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Unknown Banjo - Seeking Help Identifying An Instrument

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Aug 7, 2022 - 1:41:22 PM
2 posts since 2/18/2022

First-time post here, so forgive me if this isn't appropriate.

I picked up this instrument last year and have been debating whether or not to bring it back to life or to just let it be wall art:

One friend suspects it might be a kit from the 1970s; another friend believes it might be something quite a bit older.

Have used a mirror to check for markings on the dowel stick and none are present; likewise, no other maker marks in any other location on the instrument.

It has had some significant play wear given the fretboard. It also had a less than stellar repair at one point to the pip and the binding around the pip; fifth string tuner is in need of replacement.

Attempting to research this left my head spinning. Alas... any leads or guidance would be greatly appreciated.


Aug 7, 2022 - 1:52:30 PM
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400 posts since 2/11/2009

I'm thinking either Slingerland or Oscar Schmidt, but leaning toward the former.

It's probably from the 1920s. Even if I'm off by a decade, there's no way it's post-War.

Aug 7, 2022 - 1:55:35 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)


26326 posts since 6/25/2005

Concur on Slingerland and the date.

Aug 7, 2022 - 1:55:43 PM
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1645 posts since 4/13/2009

Yes, I think Slingerland from the 20's.

Aug 7, 2022 - 1:57:23 PM
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2971 posts since 3/30/2008

This strikes me as a Slingerland, c. 1920's.  In no way should this be on a wall.  It is well worth  bringing it up to playability.

Edited by - tdennis on 08/07/2022 14:00:46

Aug 7, 2022 - 1:59:57 PM
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1190 posts since 1/30/2019

The peg head looks like Supertone to me? I'm no great expert.....
Supertone only had paper labels, which obviously aren't terribly permanent. Made, I think, by a number of different makers, including Rettburg and Lange, and Slingerland. I don't know who made yours. Others may say more with more knowledge.
It looks like a nice banjo to get playing to me, but isn't very valuable or collectible.
Hope you enjoy it!

Aug 7, 2022 - 2:05:44 PM
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Players Union Member



5887 posts since 10/12/2009

That 5 string, pre-war Presto tailpiece is worth a couple hundred bucks all on its own

Aug 7, 2022 - 3:17:52 PM
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4593 posts since 5/29/2011

Definitely made by Slingerland. Five string Slingerland banjos are kind of rare and this one appears to be in reasonably good shape. Most Slingerland banjos were tenors. They made banjos under their own name as well as instruments for jobbers like Tonk Brothers and Wurlitzer, and mail order companies like Montgomery Ward. They also made a significant number of banjos under the Supertone banner for Sears.

Aug 7, 2022 - 5:24:38 PM

2 posts since 2/18/2022

Thank you all for your perspectives. It helps greatly!

Aug 7, 2022 - 5:27:37 PM
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10024 posts since 8/28/2013

Slingerland, probably from the 1920s (it's close to impossible to get an accurate date because Slingerland didn't use serial numbers and made banjos for many companies).

Tailpiece is worth a bit, but this should be a good banjo and unusual because it's a 5 string made during the tenor banjo craze.

It needs to be played, not hung on a wall.

i doubt it's "Supertone." Those paper labels do go missing, but usually leave traces of glue behind.

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Aug 8, 2022 - 2:53:51 AM
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Bill H


1975 posts since 11/7/2010

I have a couple of Slingerland conversions. This would be well worth the investment on repairs.

Aug 8, 2022 - 11:32:24 AM
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12355 posts since 10/27/2006

If you are going to bring it back to life, I recommend not using metal strings unless also replacing those friction tuners. I like NylGut but nylon works. 

Many of us will have old friction 5th string tuners that can be disassembled to rebuild that peg hanging on the neck.

If that tailpiece body is not at the ideal 90° angle, buy a P-118 repro, do the white vinegar aging trick and substitute it reusing the original cover. There are a number of copies but the P-118 is the body you want and fits the original cover. I keep them is stock ($30 to the US) and can walk you through the white vinegar process and cover swap (both are easy).

Edited by - mikehalloran on 08/08/2022 11:39:53

Aug 9, 2022 - 6:31:55 AM
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4286 posts since 3/28/2008

Also, strings 1, 2, 4, and 5 should pass UNDER those tabs at the leading edge of the tailpiece; the third string should pass through the hole in the middle, as in this photo:

Edited by - Ira Gitlin on 08/09/2022 06:34:40

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