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Please help Identify this Banjo!

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Aug 13, 2020 - 1:13:14 PM
1 posts since 8/13/2020

Howdy Y'all-

I'm the furthest thing from a banjo expert, but I love the instrument and especially its use in Bluegrass and Hot Jazz!

I'm trying to get more information on this banjo for a friend, does anybody know anything about it? Brand/Model, Age, Value, or anything important that we should know? We're trying to help our friend sell it, so what would be fair market value? Is it worthwhile to restore? Thanks for the help!


Aug 13, 2020 - 1:34:24 PM

2306 posts since 4/7/2010

It is a Gretsch, likely from the early 1920's. No significant value. If all glue joints are intact and the head not broken, string it up and see how it plays.

Bob Smakula

Aug 13, 2020 - 3:26:41 PM

4701 posts since 3/22/2008

Mr. Smakula is correct.
FWIW I'll add just a few words to his assessment.
This banjo was made by The Fred. Gretsch Manufacturing Co., 60 Broadway, Brooklyn, N.Y. in the early 1920's before about 1925. It is a 4-string open back (no resonator) tenor banjo designed to be tuned C,G,D,A. Ordinarily banjos from this era had 17 frets but yours has 18 making it a little unusual. The quality of the parts comprising this banjo seem to be decent and comparable with other makers. The banjo, however, was made for the budget or entry level market so comparitively speaking it is not special or generally desireable. I'd estimate it's value with case to be about 150 to $200.

Aug 13, 2020 - 4:17:59 PM



388 posts since 6/21/2008

Originally posted by beezaboy

 It is a 4-string open back (no resonator) tenor banjo designed to be tuned C,G,D,A.

Is it an openback, or a resonator banjo that has had its resonator removed? If it's an openback, what's the metal brace connected to the middle of the dowel?

Aug 13, 2020 - 4:54:50 PM

4701 posts since 3/22/2008

It is an open back banjo. Resonator attachment hardware attached to the dowel invariably leaves an indentation in the wood dowel. I don't see any mark on your dowel stick that would indicate that resonator hardware clamp was ever installed there. The metal clamp-like piece placed underneath the dowel and apparently pressing vs. the head is a mystery to me. Perhaps the owner put it there to support the bridge? or remedy a sagging head? or (as one manufacturer did) to act as a sound post. Perhaps someone here on BHO has seen this before. Not me.

Aug 13, 2020 - 5:19:42 PM


New Zealand

10982 posts since 6/29/2003

I thought that attachment might be a mute. Given that this entry level banjo wouldn't be that loud anyway, why mute it?

Aug 13, 2020 - 5:25:50 PM

7616 posts since 8/28/2013
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As usual, I'm late to the party, and everyone else has already covered your banjo.

I have nothing to add, except maybe that I also don't know what the h*** that thingy under the dowelstick is for.

Aug 13, 2020 - 6:34:23 PM



388 posts since 6/21/2008

mvpianoguy27 , please get us some detailed pictures of the metal brace hanging off the dowel stick. It won't help any of us identify your banjo any better, but I'd sure like to know what it is.

Aug 13, 2020 - 10:34:04 PM

43 posts since 2/4/2010

The contraption under the bridge inside the rim is indeed a mute, probably a Grover or Elton product, spring loaded to keep it fairly taut. I have a couple of them packed away so I can't confirm the manufacturer but I seem to remember them having either a patent or a manufacturer stamp on one of the flat surfaces. This is the first time I've actually seen one in situ.

Aug 14, 2020 - 5:32:36 AM

4701 posts since 3/22/2008

The widget mystery solved thanks to the expertise of our BHO members!
The second most interesting feature of the photos in this thread is the booklet "Self Instructor for Tenor - Plectrum Banjo" published by Southern California Music Co. The very first tenor banjo method was written by Myrtle Stumpf for Southern copyright 1916. It was "Plectrum Banjo" because in those days the tenor banjo was played single string not the rhythm chording instrument of the dance band roaring twenties. Hence the title "Plectrum Banjo" seems appropriate.  I cannot read the name of the author of the booklet in the photo but I don't think it is M. Stumpf who died unexpectedly on Oct. 27, 1919. It would be interesting to know the name of the author and copyright date for the booklet in the photo. 

Edited by - beezaboy on 08/14/2020 05:39:57

Aug 14, 2020 - 5:54:57 AM

5514 posts since 9/21/2007

I can dig mine out and take a photo if anyone wants to see it.

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