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rmsteward - Posted - 04/05/2010: 17:33:15
Hey guys. I have had an Imperial banjo for about two years now. I bought it for about $1500 and I haven't been able to find anything specific about them. All I know is that it was made by a guy named Ty Piper, that he made a relatively small amount of them, that it sounds pretty darn good, and it is about as heavy as a brick of lead. What else do you guys have for me?
Irvine - Posted - 04/05/2010: 18:16:10
Looks like an Imperial Shenandoah from the early to mid 1980's based upon the picture on your home page but it's hard to see the headstock inlay to be sure. I have one just like it in Walnut. They were quality banjo's throughout with very unique tone rings and flanges. The style flange you have is known for contributing to a very deep tone and quick decay depending on the setup. Nice banjo.
PickaFive - Posted - 04/05/2010: 18:35:11
I have at least one Imperial Banjo catalog and possibly a price list in my music archive (OK, its a box in my garage). I'll be glad to copy it and send it to you if you send me your address off line.
Imperials are fine banjos and as you have indicated, right up there with Ode and Baldwin/Ode Style C & D's' contesting for the heavyweight championship of the banjo world.
rmsteward - Posted - 04/05/2010: 19:10:46
Oh and also, any idea just what the banjo is worth? And what is a flange? Sorry I'm not up on my banjo parts.
PickaFive - Posted - 04/05/2010: 22:00:35
You didn't send your address off line as requested so the deal's off!
Have you seen the TV advertisement with the little girl saying, "But you didn't say that I could have a real pony"? After a brief search of my musical archive I found my catalog which I received from Ty Piper in November 1977. There are five models, Style 0 through IV with optional top tension feature for Styles 1 and II.
Styles 0, 1, and II were unengraved and nickel plated. Styles III and IV have engraved and gold plated metal parts. All of the styles had the same 3/4" hard maple rim, bell metal cast tone ring, brass flange, and brass tension hoop. Compared to a Gibson, that's a lot of brass which accounts for the added weight.
The flange that you asked about is the external metal part that extends outwards part way down the side of the rim. The hooks which pull the tension hoop down pass through holes in the flange. The wooden bowl-like resonator mates to the bottom surface of the flange.
Late 1977 prices were $625 for Style 0, $785 Style 1, $1,000 Style II, $1,325 Style III, and $1,550 Style IV. A hard case added $75 to each price. There is no mention of a Shenandoah model although I remember the name. It probably came later and could well be one of the same style banjos following a renaming of all of their line to increase sales. The good news is that all of the Imperial banjo styles listed have the same professional quality components. I'm sure that some BHO experts can offer an estimate of your banjo's worth once the style and condition questions are resolved.
I'll mail you the catalog and price list copy tomorrow. Good luck with your Imperial banjo. It's a fine instrument!
NYPDBlue - Posted - 04/06/2010: 20:37:56
I have a 9/1/80 catalog that shows 4 models:
These prices were right up there at the time. Consider that about this time Stellings were ranging from $1000 (Whitestar) up to $2600 (Masterpiece). These were Stelling's prices.. "retail" listed ad additional $400 and up on a particular model. They also had the "Scrimshaw" at the time and that was $4,000. The Gibson price list of Jan.'79 had the RB-250 at $1069, although I have a notation of $825 in my own handwriting next to it so I must have got that from a dealer at the time. The All-American and Florentine were $4299. I don't show a Granada but the RB-800 was $1579 (with my handwritten figure of $1007). Deering's July '81 price list has their Calico at $1420. In '04 I paid $1500 for a '95 Calico I got off of E-Bay and was quite satisfied with the price. I also have a Jan. '81 catalog from The 5th String listing Gold Stars from $451.75 and on up to the JD Crow model for $971.75. I think these are at a premium now.
After all my research back then I wound up buying my Fender Leo for between $300-350 as I felt that was all I could afford at the time.... and it served me well. I still have it... along with 4 other banjos that I can't play as well as I'd like.
grm405 - Posted - 04/07/2010: 05:08:58
My Imperial had a solid "tube and plate" (2-piece) flange. I mean the "tube" was a solid rod. Very heavy and made the banjo excessively heavy for the small gain in sturdiness (never going to crack that tube!). Keep in mind that pretty much nothing on these interchange with Gibson parts. Tone ring has different dimensions, tension hoop has different spacing. About the only thing that seemed common were the hooks and nuts.
I sold my Imperial several years ago at Dusty Strings in Seattle for $1500. Is this the one you bought?
Edit.. FOTW had some info on Imperial and Ty Piper on their site. Don't know if it is still there. There have been several threads on him on this site. Several people were left holding the bag when he went under and had harsh things to say about him.
Edited by - grm405 on 04/07/2010 05:12:08