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Checklist for authenticity review

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Jul 7, 2020 - 9:43:46 AM
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2271 posts since 12/31/2005
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Having fun reading the Antiques Roadshow responses, but it got me thinking. The many valid criticisms take issue with experts not knowing, for example, that various parts do not belong on a such-and-such model from 19 such and such. (reminds me of this classic movie scene). 

Anyway, wouldn't it be cool to have a checklist by year and model of banjo as to what should be the correct configurations and parts (understanding there are floor sweep exceptions) and things to look for.

Or is there such a thing and I am missing it?

Jul 7, 2020 - 10:50:30 AM
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13102 posts since 10/30/2008

You gather this kind of a checklist up in your noggin, after reading all you can, looking at every banjo you can, talking to every banjo person that you can, watching everything on the internet you can. There's ALWAYS something else to learn!

My latest learning was the shapes of original Gibson and Vega 5th string pips.

Those who know, don't seem to just give this hard-earned knowledge away!

Jul 7, 2020 - 10:58:08 AM

3182 posts since 5/29/2011

One problem with compiling a list is that banjo manufacturers(not just individual makers) did not always use the same parts on the same model banjo. Gibson was hardly unique in this.
I was going somewhere with this but a telemarketer called and derailed my train of thought.

Jul 7, 2020 - 11:05:56 AM

rcc56

USA

2929 posts since 2/20/2016

A banjo has an awful lot of parts. Screws, nuts, bolts, hooks, washers, tailpieces, tuners; and if present, resonator parts, flanges, tone rings, coordinator rods, arm rests,  . . . etc.   I'm sure I've left a few things out, and we haven't even gotten to the wooden parts yet.

The check list will be long.

Edited by - rcc56 on 07/07/2020 11:07:16

Jul 7, 2020 - 11:12:49 AM

ChunoTheDog

Canada

239 posts since 8/9/2019

quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer



Those who know, don't seem to just give this hard-earned knowledge away!


There's people like this in all facets of life, sadly. 

Jul 7, 2020 - 11:32:28 AM

RB3

USA

733 posts since 4/12/2004

I believe that George Gruhn had a similar idea many years ago when he began buying, selling and collecting string instruments. Below is an excerpt from his web site bio.

There are many books in George Gruhn's office, but the one that got him started is an old one: The Field Book of Snakes of the United States and Canada . Herpetologists have carefully classified snakes so that if you meet a snake you've never seen before, you can figure out its lineage from The Field Book . When Gruhn took up an interest in guitars at college, he began to apply this systematic approach to musical instruments. 'It's easier to learn massive amounts of information in patterns than in random facts,' he says. This was a new way to approach vintage guitars, banjos, and mandolins, and now Gruhn is an acknowledged leader in his field." - The Nashville Business Journal

George Gruhn is the co-author of Gruhn's Guide to Vintage Guitars, which is the comprehensive field guide to vintage fretted instruments, and the companion volumes Acoustic Guitars and Other Fretted Instruments and Electric Guitars and Basses. These books chronicle the history of American stringed instruments and are beautifully illustrated and exhaustively researched. His articles are published in numerous magazines.

Jul 7, 2020 - 11:36:22 AM
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10340 posts since 1/15/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Brian Murphy

Having fun reading the Antiques Roadshow responses, but it got me thinking. The many valid criticisms take issue with experts not knowing, for example, that various parts do not belong on a such-and-such model from 19 such and such. (reminds me of this classic movie scene). 

Anyway, wouldn't it be cool to have a checklist by year and model of banjo as to what should be the correct configurations and parts (understanding there are floor sweep exceptions) and things to look for.

Or is there such a thing and I am missing it?


That was funny and I knew the answer except for the timing part.  I was a car nut growing up and knew which engines and combinations went together with which year car.  In high school my brother and I were South Carolina state champions in E Stock (at Green Jaycee Dragstrip) two years in a row in a 1954 Chevrolet.

