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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: just bought what I think is a minstrel banjo

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spoonfed - Posted - 05/16/2021:  05:47:34

I just bought this and know nothing about it, age, make etc, does anybody recognise this little banjo ? 23 1/2" scale 11" pot, looks to be Walnut neck and Maple pot overall 34" long, sounds great tuned to D currently strung with Chris Sands nylon . any help would be great.

spoonfed - Posted - 05/16/2021:  05:48:49

I forgot to add, underneath the perchpole is a number 4, perhaps that means it is a modern repro ?

Joel Hooks - Posted - 05/16/2021:  06:43:15

Looks like a newer neck on a old rim.

Banjos with similar rim and hardware are believed to have been available/made as early as the 1870s and they were still offered in catalogs post 1900.

The single digit numbers are usually manufacturing numbers to keep parts together when built in large lots.

The neck shape looks like a relative modern build that attempted to match the older style. But is actually very different from any neck I have seen with that rim style and hardware.

As far as “minstrel”... only if it was played in a minstrel show with burnt cork. Otherwise it is just a banjo.

spoonfed - Posted - 05/17/2021:  03:59:33

Wow ! most surprised only one person has any thoughts on this banjo, I thought being apparently made in the US this would be the place for information.

The Old Timer - Posted - 05/17/2021:  08:10:25

I have ZERO expertise in minstrel banjos, original or repro. But this banjo gives the "impression" of being relatively new, meaning, a nice repro. The finish looks "too nice" to be from the 1800s. Not enough dirt, dust, schmutz, sweat, corrosion, etc.

The "eagle" brackets for the tension hooks often suggest Civil War times or slightly later. Again, those give the impression of repros due to their cleanliness.

Finally the nice wood grain on the face of the peghead is uncharacteristic for a really old original.

Emiel - Posted - 05/17/2021:  08:18:26

Whatever it is, it's a very neat instrument.

kyleb - Posted - 05/17/2021:  09:21:58

By minstrel banjo do you mean you believe this to be an old banjo pre 1870s? If so I dont believe you are correct, the hardware is certainly 1880 or newer, the neck looks more modern. This style of hardware and rim were made and sold well in the 1920s in catalogs. I do think this is a minstrel style banjo. I dont think its from the early or mid 1800s.

spoonfed - Posted - 05/17/2021:  11:55:16

I too think it is newer than it appears, I bought it for a low enough price that I am happy whatever it turns out to be, it is a nice enough player albeit I am on quite a steep learning curve with wooden pegs for tuners, I currently have it tuned to E since I think D makes the feel a bit floppy ! I was surprised that it is quite so small since I usually think of "real" minstrel banjos as being quite a bit bigger than most "normal" banjos ! it weighs almost nothing and is fun to play, looks like somebody made a half hearted attempt to copy a Buckbee peghead shape and, I agree the neck wood , walnut I think, looks a bit too figured to be the real thing. I shall continue to see what is to be learned about it as I know nothing of this style of banjo, thanks so far for the opinions expressed here.

jun3machina - Posted - 05/18/2021:  09:02:19

Looks older antique to me. The eagle brackets could be purchased. So perhaps the pot is the oldest, the neck looks like its mimicing buckbee/dobson. Id put it at 1880-1890 if i had to guess

Dan Gellert - Posted - 05/18/2021:  11:18:17

The neck has a newer look to me, but it's a neat little banjo.

At that scale, D pitch might be kind of loose, even with "minstrel" gauge strings.

Those pegs ought to work very well, once you get the feel for how much to press in to keep them gripping but not sticking. If you're having any trouble in that department, try a bit of violin peg dope (or soap and chalk). Don't bother with liquid "peg drops". If that doesn't do the job, the pegs probably need re-fitting, which they do sometimes, especially if the instrument hasn't been played regularly for some time. Anyone who works on fiddles can do that. Wooden pegs have a bad reputation, which is well-deserved only if you try to use them with wire strings. For gut or synthetic strings, I like them just fine. You can get Pegheds internally-geared tuners, which look just like ebony pegs-- I'll admit they do work better than the real thing, but so far, not enough better for me to justify my buying and installing them on my banjos.

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