Bill Rogers (Moderator)
The thought crossed my mind a couple of days ago that more than half my banjos are older than I am, though I was born in 1944. And so another half-baked inquiry masquerading as a survey: What is your oldest current banjo that’s in working order and playable—and when was it made (best you can figure)?
Mine is a ca. 1881 lightweight Geo. C. Dobson that has been retrograded with flush frets, gut strings and violin pegs all around.
c. 1928 Oriole (by Gibson), with a fairly recent 5 string mahogany neck (by Ron Coleman). Currently configured as a bright and snappy open back (flange and resonator removed).
Mine is a 1959 Gibson RB-100. Best banjo I own. It has just a little something in it that my other two do not.
I'm 19 years old, and my banjo is 62 haha.
I own a Gibson tb3 from the late 20ies (don't remind the exact year) it's a archtop mastertone, tube and plate, completely original with his tenor neck
I usually play it with irish tune (GDAE) and I love the sound!
I also owned some other prewar vega (a tubaphone and 2 little wonder) and bacon banjo (converted to 5str) but I sold these banjo... I miss them because each instrument had its voice and an history to tell but... so is life: you can't always keep evrything... but the tb3 is going to stay with me for a long time!
Mine aren't that old ,but it always intrigues me to think about the journey each old banjo has taken.
I have three from the 19th century, all in fine shape and sounding great. A Bay State 301, Bay State 331, circa 1895 and a Fairbanks Electric #0, circa 1898.
1928 TB Granada
Dobson patent 1867, built anywhere from 1867-1870s.
Edited by - tbchappe on 01/11/2021 04:41:06
I guess it would be my '92 Stelling Masterpiece. I got it in 2000 and have played it almost daily ever since. I do have one entry level banjo that's been around probably since the 80s, but I have no idea when it was made.
All my banjos I have right now are older than me, which in the eyes of some would make them all ancient.
My oldest that I’m sure of like Blaines above, is a late 1860’s early 1870’s Dobson.
I have an English one that may be a bit older, but I can’t verify the age other than 1860’s-1870’s.
Most of my banjos are mid-1920’s to mid-1930’s.
My oldest banjo is an Arthur E Smith Shelburne II that I bought new in 1980.
My 1930's Kalamazoo/ Gibson conversion. Everything else is about as old as me, from 1975 and younger.
Edited by - buckholler on 01/11/2021 05:40:48
I have a 1904 Rettberg&Lange open back 5 string. A friend of mine connected me with the owner who 82yrs old 3 years ago. He got it from his grandfather who was the original owner and a World War One veteran. It plays well but needs a new home. I don’t play it enough to justify keeping it. I might post it for sale soon.
1925 TB3 ball-bearing, FON 8069-73, w/Bill Sullivan 5 string conversion neck
Besides the two banjos I built myself, my newest banjo is a Vega Ranger from about 1960. My oldest banjo and main player is a 1911 Vega Whyte Laydee #2. It took nearly 40 years of longing for a vintage Whyte Laydee to finally get one, and when did, I was not disappointed.
My oldest is probably a Sears Supertone, but could have been branded as something else. Was in horrible shape when I got it with the fret-board gone. Playable but not original. Could be as old as 1890s but probably closer to 1920.
Edited by - steveh_2o on 01/11/2021 06:00:15
Originally posted by lazlototh
1880 SS Stewart and a 1890 Libby Brothers. Both found in attics in Maine.
Then there is this one. I suppose it is 1890's.
Oh wow! You have an 1880 Stewart?!? Would it be possible for you to share photos of it?
The oldest one I currently own would be the Gretsch tenor, no date available. The oldest that I play regularly - probably the Liberty hardware banjo, maybe early- or mid-Seventies. My open-back is a Jake Neufeld built in Ontario in 1978. I traded my pre-1915 Orpheum for it - definitely the oldest banjo I've owned. I also have a fretless mountain banjo made by Oskar Graf (Ontario) in 1974. I don't know how old my Silvertone is.
I've have a couple older ones, but this is the only presumed 19th century one I have now. Speaking to a few knowledgeable, and not just relying on my own observations, this was likely built in the 1890s.
Edited by - Nic Pennsylvania on 01/11/2021 06:40:53
1933. Made during my grandparents' teenage years. My acoustic guitar is an '81, so I have about two years on that one...
Most of my banjos have some prewar parts but last week I got an oriole open back that’s completely original. It’s got a 10 1/2” pot so it’s likely to stay so. Even has a skin head,I suppose it might have been replaced at some point.
My 60's Kay Bakelite banjos right now and then my early 70's Alvarez Banjos. I Did have an early 30's May bell Tenor I restored it was in a fire in the late 60's but I was offered a very good amount of money for it so I sold it.
( I )===='----<: :}
The 5-string NECK is one I made, but the BODY is a Slingerland.
And I asked a guy who was at a NAMM convention, at the Slingerland booth, and he said they haven't made ANY banjos since the 1930's.
mine is a 1927 8527-72 all original tb3 except for the neck gibson conversion, Oh libby is a common name in maine that is where my dad is from
I once owned a Luscomb, that would have been the oldest. Then a 1916 Whyte Laydie #7 which I sold to someone who loved it more than I did and paid accordingly. Then 3 Vegas from 1922-23 -- a Bart Reiter Style R conversion, a #3 (both sold/traded), and now an original Senator which I really enjoy. Then a slight gap to 1926 where my Mastertones commence.
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