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Paul Beckler - Posted - 05/28/2023:  11:23:04


I just got a Baldwin/ODE banjo from Goodwill Chattanooga, Tn. I'm interested in banjo history and the story behind individual banjos. I've read a lot about the history of ODE and Baldwin, but am curious about what I got. The I.D. # is 2984-CSR. I assume it was manufactured in 1984. I've read this is not the most collectable era, but I'm just happy to have one. Also curious as to what is stock and what is added. The bridge is a Snuffy Smith, Kreshner tailpiece, and the top tuners have Five Star etched on them with slotted screws for adjustment. The other three tuners aren't etched and have thumbscrew for adjustment. Here are some pics and will add more if needed.

Thank You,


banjoy - Posted - 05/28/2023:  12:24:01

Nice find! My sense is that ANY Ode from ANY era is a keeper. They're a fine banjo. I always thought the era that also had the Baldwin banner were pretty cool cool

Edited by - banjoy on 05/28/2023 12:25:17

Old Hickory - Posted - 05/28/2023:  12:30:53

Congrats on the score. I'm assuming if you got it at Goodwill it was at a far-below-market price.

Perhaps you could post a photo of the back of the peghead showing the tuners in detail. I don't know what was standard issue on these things, but if you search the Classifieds here you might find photos of Style C if anyone is selling one right now. Also, search Google Images for "Baldwin Ode Style C banjo tuners" or "Baldwin Ode Style C banjo peghead."  You well come up with relevant photos.

Old Hickory - Posted - 05/28/2023:  13:05:26

Look at this one for sale. Or maybe it's an old listing still live on the Internet.

Either way, it's listed as circa 1979, with a serial number clearly ending in 78. The back-of-peghead photo shows four matching tuners that look to me to be 1970s Schallers, exactly like the ones from that period that I own. The fifth string tuner button appears to match, suggesting it's probably also Schaller. Whether this is original equipment, I can't say.

If the "top two tuners" (I assume you mean 2nd and 3rd strings) are the 5-Stars that don't match the rest, I would expect that's because those tuners replaced a pair of D-tuners -- either Keith or Schaller -- that a previous owner didn't want to sell with the banjo. My guess is that happened before the banjo came into the hands of whoever gave it to Goodwill.

Easy check: Take the button off one the non-5-Star peghead tuners. If the shaft is square, it's Schaller. If it's oblong with rounded ends (sometimes called "double-D" shape), it's something else. But I don't rememebr other tuners from back then having a thumbscrew (I assume you mean a large knurled head outside the top of the pearloid button).  That was a Schaller feature. If the screw head on the fifth string is the same, you probably don't need to take the button off, but if you want to confirm then do that to see whether the shaft is square or oblong.

The linked ad shows the original Ode tailpiece. The Kerschner is similarly massive, but not identical design.

Paul Beckler - Posted - 05/28/2023:  13:48:21

Thanks for the easy check. I'll say its a Schaller.

Thanks Again,


Culloden - Posted - 05/28/2023:  15:00:08

Ode banjos are great instruments no matter which era they are from. Yours is obviously a Baldwin model so it would have been made before 1984. The one Ken gave a link to is supposed to be from about 1979 and it looks like it was made by Gretsch. I used to know when ODE changed hands but I don't remember now.
Ken is probably right on the mark about the G and B tuners having been swapped out for D tuners then replaced with 5 Stars.

Paul Beckler - Posted - 05/28/2023:  16:47:38

Thank You.

The Old Timer - Posted - 05/28/2023:  17:16:19

Is your tailpiece STAMPED "Kerschner"?  Or it just LOOKS like a Kerschner?  Ode made their own tailpieces that were very Kerschner-like, if anything, a bit longer.  If yours isn't stamped Kerschner it could very well be original.

Some history from 1969-70. Banjoist Bill Emerson, then with the Country Gentlemen, did a market review of American-made 5 string bluegrass banjos for Bluegrass Unlimited. (At that time there were only 4 brands in America: Gibson, Vega, Fender, Ode/Baldwin).

He set up a point system covering looks, sound and playability and price point. He listed strengths and weaknesses. He didn't pull his punches!

