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Apr 16, 2018 - 11:14:37 AM
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9 posts since 4/16/2018

My son was recently given an old banjo and he gave it to me to sell in my antique booth. It is, from what I've read, a tenor banjo possibly and it has 5 strings. There is a label on the back that says Supertone hand crafted. I see a repair on the neck of the banjo and one of the strings is unattached. Is there anyone who can tell me the age and if it is worth selling a repaired banjo? I have several pictures attached. It probably would be beautiful if fully restored. Thank you so much for any information that anyone has.

Apr 16, 2018 - 11:20:41 AM



4258 posts since 8/20/2016

That's not a Tenor Banjo, it's a Bluegrass Banjo (Resonator Banjo), someone will buy it, for the parts if nothing else. I suggest you give your son some lessons. Apparently he doesn't know how cool the Banjo really is yet.

Apr 16, 2018 - 11:27:16 AM

9 posts since 4/16/2018

He knows it's cool but doesn't have time to learn how to play. Thank you so much for letting me know what it is.

Apr 16, 2018 - 12:01:51 PM

2037 posts since 3/30/2008

This Supertone was made by Harmony c. 1920-30's. They were usually 4 string tenors (market value $175 +-), & a 5 string version of this model is a bit unusual.

Apr 16, 2018 - 12:05:33 PM

9 posts since 4/16/2018

Thank you for the age information. The man who gave it to my son was in his nineties so I thought it was pretty old and you confirmed that. I appreciate your help!

Apr 16, 2018 - 12:21:48 PM

1515 posts since 4/7/2010
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A shame the peghead was broken off and repaired. If it's a solid repair, some one can use it, but if the repair is flaky and ready to break again, someone will either have to do costly repair, or make a new neck if the banjo is to be playable.

Bob Smakula

Apr 16, 2018 - 12:37:02 PM

9 posts since 4/16/2018

That's what I was wondering too. I don't know the difference between a good or bad repair job. I do know it's an obvious Repair though and was probably a pretty bad break. I was trying to figure out whether to sell for parts or to see if it was valuable enough to have restored then sell. It seems like maybe sell for repair or parts would be my best option. Thank you for your input!

Apr 16, 2018 - 1:04:48 PM

2037 posts since 3/30/2008

Some crude & amateurish repairs can last a lifetime. I feel someone would like this as a 5 string. ( You probably wouldn't get all that much for a Harmony pot, parts , or the tuners.)

Apr 16, 2018 - 1:14:37 PM
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48979 posts since 12/14/2005

This guy has a series of videos showing how to play all the major chords with ONE FINGER.

So, if the lad says he has no time, he's probably thinking of

"No time to get as good as Earl Scruggs, Roy Clark, Steve Martin".

But, for sitting around with friends and/or family and having fun, most popular songs ARE three-chord patterns.

But, if he really doesn't want it, put on a set of strings and hang a price tag on it.

Here are some pics of a Supertone which I fixed up, and the kids whose Grampa gave it to them, are really happy with it.

The old goof in the picture is  me, not their own Grampa.

Apr 16, 2018 - 1:34:59 PM

9 posts since 4/16/2018

I'm sure those boys loved having the banjos! Cute picture. My son is a doctor and works long hours but I'm going to ask him if he's sure he wants to get rid of it. He is an excellent guitar player so I would assume could learn to play the banjo too.

Apr 16, 2018 - 2:57:10 PM
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1348 posts since 4/5/2006

The banjo was free. A new set of strings will set you back about $5. Surely it's worth that, even if you just set it over in a corner & see if anyone shows an interest in it.
Or if you really want a conversation piece, you could put a circle of fifths clock in it & hang it on the wall.

Apr 16, 2018 - 4:46:13 PM

9 posts since 4/16/2018

Hmm a clock is an interesting idea ha! I'm thinking a low price in my booth is the way to go since shipping these is so expensive. Thank you for your ideas.

Apr 16, 2018 - 5:24:34 PM

10995 posts since 6/29/2005

It's a very cool banjo with interesting and unusual features. The parquetry on the resonator, the bowtie cutouts on the flange and the inlaid stripes around the rim to name three.

I've never seen one like it.  I'd say it's a keeper.  The neck can be repaired.

Apr 16, 2018 - 5:43:17 PM

9 posts since 4/16/2018

Well that makes me rethink things for sure. Thanks for pointing out some interesting things about it. I've learned a lot that I never knew about banjos from y'all!

Apr 16, 2018 - 8:50:03 PM

4911 posts since 8/28/2013

I'd take a close and careful look at the marquetry on the back; it could very well be a decal rather than the real thing. In either case, it looks nice and would be a selling point.

I do feel like it's still a rather interesting banjo and that the neck can be repaired or at least made to look better. Whether you can convince a potential buyer of that might be a different story, though.

Strings are not expensive. If you string it up and your son actually can hear it and maybe plink on it once or twice, it's possible he could change his mind about learning a few tunes on it. Banjos have a way of making people want to play them.

Apr 17, 2018 - 2:19:48 AM

48979 posts since 12/14/2005

A person who knows his or her way around a guitar fingerboard only needs a chord chart, to learn basic banjo chords in about half an hour.

Apr 17, 2018 - 4:14:49 AM
Players Union Member



11309 posts since 8/30/2006

First, welcome her to the hangout, just 125,000 other curious people.

I suggest ashleycaroline, that you learn to play banjo yourself, better for ya while at the booth, sometimes banjos plays us.

Good luck, what a nice find. Like a '39 Dodge.

Apr 17, 2018 - 5:08:38 AM
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4028 posts since 9/21/2007

Hi Ashley, I'll try and be the voice of reason.

