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The One that Got/Sold Away/I Should Have Bought It!

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Jul 10, 2020 - 5:50:41 AM
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2105 posts since 10/17/2013

As the title suggests, I decided it would be fun to write about some banjo bargains/not-so-much-bargains, and a few items that I should have bought but didn’t.


1. Deering Goodtime Special. 

I should have bought this as a beginner banjo instead of the Oscar Schmidt OB-5, but I just “couldn’t” wait to get myself a banjo, and waiting to earn a mere $500, was just “too hard” for me.


2. Gibson Mastertone five string.

I should have bought a Gibson Mastertone as my second banjo, rather than buying a Deering Intermediate.


3. Prewar five-string (but non-perfect) Gibson Mastertone neck on eBay a couple months ago. I almost won the auction but didn’t. I’m actually more happy that I didn’t win it.

4. Recording King RK-R-36. 

An absolute bargain at $600. I have since sold it.


5. Fender FB-54 “Concertone.”

Suffice it to say that this was a hasty purchase and I returned it to the store after two days!


6. Gold Star GF-85. $750.


7. Epiphone EB-88 from 1966.

This was a fantastic banjo I owned from the fall of 2017 to the fall of 2019. 


8. Maple Blossom prototype banjo.

With a Tenn. 20 ring, this banjo was just powerful and outstanding.

I paid the grand sum of $230 for it.


9. Deering Deluxe from 1980. On Reverb for just a couple of days.

$750. I should have bought it and mentally scolded myself for not doing so.


Got any stories of banjo fantasy/pain you’d like to share?

I’d love to hear them!

Edited by - okbluegrassbanjopicker on 07/10/2020 05:57:09

Jul 10, 2020 - 6:13:23 AM
Players Union Member



1081 posts since 1/15/2009

I cant begin to count the banjos I owned in the 40 years I've been playing. On day one, I set my goal on a vintage Whyte Laydie 5-string and a vintage National Triolien Uke. In the last three or four years I've finally acquired those instruments as well as a vintage Tubaphone.

I'm not disappointed in any of them and have had no reason to regret any of their predecessors, except maybe my bi-centennial Kay. Only because it was my first.

Jul 10, 2020 - 6:44:56 AM

1207 posts since 2/4/2013

As an open back person I did want a resonator.

My first resonator bargain was a Recording RK-R15 (multiply rim/tone hoop). £120 ($150) from Amazon. I'm just not going to pass that up.

But I still wanted the whole five yards. So a Recording King RK-R35 for £296 (about $350). And it was new. Why were the shop selling at that price. I don't know. I didn't ask.

That should have been enough resonators. However when I found the Recording King RK-R30 for about £300 I couldn't resist. After all it could be easily converted to an open back. It wasn't very easy really.

A few years ago Recording Kings were much cheaper in Europe than in the USA. I bought the Recording RK-R25 for £215. There was a theory that Europe were getting the ones that didn't get through quality control (same with guitars). This might explain why I have a two ply RK-OT25 rim with a RK-O25 neck.

Amazon used to reduce prices in their UK outlet on a daily basis. Sometimes things got ridiculously cheap. That's how I got the RK-R15. I also got the very underrated and splendid Rover RB40 for little over £100.

These days I'm much more inclined not to buy. So I didn't buy the Deering Vega Senator Bluegrass for £400 on Ebay.

Jul 10, 2020 - 7:43:35 AM
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2271 posts since 12/31/2005

Shoulda bought that Kyle Smith Legend woody that was on here few years ago for $1000. That may be the best deal I have ever seen here. There was a Davis woody here a month or so ago for $1500 (local pickup) that also was very tempting.

In looking to the past, you can't think of yesterday's banjos with today's pocketbook. Not only does inflation make a difference (we've discussed that) but so many of these "ones that got away" were at times in our lives when it would have been either impossible or irresponsible to spend that much of our income/savings on a hobby.

Jul 10, 2020 - 8:07:01 AM

10930 posts since 6/2/2008

I still own 4 of the 6 banjos I've ever owned. I don't miss the first two: the aluminum rimmed (not bottlecap) Mayfair that I bought in the spring of 1970 when I was 19 years old and the Aria bowtie pre-Masterclone I bought in May of 1972 soon after I started taking lessons. Sold the Aria a year later and sold the Mayfair in 1974 or 75 to a housemate and bandmate.

