Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

571
Banjo Lovers Online


Hide these ads: join the Players Union!

Page: 1  2   Last Page (2) 

Jun 30, 2022 - 5:16:39 AM

kd8tzc

USA

392 posts since 4/11/2022

I know with firearms collectors, there are a few books that outline all the different guns, info about the manufacturers, and then the various models and prices based on grades of the item (and yes, as soon as the book is printed, it's all fairly outdated as we know how prices change). Is there anything like that for the banjo?

I'd really like to start to collect some older banjo's but I have no idea what to look for, what price various models might be, or even what might be some good choices to get started with this, and was hoping there might be something like that "blue book" in the banjo world.

Jun 30, 2022 - 5:50:10 AM
like this

2935 posts since 1/16/2013

I think it would be very hard to "nail down" pricing on Mastertone type banjos. Over the years Gibson banjos have gone up in value (obviously some more than others) ,but with so many variables and modifications I believe it would be very difficult to consistently determine values.

Also it would probably need to be done yearly.
-Jim

Jun 30, 2022 - 6:01:21 AM

3153 posts since 9/5/2006

Yes a Blue Book has to be dynamic. The books for guitars and cars get updated annually. The markets are quite dynamic right now with some instruments going for less or quite a bit more than I would have imagined. There are several good buys out there if you pay attention and learn the market.

Jun 30, 2022 - 6:03:32 AM
likes this

716 posts since 8/14/2018

One problem is that the vintage banjo market is a lot smaller than other kinds of 'mass market' collectibles. So there isn't quite the steady stream of sale price data you might get in larger markets. You could try scraping asking prices from BHO, dealer websites, maybe sale data from ebay (which would have to be graded on a curve). Then you'd have to try to account for condition and other factors. I'd think the results would end up being only a little useful.

Jun 30, 2022 - 6:05:41 AM
likes this

2343 posts since 1/4/2009

it would be a difficult undertaking, due to the number of different banjos vrs how often actual sales are recorded. Many high end sales details are never made public, actually id say most are not. And even then there are only a few high end banjo sales a year.

Jun 30, 2022 - 6:05:51 AM

kd8tzc

USA

392 posts since 4/11/2022

Okay, so I take it that there is not anything like what I am asking for then?

If I wanted to dip my toe into buying an older banjo (open back, 5 string if possible) less expensive banjo's ($300 - 900), what might I want to look at?

Jun 30, 2022 - 6:20:20 AM

kd8tzc

USA

392 posts since 4/11/2022

quote:
Originally posted by Ceres Banjo Works

I think it would be very hard to "nail down" pricing on Mastertone type banjos. Over the years Gibson banjos have gone up in value (obviously some more than others) ,but with so many variables and modifications I believe it would be very difficult to consistently determine values.

Also it would probably need to be done yearly.
-Jim


Jim, I'm sure you are right with that.  For example, I don't understand why that one Gibson pieces-parts mastertone was being auctioned at $40k, while others on Banjo Warehouse, that are of the same age, and in better condition I'm thinking, go for under $10k.  Maybe it's just the auction house feeling it could get that much.

I know in the firearms industry prices have swung quite a bit as well, but somehow they account for it, but there is always that understanding that the prices quoted are just a national average and not a wholesale pricing guide.  They also tell you that you should not expect to get what is listed if you are trying to selling as there are a lot of factors that go into the final price/value of something.

Jun 30, 2022 - 6:34:39 AM

6999 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by kd8tzc

Okay, so I take it that there is not anything like what I am asking for then?

If I wanted to dip my toe into buying an older banjo (open back, 5 string if possible) less expensive banjo's ($300 - 900), what might I want to look at?


What are you expecting to find?  Be a bit more specific about what you mean by "older banjo (open back, 5 string)".

