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Nov 29, 2022 - 10:34:46 AM
2 posts since 11/29/2022

I’m looking to buy my first banjo and am trying not to spend too much in case I don’t stick with it.

I saw a listing at a semi local shop for a used Silvertone banjo for $99. It’s from music go round in Greenfield, WI. (I would post a link, but the forum won’t let me as this is my first post).
EDIT: Link in comments 

Do you think this would be serviceable for a beginner wanting to learn bluegrass banjo, or would I be better off buying a new entry level banjo?

I’ve tried to do some research on my own with mixed results, and haven’t been able to find this specific model. Any input would be appreciated. Thanks!

Edited by - sfrank on 11/29/2022 10:37:12

Nov 29, 2022 - 10:36:19 AM

2 posts since 11/29/2022

Nov 29, 2022 - 11:36:42 AM
Players Union Member

TN Time


462 posts since 12/6/2021

It looks to me that it would be OK for a starter. It should have a proper set up though; i.e, head tightened, possible bridge replacement, new strings, etc. Hopefully the string action height will be OK, but a lot of times on these older entry level banjos the string action is way too high; if so, that would need to be corrected.

Nov 29, 2022 - 12:08:26 PM

7371 posts since 9/21/2007

$100 is the very high end for these and at that price should require no work. The rim is particle board (sawdust and glue) wrapped in some kind of plastic.

These banjos were cheap to start with. Can you play them? Yes. Should you pay money for them? I am not so sure.

Nov 29, 2022 - 12:12:36 PM
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Alex Z


5118 posts since 12/7/2006

"I’m looking to buy my first banjo and am trying not to spend too much in case I don’t stick with it."

$100.  Should be fine.

Reputable music store.  Looks like new head, new strings.  All the nuts and bolts are there.  If it can be tuned -- and they can help you with that --  you can't get anything better for $100.

Think of it as $100 to rent a workable banjo for as long as you want.  If you decide not to play or get a better banjo later, donate it to the Salvation Army.  Some youngster will have fun with it.

Edited by - Alex Z on 11/29/2022 12:16:23

Nov 29, 2022 - 12:21:47 PM

648 posts since 5/29/2015

From the photos it looks like the action may be too high. You should measure the bridge. It must be at least 1/2" high. Then measure the height of the 4th string between the bottom of the string and the top of the 12th fret. That measurement should be 1/8th of an inch. If the strings are substantially higher than 1/8th of an inch with a 1/2" bridge the neck is either bowed or the banjo needs its neck angle recut (neck set).

Nov 29, 2022 - 1:52:53 PM
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10305 posts since 8/28/2013

EVERY budget banjo will need set up, and many need more than that. I'd definitely check bridge height, string clearance at fret 12, Nut slot depth.

$99 seems inexpensive, but if there are any issues with the above, $99 can easily become $250.

The aforementioned should be checked on any banjo before purchase.

Also.bear in mind that a cheap banjo will always be a cheap banjo, and some can be discouraging to a beginner.

Edited by - G Edward Porgie on 11/29/2022 13:55:45

Nov 29, 2022 - 2:06:55 PM

485 posts since 11/29/2012
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If the neck is COMPLETELY STRAIGHT, the frets are GOOD, and the ACTION at the 12th fret is 1/8" then buy it! You'll get the entire amount back when you upgrade later on.

Nov 29, 2022 - 2:34:16 PM
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Alex Z


5118 posts since 12/7/2006

Gee.  $100.  Person brand new to banjo.  Doesn't know what "action height" is, or proper head tightness, etc.

And recommendations are like doing an overhaul to a $5k instrument that is 30 years old!  smiley

Go to the store, chat up one of the staff who plays the guitar.  Inquire if the banjo can be tuned OK.  Ask if the string height is about the same as on a guitar.  Ask how to set the bridge and if the bridge is in the right spot. Ask if the banjo has had any cracks or breaks.  (If any cracks or breaks, repaired or not, then no deal.)  

Ask if it comes with a case or "gig bag" -- a cloth case.  (Used is fine.  If no case or gig bag, then no deal.  Don't want to spend $50 for a gig bag for a $100 banjo.)

Plunk down the Benjamin, ask for a spare set of banjo strings.

Buy a decent beginner banjo book, and start picking!

Thousands of us did the exact same thing decades ago, with the same quality of instrument and the same deficient knowledge of the banjo.  This ain't a dope deal -- if the store is pretty straight with you about the playability, you're OK.  If you get the feeling that they are not giving you straight answers, then keep the Benjamin in your pocket, tell them you'll think it over, and exit.

Good luck. smiley

Nov 29, 2022 - 2:45:24 PM

13892 posts since 6/2/2008

Welcome to the Hangout and banjo.

What Alex said. Plenty of people, including Hangout members, started with similar instruments.  I can't tell from any photo whether the string height is good or too high. But if the action is currently high, I would expect it could be lowered to a playable height without the need for a luthier to recut the neck. Maybe it needs a shim. Easy for many people to do.

I think it's worth checking out and probably worth buying. $100 is fine for a beginner's resonator banjo.

If you're comfortable spening more, then you might search out a new or used Gold Tone AC-1. "Composite" (plastic) rim but good-playing beginner instrument.  The resonator model is over $300.  Give the SIlvertone a look.

Nov 29, 2022 - 3:55:17 PM

7371 posts since 9/21/2007

The one big advantage that these have is the wedge neck angle adjuster. If one wanted to use nylon strings then it is very simple to set the neck angle to zero degrees.

Nov 29, 2022 - 4:59:13 PM
Players Union Member



6338 posts since 8/19/2012

Some of these old Silvertone's were not bad. I have a long neck that was originally used on stage. I paid $50 for it and feel that I got a deal. Came with a beat up case.
Suggest you contact Mike Gregory on BHO, he lives in the Milwaukee area and used to own a music store and can give you some guidance. One thing is that these were built with a steel rod in the neck instead of a truss rod. This keeps the neck straight. You can test this with a magnet.
My only issue with the long neck is the width of the nut, the neck's are pretty narrow for 'fat fingers' like me. I don't know if this applies to the standard length neck.

Nov 30, 2022 - 11:38:04 AM

2925 posts since 4/16/2003

That's what I started out on, in 1964.
Kenny Ingram once said that he did the same.

Price from Sears in 1964 was about $35, if I remember right.
Considering inflation, $99 is ok, SO LONG AS it's in good, playable condition.

Mine came with a 45rpm instruction record from Earl Scruggs' friend Nat Winston, which I wish I still had.

If this one comes with that, let me know !

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