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Oct 30, 2020 - 5:55:32 PM
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2632 posts since 9/18/2010

I know much more about resonator banjos than open back banjos, and so I've been sitting at the computer trying to learn some things about this banjo.
I have in my temporary possession a minstrel banjo stamped "W Boucher Jr Baltimore" on the back of the neck. I've been able to find pictures of very similar banjos but so far I haven't been able to find any indication of market value for these things. Apparently, they are in museums and are very rare. This one was recently inherited by it's current owner and I'm trying to give him some idea of it's value.
Condition is very good with plenty of normal wear, pegs are mostly if not all replacements, all but one tension wing nut are replaced (square nuts), a couple or repairable rim cracks, good quality skin head in place. Any help will be appreciated!

Oct 30, 2020 - 6:56:48 PM

1151 posts since 5/19/2018

As always, if possible, please post photos. Especially of the peg head and the stamp.

If it’s the real deal, it is an important instrument.

Oct 30, 2020 - 7:08:15 PM

2632 posts since 9/18/2010

I can get some snapshots in a little while. It is the real deal, it's been hanging on a wall...

Oct 30, 2020 - 7:21:33 PM

bubbalouie

Canada

14394 posts since 9/27/2007

They're on your homepage but not here.

Click for Large Version

Oct 30, 2020 - 7:41:06 PM
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2632 posts since 9/18/2010

A few pics. Before I let this thing go home I'll take some real photos, rather than snapshots just lying on the couch with regular home lighting.






 

Oct 30, 2020 - 7:57:24 PM

cevant

USA

65 posts since 2/5/2020
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Wow!

Oct 30, 2020 - 7:58:32 PM
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csacwp

USA

2725 posts since 1/15/2014
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I estimate the value to be $8000-$12000 . . . It really depends on what a collector is willing to pay.

It would be best to remove the steel strings and replace them with gut or nylon.

Edited by - csacwp on 10/30/2020 19:58:53

Oct 30, 2020 - 8:40:53 PM

1151 posts since 5/19/2018

Uhmmm....that’s the real deal. Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

John would have the best idea of value of almost anyone on this website.

Looks to be in pretty solid condition. The pegs are not original, that is a minor issue.

As mentioned, get those steel strings off it now.

Makes me wonder what else is still out there in the world.

Oct 30, 2020 - 8:41:37 PM
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2632 posts since 9/18/2010

quote:
Originally posted by csacwp

It would be best to remove the steel strings and replace them with gut or nylon.


Of course. If it was mine I'd make and fit some replica pegs and probably string it up with nylguts. Alas, it is not mine and definitely out of my price range! I was figuring a pretty high value but that estimate is a little higher than I anticipated. I suspect the owner has no real idea of what he has.

Edited by - sunburst on 10/30/2020 20:55:49

Oct 30, 2020 - 9:03:45 PM

879 posts since 2/17/2005
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wow. that's just so beautiful

Oct 31, 2020 - 9:13:02 AM

1231 posts since 3/1/2012

Aaaasrrrrgggghhhhh!

Oct 31, 2020 - 9:44:55 AM

2632 posts since 9/18/2010

Looks like some haint took the photos in the night! I'll try them again, though they posted fine before...
I'll try again with my just-updated browser.
No luck. It says my browser detected a "Potential Security issue"(?)

Oct 31, 2020 - 12:15:19 PM

1301 posts since 2/9/2007

Sure would like to see that, but I haven't been able to see any photos anywhere on the BHO today.

Oct 31, 2020 - 12:43:30 PM

Owen

Canada

6932 posts since 6/5/2011

"Looks like some haint took the photos in the night! "     

That's a new one for me, but thanks to the all-knowing Google, I learned sumpthin' while awaiting the pics:   https://haints.org/what-is-a-haint/      yes

Edited by - Owen on 10/31/2020 12:44:03

Oct 31, 2020 - 4:37:01 PM

1301 posts since 2/9/2007

Seeing them now, and that is very very impressive. If you're into bluegrass banjos, it's comparable to finding a prewar flathead original 5-stringer. I don't know the actual stats, but I'll bet there are a lot more of those known to exist than there are intact Bouchers of that age.

Oct 31, 2020 - 5:39:14 PM

5719 posts since 9/21/2007
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan Gellert

Seeing them now, and that is very very impressive. If you're into bluegrass banjos, it's comparable to finding a prewar flathead original 5-stringer. I don't know the actual stats, but I'll bet there are a lot more of those known to exist than there are intact Bouchers of that age.


I would disagree.  The interest is more in the collection aspect than playing or sound.  They tend not to be great banjos.  The work on them was farmed out to local furniture builders and tends to vary in quality.  The wood tends to be lower grade and sometimes is painted poplar.

They are important in that they are examples of very early "production" banjos.  But as banjos, I would say if you are looking for a player, buy a replica.  The replicas are much higher quality than anything Boucher sold.

They tend to be the only really valuable early banjos right now.  "Valuable" is relative and is still a fraction of what an original flathead Gibson regular banjo would bring. 

Oct 31, 2020 - 6:03:10 PM

7877 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by sunburst
quote:
Originally posted by csacwp

It would be best to remove the steel strings and replace them with gut or nylon.


