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Dec 2, 2023 - 12:34:59 PM
214 posts since 1/17/2019

Just curious. I read folks talking about Chinese and Japanese banjos. I was wondering which banjo brands are not manufactured in the US. Maybe some companies claim theirs are manufactured here but perhaps components are made elsewhere and then assembled here …like cars? Also saw a statement about overseas plastic banjos?

Dec 2, 2023 - 12:57:29 PM

26 posts since 10/2/2019

Deering is all American made. Recording King and Gold Tone are made in Asia and then given a final set up in US. I own 2 Deerings that I'm very happy with and take lessons with many GT and RK owners who are very happy with their banjos.

I think it comes down to quality control and final set-up. Good banjos can be made abroad and crappy banjos can be made in the USA and certainly vice versa. You get what you pay for.

I owned a Korean made Lida (iida? never could figure out the script on the peghead) which served me well as a beginner but as my playing got better it's shortcomings became more evident. I was glad to have it though because I was renting one from my school and could only keep it for 2 month periods while taking lessons. It served me well and gave me a little time to save up for something better.

Dec 2, 2023 - 1:08:20 PM

GP banjo


16 posts since 11/30/2023

Deering banjos are all made in the US. That I know.
There's also a couple of small shops that make clawhammer banjos scattered throughout America.
Hope this helps (:

Dec 2, 2023 - 1:52:58 PM
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483 posts since 3/24/2020

Mine are made in Ireland!


Dec 2, 2023 - 1:53:08 PM
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1365 posts since 1/26/2011

Just a few USA made companies:


I’m sure others will list more.

Dec 2, 2023 - 1:55:01 PM
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14812 posts since 6/2/2008

Most of the independent, low-volume, brands are from maker-owned shops here in the U.S. Huber, Hatfield, Bishline, Nechville, Sullivan, Davis, Companion. Ken LeVan is making works of banjo art in Pennsylvania. As mentioned before there are several open back makers at work throughout the U.S.

Prucha is made in the Czech Republic.

Other than Deering, any banjos available from multiple online retailers are likely to be Asian made.

A long time ago, Fender and Epiphone banjos were made in the U.S. Epiphone went Asian in the 70s. Fender in the 80s or 90s. And now no more.

When Gold Tone started up some time in the last century their model was exactly as you speculated about: Early company promotion said they were sourcing components from Asia (Korea at the time) and assembling complete banjos in Titusville, Florida. I don't know when that changed, but today their banjos are made in China and inspected and set up in Florida. They do have skilled luthiers in Florida. If you order a Bela Fleck Bluegrass Heart neck, you can send them your pot and they will custom fit it.

The Gold Tone AC-1 is one of those composite rim Chinese banjos you've heard of. It's a good instrument that fills a need.

Edited by - Old Hickory on 12/02/2023 13:57:05

Dec 2, 2023 - 2:17:51 PM
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Players Union Member



255 posts since 11/26/2007

Someone else more knowledgeable than me may correct me but I think most shops in the US are using generic hardware and flanges, hooks/nuts, tension hoops, etc.
Warren Yates makes most of, if not all his own parts. He has videos showing making his own thumbscrews. This may insight some disagreement but it seems like most builders are more assemblers …. They build necks and rims and tone rings then assemble with other parts. Yates is the closest shop to doing everything from scratch. Again, I am not sure how accurate this is but I came across another thread from years ago discussing this same topic.

Dec 2, 2023 - 2:20:20 PM

214 posts since 1/17/2019

Read an article on gold tone which stated they have been manufacturing banjos in Titusville Fla since 1993. Their site does not address where they are manufactured. I think if the company marketing does not emphasize “American made”, one can assume Asian/non American.

No prejudice either way, just wondering.

Dec 2, 2023 - 3:09:46 PM

3630 posts since 4/5/2006

Paul Hawthorne on Asian Banjos common to the 70s. Note: Gold Tone is not (Saga) Gold Star! Paul devoted an entire section to Gold Star banjos, specifically the JD Crowe model, of which he owned two. Paul also owned several Gibson Mastertone Banjos at the time.

