PO Box 882, Elkins, West Virginia 26241
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Banjos, Contact us...
Page updated 8-23-2019
Please Visit our Home Page for links to our guitars, fiddles, mandolins, and more.
FIVE STRING BANJOS
Coles Eclipse with Doug Unger style 4000 neck. $2,500. More Info soon. Photos
1916 Fairbanks by Vega Tubaphone NO 3. Gryphon Peghead, $3,900. More info soon. Photos
1989 Bart Reiter Whyte Laydie. More info soon. $1,500; Sorry, Sold. Photos
1921 Orpheum No 1 Tenor Banjo. Set up with Irish Tuning; $800, More info soon.
1895 S.S. Stewart Banjeaurine, from Tsumura Collection; $2.500; Photos
2006 Enoch Tradesman. Fretted, 12" rim; $1,000. Photos
2014 Enoch Tradesman Fretless, 12" rim, walnut neck; $950. Photos
2016 Enoch Tradesman 1/2 Fretless, 12" rim, Cherry neck; $1,050. Photos
Openback 5 string banjos are a specialty here at Smakula Fretted Instruments. Everyone who works here plays clawhammer banjo, a style well suited to the open back five string. We rarely have resonator Bluegrass banjos for sale, but from time to time we will have one or 2 in stock. Please inquire, as those instruments might not make it to the web page.
Fifth String Railroad Spike Capos; Installed free on request when you buy one of our banjos.
1986 First Batch Goose Acres Electric. 1986 would prove to be a prophetic year for the American entertainment industry. It saw the births of Lady Gaga, Robert Pattinson, The Olsen Twins, Lindsay Lohan, Shia LaBeouf, and Drake, to name a few. And what cheesy, egomaniacal, overproduced hellfire hath been wrought in those brief 32 years. Meanwhile, in Cleveland, Ohio, the Goose Acres banjo company was catering to an entirely different sector of the "entertainment" "industry." Calling back to an earlier America when the five string banjo actually *was* a leading symbol of popular entertainment, these rare Goose Acres Electric banjos day represent a benchmark in modern banjo construction. Personnel on file at this time include Kevin Enoch, Bob Smakula, and Peter H. Smakula, to give you an idea of the quality of this instrument. It has an 11" spun over rim with scalloped tone ring, mahogany neck, 26 1/4" ebony fretboard, and engraved mother of pearl inlays. With the exception of new, SFI-installed frets, and a fresh bridge and Fiberskyn head, this instrument is all original. Tone is clear and snappy and projects like an opera singer, or, perhaps, Lady Gaga? We'll let you be the judge. Sent straight to your domicile in a hard case, plus shipping. (P.S. - Goose Acres banjos never hang around for too awful long, so if you want it, move quickly!) Sorry, Sold. Photos
New Enoch Tradesman by Enoch Instruments. 11" or 12" rim with black finish, 25 1/2" scale, natural finish walnut or cherry neck with a Dobson-style profile and round heel, Richlite fretboard with dot inlays and an adjustable trussrod. Geared Gotoh planet & 5th tuners and cool octagonal dowel stick. Available fretted or fretless. In our opinion, the best new utility banjo on the market. GB; $1,335 fretted, $1,265 fretless. All our Enoch Tradesman Banjos are made with the optional fretboard scoop.
Enoch Tradesman Flush Fret. A great place to start your fretless career. Instead of raised frets, this instrument has inlaid white lines where the frets normally go. You can get the fretless sound and have the accuracy as long as you are looking. New with a gigbag, with Scooped fingerboard; Walnut neck with 12" rim and neck scoop is on order $1,310
Click here for a list of new Enoch Tradesman banjos in stock and ready to ship today.