Of course. If it was mine I'd make and fit some replica pegs and probably string it up with nylguts. Alas, it is not mine and definitely out of my price range! I was figuring a pretty high value but that estimate is a little higher than I anticipated. I suspect the owner has no real idea of what he has.


Be sure to tell the owner in no uncertain terms that steel strings have absolutely no place on this banjo and will damage it.

Oct 31, 2020 - 7:09:24 PM

1301 posts since 2/9/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks
quote:
Originally posted by Dan Gellert

Seeing them now, and that is very very impressive. If you're into bluegrass banjos, it's comparable to finding a prewar flathead original 5-stringer. I don't know the actual stats, but I'll bet there are a lot more of those known to exist than there are intact Bouchers of that age.


I would disagree.  The interest is more in the collection aspect than playing or sound.  They tend not to be great banjos.  The work on them was farmed out to local furniture builders and tends to vary in quality.  The wood tends to be lower grade and sometimes is painted poplar.

They are important in that they are examples of very early "production" banjos.  But as banjos, I would say if you are looking for a player, buy a replica.  The replicas are much higher quality than anything Boucher sold.

They tend to be the only really valuable early banjos right now.  "Valuable" is relative and is still a fraction of what an original flathead Gibson regular banjo would bring. 


I guess I wasn't thorough enough. I'm well aware that the Gibson would be worth like 10x what the Boucher would bring, and that the Boucher isn't all that great an instrument.  What I meant was that an original scalloped-rim Boucher is the same sort of gee-whiz holy-grail to early-banjo-history geeks as an original RB prewar flathead is to bluegrass pickers, and that finding an undocumented one is news.

Oct 31, 2020 - 7:54:54 PM

1231 posts since 3/1/2012

No need to argue, guys—just give the Boucher!

Nov 1, 2020 - 2:22:56 AM

1586 posts since 12/26/2007

I had a friend in high school (southeast PA, not too far from Baltimore) named Bill Boucher who pronounced his name "b-ouch-er" ("ouch" as in "I hit my thumb with the hammer"). I've heard people pronounce the banjo maker's name "boo-shay". I wonder which way Boucher pronounced it.

I saw a Boucher banjo at a festival in WV a few years ago. A guy was carrying it in a canvas sack, and it was as light as a feather. I didn't play it, but I can't imagine that it had much sound. Still, a banjo like that and the OP banjo are of huge interest to collectors, not so much to people who want a loud, ringy banjo with geared tuners and other modern conveniences for playing.

Nov 1, 2020 - 4:09:11 AM
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1649 posts since 1/13/2012

The descendants of William Boucher (the family is still in Baltimore) pronounce their name "Booker".

The large number of Boucher banjos that have survived, especially given their fragile construction, underscores their mass-produced, low grade nature. Sort of the equivalent of buying a Sears Supertone a half century later, or a First Act guitar at Wal-Mart today. They were not professional grade instruments.

Boucher was a dealer and importer who sold all kinds of instruments, many of them from Germany (where he had familial connections). None of his locations around Baltimore was large enough to have any manufacturing capability. It's possible that the banjos were also built in Germany, whole or as parts.

As Joel says, interest in them is primarily driven by their historical significance and their aesthetics.

Nov 1, 2020 - 10:08:44 AM
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22 posts since 3/6/2006

Interesting tailpiece. I wonder if it's original.

Nov 1, 2020 - 10:29:35 AM

2632 posts since 9/18/2010

quote:
Originally posted by hschwartz

Interesting tailpiece. I wonder if it's original.


I wonder that too.

It is well made and very old, but not finely made. It could be a well made replacement from 100 years ago. As I said, I am not an expert on open back banjos, and having not seen examples of original tailpieces I can't say whether it is or is not original to the banjo.

Nov 1, 2020 - 10:42:24 AM
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5719 posts since 9/21/2007
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quote:
Originally posted by Mark Ralston

I had a friend in high school (southeast PA, not too far from Baltimore) named Bill Boucher who pronounced his name "b-ouch-er" ("ouch" as in "I hit my thumb with the hammer"). I've heard people pronounce the banjo maker's name "boo-shay". I wonder which way Boucher pronounced it.

I saw a Boucher banjo at a festival in WV a few years ago. A guy was carrying it in a canvas sack, and it was as light as a feather. I didn't play it, but I can't imagine that it had much sound. Still, a banjo like that and the OP banjo are of huge interest to collectors, not so much to people who want a loud, ringy banjo with geared tuners and other modern conveniences for playing.


The replicas built by Hartel, George Wunderlich, Flesher, Bell and others are SUPER powerful, provided the head is thin and tight and the person playing is using a strong stroke and thimble near the bridge (playing stroke style or "clawhammer").

While tubby, they can thump out some serious volume.

I've only ever had a chance to play two original Boucher banjos.  I was scared I was going to break them.

Nov 2, 2020 - 4:07:21 AM
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185 posts since 11/4/2009

Oooh mama!

Nov 2, 2020 - 8:51:46 AM
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1231 posts since 3/1/2012

quote:
Originally posted by flatfootjohnny

Oooh mama!


Stop drooling on that banjo, Johnny!

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