New to the forum although I've been researching previous threads and have found some useful information.
The story - a friend of my parents recently passed and his wife has started to sell his instruments. I'm a guitar player and stopped over to check out his collection. He had some really nice instruments - Martin D35, Gibson Songwriter, Gibson 335, etc...good stuff. Although I enjoyed playing through his collection, nothing really spoke to me...until I decided to pick up the only banjo he had. Now I'm not a banjo player. Love bluegrass and listening to the instrument but I've never really played one. I can't even tell you what "tone" to look for in a banjo. But what I can tell you - it felt amazing in my hand, the neck was perfect, and it just seemed like a very high quality instrument. Regardless, I left that night and it didn't come home with me.
After a night of thinking about it, I decided I had to have it. I called her the next morning and bought the banjo for $500.
My research tells me:
- Made in Japan in the 70s
- Looks like a 593 model
- Possibly a Gibson copy
The strange thing - I can't find a serial number on the instrument. Not even an area where it might have faded away. Nothing behind the headstock and nothing on the neck heel. There is a number in the resonator, FB50931. Not sure what that means.
Any other would info would be appreciated!
That model was the top of the line for Ibanez. I believe FB means flathead banjo as opposed to archtop. Looks to be from around 1976-1978.
Thanks for the info Greg!
That is definitely a model 593FB, their top of the line. Looks like coloration featured in the 1976 catalog. That is a very nice banjo. You got a good price, but did not rip them off either. You'll have a lot of fun with it.
1976 catalog: http://www.hoshinogakki.co.jp/pdf/ibanez/catalog/1976ArtistBanjo.pdf
1975 with different stain: http://www.hoshinogakki.co.jp/pdf/ibanez/catalog/1975ArtistBanjoleaflet.pdf
The authoritative site on all things Asian banjo https://hawthorne.fastie.com/asianbanjos/gk.php
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I have owned 2 Ibanez Artist banjos both made in Japan in the 70s, I've kept hold of one as they are excellent banjos...
Is it a "Gibson copy"? Yes, sort of, as far as the design and build of the pot (the round part). Generally known as a "Masterclone". Back in the 1970s the banjo makers' effort to get back to the "pre-war" design led nearly all of them to copy the Gibson Mastertone 1920s design with the two piece flange (aka tube & plate) with a fair copy of the Mastertone tone rings (either arch top or flat head as you have). Some of the models copied the old Mastertone stain and inlay patterns. Yours is not attempting to copy the "look" of any Gibson Mastertone trim. Your "vine" inlay patterns weren't a Gibson design. Although lots of banjo makers took a liking to "vine" or "tree of life" inlay patterns like your banjo.
Some thought that the better Japanese Masterclones of the 1970s were quite good banjos.
You got yourself a nice one.
If you like the sound, I'll bet you'll like it even more if you put a Remo [thick] frosted head on it in placeof the clear one...
Originally posted by floragoodtime
Wow! Thank you ALL for the replies! Great info!
Any ideas on the missing SN or is it the FB50931 inside the resonator?
Yep. Not important then or now. In fact, it might be an internal part or model number. No one cares — which is good because there's no way to look up what that number means.
Looks like a beauty. Enjoy and play the heck out of it!
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