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Looking for a banjo $1,500 price range

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Mar 17, 2022 - 11:32:46 AM
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amute

USA

25 posts since 6/28/2012

So I’m sorry if this question has been asked and asked again.
I’d like to get opinions on buying my first resonator banjo (new or used).
My price point is about $1,500.
What I seem to notice is the $800-$1,200 banjos seem to be for beginners, which I am not. I’ve never owned a resonator banjo but I’ve played open back for years. I also want something I can grow with for years and years.
I see after the $1,200 price there seems to be a void and the price jumps to the $1,900+ range.

Anyone have an opinion on the banjo they would buy?
Thank you for your feedback.

Mar 17, 2022 - 11:38:47 AM
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1664 posts since 10/12/2011

I'm a fan of Recording King RK 35-36. They will hold you for a long while.

Mar 17, 2022 - 11:42:27 AM
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1060 posts since 10/5/2008

There are a couple of Deering Sierras in the classifieds for about $1,500. They are pretty good banjos. If you're ok with waiting, I'd save another $500 if possible, because there are a fair amount of good used banjos in the classifieds for between $1,500 and $2,000. If you can find a good vintage Gold Star banjo, from the mid 70s-80s, then you should get it! They are great banjos. I would definitely look for a used banjo in your price range, as you'll get more banjo for the money that way. Best of luck!

Mar 17, 2022 - 11:43:17 AM
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1876 posts since 1/28/2013

You are pretty much limited to Recording Kings and Goldtones.

Mar 17, 2022 - 11:53:09 AM
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5 posts since 8/23/2021

Hi Jeremy. I have just the banjo you’re looking for. It’s a really wonderful banjo built by the great banjo builder Arthur Hatfield. While it may look plain, has the same parts and quality of Arthur’s higher end models. The banjo has a beautiful reddish brown finish with faux tortoise binding on the mahogany resonator. Arthur inlayed “Glasgow” on the headstock and it has gotoh tuning pegs. The banjo is currently set up with a remo white suede head and sounds absolutely fantastic!
I’m selling it for 1700, was 2000.
This is a link to a video of it :
m.youtube.com/watch?v=GQ2TBjs6dsM








Mar 17, 2022 - 12:03:18 PM
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13313 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by amute

What I seem to notice is the $800-$1,200 banjos seem to be for beginners, which I am not. I’ve never owned a resonator banjo but I’ve played open back for years. I also want something I can grow with for years and years.


Not to be argumentative, but that's an incorrect observation.

The current prices of new Recording King RK-35 and RK-36 banjos are $1100 and $1200, respectively. A new Gold Tone OB-150 is also $1100.

These are not beginner instruments. They are entry level of professional quality. Besides being manufactured in China where labor costs less, they all have certain economies in materials and construction that keep their prices low compared to higher end Chinese and American instruments. But make no mistake, these are gig- and jam-worthy instruments that can serve any player for years.

On the RK-35 and 36 banjos, only the neck, resonator and tuners are different from the company's $1800 Elite series banjos. That means you get the same bronze alloy tone ring, 3-ply rim, zinc alloy pre-war style 1-piece flange, and other pot hardware. I can't speak to the similarities of the Gold Tone OB-150 to the higher up (but lower numbered) OB-3 "Twanger" but I would expect the guts to also be the same.

So you have three great choices for a new resonator banjo in your price range. The RK-35 is maple with a matte/satin finish, the RK-36 is mahogany in gloss. The OB-150 is brown satin, but the Gold Tone site doesn't say what wood. Some sellers say it's mahogany, but the photos look like maple to me.

All of these banjos will cost a bit less used. But because of the demand for instruments during the pandemic, the prices for used instruments are higher (relative to new) than they used to be.

This same seller's market means there are fewer used American-made pro-quality banjos at $1500 than there used to be. The few models that consistently sold at that level in the past were:

- 1960s - early 80s Fender Artist (made in California)

- 1960s - early 80s Ode Style C (sometimes "Baldwin Ode" depending on year)

- pre-2006 dot-inlay Deering Sierra

Some of these still turn up in your price range. Used to see a newer model Sierra (with the 06 tone ring and fancier inlay) occasionally hit the market for $1500 or less and likewise a Deering Eagle II. But those sightings are now rare.

Plenty of "parts banjos" -- especially Gibson copies -- are available at that price and many of them are excellent instruments with extremely well-made necks and overall top-notch assembly. But it's very tough to buy one of those long distance. I'd want to see, feel, play and hear one before buying it.

Maybe someone else will think of options I've overlokked.

Good luck and have fun shopping.

Edited by - Old Hickory on 03/17/2022 12:07:34

Mar 17, 2022 - 12:33:52 PM
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amute

USA

25 posts since 6/28/2012

Wow! Thank you very much that’s a lot of helpful info and I’ll definitely take a deep dive into each of those models.

Another question and this is just me looking for others opinions.
If YOU had $1,250 to $1,500 to spend. What banjo would you buy?
Thank you again.

Mar 17, 2022 - 12:37:06 PM

beegee

USA

22963 posts since 7/6/2005

There a a couple of RK-75 Elites on ebay, used for less than $1000. I have a pre-war Gibson, but choose to play my RK-75 when playing out, because it plays well and sounds good

Mar 17, 2022 - 12:37:43 PM

2446 posts since 9/25/2006

quote:
Originally posted by amute

Wow! Thank you very much that’s a lot of helpful info and I’ll definitely take a deep dive into each of those models.

Another question and this is just me looking for others opinions.
If YOU had $1,250 to $1,500 to spend. What banjo would you buy?
Thank you again.


Honestly, I'd buy the Ode 6505 (model C) that I'm about to list in a few days.  It is right in that range and you won't find a finer banjo for all styles.  Having said that, a vintage Gold Star can be had in that price range and that's a mighty fine banjo as well.  

Mar 17, 2022 - 12:41:49 PM

5 posts since 8/23/2021

Jeremy, I’ll
Consider an offer on the banjo I posted if you’re interested. You can’t do much better than a Hatfield banjo for that range of price.

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Mar 17, 2022 - 12:47:06 PM

14764 posts since 10/30/2008

Used Vega Scruggs, Pro or VIP models from the 1960s are in your price range.

Used Ode C is usually right in your range. Excellent banjos.

Asking prices on used Fender Artists seem to have "woken up" and started to climb above $1500, but if you see one of these great banjos don't be afraid to offer what you want to pay.

Used Gold Star Model 85 and 100 banjos are usually in your price range; very good banjos like a Mastertone.

Edited by - The Old Timer on 03/17/2022 12:49:01

Mar 17, 2022 - 12:51:04 PM
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2446 posts since 9/25/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Alfie101

Jeremy, I’ll
Consider an offer on the banjo I posted if you’re interested. You can’t do much better than a Hatfield banjo for that range of price.


Amen.  They don't come much better than Arthur.  Well priced as well.  

Mar 17, 2022 - 1:20:17 PM
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2934 posts since 12/31/2005
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quote:
Originally posted by amute


Another question and this is just me looking for others opinions.
If YOU had $1,250 to $1,500 to spend. What banjo would you buy?
Thank you again.


If you're talking new:  The RK 35 or 36 or the GoldTone OB-150.  Not beginner instruments.  You won't ever need to upgrade, but you can if you want to.  (Hint:  We all want to).

If you're talking used:  The world is your oyster if you have patience.  At $1700 I would sell a kidney for $200 and jump on that Hatfield Glasgow.

Mar 17, 2022 - 2:25:17 PM
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944 posts since 2/17/2005

Just to add another, about to list a Fitch Master's Five at $1500...

Mar 17, 2022 - 5:00:46 PM
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2934 posts since 12/31/2005
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quote:
Originally posted by Gitfiddle Emporium

Just to add another, about to list a Fitch Master's Five at $1500...


That won't last long

Mar 17, 2022 - 6:03:30 PM

13313 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by amute

Another question and this is just me looking for others opinions.
If YOU had $1,250 to $1,500 to spend. What banjo would you buy?


In October 2018, when there was more available in that range, I had in hand exactly such an amount after selling some guitars, amps and accessories I wasn't using. For a price below that range, I bought a rescue project mutt of a 1970s Gibson RB-250. In the 4+ years since then, I have spent many hundreds of dollars replacing after-market parts with either model-correct genuine Gibson or other-period Gibson. I also had a luthier reprofile the neck and refinish the resonator to repair severe damage after my attempt failed.

I don't recommend this! Especially since you don't already have three other resonator banjos, as I did.

If I had $1250 to $1500 to spend today, I'd be torn between a Gold Star GF-100 (only if I could play it first), current model Deering Sierra, or Ode Style C. (both of which I might buy long distance if necessary)  These would all be used, of course. And I'd have to wait and hope one would turn up in that range, which might not happen.  If I didn't want to wait, I'd just grab an RK-36, preferably used.

Mar 17, 2022 - 9:05:43 PM
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2177 posts since 4/18/2006
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In the $1500 range you’re looking at Gold Tones or Recording kings as far as new banjos go. Another great option would be a Gold Star from 1978-1983. For what it’s worth, the Hatfield parts banjo mentioned above is a professional level instrument and it would be hard to find anything much better for the price. I owned it for a little while and it’s one of the better banjos I’ve owned (and I’ve traded alot.)

Mar 17, 2022 - 9:32:32 PM

594 posts since 2/5/2014

You have probably gotten enough information already, but I did see a used Deering Sierra here in the classifieds. I love my Sierra, it has such a gorgeous tone, plus it is a lovely wooden work of art. My teacher was so impressed that he got a Deering as well, and records with it.
(FYI I am not affiliated with any of the instruments for sale here)

Mar 17, 2022 - 10:30:41 PM
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GStump

USA

469 posts since 9/12/2006

Jeremy, I too was going to contact you about banjos. I can probably fix you up with something in your price range. I have several banjos for sale right now, A Baldwin Ode style C, an RB 250 Gibson from the late 70's, and several gold star banjos, all in your price range. I tried to message you directly but you have messaging thru the hangout disabled. You are also welcome to call Home 540 474 - 2009, or call or text my cell at 540 908 - 9418. Thanks!

Mar 18, 2022 - 4:30:47 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

15599 posts since 8/30/2006

Another question and this is just me looking for others opinions.
If YOU had $1,250 to $1,500 to spend. What banjo would you buy?
Thank you again

Every one wants to sell you what they like, which is ok.

You have specifications you don't know you have.

I would not want to see someone buy a 14 pound bronze piece to hang around their neck for 3 hours.

Take a look around for a smaller custom builder, there are plenty of them.

My pro models start at $1000 with no frills.  There is a 45 member users' group and plenty of review data.

You get a radical departure rim, built new and a neck built new with players' options like jumbo frets.  Boutique inlays are often enjoyed. 

Light weight was an unforeseen boon, and part of the equation.

I play these on stage as a performer, so my laboratory is with me today at the daytime jam at the library. 

I get to jam with all these other banjos mentioned, then the players' hands and method enter into the sound they are getting. 

How tall are you, and how big are your hands??  Those are specs.  Inform yourself.

I recently did a rim change for a Gibson Mastertone RB-250 and swapped Maple for a new Cherry rim and a Helix type tone ring ,

The banjo is played weekly with medium strings and a big, tall guy who plays his new frets with passion. 

Now, I've cracked the door open, take a look, or confer with me off forum so you get the best banjo.  No sales implied. 

Lots of help here, imports are not your only option, opinions neither.   


Mar 18, 2022 - 9:34:36 AM

13313 posts since 6/2/2008

amute:

Helix's self-promotion aside, he does raise a valid point that none of us addressed in our advice: As an experienced open-back player, you might prefer or appreciate a lighter-weight resonator banjo.

That would be a banjo with only a brass rod or hoop style tone ring or one with no tone ring at all. On a ringless banjo, the head bears directly on a bead of wood turned into the rim or on the rounded top of a beveled profile that mimics the shape of a conventional metal tone ring.

The problem is, there are hardly any new banjos of that description available at your price (other than what Helix is offering to make).  You might find a used Bishline Patriot at that price. But I haven't seen one that I recall.

Another Hangout member looking for a lightweight alternative found a well-priced RK-25 within the past month. Sub-$1000, I believe. This model was discounted several years ago. It features a thicker rim and two-piece flange. No metal ring at all. Relatively few were made, so there are few to be found.

In discussions of lighter weight banjos, some have suggested looking at banjos with a Whyte Ladie style tone ring, which I suppose weighs less than a Mastertone style ring. Gold Tone makes a banjo with this type of ring.

Anyway, you could be very happy with a full weight resonator and tone ring banjo.

Mar 18, 2022 - 10:06:59 AM
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amute

USA

25 posts since 6/28/2012

Thank you for the info. I’m honestly not super worried about the weight of a resonator banjo. I have played friends banjos and know what I’m getting into with a bluegrass banjo.

I appreciate the concern but I’m more asking about opinions on buying new or used and what if forum members had say $1,200 or around there would they buy for themselves.

I see a few names continuing to pop up so I’m researching those.
ATM the RK36 seems to where I’m leaning. Used banjos from eBay worry me as I’ve had past scam experiences.

Thank you again for the input though.

Mar 18, 2022 - 1:07:32 PM

O.D.

USA

3700 posts since 10/29/2003

Vintage Japanese Gold Star banjos are a great option for your price point. If we're to get another banjo that's  what it would be.

Actually the GS 1952 in classifieds looks  pretty cool.

Everett

Edited by - O.D. on 03/18/2022 13:10:26

Mar 18, 2022 - 1:21:02 PM
Players Union Member

amute

USA

25 posts since 6/28/2012

Yup that’s what I’ve heard. In fact Gold Star GF-85 banjo was what I was looking to buy when this whole search started but they don’t make them anymore.

Mar 18, 2022 - 2:21:37 PM

O.D.

USA

3700 posts since 10/29/2003

quote:
Originally posted by amute

Yup that’s what I’ve heard. In fact Gold Star GF-85 banjo was what I was looking to buy when this whole search started but they don’t make them anymore.


Buy a used   Japanese Gold Star

The only new banjo I ever purchased was in 1976

All my others,quite a few, have been  used.

Everett

Good luck

Mar 18, 2022 - 4:27:22 PM

7960 posts since 9/5/2006

quote:
Originally posted by amute

Yup that’s what I’ve heard. In fact Gold Star GF-85 banjo was what I was looking to buy when this whole search started but they don’t make them anymore.


here is a 2004 GF-85 with some extras for 1500.00 may talk him down a bit...

https://www.banjobuyer.com/banjo/92432

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