Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

123
Banjo Lovers Online


Need help determining value of banjo

Want to hide these Google ads? Join the Players Union!
Jul 21, 2019 - 9:44:19 AM

Ybanjo

USA

622 posts since 11/15/2009

I have this old Supertone Dixie Wonder 408 banjo and was wondering if anyone could help me determine the year it was built, and if it looks like it's all original?? I know they were sold by Sears, but I don't know who actually manufactured it. It looks like it could be brought back to playable condition. No warps or bad bends that I can see. Very rusty, but that could just add some character.

The lady that owns it said her grandmother played it, but it's been in the attic forever. She would like to get it to playable state, just in honor of her grandmother.

So, any help would be much appreciated. And if you need more detailed photos, just let me know.

Jim








 

Jul 21, 2019 - 10:22:40 AM

5969 posts since 8/28/2013

Looks mostly original to me, except for the bridge, and it also looks like someone sanded the neck a bit. These Supertones were mostly built by William L. Lange in New York. Probably from around 1920 (I doubt you can get anything but an approximate date).

It appears to be missing the 5th string tuner, and the head is suspect. It looks ragged around the edge, and it's already tightened down about as far as it will go. Also, the strings look a little high considereing how low the bridge is. It was originally set up for gut strings, so I would use nylon and not steel when you get that far along.

I have no real clue as to value in its current condition.

Jul 21, 2019 - 10:30:24 AM

Ybanjo

USA

622 posts since 11/15/2009

Yeah, the 5th string tuner is not there, and I have no idea what type it might take. The owner had a box of very cheap Grover tuners to replace the tuners, but I wouldn't put those on any banjo. I'll definitely need some information about the 5th string tuner.

Jul 21, 2019 - 10:55:20 AM

293 posts since 1/28/2013

It definitely appears restorable. I saw nothing as far as structure to suggest otherwise. Probably about $600 to restore, I'm sure you would have no problem selling it for at least $1200 . 

Edited by - jan dupree on 07/21/2019 11:02:32

Jul 21, 2019 - 11:53:01 AM
like this

5969 posts since 8/28/2013

I think $1200 for any Supertone is a bit high.

Jul 21, 2019 - 2:25:42 PM
like this

csacwp

USA

2260 posts since 1/15/2014

It'd be worth a few hundred once restored. Nowhere close to $1200.

Jul 21, 2019 - 2:28:53 PM

Ybanjo

USA

622 posts since 11/15/2009

There really isn't much interest in the value, other than just pure curiosity. The owner's real interest is in the personal value, since it belonged to her grandmother. I would really like to know the approximate year it was built, though. Any way to tell??

Jul 21, 2019 - 7:41:06 PM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

22112 posts since 6/25/2005

Look in the different reproduction Sears catalogs for a Supertone that looks the same. That will take some work, but is probably your best bet.

Jul 22, 2019 - 8:56:51 AM

Ybanjo

USA

622 posts since 11/15/2009

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie
It was originally set up for gut strings, so I would use nylon and not steel when you get that far along.

 

It looks like the banjo would be sturdy enough to handle light weight strings.  Would that be too much pressure??  I'm pretty sure the owner wants to play claw-hammer style.

 Also, the head is out-of-round and I'm not sure if the head could be replaced because of that.  It does have some small holes and the head tension is running around 85 on drum dial.  I am not a claw-hammer player, but is that too loose??  I would like to keep the head that's on it, because it fits the out-of-round pot, and it's a hide head.  Other than the small holes, it looks fine.

Jul 22, 2019 - 9:46:24 AM

293 posts since 1/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by csacwp

It'd be worth a few hundred once restored. Nowhere close to $1200.


Yeah, your probably right, open backs are worth less that resonator banjos. I was just figuring in the Vintage value.

Jul 22, 2019 - 10:23:33 AM
likes this

csacwp

USA

2260 posts since 1/15/2014

quote:
Originally posted by jan dupree
quote:
Originally posted by csacwp

It'd be worth a few hundred once restored. Nowhere close to $1200.


