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Jun 9, 2023 - 7:50:17 PM

cjz

USA

2 posts since 6/9/2023

I have acquired an vintage banjo from my parents and I am trying to determine the age, make, and value of the instrument. Any help would be helpful.


Edited by - cjz on 06/13/2023 18:55:40

Jun 9, 2023 - 8:09:59 PM

373 posts since 7/24/2021

Post a lot of pics. Someone on here can help . Welcome to the hangout

Jun 9, 2023 - 8:14:06 PM

Omeboy

USA

3397 posts since 6/27/2013

Jun 9, 2023 - 8:15:12 PM

staceyz

Canada

177 posts since 5/30/2010

It is a Supertone, (I looked at the photos under your name)

Here is another similar:
banjobuyer.com/banjo/85488

Yours has a Dobson tailpiece ($100)

All fixed up about $500

Jun 9, 2023 - 8:22:37 PM

cjz

USA

2 posts since 6/9/2023

Awesome! Sorry I had a hard time trying to add the photos. This is so helpful

Jun 10, 2023 - 6:05:28 PM

337 posts since 6/23/2013

I wouldn't call that a Dobson tailpiece.....

Jun 11, 2023 - 6:28:36 PM

2217 posts since 2/9/2007

staceyz is in the ballpark, but maybe just a little optimistic IMO.

I can't see for sure whether or not that's a real (old) Dobson tailpiece from that one photo, but it doesn't quite look like it to me, and even if it were, I sure wouldn't pay $100 for one.

Jun 13, 2023 - 11:27:41 AM

2634 posts since 1/4/2009

I love the inlay, ive never seen that on a buckbee like this. I would agree all fixed up and playing well 350 - 500, I recently sold a plain buckbee very similar to this with a modern tailpiece for $500. So with the right buyer you might get a little more.

Jun 13, 2023 - 11:42:13 AM
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7747 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by staceyz

It is a Supertone, (I looked at the photos under your name)

Here is another similar:
banjobuyer.com/banjo/85488

Yours has a Dobson tailpiece ($100)

All fixed up about $500


Just curious, could you share how you ascertained that it was originally branded private label and sold by Sears and Roebuck as a "Supertone" banjo?

Jun 13, 2023 - 12:31:05 PM

3377 posts since 4/7/2010
Online Now

Though more and better photos would be helpful to accurately ID this banjo, I bet it is an Oscar Schmidt and not a Supertone.

Bob Smakula

Jun 22, 2023 - 10:23:32 AM

488 posts since 1/26/2020

quote:
Originally posted by cjz

I have acquired an vintage banjo from my parents and I am trying to determine the age, make, and value of the instrument. Any help would be helpful.


My knowledge tells me that this is a Buckbee from the 1890s, with a replaced fingerboard. Those "Tree of Life" fingerboards can be and have been bought for many decades. I suspect the original pearwood fingerboard dryrotted and fell off at some point, to be replaced with the current one we see here.
The tailpiece is typical of banjos from the Buckbee factory (also used on Dobson banjos, which were also made by Buckbee).
However, that dowel brace is not something that I recognize. Buckbee typically just put two screws through the rim into the heel of the neck. Maybe this is also a repair from years of wear?
I could give you a guestimate of value between $150-$400 (being generous). The tailpiece is probably half of that value.

Blaine

Edited by - tbchappe on 06/22/2023 10:29:14

Jun 22, 2023 - 10:40:32 AM

1967 posts since 1/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by tbchappe
My knowledge tells me that this is a Buckbee from the 1890s, with a replaced fingerboard. Those "Tree of Life" fingerboards can be and have been bought for many decades. I suspect the original pearwood fingerboard dryrotted and fell off at some point, to be replaced with the current one we see here.

The tailpiece is typical of banjos from the Buckbee factory (also used on Dobson banjos, which were also made by Buckbee).
However, that dowel brace is not something that I recognize. Buckbee typically just put two screws through the rim into the heel of the neck. Maybe this is also a repair from years of wear?
I could give you a guestimate of value between $150-$400 (being generous). The tailpiece is probably half of that value.

Blaine


That type of inlay pattern was available commercially since at least the 1890s, and was used on many cheaper banjos. I would say it's original to this one, which was most likely made by Rettberg & Lange or Oscar Schmidt. It looks a bit late for Buckbee.

Jun 22, 2023 - 11:16:30 AM

488 posts since 1/26/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Andy FitzGibbon
quote:
Originally posted by tbchappe
My knowledge tells me that this is a Buckbee from the 1890s, with a replaced fingerboard. Those "Tree of Life" fingerboards can be and have been bought for many decades. I suspect the original pearwood fingerboard dryrotted and fell off at some point, to be replaced with the current one we see here.

The tailpiece is typical of banjos from the Buckbee factory (also used on Dobson banjos, which were also made by Buckbee).
However, that dowel brace is not something that I recognize. Buckbee typically just put two screws through the rim into the heel of the neck. Maybe this is also a repair from years of wear?
I could give you a guestimate of value between $150-$400 (being generous). The tailpiece is probably half of that value.

Blaine


That type of inlay pattern was available commercially since at least the 1890s, and was used on many cheaper banjos. I would say it's original to this one, which was most likely made by Rettberg & Lange or Oscar Schmidt. It looks a bit late for Buckbee.


If you look at the discoloration of the peghead in comparrison to the fretboard, the color tone is noticeable different. Did Lange or Orpheum make banjos with that classic Buckbee peghead shape? I've never seen that shape from those companies. Of course that's not to say it isn't true.

Blaine

Edited by - tbchappe on 06/22/2023 11:21:31

Jun 22, 2023 - 11:30:10 AM

1967 posts since 1/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by tbchappe
If you look at the discoloration of the peghead in comparrison to the fretboard, the color tone is noticeable different. Did Lange or Orpheum make banjos with that classic Buckbee peghead shape? I've never seen that shape from those companies .
 

Blaine


Yes, R&L and Oscar Schmidt both made many banjos with that style of peghead. Orpheum was a brand of R&L (I assume you mis-spoke there).

The photos are not good enough to say anything with certainty about the fingerboard wood. Dyed wood takes many different shades over time. Also, this style of pattern was usually produced by using dies to punch the inlay shapes out of a thin veneer, gluing the shell and wire into that, and then laminating the veneer/shell assembly onto a thicker piece of wood. Sometimes an ebony veneer was used, which gave the appearance of an ebony fingerboard despite the fact that it was most often laminated onto a piece of dyed wood. 

Jun 22, 2023 - 11:46:29 AM

488 posts since 1/26/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Andy FitzGibbon
quote:
Originally posted by tbchappe
If you look at the discoloration of the peghead in comparrison to the fretboard, the color tone is noticeable different. Did Lange or Orpheum make banjos with that classic Buckbee peghead shape? I've never seen that shape from those companies .
 

Blaine


Yes, R&L and Oscar Schmidt both made many banjos with that style of peghead. Orpheum was a brand of R&L (I assume you mis-spoke there).

The photos are not good enough to say anything with certainty about the fingerboard wood. Dyed wood takes many different shades over time. Also, this style of pattern was usually produced by using dies to punch the inlay shapes out of a thin veneer, gluing the shell and wire into that, and then laminating the veneer/shell assembly onto a thicker piece of wood. Sometimes an ebony veneer was used, which gave the appearance of an ebony fingerboard despite the fact that it was most often laminated onto a piece of dyed wood. 


Yes, I meant Schmidt. I'm looking up several things at once and got my wires crossed there. 
Another reason that I suspect that the fingerboard was replaced is to notice the wear on the nut and the frets vs the complete lack of wear to the fingerboard surface. Those old banjos with that much wear to the nut would also typically see at least SOME grooves worn into the fingerboard. Even SS Stewarts, with actual ebony fingerboards show wear from using steel strings. There's also the 5th string pip being metal. The tone difference between the peghead and the fingerboard is pretty obvious to me.
But whatever. Take my observations as you will.

Blaine

Jun 22, 2023 - 1:52:15 PM
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1967 posts since 1/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by tbchappeYes, I meant Schmidt. I'm looking up several things at once and got my wires crossed there. Another reason that I suspect that the fingerboard was replaced is to notice the wear on the nut and the frets vs the complete lack of wear to the fingerboard surface. Those old banjos with that much wear to the nut would also typically see at least SOME grooves worn into the fingerboard. Even SS Stewarts, with actual ebony fingerboards show wear from using steel strings. There's also the 5th string pip being metal. The tone difference between the peghead and the fingerboard is pretty obvious to me.
But whatever. Take my observations as you will. Blaine

My experience has been that fingerboard wear is usually more a function of body chemistry and grooming than friction from steel strings. With the exception of the wound 4th string, fingers generally make a lot more contact with the fingerboard than the string itself does.  People who have acidic sweat or don't trim their fingernails can wear fingerboards out quickly.

That style of metal 5th nut is pretty common on this style of banjo. They were usually made of a flat headed tack with a blob of lead melted over the head. I've always wondered why... it seems like a fussy way to do it, but they are found on many Buckbee and Buckbee-ajacent instruments.

The fingerboard does look like it may be an ebony veneer. It's still quite possible that it is original, as this was a common pattern on medium-cheap banjos at the time. I would be surprised if someone went to all the trouble of gluing on a new Vietnamese vine fingerboard but did not upgrade the nut or the tuners. But I wouldnt be able to say anything for sure until I could see the banjonin hand, or at least in some better photos.

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