Jun 30, 2022 - 6:50:51 AM

2935 posts since 1/16/2013

I'm not privy to the $40,000 Banjo that was being auctioned that was "pieces parts" but I know a prewar flat head tone ring brings around $30,000 alone right now. Some of the prewar parts are very expensive by themselves.
if I run across something odd or some thing I'm not used to pricing I just get online and start comparing. I will try to find that same Banjo or as close as possible having been sold in the last year or two or even currently listed.
-Jim
quote:
Originally posted by kd8tzc
quote:
Originally posted by Ceres Banjo Works

I think it would be very hard to "nail down" pricing on Mastertone type banjos. Over the years Gibson banjos have gone up in value (obviously some more than others) ,but with so many variables and modifications I believe it would be very difficult to consistently determine values.

Also it would probably need to be done yearly.
-Jim


Jim, I'm sure you are right with that.  For example, I don't understand why that one Gibson pieces-parts mastertone was being auctioned at $40k, while others on Banjo Warehouse, that are of the same age, and in better condition I'm thinking, go for under $10k.  Maybe it's just the auction house feeling it could get that much.

I know in the firearms industry prices have swung quite a bit as well, but somehow they account for it, but there is always that understanding that the prices quoted are just a national average and not a wholesale pricing guide.  They also tell you that you should not expect to get what is listed if you are trying to selling as there are a lot of factors that go into the final price/value of something.


Jun 30, 2022 - 6:51:21 AM

kd8tzc

USA

392 posts since 4/11/2022

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

What are you expecting to find?  Be a bit more specific about what you mean by "older banjo (open back, 5 string)".


That's a good question Joel, and partly why I was looking for a blue book so I could look at some of these old open back banjo's from the late 19th and early 20th century to better identify what I would like.  I think part of it is I want to own some history.  Being new to the banjo, obviously I don't want to invest a ton into it at fist, but if I wanted to start a collection, it would be nice to collect a few banjo's that were considered decent instruments.  I know that is a very ambiguous term (decent), but what I mean is something that you could play if you wanted to and not be afraid that it would break.  I also would be interested in something that the "average Joe" back then might have bought (not someone a professional like AA Farland).  This may be something that was in a catalog or mass produced.  It also may be something that was a little better quality as well.

Sorry, I doubt this is making any sense. 

Hide these ads: join the Players Union!
Jun 30, 2022 - 6:55:12 AM
like this

ChunoTheDog

Canada

1588 posts since 8/9/2019

Collecting old open backs is one thing, collecting pre war Gibson flathead opf's is like starting your own space program.

Jun 30, 2022 - 6:55:35 AM
like this

KCJones

USA

1750 posts since 8/30/2012

The closest thing we have is the Banjobuyer Archive. It's a log of past listings on the banjohangout classifieds. It's not perfect, because you don't know the exact sale price necessarily, just the asking price and if it sold or expired. It also doesn't capture the super high end because those are typically private sales outside of BHO. But with a little diligence and digging, you can approximate fair market value for most banjos. 

Here's an example for Bart Reiter banjos:

banjobuyer.com/make-archived/B...20Reiter/

As an aside, by my reckoning, banjo values in general are at their lowest point in the last 15-20 years.

Edited by - KCJones on 06/30/2022 06:56:40

Jun 30, 2022 - 6:58:36 AM

kd8tzc

USA

392 posts since 4/11/2022

Thanks @KCJones, that is a good starting point. Is there a database someplace of old openback banjo's (not including price) to get an idea of the different makers, and styles? I see there are advanced searches based on openback 5 strings on that site, but it does not allow you to specify an age range for the banjo.

Jun 30, 2022 - 7:01:19 AM

KCJones

USA

1750 posts since 8/30/2012

Check out SS Stewarts. You can find late 19th century versions of the Universal Favorite for ~$1000 or less. Prices go up with fancier inlay and condition. They sound wonderful and will scratch your itch for owning a piece of history.

Jun 30, 2022 - 7:07:11 AM

kd8tzc

USA

392 posts since 4/11/2022

Okay, thanks. Any others that might be good to look out for?

