Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Banjo Lovers Online

Want to hide these Google ads? Join the Players Union!
Mar 26, 2020 - 9:13:56 AM
3 posts since 3/25/2020

I have inherited an old banjo that needs to have a couple of the tuning nobs replaced. Before I start taking it apart I would like to make sure that I'm not destroying a valuable collector's item. The word Challenger is printed on mother of Pearl inlay in the head and there are interior lights in the body. Is that normal? Judging by the electrical cord I would guess it was made in the 1940s or 50s. See attached photos
Any info is appreciated.
Thanks, Jeff

Mar 26, 2020 - 9:26:27 AM

2044 posts since 5/2/2012

Does this look similar?  lang challenger  The lights, obviously, are an add-on.

Another one on ebay 

Nice inheritance!

Edited by - thisoldman on 03/26/2020 09:30:09

Mar 26, 2020 - 9:53:45 AM

2332 posts since 3/30/2008
Online Now

This was made by William Lange. The outer edge of the resonator can slide to open or close the portals by different degrees, to change the voice.

Mar 26, 2020 - 9:55:05 AM
likes this



8 posts since 1/30/2020

Challenger was a brand of William Lange, who also made Orpheum and Paramount banjos. They share many features with Paramount banjos of the era (late 1920s to early 1930s), and they have a rotating resonator back plate that can open or close sound ports around its edge.

The lights inside were an add-on accessory to provide sufficient heat to keep the calfskin head of the banjo dry, and tight, in adverse playing situations.

Mar 26, 2020 - 10:07:28 AM

2895 posts since 5/29/2011

Just changing the knobs on the tuners probably will not affect the value. Keep the original knobs if they are not falling to pieces. Some old tuners can not be fitted with modern knobs so the entire tuners have to be replaced which can open up a whole new can of worms.

Mar 26, 2020 - 10:16:25 AM



2049 posts since 11/29/2005

The lights were popular ad on items For the animal skin heads that used to be standard on banjos. I surprised no one mentioned the tailpiece. Flip the small lid up to see if that’s an original prewar 5 string presto. They’re worth REAL money.

Mar 26, 2020 - 10:18:01 AM



3 posts since 3/25/2020

That's it! Thank you guys so much! This is a great forum! Now if I can just fix it and learn to play I'll be golden.??

Mar 26, 2020 - 10:33:09 AM

4620 posts since 3/22/2008

Music Trade Review magazine March 12, 1927.

Mar 26, 2020 - 7:52:07 PM



3 posts since 3/25/2020

If it was worth $85 in 1927 what's it worth now I wonder?

Mar 26, 2020 - 9:03:28 PM

2332 posts since 3/30/2008
Online Now

Search online  for an "inflation Calculator" & do the math. The answer may surprise you.

Edited by - tdennis on 03/26/2020 21:04:08

Mar 26, 2020 - 9:29:08 PM

2895 posts since 5/29/2011

$1263.66 in today's market.

Mar 27, 2020 - 6:14:29 AM

14605 posts since 12/2/2005

Originally posted by Eldredf

If it was worth $85 in 1927 what's it worth now I wonder?

It's worth whatever the top bidder is willing to pay for it, and not a penny more.

That's not intended to be snarky. The list price of many years ago is not an indicator of what something is worth now, inflation calculators notwithstanding.

Market conditions on used instruments change over time. The pre-war Martin dreads and especially OEM Gibson flathead five-strings are worth a significant multiple of their inflation-adjusted list prices. That's in part because they were well-built instruments, but more importantly because PEOPLE WANT THEM and are willing to pay a premium for them.

I've no doubt that there's a market for instruments such as yours, but I'd be willing to bet it's a very small one. The smaller the market, the tougher it is to sell something like this at a really rewarding price - and even harder if there are a fair number of other instruments out there of comparable feature and quality.

Your best bet would be to have this instrument appraised for insurance purposes by an established dealer who trades in instruments such as these. Such appraisals typically cost between $100 and $200. Insurance appraisals often come in higher than actual sale prices - and you should also consider that the sale price of an instrument through a dealer will be the best price he or she can move it for. You'd get anywhere between 15 and 20% LESS than that price for the service.

Mar 27, 2020 - 8:17:27 AM

6853 posts since 8/28/2013

Inflation calculators are B.S. There are too many factors involved with inflation for them to be accurate. Manufacturing and marketing practices can change, making an expensive item one year become a relatively inexpensive one later. Markets change, profit margins might be re-evaluated, a banjo made in the twenties when there was an actual demand may have influnced the price asked, probably a higher price than what could be gotten after the market tanked.

The Challenger banjo I would consider to be an interesting innovation (one which may or may not have worked as advertised) which probably should be preserved if only for its peculiarities, but that doesn't mean it's a particularly valuable instrument.

Mar 27, 2020 - 9:40:50 AM

2332 posts since 3/30/2008
Online Now

inflation calculators are just for fun & curiosity, & not very helpful for appraisals.

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories