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What happens to (newer) old banjos?

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Feb 4, 2022 - 8:00:54 AM
1331 posts since 11/17/2005

I have noticed that popular banjos will trade hands frequently.

When banjos become less popular, they seem to disappear from the used market.

I used to see the old wide binding Recording Kings come up for sale frequently. Now, I never see them.

Same with R&T and Tennessee banjos. They used to come up often but now they're rare.

I basically never see a Wildwood or a Flinthill banjo for sale.

What happens to these banjos? The other odd part is that I never see anyone play the banjos anymore.

The banjos that people play also seem to be the ones that people sell. Isn't that strange?

You'll find way more 1920's mastertones for sale than mid 2000's Recording Kings.

Edited by - jason999 on 02/04/2022 08:02:59

Feb 4, 2022 - 8:16:34 AM
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1570 posts since 3/1/2012

I think, especially in this forum, that you need to define ‘old’.
For some folks here, 1960 is old.
For others, it’s ridiculously new.
I generally think it’s an old banjo if it is prior to 1870…

Feb 4, 2022 - 8:36:43 AM

2934 posts since 12/31/2005

Great observation. It's not just production volume driving it. I would guess there are two factors. At some point, the demand in the market for excellent banjos that are not "popular" or in vogue gets so depressed nobody bothers to sell them. I have a fantastic banjo I was willing to sell about a year ago (A Kyle Smith mahogany Legend), but no bites even at a sub $2K level. The second factor at the keeper stage (i.e. not a beginner or "step up" banjo) might be that certain brands or models are bought by people that care less about brand name and therefore don't buy and sell with the same frequency. I know of owners of Wildwood who have only played their Wildwood.

Feb 4, 2022 - 8:51:27 AM
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13306 posts since 6/2/2008

How about the simplest possible explanation:

People are holding onto the banjos you mention rather than selling them.

The fact that the banjos you mention were made in fewer numbers than others would add to their absence from the market.

Feb 4, 2022 - 9:02:05 AM
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RioStat

USA

5790 posts since 10/12/2009

quote:
Originally posted by IMBanjoJim

I think, especially in this forum, that you need to define ‘old’.
For some folks here, 1960 is old.
For others, it’s ridiculously new.
I generally think it’s an old banjo if it is prior to 1870…


I believe jason999 pretty well defined the "old" banjos he was referencing.

Feb 4, 2022 - 9:09:30 AM

1331 posts since 11/17/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Old Hickory

How about the simplest possible explanation:

People are holding onto the banjos you mention rather than selling them.

The fact that the banjos you mention were made in fewer numbers than others would add to their absence from the market.


Right, I agree. That's really my point. People weren't holding onto them when they were in production and more popular. Why does that change so drastically after these instruments become less popular and production drops or ceases?

 

Have you not noticed this to be true?

Feb 4, 2022 - 9:22:18 AM
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1331 posts since 11/17/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Brian Murphy

Great observation. It's not just production volume driving it. I would guess there are two factors. At some point, the demand in the market for excellent banjos that are not "popular" or in vogue gets so depressed nobody bothers to sell them. I have a fantastic banjo I was willing to sell about a year ago (A Kyle Smith mahogany Legend), but no bites even at a sub $2K level. The second factor at the keeper stage (i.e. not a beginner or "step up" banjo) might be that certain brands or models are bought by people that care less about brand name and therefore don't buy and sell with the same frequency. I know of owners of Wildwood who have only played their Wildwood.


I had the same thought. Maybe people feel like they just aren't worth selling at the prices they would bring, when popularity  wanes. The oddity in that is that it reduces the supply and might drive higher prices in the popular banjos.

I'm not saying your second comment is wrong, but it seems that the same banjos traded hands frequently just a few years ago. ???

I had another thought. Some people sell things they don't use. Others just don't. Maybe as time passes and banjos change hands, it's inevitable that it will eventually end up in a non-sellers hands.

Of course that could go hand in hand with your first thought. Maybe it ends up with someone who won't accept the going price. 

Feb 4, 2022 - 9:50:58 AM

O.D.

USA

3700 posts since 10/29/2003

Maybe some people figured out its all about the music and not a particular banjo and are just not in the market.

Everett

Feb 4, 2022 - 10:01:03 AM
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1331 posts since 11/17/2005

quote:
Originally posted by O.D.

Maybe some people figured out its all about the music and not a particular banjo and are just not in the market.