Jul 7, 2020 - 11:48:35 AM

beegee

USA

21753 posts since 7/6/2005
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There are things that cannot be catalogued: the shape of the heel and volute, neck profile, the interesting junction of the fingerboard, nut and purfling or binding. The patina and checking of a finish, genuine age and wear. The quality of lack of quality in inlays. Frets. compliance to catalog descriptions. Variance from catalog descriptions. Characteristics of the particular era. The odor. Case candy.

The more instruments you can touch, the more you learn about what was, what is and what isn't.

Jul 7, 2020 - 12:39:29 PM
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7382 posts since 8/28/2013
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There are probably too many "one-offs" and experiments that got out of the factory to compile a really good list. I've seen examples of this, such as a genuine Steinway piano that didn't match any available specs, and another with an experimental action, and I also once tried to replace a starter motor on a "62 Mercury Comet but was told I needed to tell the parts person which of the six motors I wanted. I've seen one or two items that weren't supposed to be made during WWII, but were, simply because someone, maybe a senator or president, had "influence."

I have no doubts whatsoever that these same sorts of things are part of the banjo world, and that even with the most defintive list imaginable, someone, somewhere, would find a banjo that just doesn't fit.

Jul 7, 2020 - 1:14:52 PM

5394 posts since 9/21/2007

I find that the biggest overlooked element is the intended use of the instruments. A careful study of the music that was composed for and played on banjos will explain why design elements were used and changed over time. This gives are very good timeline of banjo design.

This is an area that is mostly ignored by many "experts"on the banjo. I think it is because most of the music was recorded in notation.

Jul 7, 2020 - 1:21:23 PM
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1878 posts since 1/4/2009

In the Gibson world , you make a checklist and the guys building the fakes will just use it to update their fakes until there no longer a way to tell.

Jul 7, 2020 - 1:40:49 PM

2271 posts since 12/31/2005
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Interesting points. For example, the faked label fonts and alignment issues. Good information to know, but in the wrong hands its a "how to" in faking it.

Edited by - Brian Murphy on 07/07/2020 13:41:35

Jul 7, 2020 - 1:44:54 PM

13102 posts since 10/30/2008

There is also the issue of maintaining your status as an accepted expert authenticator, meaning people PAY YOU to authenticate old instruments before purchase. It wouldn't be in your interest for people to be able to authenticate on their own, now would it?

In our Gibson flat head world, imagine if just anyone could get their hands on a Hoyt-Clagwell authenticator??!? The inmates would be running the asylum!

Jul 7, 2020 - 1:53:21 PM

2271 posts since 12/31/2005
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quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer

There is also the issue of maintaining your status as an accepted expert authenticator, meaning people PAY YOU to authenticate old instruments before purchase. It wouldn't be in your interest for people to be able to authenticate on their own, now would it?

In our Gibson flat head world, imagine if just anyone could get their hands on a Hoyt-Clagwell authenticator??!? The inmates would be running the asylum!


Just saw that episode a couple of weeks ago.  

Jul 8, 2020 - 5:44:24 AM

991 posts since 5/19/2018

Experts, real experts in real situations are indispensable. That’s why we have Engineers, Accountants, and...Lawyers.

Anyone can look up a few facts, make themselves a little adept at things, as said “ know enough to be dangerous” but when it gets to the nuts and bolts or a one of a kind situation, anyone who has any sense goes to a real expert when they need to.

Same applies to instrument valuation. AR is entertainment. It’s not meant to be factual on any level. There are some real experts on the show, Fred Oster for one without question, but for the most part, most of these guys are shooting from the hip.

On a personal note, been collecting instruments for over 40 years and can say I know a little bit. On almost every major instrument purchase I ever made, I consulted a actual recognized expert. And I can say each time I am glad that I spent the few dollars to get an expert opinion. Learned a lot each time and saved getting burned more than once.

Jul 8, 2020 - 6:01:52 AM
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7382 posts since 8/28/2013
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I've done a lot of repair work on instruments which were purchased by people who didn't contact experts.