He panned the Gibson RB 250 for the thin rim and "overhanging" tone ring. Rated last. He liked the Vega Sonny Osborne model a lot except it was the most expensive by far. It came in 3rd. He REALLY liked the Fender Artist, and in fact converted from his old Gibson to a new Fender Artist for constant use within about a year. It came in 2nd only because the Ode/Baldwin Model C looked, sounded and played as well as the Fender but less expensive. Ode/Baldwin C came in 1st!

In actuality, probably more pros ended up playing Fenders. Right behind them were Ode/Baldwin Model Ds which were gold plated, engraved a bit, had much more attractive inlays, etc. It seems that the chromatic/melodic players gravitated to them because of their nice low actions (in many cases) and their excellent intonation way up the neck. They were "worth" the extra money for "bling" to these pro pickers. Bobby Thompson, Garland Shuping, Jack Hicks, and many others.

Yet the Model C had the same pot/guts and wood (walnut and ebony), only the decorations were different. Best sounding, looking and playing, at the best price according to Bill Emerson.

They are not difficult to find in the used market and have asking prices usually below $2000.

Edited by - The Old Timer on 05/28/2023 17:18:29

okbanjobill - Posted - 05/28/2023:  17:36:07

Yours ode is definitely earlier than 75. There are no known ode's built past 1980.
Great that you found one at a goodwill store!!!

mike gregory - Posted - 05/28/2023:  18:02:11

I will NOT be jealous of your find!

I will NOT be jealous of your find!

I will NOT be jealous of your find!

I will NOT be jealous of your find!

(Well, maybe a LITTLE bit!)

banjoy - Posted - 05/28/2023:  18:16:37

I didn't see this go through Goodwill's online auctions so to walk in a store and find this is providence ... being in the right place at the right time! I love stories like this. Hopefully you'll keep it any play it, banjos like this need to be pared with a caretaker -- and yes, I think these banjos have earned that level of respect. You got a good'un.

Slogo - Posted - 05/28/2023:  18:34:31

I did bid on it, or one just like it about a week ago. I stopped at just under 1 grand because I am still a beginner and my RK35 does everything I am capable of playing. Congratulations, I am glad you were able to get it.

Slogo - Posted - 05/28/2023:  18:41:56

Yes, I did just check my bid history. Yours is the one. That's cool to see it in more detail. Post more pics when it is all setup.

banjoy - Posted - 05/28/2023:  18:42:21

Ah, my bad, I do see it now when I searched for "Baldwin" ... not a bad deal, it went for a good cause and Paul Beckler got a great American banjo!

Looking at the auction pics I can see the banjo came from Lynn's Guitars in Knoxville. I remember that store! Cool!

Edited by - banjoy on 05/28/2023 18:45:44

mvolcjak - Posted - 05/29/2023:  03:17:13

Your banjo has a serial number:
2984-CSR =
Serial number 2,984
"C" style
"S"=5-string (Standard)
"R" = Resonator

This serial number would date your banjo to somewhere in the 1968-1972 time frame. I would guess that your banjo was made around 1970.

There was a serial number gap between banjo 100X and 2000 related to the move of production from Colorado to Arkansas. This mean that 2984 was actually the (appx) 1984th Baldwin built up to that time and this includes all models :
2SR, B, C and D style.

Baldwins up to serial number 100x were made between 1966 and 1967 as serial number 1001 was delivered in December of 1967. These numbers are stamped in the rim and were mainly manufactured/assembled in Colorado.
2000 and up are made between 1968 and appx 1972. As far as I know, these numbers are also always stamped in the rim. These were all made in Arkansas.
After this, till the end of production in 1980, they all had paper labels and the other numbering scheme and are also made in Arkansas...

Hopefully this helps. Baldwin/Ode records are sparse, especially after the move to Arkansas.
If I have misstated anything here, please let me know, as Baldwin "lore" can be elusive!

Take it Easy ... MarK

Paul Beckler - Posted - 05/29/2023:  09:05:35

Thanks for the I.D. help. Dick, the tailpiece has no stamp and is 2-1/2" long. I haven't seen the Kershner style in any pictures, but now I'll be investigating much closer. Mark, the serial number thing on these is sure confusing. Thank you very much for your knowledge. Mike I would say I'm sorry I had the winning bid, but that would be a lie. And Frank I'm glad you missed seeing the listing. I'm a very happy owner.

