Hi I'm a newbie here! I just inherited a vintage banjo from my husbands relative and looked at lots of pictures and it appears to be a Gibson Mastertone TB3 but I've no clue what year it is or how to clean it. The Skin is pretty dirty , but the strings are in good shape and it seems to play well ( I play the violin so can somewhat tune it and the neck etc..seems fine) The wood has some slight discoloration on the back of the neck and body, but not too much. The bottom reads " Grover Patent Presto".
I guess I'm just curious as to how to restore it , mostly clean the skin (calf skin?) and how much it might be worth? My grandfather plays the banjo and I'd like to give this to him unless it's worth over $1000, which it appears to be. Any help would be....helpful! =) I added some pictures
The inlays look just like the original neck on my 1926 TB3. Remove the 4 screws (I see one at the 4oclock position in photo 1) and the resonator back will come off. Look for a number like 8226-19 written i chalk on the inside. There are a number of sites that can identify it per the number. Don't fix or clean anything. Originality always trumps restoration. A bluegrass player would replace the 4 string neck with a 5 string and probably put on a modern head, keeping all the original parts safe and intact. It is worth around $2,000.
I agree with the others that this is a 1926 Gibson TB-3 banjo and you should keep it in it's original condition. I bought mone for $1800.00 about 2 years ago. Today's market varies in price, but you do have a great banjo in your hands. If you intend to sell this banjo, there will be no problem in finding a buyer. Many appreciate and love the sound that these old ball bearing banjos produce.
Thanks everyone! I was able with your help to take off the back and see it is a 1926 Gibson Mastertone TB-3 serial number 8226-25 through am online serial site. It was so cool to see how so many others have info and where they were sold at auction etc and to see mine completely blank like it was lost since 1926! And to think my uncle almost threw this away when they were cleaning out his fathers house! I'm so glad I rescued it :)
I'll be listing it for sale and took a ton of pictures if anyone is interested!
Tiffany - the site you must have seen your banjo on indicates that it hasn't been "lost" since 1926. It means that it has been found. The first four digits of the serial number (actually FON - factory order number) means that this was a lot of TB-3 banjos - and the last two numbers indicate which banjo was in that lot. Yours was #25
Your was #25. You will notice that there is also an 8226-48, which means that there were at least 48 banjos like yours in this lot. The numbers not shown on Tom Biggs list are the ones that have "not" been "found"! I guess your grandfather thought enough of the banjo to somehow have it placed on Bigg's list. Nice instrument - good luck selling it!
Folks who like to keep the old calfskin heads, for that "old time" sound, have mysterious and borderline secret ways of cleaning them up. The main ingredient is an old fashioned school pencil box large pink rubber eraser! That's right, you "erase" that dirt off the calfskin. You shouldn't have to worry about it if you plan to sell it, the buyer will decide what to do about it. If you plan to keep it, prepare for HOURS of arm-wearying slow rubbing and brushing/vacuuming the crumbs. Use a fresh pink rubber eraser, and old one from your kitchen junk drawer may have aged too much and gotten too hard to do the job. After a few weeks, if you compare to the photo in your ad, you'll be pleased! Hint: it will never get perfectly clean.
Don't try to clean anything else though. Orginal dirt is more valuable than poorly cleaned up.