There was also a healthy aftermarket for custom banjos, as well as banjo parts, & kits. California was a hotbed of custom makers.

Dec 2, 2023 - 3:11:36 PM
Players Union Member



1376 posts since 11/8/2014

OME banjos are built in America, with 100% North American parts used. Gold Tone entered into a tentative agreement years ago for Gold Tone to acquire OME, with the agreement that OME would always remain a brand built in America. I see that now there is a second location on OME's website in Titusville, Florida, so maybe that agreement is getting finalized.

Edited by - rmcdow on 12/02/2023 15:11:53

Dec 2, 2023 - 4:00:30 PM
Players Union Member



57 posts since 10/26/2020

OME is now a Gold Tone product. Make of that what you will.

Dec 2, 2023 - 4:16:31 PM
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3630 posts since 4/5/2006

I wouldn't hold it against an independent banjo maker to outsource small parts, of little significance, as long as quality was up to par.  

Dec 2, 2023 - 5:21:30 PM

Alex Z


5731 posts since 12/7/2006

The "made" designation has been used more like "final assembly" of cars.  Where do the ebony, rosewood, mahogany, abalone, copper and other metal for alloys for banjo parts, come from?

Assembled in USA -- yes.  Some/most parts cast and machined in USA -- yes.  Wood all from USA -- not all.  Metals for alloy of parts from USA -- not all.

"Dang nab it.  My banjo is made in the good ol'  New Nited States of 'merica." *  smiley

  * Some components from other countries.

Dec 2, 2023 - 5:46:37 PM

740 posts since 8/14/2018

Manufacturing is generally taking raw materials and turning them into a product. So I think it is generally understood that when we are talking about making a banjo, that is what we mean.

Dec 2, 2023 - 6:16:08 PM

15585 posts since 10/30/2008

AMB -- American Made Banjos, made quite a point that ALL of their parts were made in America, and assembled in America. I still buy strings from them, but I don't know if they make banjos since Robin Smith passed. They had purchased the rights to the Kel Kroyden brand name for their line.

Jimmy Cox "used to be" one of the predominant American makers of parts, both metal and wood.

It is said Gibson used many Prucha metal parts.

Edited by - The Old Timer on 12/02/2023 18:18:23

Dec 2, 2023 - 9:01:19 PM

Alex Z


5731 posts since 12/7/2006

"Made in USA, with some materials from other countries" seems to be the most accurate label.  If a maker is using nickel, gold, ebony, rosewood, mahogany, and/or abalone, it can't be that "all parts are made in the USA."

The FTC has various rules for labeling "Made in USA," but that's for a legal display of a label, not the claims here that every part on a banjo comes from within the USA, and not from a foreign country. 

Dec 2, 2023 - 11:22:10 PM
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2927 posts since 2/4/2013

Originally posted by stevebsq

Read an article on gold tone which stated they have been manufacturing banjos in Titusville Fla since 1993.

I think you've been reading the computer generated nonsense article which says this, along with other nonsense, and has articles with similar nonsense for various companies.

Dec 3, 2023 - 4:32:06 AM

214 posts since 1/17/2019

The reason I mentioned that I referenced a “nonsense” article was not to imply I believed the article, but rather to point what is out in cyber world. Unfortunately anything I read these days I take with a grain of salt ….as they say.

Dec 3, 2023 - 4:53:21 AM
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61675 posts since 12/14/2005

SQUARED EEL banjos are made in my basement, using the cheapest guitar tuning pegs I can find, probably Chinese, and thumb tacks from The Dollar Tree (also most likely Chinese).
Pretty sure the soft drink bottles used for the heads are made in the USA.
Can't imagine importing millions of empty 2 liter bottles.
Lumber from the local building supplies store.

Anybody, anywhere, who e-mails me and asks for the plans, can get a set for free, and make their own Squared Eel.
All I ask in return is that they post a video on the HangOut of the finished product being played.

Oddly enough, as far as I know, NOBODY has posted such a video, but I keep sending the plans.