Jun 30, 2022 - 7:34:38 AM
like this

6999 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by kd8tzc
quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

What are you expecting to find?  Be a bit more specific about what you mean by "older banjo (open back, 5 string)".


That's a good question Joel, and partly why I was looking for a blue book so I could look at some of these old open back banjo's from the late 19th and early 20th century to better identify what I would like.  I think part of it is I want to own some history.  Being new to the banjo, obviously I don't want to invest a ton into it at fist, but if I wanted to start a collection, it would be nice to collect a few banjo's that were considered decent instruments.  I know that is a very ambiguous term (decent), but what I mean is something that you could play if you wanted to and not be afraid that it would break.  I also would be interested in something that the "average Joe" back then might have bought (not someone a professional like AA Farland).  This may be something that was in a catalog or mass produced.  It also may be something that was a little better quality as well.

Sorry, I doubt this is making any sense. 


Ah, so classic era.  i wanted to make sure that "older" did not mean 1990s.

I am afraid that you are just going to have to put in some work.  Sadly there is no easy way.  Watch ebay, reverb and the usual deals and start to get versed with the various better makes of banjos from the classic era. (always be skeptical of associated family stories).  I don't mean watch to buy, I mean watch to learn.

Also understand that that era of banjo does not conform to the modern expectations of what is considered "old time banjo" music.  They tend to be bright and sharp sounding. 

My biggest point of advice is to get versed with what these were to began with.  High action, low bridge (1/2"), and friction pegs are good things. It takes a keen eye to look out for hack modifications for "modern standards" like shims or various bits added to the end of the dowel to try and make the action suit wire strings.

Track down a copy of America's Instrument.  It is a good starting point to get your feet wet on the names of people involved.  From there move to primary documentation (of which there is a ton available for free in the web.

As you are reading old periodicals please keep in mind that this started as a young person's fad.  Often the humor and fun is lost on academics writing about an era that was driven by commercial pursuits.  A narrative has been slanted to make it seem like the classic era was populated by the "wealthy elite class" when in reality it was driven by the working class.  That same narrative will try and convince you that the music was "classical" when it was largely made up of pretty simple and playable popular music, along with all the standard jigs, reels, hornpipes, etc..

It is hard to understand that "fancy" and "scientific" was cool, and tailored suits were the torn jeans and leather jackets of that era. 

A lot of focus has been put on really fancy banjos among collectors. High quality did not always come with a bunch of useless shell inlay or engraving.  Avoid buying cheap garbage. Low quality of any era is still low quality today.  Unless you like junky banjos, there are people who focus on low end makes.

If you want to study an era or culture I recommend learning to speak and read in their language.

Jun 30, 2022 - 7:49:02 AM

427 posts since 10/8/2018

quote:
Originally posted by kd8tzc

Okay, thanks. Any others that might be good to look out for?


Well you mentioned the Farland, and he did sell a range of price levels. I have two that at the time were his highest price point and both I bought in the last 4 years in the price range you mentioned $300- $900. The first ($300ish) was a basket case that needed quite a lot of work. The other ($900ish), sitting on my lap right now, is only in need of a little cleaning and dusting, but is playable as I received it a week ago! I have a couple of posts about it if you scroll down. Both of these were Buy it Now prices on eBay and you have to catch them when they are first listed as they don't last long if the price is right. My first open back was less than 5 years ago, a Buckbee factory "every man's" banjo that had been put together back around 1890 and had lots of self made parts to make it his own! It needed a lot of work, but was so much fun getting it to be playable again! The process generated my own wonder about this person who left his initials and date (W. C. 1893) on his homemade tailpiece made from an old octagonal 5 cent Factory token, that I had to get another of these old late 1800's open backs. And so it started and I sit here writing to you 16 banjos later! Be careful what you wish for...

