjo, I just assumed it didn't have a tone ring and I really didn't see anything. Thanks again, Spencer
The rim: Appears to be a ca. 1920s-30s massed produced Slingerland, Stromberg Voisinet, etc.
The neck: After looking at the peghead shape, I was 99% sure that the neck was made by Slingerland, but upon further inspection, it is most certainly not a Slingerland. I suspect this is a homemade 5 string conversion of a former 1920s-30s tenor.
Here's my reasoning. The middle lamination is much too wide for any 1920s-1930s banjo of this type that I have seen. The fretboard is thicker than usual. The heel shape is not customary. Also the fretboard, heel, and peghead veneers just don't look right for a Slingerland made banjo. The frets appear to be a larger size than normally used (these obviously could have been replaced at some point).
I have never seen a Waverly nameplate like that one.
Another indication that this is not the original neck is that there is another hole drilled in the rim where the original neck would have been attached. When this new neck was made, for proper action the hole had to be relocated. Of course the extra hole could be from a neck reset.
Also, these makers from the 1920s and 1930s made very few 5 string banjos. Being that this banjo is a 5 string, it would fall into roughly 2-5% of Slingerland's (or others) remaining banjos. I own an original 5 string Slingerland and so do a lot of people on the Hangout. They are not impossible to find, but are much harder to find than the tenors.
Overall, the neck just doesn't look right to me. It does however look like a nice neck that should make a playable banjo.
In as is condition, I would estimate this at $100 for an Ebay auction. I just picked up an original Slingerland 5 string for $75, but it was a good deal. Set up and playable, you get get some more out of it. On Ebay, it could go for much more than $100, but I think $100 would be a good starting point.
The 4 tuners on the headstock sell regularly on Ebay for around $50 by themselves.