As to the banjos that got away, there are only two. I've mentioned them several times since it happened. In the early fall of 2018, I decided I was never playing electric guitar again, so I sold a PRS guitar, Fender solid state amp, and Pignose amp to a local used instrument store. Also sold a Sigma acoustic-electric I had never played to my neighborhood music shop. Plan was to buy a good banjo at a bargain price.

First one to come along was a 1990s Deering Maple Blossom offered at something like $1500 Buy it Now/Make Offer on eBay. I wanted it but wasted time going back and forth with questions for the seller. I saw a drop in asking price one morning. Decided an hour or so later I would go for it. By then it was gone.  I'm pretty sure it went for around $1450 shipped.

The same thing happened not many days later on a 2011-13 Deering Sierra (06 tone ring, current inlay) that ended up selling for $1300 or so shipped.

Jul 10, 2020 - 9:47:42 AM



1259 posts since 11/3/2016
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The beautiful RB5 clone that sold yesterday here in the classifieds for 1300 was a DEAL !!
Kinda tics me off I missed it , not that I need another banjo !

Edited by - heavy5 on 07/10/2020 09:50:46

Jul 10, 2020 - 10:08:01 AM
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372 posts since 9/12/2006

Sure there were a few that got away!! About 20 years ago - passed on an original prewar RB 7 for 42K. About a year later, passed on a prewar TB 7 for about 10K. Not long after that, i passed on a style 6 flathead for about 10K. At the time, all those deals may as well have been 100K, I simply didn't have it. Raising kids', college expenses looming on the horizon, still had the ole' mortgage..... BAD can certainly become an obsession.... (banjo acquisition disease. sometimes known as BAS.... banjo acquisition syndrome..... ) On the other hand, I shouldn't complain, because I have also stumbled into some VERY good deals over the years. And these days, when I buy / sell / trade, I always think to myself - "if i sell or trade a year or two down the road, can I get my money back, or better yet, make money?" If the answer is NO, then I pass. I try to NOT let my personal "trigger happy" desires override good sense.... we all know that banjo players are NEVER satisfied. (I own an old banjo now, the kind that EVERYONE wants ... so trust me, I AM satisfied) just sayin'.....

Jul 10, 2020 - 11:49:51 AM
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1021 posts since 10/5/2008

I got into some legal trouble on the way home from a banjo lesson a number of years ago, and had to sell a 1979 Gold Star GF-100 to help pay for that mess... I’m still pretty sad about that. Luckily a month before that happened I was able to purchase a 1998 Granada at an estate sale for $1,500, so it all worked out ok.

Jul 10, 2020 - 12:22:25 PM
Players Union Member

Eric A


701 posts since 10/15/2019

Originally posted by GrahamHawker

That should have been enough resonators. However when I found the Recording King RK-R30 for about £300 I couldn't resist. After all it could be easily converted to an open back. It wasn't very easy really.


If I understand it right, you basically have to take off all the hooks, so you are 90% of the way to an entire head change.  Is it even worse than that?  Otherwise, how did it sound as an open back?

Jul 10, 2020 - 12:40:51 PM

7084 posts since 11/4/2005

Years ago, when I was working for the City of Somerville, Massachusetts, I used to meet a guitar playing friend about once a week over our lunch break at the old Sandy's Music in Cambridge. He would take a guitar down off the wall, and I would take down a Gold Star flathead Mastertone style banjo Sandy had for sale for years, like the one Daniel mentioned above. I remember it was priced at $750, I think, and it stayed there for quite awhile. What a great banjo that was, really sweet, bright tone. I have always regretted not buying it.

Edited by - Don Borchelt on 07/10/2020 12:44:52

Jul 10, 2020 - 12:49:54 PM

1207 posts since 2/4/2013

Originally posted by Eric A
Originally posted by GrahamHawker

That should have been enough resonators. However when I found the Recording King RK-R30 for about £300 I couldn't resist. After all it could be easily converted to an open back. It wasn't very easy really.


If I understand it right, you basically have to take off all the hooks, so you are 90% of the way to an entire head change.  Is it even worse than that?  Otherwise, how did it sound as an open back?

I was under the impression that it was a two piece flange with only half the hooks and nuts holding on the flange. However it was one piece and all the hooks and tailpiece had to come off along with the brackets that are for the screws that hold on the resonator. So it was not unlike any other banjo that doesn't have a flange that goes all round and through the heel.