Jun 30, 2022 - 8:02:45 AM

kd8tzc

USA

392 posts since 4/11/2022

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

Track down a copy of America's Instrument. 

 

 


Ugh.... another out of print book that costs a bunch of $$.  I love history, so I love these types of books, but it kills me when I see the price of them.

And Yes Willie, I did mention AA Farland, I guess I was talking about the person though (him being a professional).  Did he play his own banjo's (I guess he would have at some point), but I wonder if these were what he used at his many concerts.

Joel, you are right on the money of what I am looking at... working class instruments.  Not junk, but affordable, quality instruments that my grand parents or great grand parents might have bought that would last.

Jun 30, 2022 - 8:25:35 AM

hbick2

USA

624 posts since 6/26/2004

One of the more perplexing things is to try to determine the different models from the different manufacturers. There is no one place to look. For Gibson banjos there is earnestbanjo.com For SS Stewart banjos, there is a wonderful catalog reprint that I believe is still available. For Fairbanks banjos, there is only one surviving catalog and that one was from 1906, after the company was bought out by Vega. There are a number of surviving Vega and Gibson catalogs. Many of them are available for free here:

https://acousticmusic.org/research/guitar-information/catalogs/

Piecing things together from old catalogs, however,  is difficult, to say the least. Plus, models changed over the years. And none of this speaks to current value. It would be nice if there were a place on Banjo Hangout where this information could be readily available. Say, for instance, there was a Fairbanks Banjo page that listed all of the various Fairbanks models and had some pictures and descriptions of each. It would, however, need to be monitored by a single person who decided what was and wasn't posted. That person would have to be knowledgeable enough to distinguish between good and bad information. So, for Stewart banjos, someone like Joel would be the best choice. He seems to know pretty much everything about them. 

One thing that is done in the Phonograph world is that various models are sometimes given a rarity value and a monetary value. For instance, a phonograph might have a rarity value of 1 which means there are few examples surviving or 5 which means they are quite common. Rarity, however, does not necessarily mean desirability, so they can also be given a monetary value, such as 1 for under $200 to 5 for over $5000.  These are just examples, but I think you get the point. One thing nice about the monetary value is that, as the market changes, you can change the value of a 1 or a 5 or so forth. 

Jun 30, 2022 - 8:30:05 AM

kd8tzc

USA

392 posts since 4/11/2022

hbick2 Harry, you were reading my mind to some extent. I was thinking why BHO doesn't have something like that. I mean, many people here collect banjo's, so minimum, it would be super cool to allow each user profile to list their instruments, and tell a little about each, and they categorize those by type and manufacturer so that you could search and see all the SS Stewards, or all the AA Farlands, etc.

You mention there was a wonderful catalog reprint for Stewarts... do you know what that is called?

Jun 30, 2022 - 8:49:29 AM

6999 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by kd8tzc

hbick2 Harry, you were reading my mind to some extent. I was thinking why BHO doesn't have something like that. I mean, many people here collect banjo's, so minimum, it would be super cool to allow each user profile to list their instruments, and tell a little about each, and they categorize those by type and manufacturer so that you could search and see all the SS Stewards, or all the AA Farlands, etc.

You mention there was a wonderful catalog reprint for Stewarts... do you know what that is called?


https://archive.org/details/sss-catalog

Jun 30, 2022 - 8:50:49 AM

427 posts since 10/8/2018

quote:
Originally posted by kd8tzc
quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

Track down a copy of America's Instrument. 

 

And Yes Willie, I did mention AA Farland, I guess I was talking about the person though (him being a professional).  Did he play his own banjo's (I guess he would have at some point), but I wonder if these were what he used at his many concerts.

 


 He played Dobsons first, then Stewart's early in his career, but developed his own design, the Beveled Top Wood Rim Banjo, in the summer of 1900 along with builders from Rettburg and Lange who produced his new banjo. He began selling them in November of 1900 and used them for all of his concerts there after. I think they were made by Lange into the 20's. Of course Farland is only one of so many banjo's made during the mid to late 1800's to early 1900's. Some more well known than others and ...sometimes ...some cool old banjos that know one has heard of! I have one coming soon... if the guy I'm getting from ever gets it in the mail!