Everett


Possibly and all of these people are in a big happy group playing Recording Kings with bound pegheads or maybe someone is out there with an axe destroying all of the banjos that people no longer talk about.

Edited by - jason999 on 02/04/2022 10:01:54

Feb 4, 2022 - 10:39:11 AM

2934 posts since 12/31/2005

quote:
Originally posted by jason999
quote:
Originally posted by Brian Murphy

Great observation. It's not just production volume driving it. I would guess there are two factors. At some point, the demand in the market for excellent banjos that are not "popular" or in vogue gets so depressed nobody bothers to sell them. I have a fantastic banjo I was willing to sell about a year ago (A Kyle Smith mahogany Legend), but no bites even at a sub $2K level. The second factor at the keeper stage (i.e. not a beginner or "step up" banjo) might be that certain brands or models are bought by people that care less about brand name and therefore don't buy and sell with the same frequency. I know of owners of Wildwood who have only played their Wildwood.


I had the same thought. Maybe people feel like they just aren't worth selling at the prices they would bring, when popularity  wanes. The oddity in that is that it reduces the supply and might drive higher prices in the popular banjos.

I'm not saying your second comment is wrong, but it seems that the same banjos traded hands frequently just a few years ago. ???

I had another thought. Some people sell things they don't use. Others just don't. Maybe as time passes and banjos change hands, it's inevitable that it will eventually end up in a non-sellers hands.

Of course that could go hand in hand with your first thought. Maybe it ends up with someone who won't accept the going price. 


Also wonder whether it is a 5 model xyz banjos sold vs. one model xyz banjo sold five times issue.  Still doesn't explain why it happened and then stopped though, which is your point.  It would be great to hear a dealer's perspective because you make a really good point.

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Feb 4, 2022 - 10:39:42 AM
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Helix

USA

15589 posts since 8/30/2006

I know just how you feel


Feb 4, 2022 - 11:11:54 AM
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O.D.

USA

3700 posts since 10/29/2003

I have 7 banjos
I usually play the one I like the most.
I don't care to sell the others and don't need or want an other one
I'd rather just pick

Maybe there are others that do the same

Everett

Feb 4, 2022 - 11:23:50 AM

14764 posts since 10/30/2008

I have heard from two high end popular vintage dealers, that have brick & mortar shops, that they don't even want to take in lower value instruments for resale, because they have limited space and want to fill that space with the higher priced items. I've been told twice that given their druthers, they wouldn't bother with anything that would retail at/under $2000. Overhead just makes it not worth their time to retail at lower prices.

Feb 4, 2022 - 11:31:41 AM

4406 posts since 5/29/2011

Good observation, Dick. I remember that, when the Earl Scruggs model Mastertone hit the market, the Fret Mill in Roanoke, VA wouldn't take a bow tie model in trade because they couldn't sell them. Look at the bow tie now.

Feb 4, 2022 - 11:51:13 AM

13306 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by jason999

I had another thought. Some people sell things they don't use. Others just don't. Maybe as time passes and banjos change hands, it's inevitable that it will eventually end up in a non-sellers hands.


That was actually part of what I meant when I said people were holding onto their banjos instead of selling. I wrote, then deleted, a sentence about some people not wanting to deal with the hassle of selling instruments so they hold onto them -- even if they're not using them. But that's only a guess.

The real fact is, we only have our unreliable memories and not hard data to verify the market activity you describe.

I think there can be lots of contributors, not just one overriding driver, to explain what you see or think you see happening. I believe the largest contributor the past 24 months -- and one with numbers that have in fact been reported -- is COVID-19. It has been reported in the media and backed up by numbers from Gibson, Fender, Fender, PRS and others that people quarantining at home during the onset of the pandemic took in large numbers to engaging in new activities, including learning musical instruments. Sales of new guitars soared to record levels. I'm sure banjo sales picked up to.

I definitely noted two things about the used banjo market: a steady up-tick of prices on quality banjos and a decline in availability of used first-level professional quality banjos such as RK-35/36, Gold Tone OB-150 (which has never been available in large numbers used) and US-made Deering Sierras and Eagles and Bishline Cimarron.  I think people who want to learn snapped these up.

As to the instruments you mentioned, I repeat one thing I said: some weren't made in large numbers to begin with.

For Flinthills, this is only a guess, but if there ever were lots of them on the used market after they were available new about 10 or so years ago, I think those were mostly resales by the types of people who buy lots of banjos to try them out them sell them to move on to the next thing. Hangout is full of people who have bought, owned and sold dozens or scores of banjos in their lifetimes. Not me. Eventually those banjos end up in the hands of players looking for move-up instruments they can own and play for a long time.  I would guess the rest of the new Flinthills were bought by similar non-afficianados who just wanted an economically priced professional caliber instrument to learn on and grow with.

Long answer to say there's not one answer to anything that happens in any market. And with only anecdotal evidence and unverifiable observation  instead of hard data, it's hard to know what's happening in the first place.

Why aren't people selling their Wildwoods, Flinthills and Rich & Taylors? Nobody knows but the people who own them.

 

interesting reading:

Fender guitar sales boom

Did everyone buy a guitar in quarantine or what?

Current boom in guitar sales comparable to post-Beatles era (this article from Nov 21) "“Acoustic guitar imports for the first half of 2021 came in a hair under 1.0 million units, 35 percent higher than any six month period over the past ten years,” says Majeski. (editor of Music Trades)

Feb 4, 2022 - 11:57:21 AM

13306 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by O.D.

I have 7 banjos
I usually play the one I like the most.
I don't care to sell the others and don't need or want an other one
I'd rather just pick

Maybe there are others that do the same


I have 4, but the feeling is the same.

I recently strung one up with heavy strings for low-tuning. Two of the remaining three get the most playing time. I rarely play the chunky-necked archtop. But don't want to sell it. It's a parts banjo. Probably worth more parted out than as a whole instrument.

Feb 4, 2022 - 3:12:54 PM

Fathand

Canada

12012 posts since 2/7/2008

quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer

I have heard from two high end popular vintage dealers, that have brick & mortar shops, that they don't even want to take in lower value instruments for resale, because they have limited space and want to fill that space with the higher priced items. I've been told twice that given their druthers, they wouldn't bother with anything that would retail at/under $2000. Overhead just makes it not worth their time to retail at lower prices.


Another reason for people to shop online.

Feb 4, 2022 - 3:17:29 PM

7960 posts since 9/5/2006

in gibson terms "usually" old is thought of as 1964 back to 1946 then pre war is thought of 1945 and back,,,46 is when gibson started making metal parts again for their banjos. yeah i know somebody is gonna argue this ,,, but i don't give a rats !

Edited by - 1935tb-11 on 02/04/2022 15:18:25

Feb 4, 2022 - 3:19:27 PM
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Fathand

Canada

12012 posts since 2/7/2008

Some possible reasons, the banjos may have drifted around until they found an owner that was happy with them or an owner who had the best intentions of playing but put the banjo under their bed and forgot about it.

In the 1980s I was invited to a home to ID a deceased Uncle's banjo from under his bed. It was a 1928 TB-2 in it's case with the receipt still tucked between the rusted strings.

Edited by - Fathand on 02/04/2022 15:19:57

Feb 4, 2022 - 3:50:58 PM
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2934 posts since 12/31/2005

quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer

I have heard from two high end popular vintage dealers, that have brick & mortar shops, that they don't even want to take in lower value instruments for resale, because they have limited space and want to fill that space with the higher priced items. I've been told twice that given their druthers, they wouldn't bother with anything that would retail at/under $2000. Overhead just makes it not worth their time to retail at lower prices.


Ugh.  I've had the same conversations, and some store owners do not get the concepts of margin or velocity.  Would you rather sell a bunch of lower priced items at 30% margin or have a higher priced item sitting on display (possibly racking up interest).  Obviously, if they can sell the higher priced item with a good margin, you would prefer to do that over lower priced items.  But when you walk into a store and it is dead, but full of four figure instruments, you know they are on borrowed time.  Go back in six months later, and you see the same inventory and the same sour ___ sitting behind the counter doing nothing.  No life or buzz in those places.  You sell the lower stuff to not only generate cash flow, but also to build a clientele.  That beginner who picked up a $400 guitar, may want to move up in six months.   That's two sales per customer in a year.  You'll notice the really successful dealers carry the full range, and they really focus on young people and their parents to build loyalty.

Sorry for the rant, but I get frustrated when I hear things like this.  It's one of the reasons why the independent stores are dying off.

Feb 4, 2022 - 3:59:07 PM
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7960 posts since 9/5/2006

one reason many dropped gibson back around 2005 was the a minimum of 180,000 dollars to buy in the gibson/ephiphone line.... a friend of mine who had been a gibson dealer for 30 plus years told them to shove it...

