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Oct 11, 2018 - 7:39:07 PM
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3 posts since 10/11/2018

Hi all! My dad has a banjo that has sat unopened in storage for over 40 years. He got it used after he came back from Vietnam, and it sat closed up in not great storage for all of that time and moisture took its toll.

We are hoping that we can learn more about the banjo (the year and style more specifically) and if this is something that we could fix or is even worth the repair (or if it is beyond repair). We would love any advice you have on how to clean it up properly- and I would love to know if the trim on the neck and the fret inlays are something we can replace or not? I will post pics in the comments. :)

Thank you so much!!!!

Oct 11, 2018 - 8:32:16 PM



1937 posts since 2/20/2016

That is a Bacon "open back" banjo that was made by either Gretsch or the Baldwin company. It was probably only a few years old when he bought it. My guess is that it was made in the mid-sixties, more or less. It would have been considered a plain model when it was built. It is the kind of banjo that people play "old-time," "folk style," or "clawhammer" style music on. It is not the kind of banjo that bluegrass musicians would want to play.

The inlays and fretboard trim can easily be replaced by an experienced repairman. If the neck has not warped and the frets are in reasonably good shape, the repair cost should be modest. If the neck is warped or "bowed," or the frets are not level, the cost of the repair would approach the value of the banjo. I will add that if someone wanted to play it very often, they would probably eventually want to change the "friction" tuners to geared tuners, which would be an additional expense. It can be played with the tuners that are on it now, though.

My best advice is to buy a set of light gauge strings for a five string banjo, and bring it to a friend or acquaintance who at the very least can play guitar pretty well. Let them put the strings on, tune it up, and see whether it plays well. If so, you can have the inlays and fretboard trim [we call it binding] replaced. If it plays badly, you would need to find a repairman with a good reputation to give you an estimate before you proceed with any repairs.

A set of strings should cost under $10. There is a similar banjo in nice condition for sale on-line right now with an asking price of $425. Yours would not be worth any more than that at the most. I would not advise putting much more than $200 or so into repairing the banjo, unless perhaps it is of great sentimental value.

If you need help finding a repair person in your area, we might be able to help you with that.  Several of us on the forum, including myself, are capable of evaluating and repairing your banjo.

Edited by - rcc56 on 10/11/2018 20:41:17

Oct 11, 2018 - 8:46:41 PM

3 posts since 10/11/2018

Thank you so much rcc56 ! I am where all the instruments in our family go when they are found and broken or unwanted. lol! I don't have any intentions of selling the banjo - I just didn't want to put money into fixing it if it would be honestly cheaper to buy a working banjo for my dad to learn (he finally wants to now that he is retired). I was scared of trying to clean it first in case it was worth a bunch and then I mess it up! I am a vocalist by trade and a music teacher, but I have no experience with banjos. I always knew my dad had it lurking in the basement - but I finally got to their house to unearth it.

I am so happy that the trim is something that is replaceable - I will hunt down some strings and see what I can do. The neck is straight and the frets look even - they just are very dirty. Do you have any thoughts on what I could use that is appropriate to clean them?

Thanks again!

Oct 11, 2018 - 8:51:07 PM

47 posts since 9/10/2018

ma'm its a banjo.

lol but in all seriousness i'm not sure but this site may help

but it looks pretty bad. but would your local music shop do repairs?

i think it has potential :)

Oct 11, 2018 - 8:57:17 PM



2846 posts since 8/7/2008

These are nice sounding banjos when properly set up, as rcc said, if the neck isn't warped, it shouldn't be too expensive to get it back to playable...

Oct 11, 2018 - 9:14:05 PM

Alex Z


3331 posts since 12/7/2006

To clean the tarnish off the frets, use 0000 steel wool, available at any hardware store.

To avoid cross scratches on the wood of the fingerboard, either:

  (a) polish in the direction of the length of the fingerboard, or

  (b) put masking tape on either side of the fret, and polish across the fret.

There are other finer-grade polishing materials that would make the frets shine like a mirror, but you have to get most of the tarnish off first.  0000 steel wool will do a good job and make the frets look as good as any you'd see on a new guitar in a store.  I've used it.

It's a good banjo, and to fix it up to make music again is a worthwhile project.

Oct 11, 2018 - 10:27:27 PM



1937 posts since 2/20/2016

If 0000 steel wool is not enough, use 600 grit sandpaper dry, then follow with the steel wool. As has been said, polish along the length of the fingerboard, parallel to the direction of the strings.

Repaired, it would be a better grade instrument than any American factory-made instrument that costs over $500 new.

Oct 11, 2018 - 11:11:25 PM

50504 posts since 12/14/2005

It's a nice banjo.

My standard advice to anybody looking for a setup or repair person is:

EDIT your topic title to attract the attention of people NEAR you.

Pick the name of some town near yours, if you don't want to give away your location.

NEED REPAIRS NEAR (NAME of TOWN and STATE or PROVINCE)  might get the attention of people who can tell you who THEY trust to do a good job at a fair price, and you won't have to ship it across the planet.

Oct 11, 2018 - 11:20:21 PM



1937 posts since 2/20/2016

Originally posted by rcc56

If 0000 steel wool is not enough, use 600 grit sandpaper dry, then follow with the steel wool. As has been said, polish along the length of the fingerboard, parallel to the direction of the strings.

Repaired, it would be a better grade instrument than any American factory-made instrument that costs over $500 new.

Correction:   . . . an American factory-made instrument that costs between $500 and $1000 new.      . . . oops.

Oct 12, 2018 - 2:34:47 AM

4392 posts since 3/22/2008

Your banjo was made by Gretsch. Gretsch owned the Bacon brand since 1940.
The serial number stamped on the dowel is date coded.
First number is month; next number is year; next number is unit number.
June 1970.
As noted above Baldwin owned Gretsch at the time this banjo was assembled.

Oct 12, 2018 - 3:10:51 AM

1485 posts since 12/26/2007

I agree with everyone who thinks this banjo has potential. If you'd like it to be put into playable shape, probably best to take it to someone who has experience working with banjos. Not all music shops can do this, so you should ask.

Don't be talked into doing a bunch of cosmetic work right away. Ask to have the banjo put into playable shape a) so it can be checked for major defects and b) so your Dad can learn to play it. You probably don't need to spend money right away on replacing the binding (white strips that are now hanging in pieces off the sides of the fingerboard. You could just remove all the binding and smooth any rough spots that would irritate your Dad's left hand when playing. If he likes playing, the binding can be replaced later.... it's an aesthetic component.

I've got a Bacon Belmont which is extremely similar to yours. I was surprised at how good it sounds, and it's well-made and very playable. I put geared tuners on mine...... if your Dad has trouble with the existing tuners, it might be good to replace them with geared tuners, but that doesn't have to be done right away just to make the banjo playable so it can be checked for major defects. The binding on mine was loose & broken, so I replaced it..... the binding is not a critical component.

Good luck... have fun....... hope your Dad has fun with this, too ! !


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