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Jul 5, 2020 - 2:03:42 PM
2 posts since 7/5/2020

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.

Jul 5, 2020 - 4:10:39 PM

2279 posts since 12/31/2005

See Scott Zimmerman's (desert rose )'s response in the thread below. If you owned this in the 80's then it must be Japanese made based on my understanding of what he was saying.

Jul 5, 2020 - 4:24:56 PM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)


23805 posts since 6/25/2005

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.

Jul 5, 2020 - 5:10:29 PM



2975 posts since 2/20/2016

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.

Jul 5, 2020 - 5:55:57 PM
Players Union Member



5238 posts since 10/12/2009

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.

Jul 8, 2020 - 5:08:05 AM

2 posts since 7/5/2020

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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