Unfortunately, even experts make mistakes. One piano I encountered was sold by a very reputable auction house, and had been looked at by "experts." It had pewter trim (according to those experts) which was actually wood painted silver, and the iron framing was cracked, so it could never be tuned. The people who bought it were furious, although I thought it funny that they cared mostly about the fake pewter and not the fact that as a musical instrument, it was completely worthless!

At least the auction house refunded their money, and I can at least hope that they replaced their expert with one who actually knew what he was doing.

Jul 10, 2020 - 8:04:28 PM

4 posts since 7/10/2020

I’m new to this forum, just joined to start learning about banjos as a new area of interest. But I’m the third generation in the family antiques trade, introduced to the business before I was a toddler, so not at all new to learning how to authenticate and evaluate expensive collectibles. As far as I’m concerned the key is knowing what you know and what you don’t know. That’s how you know when to get a true expert opinion, and how you can tell who are the true experts and who are the poseurs. One of my peers from my days dealing high end art glass is one of AR’s Tiffany experts, and she knows her stuff. I was just as knowledgeable in my niche, would defer to her in hers. Handle enough examples and it becomes intuitive. I was at an estate auction of a local art glass collector, picked up a vase and immediately knew it was not right. Five out of five friends in the business made the exact same first comment when I handed it to them: “it’s too heavy”. It would pass on eBay but not in a shop or show or to a knowledgeable collector. I’m sure the same is true for banjos.

So I’ve just picked up a couple of instruments at local sales, no markings to identify but they seem good quality, good enough to suffice for my desire to learn to play, and at a price point I could afford to invest in a piece to learn on. But I’d like to know more about them, how to date and evaluate them, so this thread is very interesting to me. If I have an unmarked instrument how can I get some ideas of age and attribution? Any tips?

Jul 10, 2020 - 8:11:44 PM
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2271 posts since 12/31/2005
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quote:
Originally posted by Brujo

I’m new to this forum, just joined to start learning about banjos as a new area of interest. But I’m the third generation in the family antiques trade, introduced to the business before I was a toddler, so not at all new to learning how to authenticate and evaluate expensive collectibles. As far as I’m concerned the key is knowing what you know and what you don’t know. That’s how you know when to get a true expert opinion, and how you can tell who are the true experts and who are the poseurs. One of my peers from my days dealing high end art glass is one of AR’s Tiffany experts, and she knows her stuff. I was just as knowledgeable in my niche, would defer to her in hers. Handle enough examples and it becomes intuitive. I was at an estate auction of a local art glass collector, picked up a vase and immediately knew it was not right. Five out of five friends in the business made the exact same first comment when I handed it to them: “it’s too heavy”. It would pass on eBay but not in a shop or show or to a knowledgeable collector. I’m sure the same is true for banjos.

So I’ve just picked up a couple of instruments at local sales, no markings to identify but they seem good quality, good enough to suffice for my desire to learn to play, and at a price point I could afford to invest in a piece to learn on. But I’d like to know more about them, how to date and evaluate them, so this thread is very interesting to me. If I have an unmarked instrument how can I get some ideas of age and attribution? Any tips?


Post pictures of headstock, neck (front and back) pot (showing tailpiece) and back of redonator, and then inside the pot (including any labels inside).  You'll be shocked at the collective knowledge here.  I haven't seen a production model from any era that folks here  could not identify. 

Jul 10, 2020 - 8:58:41 PM

4 posts since 7/10/2020

Thanks! I’ve already learned a tremendous amount just in a few minutes reading this forum. Knowing what are the important indicators is useful, and I look forward to learning about what I’m looking at when I see them.

And as usual I’m torn between my desire to simply learn to play, and my natural inclination toward geeking out on the aesthetics and design features and all that in the basic instrument. It’s going to be fun learning from you all. Thanks!

Jul 11, 2020 - 4:28:57 AM

1484 posts since 11/27/2005

Learning to identify collectable items comes from immersing your self. Wether it is painting, American Indian art, shot guns or banjos. You develop a keen uderstanding of these collectibles. You just know

Joe

Edited by - RB3WREATH on 07/11/2020 04:29:24

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