1903 Fairbanks Whyte Laydie NO. 7. Our next guest needs no introduction - you may remember it from such pictures as "Exquisite Classic Era Banjos," "Exquisite Classic Era Banjos II," and "How Whyte was My Banjo." Please make welcome, this Consalvi inlaid No. 7! Really, though, if you are in the market for an instrument such as this, you may already know as much about it as we do. Here's the scoop, anyway. This banjo has seen a handful of modifications and repairs in its 115 years on this Earth. 3/4" of the ivoroid binding has been replaced, and there is a visible old repair on the back of the peghead. A string notch has been cut in the tension hoop, the left side of the 7th fret inlay has also been replaced and the tuners have been upgraded to prewar Ludwig planets. That said, the Consalvi inlays are in otherwise great condition, and beautifully showcase his peerless workmanship. The neck is curly maple with a carved heel, and the rim is 10-15/16" in diameter. It's outfitted cobra hooks with closed ball end nuts, a cammed no-knot tailpiece, and a vintage Clifford Essex calf skin head. It's fair to guess this may not be one's first choice for a daily player banjo, but if you do decide to have a tune or two on it, you'll find the tone is warm and balanced, and just a bit on the mellow side. Its tenure in the Smakula personal collection means it's been set up to play like a dream. We are offering it today for a pittance at $12,000. It's cool if you have to move some things around and call us back. We'll be here all day. Comes with a protective 1980's Ess and Ess hard case. Photos
1923 Vega Whyte Laydie N.O. 2. I really don't want to make a joke about this Whyte Laydie being a natural blonde, but it almost seems to criminal to pass up the opportunity. That said, the natural blonde maple finish of this gorgeous no. 2 is just one of an entire stable of specs that make this banjo desirable for collectors & players alike. It has a 27" scale ebony fretboard, 10-15/16" Whyte Laydie rim with scalloped tonering, and a bracket band. It's also been outfitted with a Fiberskyn head, ABM planet tuners, and a 5-star 5th tuner. Altogether, a great sounding and great playing banjo that can stand up to any and all dumb jokes we make about it. Now that is the meaning of enduring craftsmanship. $2,500 with superior hard case. Sorry Sold. Photos
1916 Vega Tubaphone NO 3. If years of following Phish around and hanging out next to the race track has caused irreparable damage to your hearing, boy, have we got the banjo for you. Tubaphones are more known for power than subtlety (to say the least), and this one is certainly no exception. Over 100 years old and in nearly new condition, this cannon has a mahogany neck with attractive carved heel, 27" scale ebony fretboard, and a 10-15/16" rim. It's outfitted with a Renaissance head, cammed no-knot tailpiece, and the original peghead tuners have been replaced with modern ABMs. The original friction 5th string tuner, as well as all 5 of the original ivoroid knobs, remain. It came to us with some alignment issues, so it is also the recent recipient of an in-house neck reset. Tone is best described as extra-crispy, or, let's put it like this: if you're in the market for something that can sing louder and cut deeper than a Tubaphone, it's probably got a resonator. Clear enough? Yours for $3,800. Comes with original hard case. Photos
1926 Vega Tubaphone #3. When this banjo was manufactured. 87 years ago, tenor and plectrum 4 string banjos were all the rage. Original five string banjos from any of the major manufacturers were available, but certainly not common. This great example of a Vega five string banjo has a mahogany neck with a carved heel, a 27" scale ebony fretboard, and a mother of pearl inlaid peghead with the word Vega surrounded by a floral vine. New ABM small shaft planet tuners with the banjo's original grained ivoroid tuner knobs have been installed along with a complementary Schaller geared fifth string tuner. The 10-15/16" Tubaphone rim is in great shape and includes a new No-Knot tailpiece and Remo Fiberskyn head. The only issue with this banjo is a repair to a broken peghead ear. The repair is strong and will not fail. All in all the banjo falls in excellent minus condition category. The price with a modern Superior bump hard shell case is $3,000. Photos
1882 Fairbanks and Cole. Audrey Hepburn. Bugatti automobiles. The Biltmore estate. Sure they might seem like unquestionable icons of classic elegance, but in comparison to this instrument, they have the sophistication of getting arrested in the parking lot of a Tudor's Biscuit World for selling pirated DVDs. The 11 9/16" spunover rim has a gorgeous new Stern Calf skin head installed, a bone tailpiece, a two foot bridge similar to what it would have had originally, and a surprisingly comfortable original Walker's Arm Rest. The mahogany neck has an ebony backstrap, peghead overlay, and new 26 3/16" fingerboard installed here at SFI. All inlays are original save for a few on the fretboard. While the ebony violin style friction pegs aren't the most ideal in terms of modern functionality, they are what this instrument would have had originally so given its age and originality, we opted to install new reproductions. It's stung with Nylgut strings, and paired with the fresh set of frets it has, it plays effortlessly and sounds mellow with just a little bit of snap, as required by many black tied classic banjos players. Be the classiest person you know and get this. It embodies the best of 1882, in contrast with The Chinese Exclusion act and the death of Mary Todd Lincoln. $2,200 With TKL Hardshell case. Photos
