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Nov 30, 2020 - 8:43:42 PM
99 posts since 8/12/2019

I have a Japanese Iida banjo from the latter half of yester-century, with some nice appointments, considering its humble brand. 20 hole flat top tonering, window style tailpiece, planetary tuners (replacements), and plenty of other nice fixins. And all in a nice warm brown mahogany.

I know these are far from valuable, and this one does have a couple minor dings, but it’s a pretty nice little picker I’d wager. It was apparently a prize for flat-picking guitar at the Red Bluff, CA old time fiddlers contest some decades back. My guess is the guy mostly stuck to guitar despite his winnings.

Wondering if anyone would hazard a guess on its market value. Also curious the model? Would this be (colloquially) a masterclone?

Darn thing weighs as much as a house. I think we should just sell banjos by the pound and make our lives easier!


Nov 30, 2020 - 8:49:22 PM

99 posts since 8/12/2019

Just some extra pictures. I don’t know what details are worth adding, the thing is almost boringly clean and just about what you would expect otherwise.


Nov 30, 2020 - 9:10:35 PM

99 posts since 8/12/2019

Just some blemish details (first two) and the strap


Edited by - crowfielder on 11/30/2020 21:13:06

Dec 1, 2020 - 12:10:28 AM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)


24250 posts since 6/25/2005

Most of that era’s Iida’s like yours seem to have had zinc tone rings, but some had brass or bronze. Those are worth more. If yous is zink-ring, I’d guess 600-650; maybe 850 if it’s a brass or bronze ring.

Dec 1, 2020 - 3:49:52 AM



61 posts since 8/27/2018

I agree with Bill. Probably in the $600 range. I owned an Iida maple banjo that was a replica of the RB-800, gold plated and all. I think I paid about $700 back in 1978 or abouts brand new.
Wish I kept it! They are good players just have the multi-ply rim in them.

Dec 1, 2020 - 6:54:42 AM

13612 posts since 10/30/2008

Masterclone indeed! Almost a xerox copy of the 1970s Gibson RB 250. Bill's question is the one that will really count, presuming everything on your banjo is not broken or poorly repaired or loose/wobbly.

The only way to know about the tone ring is to disassemble it, and weigh the tone ring.

Iidas were actually pretty good (surprisingly good considering the contemporary Gibson) banjos when they appeared in the US. They got some pretty good advertising and reviews in the music journals of the time. A friend of mine got one and took it around the festival circuit and folks had to admit it was a pretty good banjo. Other than the mysterious name! I learned here last week that the proper pronunciation is "EE-da". I always thought it was "EYE-da".

Someone looking to move up from a Goodtime or other beginner's banjo would probably be very happy with your banjo. It's a fine intermediate.

Dec 1, 2020 - 12:05:23 PM

99 posts since 8/12/2019

Thanks all! Sounds about savvy to me.

I am less than enthused about taking this beast apart to weigh the tone ring. Is there any other way to tell what metal I’m dealing with? Can I peak into one of the holes for instance, or scratch test to check for plating / softness? Or do a model comparison or something? I need to set it up a little but if I can keep the head on I’d be in absolute heaven. If it’s truly a matter of tearing it down I’ll err on the side of zinc when I price it and let the next fella take the gamble.

It’s hard to see in the pictures but there’s two chips where the old tuners came off along with the old screw holes, and a little hairline in the heel, but otherwise all is solid and true.

Dec 1, 2020 - 12:25:22 PM

13612 posts since 10/30/2008

Hairline in the heel can be a major problem in selling the banjo. Usually a sign of a break and a repair.

The way to judge the tone ring without disassembly is playing it, I suppose.

Dec 1, 2020 - 1:48:21 PM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)


24250 posts since 6/25/2005

You can carefully file a bit of plating off the tone ring and check the color of the metal—whiteish would mean zinc.

Dec 1, 2020 - 3:15:21 PM

108 posts since 1/7/2019

Looks like a 233 to me.



Dec 2, 2020 - 6:07:05 AM



2405 posts since 11/29/2005

I guess I’ve been selling stuff I repair and set up way too cheap. I would repair residual tuning machine head holes, stain to match, clean, set up, probably new head and bridge, and railroad spikes and handmade bone nut and sell out the door around $450 with stock case. Maybe little more because it is a nicer rim than most of your intermediate masterclone chrome plated banjos.
But, it’s just a masterclone by any other name.
You have a real issue with the heel trying to get busted by the metal or something going on there. Not enough pix to really tell. Looks like the assembly doesn’t particularly fit well and someone cranked the hell out of lower coordinator rod. Neck was in a bind and trying to make a split, but hard to tell from pix.

Dec 5, 2020 - 1:07:27 PM
Players Union Member



13295 posts since 8/30/2006

Isn’t it a tube and plate with a rounded inside edge on the plate

Then the neck is in some bind
I love tube and plate
$500 to $650

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