I’ve been playing for about a year and am looking to upgrade from the Goodtime. My budget isn’t huge and I’d like to buy American. I have been kicking around the idea of ordering a Huber Workhorse, but have been looking at other options mostly because of budget. I’m not overly excited about a Deering, but bang for the buck, that may be the best option. My question is, hypothetically, if you had the opportunity to buy a Rustic Wreath for around $2500, would you do it? Or if you found a Sierra for under $2000?
I would agree that the Huber Workhorse would be the way to go if budget allows. $2000 and under I would go for one of the two Japanese Gold Stars (1984 and 86) listed here. Although you said American made, the early Gold Stars (pre-Chinese) were made to specs from a SF banjo player and music store owner based on his prewar Mastertone. For the money, they are great. Just ask Russ Carson who plays an 81 with Ricky Skaggs band. Also you'll get a great banjo and have $700 to 900 left over.
We love these threads. If you have a $2,500 budget the world is your oyster right now. A Rustic Wreath at that price is actually a good deal. You can get used Sierras (more recent versions with nice inlay and 2008 tone ring for under $2000). Have you shopped the classifieds here? Patience is sort of the key, but just about every banjo cycles through here at some point. One good piece of advice you will get is to try before you buy because you may be surprised as to what speaks to you. Visit Carter's and Gruhn's obviously (you probably already have), but you also have Jim Britton (9470 Granada ) in your area and he handles a lot of excellent banjos. The search is half the fun. With your budget, hold out until something really rattles your bones when you play it. Also try a Hatfield and a Davis, which often can be had in your range.
Edited by - Brian Murphy on 08/06/2020 15:47:28
I'd buy any number of the great American made used or parts banjos in the classifieds right now. The really good deals pop up regularly and disappear fast. I picked up a Huber Workhorse with an upgraded Vintage ring for half price because it has a (professionally repaired) heel crack. Keep your eye out every day and you'll be amazed at what you find.
I'll say this about your actual question. If you can afford 2500, spend it. No reason to limit your budget artificially.
The 2000 Huber/Gibson RB-250 Mastertone.
The Cox Kentucky 5.
The Sullivan Vintage 35.
And of course, my Stelling
Edited by - KCJones on 08/06/2020 16:19:32
Buy used; only one that you can try out, or buy on approval. A used post 1987 Gibson RB 250 would be right up your alley. Used Baldwin/Ode Model D (get some gold plated bling!). Used Fender Artist for well under $2000. TERRIFIC vintage American banjos.
If you see one used, try out the American Made Banjo Kel Kroydon models. Great banjos for the money.
Edited by - The Old Timer on 08/06/2020 17:10:55
I’m certainly not looking only at new. It’s just that it seems that’s all I am finding in stores. I just don’t trust anybody on eBay or sites like that so that limits me. I’m not sure I know how to inspect a banjo for any signs of damage so I’m relying pretty heavily on the store. That’s probably not a great idea either, but I trust them more than someone Facebook marketplace.
I agree with The Old Timer! I recently ungraded to an Ode C and I love it! Though it doesn’t have the flashiness of the gold plating or the beauty of the inlays (particularly on the headstock) of the higher end D model, it shares many of the same parts and they’re kicking around at decent rates. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the tone on mine! Good luck!
Originally posted by 10SE Picker
I’m certainly not looking only at new. It’s just that it seems that’s all I am finding in stores.
This 1963 Epiphone Minstrel at Gruhn's is worth checking out. Made by Gibson in Kalamazoo, it's essentially a cross between a '60s RB-100 and bowtie RB-250. It had a Mastertone tone ring and fancier inlay than dots like a 250, but only one strip of resonator binding and an unbound fretboard and peghead like a 100. I believe 1963 would still have a 3-ply rim. Gruhn's apparently thinks it would be worth more in better condition and has it priced at $2,000 with the peghead repair. I'd want to see that in person and if I really wanted the banjo would probably offer a bit less to see if they'd let it go. Worst they can do is say no. Then you choose whether it's worth $2K.
As to new vs used and US-made in general, your $2500 budget pretty much means used, except for the Bishline Cimarron. Hangout member Chris Sorenson's Companion banjos are in your range, and might be very good instruments, but he's still too new to have built up a wide reputation.
Seems to me you had to be talking used when you asked about a Rustic Wreath for $2500 or any Sierra for under $2000.
If I were in the market and wanted a Deering (which I was and did back in 2018) my personal preferences would be for a late 80s to early 2000s Maple Blossom for $1800 or less (it happens) or a 2010 or newer Sierra (with 06 tone ring and upgraded inlay) for maybe the same price. Back in late 2018 I dithered with questions for sellers and lost out on both of those banjos that sold for hundreds less than the prices I just mentioned. So below-market deals do happen. But there's nothing wrong with paying the going rate.
Spending other people's banjo money is a popular pastime here. Others have already recommended the great US-made used banjos that can often be found within your budget. The only two I'd add would be a Hatfield Buck Creek (currently $2700 new, so should be under $2500 used) or a 1980s Stelling Bellflower with the bound peghead. $2500 may be the middle of the range for them, or possibly the new bottom. Either way, it's a fair price for one in good condition. At $2200, they're a bargain.
Good luck and have fun shopping.
The Rustic Wreath looks like a nice instrument, and it has the 06 ring.
You might consider a pre-owned Golden Wreath or Golden Era. You could find one for about the same $$$ as the Rustic Wreath (new). My own Golden Wreath is one of my favorites.
I'd also suggest a second-hand Sullivan so long as it has a V-35 ring and old wood rim.
Or one of Arthur Hatfield's banjos, new or used.
The $2500 price on a used Rustic Wreath that David mentioned in his opening post may be quite possible. Deering's suggested list is $3700, but online retailers sell them for $3229. From what I've seen over the years, Deerings take about a 25% hit on first resale. $3229 less 25% is between $2400-$2500.
That puts it close to a new Sierra, and more than a recent used one should go for. It has some of the same economies as a Sierra: satin finish, unbound fingerboard, pearloid inlay.
The reason to choose a Rustic Wreath over a Sierra would be if you prefer Gibson styling to Deering styling.
There are numerous quality banjos to be had in the $2000-2500 range. You mention a Huber Workhorse - excellent banjos! I've had mine about two years, and it plays and sounds great. Used ones do come up for sale in this price range on occasion. I wouldn't shy away from a nice Gibson RB-250 (post 1987). I had a 2000 RB-250 that I really enjoyed picking.
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