Dec 3, 2023 - 7:13:34 AM

8072 posts since 9/21/2007

As stated, the “made in the USA” claim is regulated by the FTC and they take it pretty seriously (as much as their budget allows) and have gone after small and large companies in the past.

Every single scenario that you or I or anyone else could come up with as far as a qualified claims (assembled in US, etc.) has been tried and addressed. Manufacturers will try to get away with any vague claim to trick the consumer if left unchecked.

Because of this the FTC has made it fairly easy with a handbook addressing all of the various qualified claims one can make and what they mean.

“Made in USA” means all or virtually all of the item and raw materials were made in the US. They explain what “virtually all” means.

Usually, if a manufacturer makes no claim to COO then figure it came from somewhere else.

Gold Tone’s “assembled in US” has tricked many people into thinking that they are “made up the US”, usually people who are new to the banjo. Now they use a vague “set up in the US” or something that is meaningless but IMO used to try and soften the blow.

Dec 3, 2023 - 7:51:38 AM

Alex Z


5731 posts since 12/7/2006

Yes, the FTC shows examples of the "virtually all" exclusion.  Mostly, it is the "significance" or "cost" of the part at issue in relation to the function of the entire product.  And the "significance" may not necessarily be related to size compared to the whole.

For a banjo, there are one heck of a lot of different parts, as compared to, say, a guitar.  For example, that little strip of ebony at the top of the banjo bridge, virtually zero "cost", but may well be "significant" if the banjo maker cannot do without it.  Or $2 worth of the nickel in the plating or $25 worth of the few microns of gold in the plating can certainly be significant to a $5,000 banjo.  smiley

Dec 3, 2023 - 8:32:41 AM
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Alex Z


5731 posts since 12/7/2006

A banjo is put together where it is put together, from parts sourced from where they are sourced.

The "made in USA" is a label, and the debate here is what's the logic of using that label, mainly for bragging rights.

The discussion is much like the "pre-war" label discussion -- how much of a banjo's parts can be changed out and still be called "pre-war."  Again, just a label and bragging rights.

Whether a label is in accepted use or not, it does not change the instrument, or make the construction circumstances different.


Several years ago, Martin Guitars changed its label from "Made in the USA" to "Made in Nazareth, Pennsylvania."  Heck, your D-28 is made from rosewood, mahogany, and ebony, and maybe some herringbone binding from Europe.   Some got all upset because "Martin is an American institution and they should use the Made in USA label and to me my D-28 was made in the USA and I don't want no politically correct Californians telling what to do and what's this country coming to etc. etc. etc. . . . " 

Big deal.  Go ahead and call your D-28 "made in USA" and scratch out the "Nazareth, Pennsylvania" mark on the back bracing and be happy.  smiley

Dec 3, 2023 - 9:13:34 AM
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2927 posts since 2/4/2013

We have a lot of banjos made in the USA in the UK. We can tell because on the front just under where it says Remo it says "Made in USA" and Ebay sellers find this very useful.

Dec 3, 2023 - 11:21:27 AM

Alex Z


5731 posts since 12/7/2006

Originally posted by GrahamHawker

We have a lot of banjos made in the USA in the UK. We can tell because on the front just under where it says Remo it says "Made in USA" and Ebay sellers find this very useful.

Yep.  That's the label.  The open question is, what does "Made in USA" mean?

Dec 3, 2023 - 1:10:01 PM

61675 posts since 12/14/2005

Zumptillion years ago, when I was single, somebody was griping about how those sneaky JApanese had renamed a town "Usa" just so they could stamp their junky products as "MADE IS USA".

But just now, having read this thread, I asked the Internet if there is such a place.

Turns out there is, BUT! It was called Usa long before WW2.


Dec 3, 2023 - 1:45:47 PM
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14812 posts since 6/2/2008

As the story you linked to clearly says, the underlyinh point of this is still urban legend because the existence of a Japanese town named Usa, whether real or not, doesn't help anyone skirt import/export laws. Products have to be labeled as to country of origin, not town. A product made in Usa, Japan, labeled only "Made in Usa" doesn't satisfy that minimum legal requirement. In fact, if that's all it said, it would be illegally labeled, and not allowed into the USA.


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