Feb 4, 2022 - 4:22:07 PM

1331 posts since 11/17/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Old Hickory
quote:
Originally posted by jason999

I had another thought. Some people sell things they don't use. Others just don't. Maybe as time passes and banjos change hands, it's inevitable that it will eventually end up in a non-sellers hands.


That was actually part of what I meant when I said people were holding onto their banjos instead of selling. I wrote, then deleted, a sentence about some people not wanting to deal with the hassle of selling instruments so they hold onto them -- even if they're not using them. But that's only a guess.

The real fact is, we only have our unreliable memories and not hard data to verify the market activity you describe.

I think there can be lots of contributors, not just one overriding driver, to explain what you see or think you see happening. I believe the largest contributor the past 24 months -- and one with numbers that have in fact been reported -- is COVID-19. It has been reported in the media and backed up by numbers from Gibson, Fender, Fender, PRS and others that people quarantining at home during the onset of the pandemic took in large numbers to engaging in new activities, including learning musical instruments. Sales of new guitars soared to record levels. I'm sure banjo sales picked up to.

I definitely noted two things about the used banjo market: a steady up-tick of prices on quality banjos and a decline in availability of used first-level professional quality banjos such as RK-35/36, Gold Tone OB-150 (which has never been available in large numbers used) and US-made Deering Sierras and Eagles and Bishline Cimarron.  I think people who want to learn snapped these up.

As to the instruments you mentioned, I repeat one thing I said: some weren't made in large numbers to begin with.

For Flinthills, this is only a guess, but if there ever were lots of them on the used market after they were available new about 10 or so years ago, I think those were mostly resales by the types of people who buy lots of banjos to try them out them sell them to move on to the next thing. Hangout is full of people who have bought, owned and sold dozens or scores of banjos in their lifetimes. Not me. Eventually those banjos end up in the hands of players looking for move-up instruments they can own and play for a long time.  I would guess the rest of the new Flinthills were bought by similar non-afficianados who just wanted an economically priced professional caliber instrument to learn on and grow with.

Long answer to say there's not one answer to anything that happens in any market. And with only anecdotal evidence and unverifiable observation  instead of hard data, it's hard to know what's happening in the first place.

Why aren't people selling their Wildwoods, Flinthills and Rich & Taylors? Nobody knows but the people who own them.

 

interesting reading:

Fender guitar sales boom

Did everyone buy a guitar in quarantine or what?

Current boom in guitar sales comparable to post-Beatles era (this article from Nov 21) "“Acoustic guitar imports for the first half of 2021 came in a hair under 1.0 million units, 35 percent higher than any six month period over the past ten years,” says Majeski. (editor of Music Trades)

 


Actually, it wasn't my memory that triggered this thought. I have wanted a Bales banjo for sometime.

I looked on banjobuyer and saw how many had traded years ago. There isn't one listed after 2018.

Bales were produced in low quantities, but look how many sold used, years ago.

Then, the other day I saw a bound peghead Recording King. I realized that I haven't seen one in years. When have you seen one for sale?

I bought an RK25 for a friend's son for very little money, a few years ago. How many of those do you see? Remember the RK Chiefs, Decos and archtops? 

I used to see the newer Kel Kroydon for sale used, but not now.

If memory serves me correctly, the used prices of these banjos dropped before they disappeared. 

Now, look up a popular banjo. You will likely see several for sale. I don't think Yates banjos are high production, but it's easy to find a used one.


 

Feb 4, 2022 - 5:11:18 PM

beegee

USA

22962 posts since 7/6/2005

People want pre-war Gibsons, but the supply is short.
Given the short supply of pre-war Gibsons, people buy what they can afford and usually discover those banjos to be adequate, until they win the lottery.
Many Gibson wanna-be banjos just don't have the aesthetic appeal or their production totals are low.
Many imports lack the quality needed to compete. Flinthill is one with sketchy origins.
Many boutique banjo companies die when the owner/operator dies.
Many niche companies struggle for a lack of an audience and lack of a Gibson-esque image.
Despite what we consider the banjo a popular instrument, it ain't necessarily so

I have 2 Fender Artists-fine banjos but not a "Gibson."
I have 3 R.H. Lane banjos. My favorite banjos, but not a Gibson. Unique. Harry died. There will be no more.
I have a Sullivan festival that I sold and bought back a year later. Not a Gibson, but a great banjo that I bought cheap, but one of my favorites because of its quality
I have 3 RK Elites, and as close as I have found to an affordable Gibson-esque banjo
I have a Goodtime Gumby I bought cheap, virtually unplayed.
I have an old Kasuga Mastercone, that is not close to being a Gibson, but its lightweight aluminum parts make it fun to play and it sounds remarkably good for a $100 banjo
I have a bunch of openbacks including a "new" RK-024, no longer manufactured(pity)
I have a modern-manufacture Minstrel Banjo.