It sounds like a resonator banjo with the resonator off. Actually I thought the RK-R35 sounded a bit better without its resonator (both with the same thicker bridge for mellowness). I put on a fyberskyn head which helps. I plan to change it back soon.

Jul 10, 2020 - 1:54:22 PM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)


23785 posts since 6/25/2005

Shoulda bought dept.: Both in the mid-70s; both at Gryphon, so not cheap, but I was single and had a decentl job and could have bought both. 1) a pre-war Gibson top-tension shell with a conversion neck that didn’t really match, but was perfectly playable. (model ???) To this day the most powerful and tonally balanced banjo I’ve ever played. 2) 1934 sunburst Martin D-18 that had the bass of a -28 and the treble you’d expect of an -18, with incredible volume. Shoulda kept dept.: Original 1925 5-string ball-bearing RB-3 in immaculate condition. ..   Oh well.

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 07/10/2020 14:01:23

Jul 10, 2020 - 3:22:31 PM
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2682 posts since 11/15/2003

The late sniffy smith priced one of his vault banjos with a orphaned original flat head ring to me...this was 1998, and the price...7000.00,

It didn't sound any better than my ax at the time...but looking back...might have been a good investment to part with now

I've never been a good judge of when to pull triggers on instruments

I just play em


Jul 10, 2020 - 3:42:49 PM

2105 posts since 10/17/2013

Isn’t that Snuffy Smith?


 “Sniffy” Smith died from inhaling permanent marker and gasoline fumes.

Jul 10, 2020 - 5:34:08 PM

4652 posts since 5/9/2007
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Bought and sold several Enoch Tradesman Banjers. Sad I sold every one of 'em.

I especially miss T135. I carried it on my back. We went everywhere together. I believe it ended up in the UK.

 : >(

Edited by - mrphysics55 on 07/10/2020 17:35:03

Jul 10, 2020 - 6:16:04 PM
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845 posts since 11/26/2012

On the other hand, I've also purchased a few banjos that just didn't work out for me the way I thought they would. So I guess things have a way of balancing out.

Jul 10, 2020 - 7:08:39 PM
Players Union Member



868 posts since 3/10/2006

A couple years back there was a mint gold Crafters of Tennessee for sale for $1200 in the W. Virginia mountains north of Knoxville. My heart stopped. It was gone the next day.

Jul 10, 2020 - 8:11:30 PM
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991 posts since 5/19/2018

Passed on buying a banjo straight from the hands of Kyle Creed. I thought in my dim young mind that he wanted too much money...Too young to know better then.

About 10 years later, I passed on buying a beautiful mint second owner all original, like in “untouched” Prewar Flathead 5 String from my best friend. He wanted $8,000 for it and told me I could take as long as I wanted to pay him. I had about half that in savings so I spent the entire night and into the morning playing that banjo trying to talk myself into justifying the other half, but I was finishing up college and just got engaged and didn’t want to owe someone that kind of money, which back then was a real sum of money, So I passed. Even my Fiancé ( now my Wife) told me to take him up on his offer, but somehow I felt that not buying it was the responsible thing to do. Shoulda coulda...

All the same, no regrets on many of the instruments I sold, or didn’t buy, or so I tell myself, well a few regrets, but as a compensation I am beyond satisfied with the wonderful instruments that I am blessed to have in my possession at this moment.

Jul 10, 2020 - 8:27:41 PM

2105 posts since 10/17/2013

Nowadays someone would faint at the thought of buying such an instrument for $8,000!

Now THAT would be a B.A.R.G.A.I.N.!

Jul 10, 2020 - 8:30:57 PM

2105 posts since 10/17/2013

Earl Scruggs said (in his banjo book, published in 1968), that “these Mastertones would be considered a bargain today, at prices from $500 to $1,000.”

A factory original prewar Mastertone five string, flathead no less, would be a super, super, super, duper good deal for $500! 

Jul 11, 2020 - 9:38:12 AM
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4165 posts since 6/15/2005
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This is more like "the one that got away but didn't" or "the one I should have bought but didn't . . . but did."

