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Value of antique banjo … advice would be helpful

Apr 20, 2024 - 7:41:33 AM

jimbo17

Canada

7 posts since 4/20/2024

I have an S. S. Stewart Special Thoroughbred banjo that I inherited from my grandfather. I have had it for decades and have no interest in playing. My main goal is to find a new home with someone who would enjoy having and playing it. Given its age I presume it has some value, but it is in need of some repairs… the “skin” ( resonator) has a tear, and there is a sliver of wood missing where the pegs are, with that peg missing.
I live in a small city with at least one instrument restoration guy, who I have not approached yet.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Jim

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 04/22/2024 13:19:56

Apr 20, 2024 - 7:56:49 AM

225 posts since 1/7/2021
Online Now

If it's possible, uploading some photos of the banjo will be a lot of help for getting condition and value information.

It's best to take the banjo out of its case, and get pictures of all sides in good light.

Though in general Stewart Thoroughbreds are decent banjos. I might even be interested in purchasing it since I'm not too far away.  I've got a low end Stewart and have been keeping my eyes peeled for a nicer model.

Edited by - A Drum On A Stick on 04/20/2024 08:01:05

Apr 20, 2024 - 8:00:44 AM

jimbo17

Canada

7 posts since 4/20/2024

I will take some pictures when I get a chance.
Thanks

Apr 21, 2024 - 8:10:05 AM

jimbo17

Canada

7 posts since 4/20/2024

I had a chance to inspect the banjo and found what appears to be a serial number…
15818

Unfortunately there is no case.

Hopefully my photos will be attached.

Thanks for the guidance and banjo vocabulary.??


 

Apr 21, 2024 - 8:26:55 AM

jimbo17

Canada

7 posts since 4/20/2024

Please stop locking me out … I am not a spammer.

I have a few more pictures to post. They’re uploaded but I can’t see how to attach which is how I keep getting locked out.

Apr 21, 2024 - 9:15:37 AM
like this

jimbo17

Canada

7 posts since 4/20/2024

Photos…




 

Apr 21, 2024 - 9:19 AM

15227 posts since 6/2/2008

I just now posted a lengthy message on how to attach photos. Then I immediately deleted it when I saw you figured it out!

Welcome to the Hangout and its non-intuitive/counter-intuitive user interface.

Apr 21, 2024 - 9:21:48 AM

jimbo17

Canada

7 posts since 4/20/2024

Appreciate the effort Ken.
User interface design is a science.
Jim

Apr 21, 2024 - 9:38:09 AM

62086 posts since 12/14/2005

Thanks for the pictures.

Like that famous Banjo Appreciator Johnny-boy Keats once said:

Apr 21, 2024 - 11:11:18 AM
Players Union Member

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

30124 posts since 8/3/2003
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by jimbo17

Please stop locking me out … I am not a spammer.

I have a few more pictures to post. They’re uploaded but I can’t see how to attach which is how I keep getting locked out.


You are automatically locked out for a few minutes if you make a certain amount of mistakes.  No "live" person (moderator) is locking you, it's an integral part of the software.

Apr 22, 2024 - 6:26:30 AM

8259 posts since 9/21/2007

Regarding the actual banjo:

You have a S. S. Stewart Special Thoroughbred, 1896 or 1897 (there is no real list of serial numbers to date extant, only guesses).

Value: you basically have banjo parts. In the current very poor condition it is unplayable. The photos are not great and do not show all the condition. I presume it was attic/shed/garage stored and the fingerboard has likely come loose, wood dried out, and no telling what has happened to the rim.

You are missing the tailpiece. As it sits perhaps $200 or so. The cost to fabricate the broken part of the peghead and address all the other condition issues would exceed the total value when the work was complete. There are only a few competent enough to do that work.

Apr 22, 2024 - 8:00:48 AM

rcc56

USA

5101 posts since 2/20/2016
Online Now

It doesn't look that bad to me.  I've seen a lot worse.

I recommend taking it to your local fellow for an estimate of the repair cost.  And yes, that peghead can be repaired.  The work would require a seasoned hand, but not an absolute wizard.  And unless something really bad is going on that is not evident in the pictures, the instrument looks restorable to me.  The big question would be the cost of the repairs.

Clean Thoroughbreds in good playing condition can bring as much as $2000.  This one, skillfully repaired, might bring $750, or perhaps a hundred or two more.

Edited by - rcc56 on 04/22/2024 08:10:28

Apr 22, 2024 - 8:44:43 AM

2439 posts since 2/9/2007

If your intent is to sell the instrument, sell it as-is. Whatever money you spend on fixing it up will be more than the repairs will add to its value. Maybe a lot more.

Apr 22, 2024 - 11:28:21 AM

jimbo17

Canada

7 posts since 4/20/2024

Thanks for the feedback. I will contact the local fellow to see what he can do.
In the meantime, I’m open to offers for as is. Sending a banjo or anything else of that size and weight to outside of Canada would probably cost hundreds.
Thanks again

Apr 22, 2024 - 11:55:53 AM

225 posts since 1/7/2021
Online Now

Long shot, but do you still have the piece of wood missing from the headstock? The repair is cheaper if it's reattaching rather than custom-making a matching piece.

I wish it was a bit closer. I'm still a bit tempted to take the gamble on it, but it's hard to tell the condition of the neck, fretboard, and pot from the photos.

Apr 22, 2024 - 12:50:05 PM

rcc56

USA

5101 posts since 2/20/2016
Online Now

If the fingerboard is loose, take it to any reasonably skilled repair person.

To repair the peghead:

1. Buy or beg a piece of cherry and a piece of ebony or black-dyed maple veneer big enough to replace the missing wood.
2. Put a drop or two of alcohol on the inlay that adjoins the break. Let sit a minute or two. I'll bet it'll lift right out. Save it.
3. Sand the peghead's broken edge flat.
4. Using the other side of the peghead as a guide, rougly lay off the peghead contour on your piece of cherry.
Cut the cherry close to its final shape, but leave it a shade oversize.

5. [optional, but stronger] Cut back the existing peghead overlay 1/16 to 1/8" in a straight line from the edge of the flattened edge of the break. This will allow you to cover the face of the new joint with your new overlay.

6. Glue your slightly oversized new peghead piece in place. Titebond Original will do. We left it oversized in case it slips a little during the glueing process.

7. Let it cure 2 days, then carve away any extra that doesn't match the other side.
8. Lay off and cut the shape [slightly oversized] on your new overlay piece. Glue it on and let cure 3 days.
9. Clean up the edges, drill your tuner hole, and cut the little bit of channel that will allow you to replace the inlay you lifted and saved.
10. Re-install the inlay. The roundish piece missing from the lower arm inlay can be replace with a dot.
Perhaps you will have to flatten one edge of the dot with a file or sandpaper block to allow the dot to fit the cavity.

11. Sand and finish the new wood surfaces. Thinned canned shellac will work if you don't know how to French polish.
12. Install a tuner, get a No-knot tailpiece, a shoe, hook and nut to replace the one that's missing, and a head if necessary, set the instrument up, and play.

Bob Smakula can supply most, if not all the parts you will need. On a banjo such as this, you can go for parts that are not a perfect match, but reasonably close for the period.

Edited by - rcc56 on 04/22/2024 13:11:43

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