Oh, and I have a 1928 Gibson TB-Granada with a 5 string neck I copied from the original TB neck.
None of my banjos is for sale.

There are as many reasons for the absence of many formerly-popular banjos from the market as there are banjo owners. And one only needs to read the list of defunct banjo manufacturers to realize our current situation is not unique. I have a friend who sells a lot  of pre-war instruments. He was a Gibson dealer until Henry decided to cut out mom-and-pop dealers in favor of big-box stores. It is easy for us to forget that banjos are not a major market for many manufacturers.

Edited by - beegee on 02/04/2022 17:19:06

Feb 4, 2022 - 6:48:40 PM

13306 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by jason999
Then, the other day I saw a bound peghead Recording King. I realized that I haven't seen one in years. When have you seen one for sale?

Just now.

quote:
Originally posted by jason999
I bought an RK25 for a friend's son for very little money, a few years ago. How many of those do you see? Remember the RK Chiefs, Decos and archtops? 

I used to see the newer Kel Kroydon for sale used, but not now.

If memory serves me correctly, the used prices of these banjos dropped before they disappeared. 

Now, look up a popular banjo. You will likely see several for sale. I don't think Yates banjos are high production, but it's easy to find a used one.


I think all the banjos you're mentioning might have been made in very small quantities over not many years. 

The dearth of Bales banjos in the ads the past three years after 13 of them in the previous nine could be noting more than mathematical randomness. The appearance of one for sale has nothing to do with the next one. They could come back. Or maybe they won't. No one knows.

Odes were made in far greater numbers over more than 10 years. There are 2 in the classifieds.

I can't explain that any more than anyone can explain with certainty the lack of other brands of banjos on the used market.

Feb 4, 2022 - 7:11:13 PM

1331 posts since 11/17/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Old Hickory
 

I think all the banjos you're mentioning might have been made in very small quantities over not many years. 

The dearth of Bales banjos in the ads the past three years after 13 of them in the previous nine could be noting more than mathematical randomness. The appearance of one for sale has nothing to do with the next one. They could come back. Or maybe they won't. No one knows.

Odes were made in far greater numbers over more than 10 years. There are 2 in the classifieds.

I can't explain that any more than anyone can explain with certainty the lack of other brands of banjos on the used market.

 

 

 


Did you notice that there were 9 used current RK models for sell next to the single bound peghead model?

9 to 1 seems substantial to me.

Have a look at page 13 from 2008. There were lots of old (then current) RKs up for sale all the time. 

There's pages and pages of RK listing illustrating my point. Production numbers have nothing to do with it.




Edited by - jason999 on 02/04/2022 19:20:43

Feb 4, 2022 - 9:12:43 PM

13306 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by jason999
Did you notice that there were 9 used current RK models for sell next to the single bound peghead model?

No,I didn't. I took a quick glance at the Classified here on the Hangout, not BanjoBuyer. The bound RK was the top listing. That's all I bothered to notice. And I was simply answering the question you asked: When did I last see a bound peghead RK. I saw one tonight. 

quote:
Originally posted by jason999

9 to 1 seems substantial to me.


Yes.. It's 9 times more. So what? I honestly have no idea what you're saying.

quote:
Originally posted by jason999
Have a look at page 13 from 2008. There were lots of old (then current) RKs up for sale all the time. 
.

Since you've told me what's there, I don't need to look.

quote:
Originally posted by jason999
There's pages and pages of RK listing illustrating my point. Production numbers have nothing to do with it.
.

What exactly is your point? That some models aren't as available used any more than they used to be? I get it.

You seem not to like my guesses as to why that's so. Fine. They were only guesses. I'm fine being wrong. I'm not sure I agree with the premise that "When banjos become less popular, they seem to disappear from the used market." I think it could very well be the reverse: The banjos you're talking about are so popular with their owners that the owners aren't selling. Why more of them were (or seemed to be) available in the past is anybody's guess. And I'm done guessing.

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