During IBMA in 2016 I almost bought the prototype Stelling Afton Star, the banjo with a Tony Pass birch rim/tone ring combo that Geoff introduced that year. It's the one Geoff is shown playing on the Stelling website. Weighing just 8.5 pounds, with beautiful unstained mahogany and an understated inlay pattern, it sounded terrific. I played it several times at the Stelling booth but did not buy it. Pretty much the same thing happened in 2017, and he didn't bring it to IBMA in 2018. I figured it was gone and didn't inquire further.

But it was back at IBMA again last year and I couldn't stop playing it. Geoff told me that his wife Sherry, who thought up and designed the Afton Star, was initially reluctant to sell it because it was the first one made, but eventually changed her mind. So by the end of the business conference, with encouragement from my wife, I bought the banjo, and it's turned out to be everything I thought it was and more. The icing on the cake was Geoff telling me he was "ecstatic" that the banjo wound up with someone he's known for many years.

Jul 11, 2020 - 2:16:26 PM
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160 posts since 3/16/2008

I played a used Stelling (the one with the cross on the peghead) in a store out in Salem, Oregon in 04-05. It sounded better than anything I'd ever played, but I'd just gotten my first job out of graduate school, so the 2,400 price tag was more than I could do at the time. I'd make it work, if I could go back.

Jul 15, 2020 - 7:04:44 AM

1945 posts since 2/10/2013

I learned to never, never sell anything unless I am 100% sure I will never want to use that type of object again. It ends up costing $$$$, and you don't end up with something as good as the one you sold. Experience created this attitude on selling things.  I regret selling a Santa Cruz guitar.  Sold a high quality Eastman fiddle that sounded great.  I sold a Deering Calico, possibly the first one made.  I replaced it with a Stelling, so no problem there.  I saw and played an older Gold Star that sounded great.  I should have sold the Deering and bought the Gold Star.

Edited by - Richard Hauser on 07/15/2020 07:12:13

Jul 15, 2020 - 8:51:56 AM

5384 posts since 12/20/2005

I apologise in advance for drifting just a tad.
I was living in Morehead, Ky., when I started playing banjo. That was the fall of 1980.
I was coming out of Kroger, when I noticed a flyer on a bulletin board. It had a photo of a fellow holding a banjo.
He was going to be playing later that week, in a nearby town. I recall thinking he was probably pretty good, having his own flyer and all.
Something, not really important, came up and I decided not to go.
The name on the flyer was JD Crowe !
I still kick myself in the rear for missing that.

Again, sorry for drifting off subject.

Jul 16, 2020 - 2:53:51 PM

36 posts since 12/9/2006

In 1970 when I was playing at Shakey's in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, I had outgrown my "Old Kraftsman" tenor banjo. The local music store convinced me that a Harmony "Roy Smeck Model" at about $125.00 was just what I was looking for. I gave them a $10.00 deposit and ordered the banjo. In the interim a guy came into Shakey's with a banjo which, in 20/20 hindsight, could only been a Gibson TB-6 (I can still see the checkerboard binding and "X" engraving on tension hoop and and tone-ring). The guy wanted to sell it for $100.00. After I declined, I remember glibly telling the piano player, "Why would I want that old thing when I can get a brand new banjo for just $25.00 more!" Needless to say the Harmony was a big disappointment - but the incident led me to a lifelong study and appreciation of vintage banjos. Johnny Baier

Jul 16, 2020 - 3:08:24 PM

8 posts since 11/6/2005

Mine is one of those got it/lost it/got it back stories. The mando player in the band I was in was a Saga dealer on a small scale. In about 1982 I got a J.D. Crowe Gold Star, serial #47 (i.e., one of the good ones, early on in that model). It was a monster, loud and rich—different from my nice bonky pre-war-pot Gibson, but great to perform with and feel confident that it was getting out.

The label was botched, oddly, but my friend got a new one and we got J.D. to sign it after a show at McCabe's (rest in peace). (No, not that legendary show with the Rice-Skaggs-Douglas lineup, but still great.)

I really wanted a particular guitar a couple of years later, so I sold it; yes, one of those stories. Fortunately, the guy lived also in Southern California, and fortunately I made him promise to give me first refusal if he were to sell it in future. And fortunately, he did.

So I have it, and it's still awesome. I give a lot of credit to Saga for making some very fine repro instruments. I have several.

What should I have bought? That one.

Edited by - Don Ridgway on 07/16/2020 15:11:50

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