Enjoy Your Memorial Day,

banjoy - Posted - 05/29/2023:  09:30:05

Paul Beckler I'm not sure why you're glad I missed seeing the listing. I would not have bid on this anyway, I've already owned two ODE model C's over the years and while I love the ODEs as a brand (exceptional quality) the weight made it impractical, so I would not have bid anyway. I would have just watched with interest, that's all. While you're glad I didn't see it, I'm glad you did and hope you are a good caretaker for it. Time will tell. Properly cared for, it will outlast you.

Edited by - banjoy on 05/29/2023 09:31:12

Paul Beckler - Posted - 05/29/2023:  10:27:13

Frank, my bad attempt at a little humor. I'm not young any more and have to sit down to play anymore. It's a chore just to pick that thing up.

banjoy - Posted - 05/29/2023:  10:34:20


Originally posted by Paul Beckler

Frank, my bad attempt at a little humor. I'm not young any more and have to sit down to play anymore. It's a chore just to pick that thing up.


Thank you and I identify with you for sure. The internet is an odd place and perhaps not always the best or easiest way to seek or find fellowship. I'm old too and feelin' it. I prefer to sit when I pick, even at gigs if I can. You have a fine instrument and it seems to me you love it and will care for it, that comes though loud and clear to me with your posts. That's what it's all about. All the best to you. Enjoy smiley

Old Hickory - Posted - 05/29/2023:  12:08:06


Originally posted by Paul Beckler

Thanks for the easy check. I'll say its a Schaller.

I don't think so. Schaller shafts (at least for the 40+ years I'm familiar with) are perfectly square. They do not have opposing/parallel rounded sides. Their button holes are also perfectly square. Like on this actual Schaller ivoroid button):

I'll post a photo of a Schaller tuner shaft later.

The white buttons on your 1st, 4th and 5th string tuners are of the squarish design I believe originated with Keith D-tuners and then was copied by others so people could have their plain tuners and D-tuners match. For a lot of years, Stew-Mac 5-Star tuners had those buttons and so did Golden Gate (Saga). Of course, what's strange here is your stamped 5-Star tuners have different buttons and your other tuners are not stamped.

I'm not certain all early 5-Stars were stamped. I think the un-marked tuners on my 1973 banjo are Stew-Mac but I could be wrong.

arnie fleischer - Posted - 05/29/2023:  12:12:59

My Baldwin-Ode C is serial number 2951. I bought it new in May 1973. It's likely, then, that yours was made in 1973 or thereabouts.

Looking at the photos you've posted, I'm confident that your tailpiece is a Kershner, not the original. Also, I just measured a Kershner tailpiece that's on one of my banjos, and like yours it's 2 1/2" long. I'd measure the original tailpiece on my Baldwin-Ode except I don't have the banjo with me. A friend borrowed it ten years ago and I haven't seen it since. I can tell you, though, that the original tailpiece is noticeably longer and heavier than a Kershner.

I bought my Baldwin-Ode C when I decided to learn bluegrass after a dozen or so years of playing clawhammer and other old time styles. It has a beautiful bookmatched walnut resonator and a ton of sentimental value.

Paul Beckler - Posted - 05/29/2023:  13:51:32

Ken I agree with you and your reasoning. Checked the 2nd and 3rd buttons and they were made for same rectangularish mounting post as the others, but different button shape. Must be replacements for Keith D-tuners. The other 3 are a manufacturer mystery. Arnie thanks you pinned the manufacturing date probably as close as I'm ever going to get. The tailpie e is going to remain another mystery at least for now. If I should happen to find out any answers I'll let you know.

Thanks Again,

tonwil - Posted - 05/31/2023:  03:46:35

there is a nickel plated ode tailpiece for sale here in the classifieds. i dont know how to tag it, but its in banjo parts a page or two in. personally, id rather have the kirshner. but you could stick it in the case just to have one.

Paul Beckler - Posted - 05/31/2023:  04:31:08

Thanks I'll look into it.

Pigeontown Banjo Co - Posted - 06/01/2023:  06:07:59

I have experimented a fair bit with my Odes (and Baldwins) and the end result is that I am one of those who really believes in the sonic benefits of the original Ode tailpiece. Yes, they are a pain to mount but I think the weight and solidity are a huge benefit to the sound of these specific banjos.

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