I’m thinking about buying an old Gretsch 5-string resonator banjo and would like to know more about it. It has a simple peg head with Gretsch lettered vertically tip to nut. The resonator is held on by a single screw. The wooden bar in the body is stamped made in USA and I believe has a 4 digit model or serial number stamped on it. Any help figuring out model, age and quality when new would be much appreciated
Pictures will be the first thing asked to give a good I.D. here, guarantee... :)
"No, Watson. We must wait HERE, until we have seen pictures, before rendering an opinion."
Bill Rogers (Moderator)
Pix are vital. Please post some, with both the resonator on and off, including side and back views.
From your description I think I can help without the need for photos.
You have described a Gretsch 5-String Folk Banjo with Resonator.
It was Gretsch Model 6535.
The Gretsch Folk Model 5-String banjo was introduced in about 1962 and had "Gretsch" imprinted horizontally across peghead and I don't think those original Folk Models had a resonator. Quality was better than the one you are looking at with the vertical "Gretsch".
I'm not sure when the vertical "Gretsch" supplanted the original horizontal Folk Model but the gold "Made In USA" stamp was introduced June 1967 (Ball's Gretsch Manual).
It is a date coded serial number Month (2 digits for Oct.-Dec.) - Year (1 digit) -Unit so if you can get the numbers you can see when your example was made. Gretsch Folk Model quality suffered as time passed so the later examples were not as well made as the original early 60's examples.
I have an April 1970 Gretsch Price List and at that time the Model 6535 was priced $115.00.
The Gretsch Folk Models were basically entry level student grade banjos made to participate in the Folk Music craze of the 1960's. Kingston Trio et al.
I only have one photo of a similar banjo, but can’t convert it to jpeg, so no pics.
Do you think the model 6535 “it only had a 4-digit number next to USA stamp” would be better or worse than an slightly used fender FB54?
Thanks John for your helpful information.
The Gretsch definitely has more "cool" factor and will probably be worth more at some poit. The 54 is just another "bottlecap." There are kazillions of them. Not so many Gretsch's
Attached is peghead of Gretsch you're looking at with USA serial # 29109. That would be Feb. 1969 Unit 109. If yours is for instance USA 7899 it would be July 1968 unit 99. As beegee said the Gretsch Folk Models did have some 1960's Tom Dooley mojo but more the horizontal Folks than the vertical ones. The Gretsch Folk models were a step down from Gretsch Bacon Folk Models. We just don't know your hoped for skill level or budget so best to be on the level.
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