This banjo is (and no amount of age will ever change this) what is called a "jobber" instrument. Some people like to call these "beginner" instruments but the true existence was as inventory to make a sale at a low price point. They never were and will never be great instruments.

Can you "play" them? Sure. But there are much better instruments available currently at very low prices. Why bother with an inferior instrument?

I often draw a line to the cheap and dangerous bicycles sold at Walmart and Target, they "look like" the real thing but the goal of them is to sell to a market that never really intends to ride them but will store them in their garage. They say that they "are going to start riding them to get into shape." The manufacturer knows that and the buyers for that department only cares about hitting their 60% to 80% mark up while turning over inventory.

I would recommend that your son, should he ever decided to take up 5 string banjo, buy his own high quality instrument.

Take this one and slap $150 on it and accept the first $100 bill that gets waved.

Or throw it up on ebay and start it at .99 with no reserve to see what you get.

Apr 17, 2018 - 6:47:22 AM

9 posts since 4/16/2018

Thank you all for your advice and thank you Joel for telling me exactly what I needed to know about this old banjo. I think my son would love to learn to play the banjo and if he is anything like he is with his guitars, he would want a fairly decent one. I'm going to tell him about the banjo hangout and see if he will come here and possibly get excited about learning to play. Y'all are such a fun great group of people that if I had one ounce of musical ability in me I would try to learn to play too!

Again thanks everyone for helping me out and not making me feel stupid for asking. I tried researching myself online but it takes someone who plays to really know these things. Y'all take care and I hope I can get my son Miles over here so he can catch the banjo bug!

Apr 17, 2018 - 8:49:44 AM

409 posts since 8/7/2017

If your son can fit 2, 15 min practice sessions into his day, he can learn the banjo in 2 years. That's what I did. I have bad joints, so can't play the "hour a day" recommended by music teachers. But, it turns out that short practice sessions are a Much more efficient way to learn music than hour-long sessions (and who has a spare hour to spend these days?).

Josh Turknett, a brain surgeon who plays banjo, has written a series of articles which are posted here on BHO. He goes into the theory of practice ("The Laws of Brainjo"), along with recommendations. Your doctor son may wish to read them, as what Josh has written applies equally to guitar.
Now your banjo may not be worth a ton of money; I'm no expert, so yield to the other posters on that score. But the sound that comes out, once the banjo is "setup" (strings, distance between strings and fretboard, placement of bridge, etc.), is more due to the player than the instrument, I have found (as have others). And the fun is entirely dependent on the player :-).

Unless there is something wrong with the banjo (which could probably be fixed by a luthier), new strings might be all that are needed to make a fun, if inexpensive, instrument. If you know anyone locally who plays banjo (check a music store that sells guitars and banjos), they could probably tell you in a couple minutes what the banjo needs to become playable. If you are planning on selling the instrument, letting an expert look at it, and play it, will let you know if you want to invest some to increase it's value, or not.

Hope this helps.

Apr 17, 2018 - 9:29:59 AM

6818 posts since 1/7/2005

Welcome. Joel's analysis is right on the money. There are plenty of 'experts' right here on this forum, and I think you have gotten your answer. If someone in your family would like to play the banjo, it would be a much more satisfying experience if they didn't have to struggle with a low-grade, damaged instrument. I would second that a quick sale is in order. And your son has to decide for himself whether and what he wants to play.


Apr 17, 2018 - 9:54:49 AM

73 posts since 7/14/2017

There's no reason why a cheaper instrument can't be a perfectly adequate player. I'm having lots of fun with my Windsor tenor banjo, made in the 1930s and definitely a lower end model. Probably worth the UK equivalent of 100$. But it has a straight neck, enough relief so I can get the action to a comfortable height, and sounds quite good for the music I'm playing on it.

I've no doubt that if I were playing more complex music on it I'd find it rather limiting, and benefit from a better model. But for the simple things I'm currently playing it performs as well as a high-end tenor would. (Or it will once I've dressed the frets - this tenor has clearly been played a lot, which I always think is a good sign in an old instrument).

The problem with cheap instruments is that if they're not currently good players, it costs more to make them play well than they are worth. Who knows about this one? If the OP can find a banjo player, as someone else suggested, that player should be able to see very quickly whether this one is playable. And if it is, it should be fine to make a start on.

Apr 17, 2018 - 11:47:14 AM

4911 posts since 8/28/2013

I'm a bit in between Joel Hooks and Profchris on this one. While there may be better banjos available at low prices, I would have to say that "low prices" is a relative term. For some people, even a $300 Asian piece of garbage (today's version of a "jobber" that'll need work from day one) might be too much to pay. But while there can in fact be some very nice cheap old banjos out there, and this may be a nice one (if it's neck is repaired solidly) it could also prove to be a miserable old clunker.

Were it not for that broken neck, I'd lean more toward Profchris's view, but with that neck issue, even though it's "repaired," I'd have to side with Joel. I doubt you can get even $100 for it, but it is interesting and has a few good parts, so that is a possibility. If while in your booth it takes up space for too long a time, you might consider giving it to some needy person who wishes to learn.

May 1, 2018 - 7:01:03 PM
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9 posts since 4/16/2018

I'm just giving an update on the banjo. I put it in my booth and within a week it sold for $129. I was afraid to put in on ebay with its issues and preferred someone see it in person before they bought it. Again thanks for all the good information and advice you all gave me!

May 2, 2018 - 8:39:25 AM

4911 posts since 8/28/2013

Good for you! That's more than I thought you'd be able to get.

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