Edited by - TriMD180 on 06/30/2022 08:52:56

Jun 30, 2022 - 8:56:05 AM

6999 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by kd8tzc
quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

Track down a copy of America's Instrument. 

 

 


Ugh.... another out of print book that costs a bunch of $$.  I love history, so I love these types of books, but it kills me when I see the price of them.

 


I don't remember what I paid for mine new but it was not cheap to begin with.   i recommended it as a quick way to get versed with some names of major players (though skewed towards the special interest of the authors). 

The more difficult way...

https://www.digitalguitararchive.com/2017/08/s-s-stewarts-banjo-guitar-and-mandolin-journal/

https://www.digitalguitararchive.com/2020/06/gatcombs/

https://www.digitalguitararchive.com/2020/04/the-cadenza/

https://www.digitalguitararchive.com/2020/04/the-crescendo/

Read all of these, then go here and check out all the stuff I have posted on the internet archive...

https://archive.org/details/@joel_hooks

That is a start.

Jun 30, 2022 - 9:01 AM

6999 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by TriMD180
quote:
Originally posted by kd8tzc
quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

Track down a copy of America's Instrument. 

 

And Yes Willie, I did mention AA Farland, I guess I was talking about the person though (him being a professional).  Did he play his own banjo's (I guess he would have at some point), but I wonder if these were what he used at his many concerts.

 


 He played Dobsons first, then Stewart's early in his career, but developed his own design, the Beveled Top Wood Rim Banjo, in the summer of 1900 along with builders from Rettburg and Lange who produced his new banjo. He began selling them in November of 1900 and used them for all of his concerts there after. I think they were made by Lange into the 20's. Of course Farland is only one of so many banjo's made during the mid to late 1800's to early 1900's. Some more well known than others and ...sometimes ...some cool old banjos that know one has heard of! I have one coming soon... if the guy I'm getting from ever gets it in the mail!


Farland is in part responsible for the configuration of the banjo we know today (before the scooped short scale came along a few decades ago).

Farland was playing small "special" model Stewarts.  These were pitched on step higher for a sharper tone and carrying power. Farland worked with Stewart to develop as special sized banjo with a three octave neck (aka 22 frets).  This became the "Special Thoroughbred" model.

Shortly after this, SSS introduced TBs with three octave necks in 11" and 11.5" rims. Other builders started copying this 11" x 27" three octave format (more or less) and here we are today.

Jun 30, 2022 - 10:10:42 AM

kd8tzc

USA

392 posts since 4/11/2022

If anyone has a copy of America's Instrument and would like to sell it, let me know. I do have a WTB ad in the classifieds as well.

Jun 30, 2022 - 10:51:29 AM

5171 posts since 3/22/2008

Tell you what I'd do if I was you.
I would go on ebay and buy an old copy of Vintage Guitar Price Guide as cheap as I could get..
There is kind of a "Blue Book" in a small banjo section.
Before you buy check with seller to make sure there is a banjo section in that book. The banjo section will have some banjo makers names, models (sometimes) and prices and a few photos. A place to start. Once you have names, etc. that intrigue you use internet to see pictures of them. For example, Google "S. S. Stewart" images and you'll see a bunch. You looking at 19th century lots of spun rims if that's what you want. But there are a few wood rim makers from that era too but usually more expensive banjos. Once you have an idea of what maker(s) you want and can afford send a private email to joelhooks and IMBanjojim and I'm pretty sure they'll give you the advice you need.
No, there is no banjo blue book as you describe above.

Hide these ads: join the Players Union!

Page: 1  2   Last Page (2) 

Hide these ads: join the Players Union!

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.3583984