My advice is to not buy it. The tension hoop and flange are die cast and if they are not cracking now, they will in the future.
It's possible that Mr. Smakula has considered this Gretsch Broadkaster to be a pre-war banjo and what he has observed about the fragile tension hoop and flange is true for the period about 1928 - 1934. After that Gretsch began using another diecast company with a better product and outcome. The banjo you are looking at is a post-war Gretsch Broadkaster tenor made about 1949. I have not observed the disintegrating tension hoop and flange on these post war Broadkasters. I have a few post war Gretsch Broadkaster tenors that are structurally okay. The patented rim (patent 1793363) is made of metal and Gretsch used this type rim up until the mid-1960's one of the last being a 5-string called their "Bluegrass Model"! I think the metal rim might be an acquired taste as you don't see many for sale these days so I'm guessing that not so many were sold. To me the subject banjo is scare and since it looks to be in nice condition with a case to boot then $300 is what I usually end up paying for one.
By the way, attached is Curley Dale Heard with a pre-war Gretsch Broadkaster banjo in his arsenal so these Broadkasters did get around some. Curley was a radio personality with the "Tallcorn Varieties" radio show ca. 1950. I like Gretsch Broadkaster banjos for their aesthetics. They look very cool with their colorful etched designs and abundant pearloid.
Edited by - beezaboy on 02/28/2021 08:04:18
Bill Rogers (Moderator)
Bob Smakula is one of the premieer dealers and repairmen of used bnjos in the country. I would take his opinion at ery high value. There’s a reason that over the years Gretsch banjos have acquired the sobriquet ‘“Wretch.”
In my opinion John Hoft is the world expert on Gretsch banjos. With his knowledge, backed by countless hours of research and solid record keeping, his opinion of the structure of the post war Gretsch die cast rim assemblies trumps my own. So likely the Gretsch Broadcaster in question will have a solid rim assembly.
There are other details on banjos like this that you will have to see in person to make sure they are not sketchy. Is the neck alignment correct for proper string height? Is the celluloid fretboard overlay shrinking and causing loose frets and/or a bowed/twisted neck? the tuners appear to be screw tension friction tuners and will need to be replaced with decent planetary geared tuners.
The above are details that should be scrutinized on all vintage banjos, not just Gretsch, before purchase.
For $300 it looks like it would be a cool novelty banjo, for the bling factor. Especially as a wall hanger.
I’m not so sure what that fretboard would feel or sound like though. It wouldn’t be my go-to choice for a #1.
Thanks guys, thankful for the input.
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