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How Much is My Banjo Worth?
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Author:  paulrace [ Tue Sep 19, 2017 12:59 pm ]
Post subject:  How Much is My Banjo Worth?

A Reader writes:

I have an Oscar Schmidt banjo . My great Uncle bought it 20 years ago . The serial number is 5069449 and it's a demo weather king. Made in the USA and it's a 5 string. Just wondering how much it was ?

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Thanks for getting in touch.

"Weather King" is the brand name of the head - it's made by a drum head manufacturer. If the tuning pegs stick out the sides of the head, it's a student model, the sort of thing you can usually get used in the $150-200 range. They're well made, but not professional as a rule.

Does the BANJO itself say Made in USA or just the drum head? I'd be surprised if Oscar Schmidt ever made banjos in this country. Japan or Korea is much more likely.

Today, OS makes banjos in China under the Washburn brand. You might be able to see a Washburn that compares feature-wise to your Grandfather's and try tracking the used value of those to get a more precise estimate.

Best of luck,

Paul Race
CreekDontRise.com

Author:  paulrace [ Tue Feb 27, 2018 3:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: How Much is My Banjo Worth?

A reader in Germany writes:

GERMAN USSR OCCUPIED BANJO. I was selling this banjo and someone told me it was antique and rare. Can I send you pictures to get

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Great to hear from you!

I would love to see photos. Also can you tell me whether the head of the
banjo is skin or a modern drum head?
Just reply to this message and attach your photos.

Attachment:
gdr_banjo.jpg
gdr_banjo.jpg [ 91.17 KiB | Viewed 12075 times ]


After seeing the photo I wrote:
Thanks for the photo. At first glance, it looks like a postwar student instrument, nearly identical to 1950s Harmonies made in the USA and the 1960s Aria and Lotus banjos that were made in Japan. So as a musical instrument, it's not that valuable. Unless it's very playable, which might make it worth something to a player. Also, if you can find someone who deliberately collects DDR-era musical instruments, they might be interested in it.

If there's a resonator, remove it and take a look. A wooden bar running from the neck to the tailpiece would increase its age and possibly make it pre-war. If the head is skin, that would increase its age further.

If there's a metal rim separating the banjo's head from the pot (shell or body) that would be at tone ring, which would increase its value.

On the other hand, if the entire pot is metal, that moves it to the low end of the "student model" range. Sorry. :-(

BTW, though these were originally built for Jazz, some of them are being restrung and used for Celtic music - are there any bands in your region playing "Irish" music or the like? This would work great for them as long as the neck is straight.

Again, a collector of DDR-era musical instruments might be your best bet. I know sax players who have collected DDR saxophones on purpose - some were very well made. No, they wouldn't be interested in your banjo, but it's a thought. . . . .

P.S. The value of 4-strings varies from region to region. If your potential buyer wants to play Bluegrass, this banjo will be useles. If he wants to play ragtime/jazz/dixieland or Celtic, a 5-string is almost useless and this is what he needs. So few 4-strings change hands in my part of the country that it's hard to find them and it's hard to sell one, so what you can get for it locally can vary wildly.

Hope this makes sense and I haven't shattered your dreams or some such. :-)

Author:  paulrace [ Tue Feb 27, 2018 3:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: How Much is My Banjo Worth?

A reader writes: I've read several of your articles. Well done.

I have a banjo question. Gold Tone 5-string. Looks to be a quality instrument. How do I find a model or serial number?

It is heavy, with inlays in frets and on head stock, needs to be cleaned up a bit and possibly needs a new drum head. It was my fathers, but I understand what you mentioned about inflated value.

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Thanks for getting in touch. While I would be glad to look at photos of your banjo and offer my opinion, your best bet is to call GoldTone directly at 321-264-1970. Their banjos have generally been made in China, then "set up" by technicians in the U.S. If the GoldTone factory sets them up, they will have a serial number. But there's another shop that sets them up called "Beard," and as I understand it, they DON'T put serial numbers on the instruments they set up.

Either way, the folks at GoldTone might be able to ask you some questions about your banjo and narrow down what model it is and possibly the year within a year or two.

As I understand it, Gold Tone banjos have been made since 1993, which narrows down the possible age quite a bit compared to many other companies.

Best of luck. Please let me know how things work out.

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