Yeah, your probably right, open backs are worth less that resonator banjos. I was just figuring in the Vintage value.


I don't think it has anything to do with open back vs resonator... It has to do with quality and rarity. Supertones are low-end and very common.

Jul 22, 2019 - 2:06:45 PM

Emiel

Austria

9160 posts since 1/22/2003

I don't know if we can be sure that this banjo was made for gut strings, being a low-end banjo in the 1920s. The higher-end 5-string banjos were gut-string in those days (except Gibson, those were all steel string, high- or low-end), the cheaper ones though had steel strings, I thought. (At the same time, all tenor banjos had steel strings, low-end or high end.) Is this correct, csacwp?

Edited by - Emiel on 07/22/2019 14:11:56

Jul 22, 2019 - 8:26:11 PM
likes this

258 posts since 2/22/2015

Pretty common MOTS version. Around $250 Would be fair in good playing condition. I have fun with my supertone, but prefer the older ones with real shell inlay.

Jul 22, 2019 - 8:35:52 PM

Ybanjo

USA

622 posts since 11/15/2009

quote:
Originally posted by AlanCook

Pretty common MOTS version. Around $250 Would be fair in good playing condition. I have fun with my supertone, but prefer the older ones with real shell inlay.


Forgive my ignorance, but what is "MOTS"?

Jul 22, 2019 - 10:09:38 PM

2087 posts since 4/29/2012
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by Ybanjo
quote:
Originally posted by AlanCook

Pretty common MOTS version. Around $250 Would be fair in good playing condition. I have fun with my supertone, but prefer the older ones with real shell inlay.


Forgive my ignorance, but what is "MOTS"?


Artificial mother of pearl, aka "mother of toilet seat"

Jul 23, 2019 - 4:33:08 AM

400 posts since 5/19/2018

Those are pretty basic, nice banjos.

They sell, or are offered for sale here, on eBay and craigslist very often and the price range usually runs from 400-600 USD. They also don’t seem to sell too quickly.

If in good condition, and set up right, good banjo for the buck.

Jul 23, 2019 - 4:47:34 AM
likes this

csacwp

USA

2260 posts since 1/15/2014

quote:
Originally posted by Emiel

I don't know if we can be sure that this banjo was made for gut strings, being a low-end banjo in the 1920s. The higher-end 5-string banjos were gut-string in those days (except Gibson, those were all steel string, high- or low-end), the cheaper ones though had steel strings, I thought. (At the same time, all tenor banjos had steel strings, low-end or high end.) Is this correct, csacwp?


The ones I've examined in person were set up for gut... typical ~4-5mm action height at the 12th fret, 1/2'' or lower bridge, and nut slots to accommodate period gauges. By this time both gut and steel strings were offered in the catalogs, though from what I've read it seems that it was primarily plectrum users adopting steel strings, many choosing a 5-string banjo for the "old time" look. If you look closely in the photos of this one you can see that the nut slots are wide enough for gut. 

Jul 23, 2019 - 5:00:03 AM

Emiel

Austria

9160 posts since 1/22/2003

quote:
Originally posted by csacwp
quote:
Originally posted by Emiel

I don't know if we can be sure that this banjo was made for gut strings, being a low-end banjo in the 1920s. The higher-end 5-string banjos were gut-string in those days (except Gibson, those were all steel string, high- or low-end), the cheaper ones though had steel strings, I thought. (At the same time, all tenor banjos had steel strings, low-end or high end.) Is this correct, csacwp?


The ones I've examined in person were set up for gut... typical ~4-5mm action height at the 12th fret, 1/2'' or lower bridge, and nut slots to accommodate period gauges. By this time both gut and steel strings were offered in the catalogs, though from what I've read it seems that it was primarily plectrum users adopting steel strings, many choosing a 5-string banjo for the "old time" look. If you look closely in the photos of this one you can see that the nut slots are wide enough for gut. 


