I have an Epiphone by Gibson Masterbuilt (written low on the neck) 5-string banjo that I’ve owned since around 1985. It is a beautiful banjo with a great sound. Can anyone tell me something about it? I have no clue how old it is, what it’s made of (it is very heavy), or what the value is.
Bill Rogers (Moderator)
Yeah; should be Japanese, and a decent, if not great, banjo. The Epiphone 5-strings actually built by Gibson in Kalamazoo are from the 60s. I forget the model name, but one is a Mastertone—tone ring and all—but it doesn’t say “by Gibson” or otherwise proclaim what it is. If you find one for sale, it may well be at a price well below what a contemporary Gibson-labeled banjo would cost.
For the record, there were 4 Epiphone banjo models made during the 1960's in the Kalamazoo plant:
Minstrel-- 5 string resonator banjo with Mastertone tone ring. Available from 1961 until 1970.
Campus-- 5 string long-neck open back banjo with brass hoop tone ring. 1962-1970.
Plantation-- 5 string long-neck open back banjo with Mastertone tone ring. 1962-1968.
Tenor-- Resonator banjo with brass hoop tone ring. 1964-1969.
None of these instruments had a Gibson label. As far as I know, no Epiphone banjos have been made in the US since 1970.
We also see the "Epiphone by Gibson" brand on some imported acoustic guitars.
Laura, welcome to the BanjoHangout !
Your banjo looks like an '80's, Japanese built Epi. I believe the Korean/Chinese built models just said "Epiphone" (not "Epiphone by Gibson")
The neck and the resonator are mahogany. It's heavy because it probably has a sand-cast, brass tone ring on it.
These Japanese Epi's are real good (not great) banjos. Set-up and tweaked properly, they can sound really nice, and are probably as much banjo as most amateur pickers will ever need.
If you could take the resonator off, (there are 4 thumbscrews located around the metal flange) and take a couple pics of the "inside" of the banjo, that would help us judge the construction quality.
Thank you everyone! I will take the ring off and upload some pictures of it. It was bought used in the early to mid 80’s. I will upload some pictures later. Thank you!
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