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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Manufacturers mixed mismatched serial numbers and part numbers in history


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/383298

tbchappe - Posted - 05/19/2022:  04:30:15


I thought this might be an interesting topic. Has there ever been evidence of the manufacturer marrying 2 unmatched part numbers or seriel numbers on a banjo? Whether by accident (we do this a few times a year in automotive manufacturing) or on purpose because someone wants some combination of neck length and pot size that isn't offered as standard? I know that the majority of these occurrences are done well after the banjo(s) were sold, and were later taken apart. I also realize that manufacturers would custom make banjos for customers and match the serial numbers. At some point though, was there ever an instance of, "well these two parts fit. Here you go," from parts that were lying around?

I ask because I now own a couple of banjos with pot to rim marriages. I don't mind it, they fit well, and they play beautifully. One is a 1910s Vega Tu-ba-phone, which I imagine is Frankensteined from a desired 10-15/16" Tu-ba-phone tenor pot to a 5 string neck from some less desired, larger rim Tu-ba-phone. The other is a recently acquired, very early banjo (1840s-1850s) by Boucher. The neck dowel are marked "VI" while the Rim is marked "XV."

I know that Hank Schwartz also owns a Frankenstein Boucher neck and rim, based on discussions about one that was on eBay nearly 15 years ago.



Blaine


Edited by - tbchappe on 05/19/2022 07:39:41




Joel Hooks - Posted - 05/19/2022:  05:52:03


I have a Gatcomb that the serial number on the rim is one off of the rest of the banjo. Clearly a final assembly mistake.

When we talk about numbers there are two subjects. Serial numbers and factory lot numbers. Some manufacturers that make their own instruments used the serial number to keep the parts together during the various processes. I had a tubaphone that had the serial number scratched or stamped on the ring, hoop, rim, and neck. I also have Stewarts with the last three numbers of the serial number scratched inside the hoop.

Then there are lot numbers which tend to confuse people. These are used as controls to keep the parts together during manufacturing and usually don't go over 2 digits. Banjos are made in batches and once a batch is done the next batch is marked with the same series of numbers. We see these on jobber banjos like Baystate and Buckbee/R&L, etc..

Some companies had their banjos made for them like Clifford Essex. These are often stamped with both lot numbers (for CE these are roman numerals) and serial numbers. The maker used the lot numbers and when the seller got them they stamped them with a serial number.

Blane, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know but I thought I would lay out the process for others. Many times people will get a Baystate banjo and swear that they have the 22nd ever built.

We tend to fetishize these banjo "factories" but the fact is that they were all fairly small operations. It is pretty easy to see parts getting mixed up on the final assembly table, or it is found that a different number rim fits a neck better than the original part once it is all done.

tbchappe - Posted - 05/19/2022:  06:23:26


quote:

Originally posted by Joel Hooks

I have a Gatcomb that the serial number on the rim is one off of the rest of the banjo. Clearly a final assembly mistake.



When we talk about numbers there are two subjects. Serial numbers and factory lot numbers. Some manufacturers that make their own instruments used the serial number to keep the parts together during the various processes. I had a tubaphone that had the serial number scratched or stamped on the ring, hoop, rim, and neck. I also have Stewarts with the last three numbers of the serial number scratched inside the hoop.



Then there are lot numbers which tend to confuse people. These are used as controls to keep the parts together during manufacturing and usually don't go over 2 digits. Banjos are made in batches and once a batch is done the next batch is marked with the same series of numbers. We see these on jobber banjos like Baystate and Buckbee/R&L, etc..



Some companies had their banjos made for them like Clifford Essex. These are often stamped with both lot numbers (for CE these are roman numerals) and serial numbers. The maker used the lot numbers and when the seller got them they stamped them with a serial number.



Blane, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know but I thought I would lay out the process for others. Many times people will get a Baystate banjo and swear that they have the 22nd ever built.



We tend to fetishize these banjo "factories" but the fact is that they were all fairly small operations. It is pretty easy to see parts getting mixed up on the final assembly table, or it is found that a different number rim fits a neck better than the original part once it is all done.






Great input! That's really the purpose of the discussion. I often search topics on here, and when I can't find an in depth discussion I'll start it myself to get great input from folks like you, Cohen, or Marc Smith, etc. I appreciate it.



 Blaine

mikehalloran - Posted - 05/19/2022:  11:16:47


Floorsweep Vegas are not uncommon at all. Nearly all the '20s Vegaphone Professional plectrum banjos have NO 3 mahogany necks with carved heels. Some are stamped Vegaphone only; others stamped Tubaphone and Vegaphone, with or without NO 3. The catalog states it should have a maple neck with no heel carving and I used to think that none existed till I saw one in the Classifieds a couple years ago and saw it again at a guitar show.



My cir. 1924 Imperial Electric had the smaller Standard sized 10 11/16" pot but was otherwise correct. I later saw one with the 10 15/16" pot but it had 26 hooks on a grooved pot like a Senator. Both plectrums were stamped Imperial Electric and had the correct tone ring. The other one had a serial number one digit higher than mine. 



I've never seen a Vega with different numbers on the dowel and rim that I know to be factory. I have seen two that had a pair of numbers on the dowel, one of them matching the pot.


Edited by - mikehalloran on 05/19/2022 11:18:31

csacwp - Posted - 05/19/2022:  11:44:09


quote:

Originally posted by tbchappe

quote:

Originally posted by Joel Hooks

I have a Gatcomb that the serial number on the rim is one off of the rest of the banjo. Clearly a final assembly mistake.



When we talk about numbers there are two subjects. Serial numbers and factory lot numbers. Some manufacturers that make their own instruments used the serial number to keep the parts together during the various processes. I had a tubaphone that had the serial number scratched or stamped on the ring, hoop, rim, and neck. I also have Stewarts with the last three numbers of the serial number scratched inside the hoop.



Then there are lot numbers which tend to confuse people. These are used as controls to keep the parts together during manufacturing and usually don't go over 2 digits. Banjos are made in batches and once a batch is done the next batch is marked with the same series of numbers. We see these on jobber banjos like Baystate and Buckbee/R&L, etc..



Some companies had their banjos made for them like Clifford Essex. These are often stamped with both lot numbers (for CE these are roman numerals) and serial numbers. The maker used the lot numbers and when the seller got them they stamped them with a serial number.



Blane, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know but I thought I would lay out the process for others. Many times people will get a Baystate banjo and swear that they have the 22nd ever built.



We tend to fetishize these banjo "factories" but the fact is that they were all fairly small operations. It is pretty easy to see parts getting mixed up on the final assembly table, or it is found that a different number rim fits a neck better than the original part once it is all done.






Great input! That's really the purpose of the discussion. I often search topics on here, and when I can't find an in depth discussion I'll start it myself to get great input from folks like you, Cohen, or Marc Smith, etc. I appreciate it.



 Blaine






I'm not so sure that I'd characterize my input as great, but I appreciate the compliment! Joel and Mike have covered the bases here, so I'll second what they've shared.



I've encountered floor sweep banjos with mismatched serial numbers and factory mistakes. I've also encountered a lot of aftermarket parts banjos that people have assembled. It's sometimes difficult (if not impossible) to tell these apart from the floor sweeps and mistakes. 



 


Edited by - csacwp on 05/19/2022 11:45:47

Andy FitzGibbon - Posted - 05/19/2022:  12:11:35


I've seen a fair number of Fairbanks and Vega banjos that had numbers mis-stamped at the factory, and then corrected. I've also seen a few that were only one or two numbers apart, but with parts that were clearly factory fit, and one or two 1920s instruments that went back to Vega for modifications in the 1960s and were given a new number (with the old one struck out).

I can't remember seeing two widely-spaced numbers on a banjo that I thought came out of the factory that way.

hbick2 - Posted - 05/19/2022:  15:56:21


There are also several examples of Fairbanks banjos where two different banjos have the same serial number.

kyleb - Posted - 05/19/2022:  16:10:25


my fairbanks has 2 mismatched serial numbers, only a few numbers off.

tbchappe - Posted - 05/19/2022:  16:26:50


Wonderful insights. everyone!
I forgot to post a pic of the Boucher dowel numeral VI.
I’ve recently learned that my Boucher is a neck found in Virginia which was attached to a reproduction rim, but then the owner stumbled upon an original Boucher rim, purchased it and the two were then fit together. As far as I’m concerned, that qualifies it as an original Boucher along with my Tu-ba-phone. Maybe not as perfect/desirable as it would be were it a numbers matching Boucher, but none-the-less, it’s kinda slim pickins for one of these, in any condition, much less playable.
I’ve only read about one other mismatched Boucher, and it’s one that Hank Schwartz won on eBay in 2009. There’s a thread about it in the archives. Not the same Boucher as mine, btw.

Blaine



 
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