Thank you, John…

Jul 23, 2019 - 5:29:02 AM
likes this

csacwp

USA

2260 posts since 1/15/2014

Given that these were made with lower quality wood, no truss rod, etc. I think it would be wise to string it with nylon if preservation is the goal.

Jul 23, 2019 - 5:42:10 AM
likes this

4506 posts since 9/21/2007

I see it as two subjects.  There is "intended for" steel wire strings, and there is adding them to hit a price point (which is what many of these were about-- price point).

The construction of these was a bit old fashioned and mimics banjos 30+ years earlier.  Since it was built to hit a price point, the materials are of lower quality.  The construction is of gut string era.

S&R catalogs provide mixed information.  Some "higher priced" (yet still low compared to professional quality banjos of that era) banjos are listed as being equipped with gut.

It also depends on if it was sold during or soon after WW1.

In this catalog from 1918 https://archive.org/details/catalog1918sear/page/1009 they are listed as having Glendon strings.  Glendon was (as far as I can tell) S&R's house brand of budget steel strings.

But go forward to 1927

https://archive.org/details/The1927EditionOfSEARSROEBUCKCatalogue1970ReprintAlanMirken/page/n393   

The highest priced 5 string is listed as having gut strings.

I view this class of banjo the same as the "bicycles" currently for sale at Walmart.  They look every bit like the real thing.  The even have "name brands" sometimes.  But no serious bicyclist will ride them.  They hit a price point for people who "are going to start riding" but are not willing to spend the money to get the real thing.

Do some people ride them?  Sure.  But most people store them in their garages.

Compared side by side to a higher quality banjo of the same era shows the difference. 

Jul 23, 2019 - 7:53:37 AM

5969 posts since 8/28/2013

Heads can be replaced even with a pot that's no longer round. You simply have to use a skin and be very careful to keep the flesh hoop in the same position. I have had to do this more than once.

I hope you can still use the old head, but I have doubts. Even a small hole can lead to the head splitting.

Jul 23, 2019 - 1:12:42 PM

293 posts since 1/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by AlanCook

Pretty common MOTS version. Around $250 Would be fair in good playing condition. I have fun with my supertone, but prefer the older ones with real shell inlay.


So it's not even worth the cost of a new fret job?

Jul 23, 2019 - 1:13:30 PM

csacwp

USA

2260 posts since 1/15/2014

quote:
Originally posted by jan dupree
quote:
Originally posted by AlanCook

Pretty common MOTS version. Around $250 Would be fair in good playing condition. I have fun with my supertone, but prefer the older ones with real shell inlay.


So it's not even worth the cost of a new fret job?


From a resale perspective, no.

Jul 27, 2019 - 6:02:42 AM

Ybanjo

USA

622 posts since 11/15/2009

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

Heads can be replaced even with a pot that's no longer round. You simply have to use a skin and be very careful to keep the flesh hoop in the same position. I have had to do this more than once.

I hope you can still use the old head, but I have doubts. Even a small hole can lead to the head splitting.


I have never replaced a hide head.  What would be involved with replacing the head??  Could I use a standard-type head on this pot??

Jul 27, 2019 - 8:45:29 AM

5969 posts since 8/28/2013

It's not easy to explain skin head installation without visual help, and I don't happen to have video equipment to do so. However, there are numerous videos about it on youtube. You might also use the BHO search function to find some photos or even videos, and certainly much advice.

If the pot is not too badly out-of-round, it's sometimes possible to use a standard type mylar head. Most of these thin walled rims I've seen, though, are beyond that. Perhaps you could post measurements and people here can then give a better idea of whether or not a Remo or 5-Star head could be used.

Jul 27, 2019 - 3:48:32 PM

797 posts since 3/1/2012

I've had 2 Supertones. The first I paid too much for, at around $500. I later sold it for about the same.
The second I got for $140, which seems about right, and fixed it up.
There really were low-end, mail order banjos, but good to learn on.
Here is an advert from circa 1918. You can get an idea of the price range:


 

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.359375