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Apr 17, 2021 - 1:44:02 PM
16 posts since 2/24/2020

I'm writing to see if anyone can help out with any information about this c. 1890 Dobson I just purchased.  Seller says it's believe to be original hardware, minus the head, bridge, pins and tailpiece.  I really like the neck and head inlay, and haven't seen it before.  Anyone have any thoughts?  Also it's not here yet, but the head looks like maybe fiberskyn.  If that's the case I'll ask John Balch to hook me up with a goat skin.

Apr 17, 2021 - 2:56:09 PM

1377 posts since 3/1/2012

There are several companies on Etsy that sell calf or goat skin banjo heads, if you can put it on, or know someone who will.

Apr 17, 2021 - 8:16:34 PM
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1729 posts since 1/13/2012

It looks like a higher grade Buckbee banjo. Buckbee manufactured banjos for H. C. Dobson to sell under his own name. However, the stamp on the dowel doesn't look like any of the H. C. Dobson stamps I've seen. It looks like it was done by hand, with individual letter stamps, so it may not be original. Many Buckbee banjos were unmarked, so perhaps someone thought they would increase the instrument's value by adding a name to it.

Apr 18, 2021 - 4:32:01 AM

2583 posts since 4/7/2010

I had the same thoughts as Andy on the crude H C Dobson letter stamping on the dowelstick. Looks like a middle school kid did it in shop class


Bob Smakula

Edited by - Bob Smakula on 04/18/2021 04:35:09

Apr 18, 2021 - 11:44:03 AM
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8765 posts since 11/28/2003

Very nice banjo!

BTW: H. C. Dobson was very protective of his brand & name. The only example I have ever owned was marked in at least 3 different places ( 1. the plate over the end of the fingerboard, 3. the dowel stick and 3. the tone ring (not pictured)).


The Dowel says "Henry C. Dobson Maker New York USA"    This banjo also had his patented tone ring - so patent information was stamped there too along with a serial number. 

Edited by - jbalch on 04/18/2021 11:52:18

Apr 18, 2021 - 12:13:32 PM

16 posts since 2/24/2020

Thanks all for the input! It sounds like the consensus is this is NOT a Dobson, but maybe a Buckbee? I don’t have it yet, but when it arrives I’ll post more pictures. I was curious whether a reproduction tone ring could be added without cutting the banjo. I hear the modern repros are actually under 11” by just a margin, so I’ll have some measuring to do. I definitely won’t modify the body of the banjo. I’ll also follow up with Bob to try to find a decent vintage tailpiece that fits. It’s a lovely looking banjo!

Edited by - Clizznas on 04/18/2021 12:14:04

Apr 18, 2021 - 1:49:39 PM



8765 posts since 11/28/2003

Rickard Dobson Rings are 10 7/8" - made to fit a Keller drum shell rim. To install on a true 11" rim, you have to cut a rabbet for the ring to fit. 

But you might check with Balsam Banjo Works (Pisgah) about the Dobson rings that they have. They may be a true 11" size.

Also - need to measure the rim once you actually have it. Some of the Buckbee/ Dobson so-called 11" banjo are a little under size too.


Regarding a tailpiece, Lots of Buckbe & Dobson banjos had a simple style with a star (like the photo).  Mark Ralston produces several styles of period-correct reproduction  tailpieces.  He might offer one like the one in my picture or another that you might like for that banjo.


Edited by - jbalch on 04/18/2021 13:59:15

Apr 18, 2021 - 2:37:44 PM

16 posts since 2/24/2020

Thanks for this very helpful information John. I will measure the actual rim when it arrives, as since you say, it may not be a “true” 11”. Good idea to follow up with Balsam too.

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