1910 Vega-Fairbanks Tubaphone rim with Bob Anderson "Bee and Thistle" neck. Easily the fanciest bee- themed banjo in the shop. The Cocobolo neck has a 23 3/8" scale fingerboard festooned with inlays of honey bees, honey combs, thistles, and possibly the most elaborate bee hive ever inlayed on a banjo. The peghead overlay has a rather large thistle with bee on top presumably pollinating it, and the peghead's back strap is adorned with the rear view of that image. The neck also features extensive thistle themed heel carving that extends all the way up to the seventh fret, as well as Five Star Planetary tuners that have elegant amber knobs. The 10 3/4" rim's hardware is all gold plated minus the original cammed No-Knot tailpiece, and has the typical Vega blonde finish. Oh yeah and there are some more bees on the dowel stick. Overwhelmed? Yep, me too. But if you need a bee-lated Christmas gift for your favorite old-time banjo/apiary enthusiast, I humbly submit a suggestion. With TKL hard case, $6,500 Photos
1971 Vega PS-1, Pete Seeger Longneck. Pete Seeger - singer, banjo player, activist, and face of the American folk revival, thanks in no small part to his classic show, Rainbow Connection, which featured the likes of Elizabeth Cotten, Roscoe Holcomb, and . . . wait... Quest! The show was Rainbow Quest. Sorry. But I have to admit - a Seeger/Kermit co-hosted talk show would be nothing short of heavenly balm for the troubled world we live in today. But alas. Let us turn our attention to this dashing 1971 Vega Longneck. Built shortly after Martin Guitar acquired Vega, the parts of this banjo were made in Needham, MA and assembled in Nazareth, PA. It has a 32" scale, 10-15/16" diameter, Tubaphone tone ring with late period "dogbone" holes, maple neck, ebony fretboard, and Grover Rotomatic tuners. With the exception of an SFI fret job and new Remo frosted head, all parts are original. It also comes with the original Lifton "Built Like a Fortress" hard case. This instrument is in excellent condition and sounds fantastic, balanced perfectly from the rich low end to the clear, shimmery high end. Sent straight to your door for $2,850 plus shipping. Photos
1978 Vega Tubaphone No 2-5. From 1970 to 1979 the Martin Guitar Company owned the Vega name and produced just under 2,000 Vega branded instruments in their Nazareth PA shop. In 1979, the Vega name was sold to Galaxy Trading of Korea beginning a 10-year run of embarrassingly mediocre Asian made banjos with an iconic brand name attached. With the serial number of 1943, this banjo is one of the last made in Pennsylvania. The bound rosewood fretboard has a 26-1/4" scale and a 1-1/8" nut width. The 24-bracket rim has an 11" Tubaphone tonering and is fitted with a Fiberskyn head. The parts appear all original with the exception of the previously mentioned head. Rosewood armrest cover, and floral pierced tailpiece. Tone is full, meaty, and precise. A great sounding and playing banjo from the end of the 10 year Pennsylvania Vega era. $1,200 with original hard case. Photos
1897 Cole's Eclipse Man In The Moon. At a recent banjo conference we had the pleasure of a presentation of historic Boston banjo shop locations. The presenter went into great detail on architecture and the need for good natural light back in the days before electric lights were common. The most amazing find in that presentation started with photo of a gas main explosion on Tremont Street. Big hole in the ground and injuries. Far in the distance there was a small dot that when enlarged you could read the sign; W.A. Cole Banjos. Our treat of the day from that era of Tremont Street is this Cole's Eclipse Man In The Moon banjo. It has the stunning Icilio Consalvi engraved inlays on the 27" scale ebony fretboard. SFI's master banjo technician has reset the neck and refretted the fretboard. The other small, but welcome, modernization is the addition of ABM planet tuners on the peghead and a geared Schaller fifth tuner. All five tuners have the banjo's original grained ivoroid tuner knobs installed. The rim diameter of this banjo is 10-1/2". with, if not the original calf skin head, one nearly as old. The shoes are long two point and all 24 original brackets are present. The tone has a full warmth and the playing is precise. The price is $2,600 and we include hard case. Sorry Sold. Photos
1900 Cole's Eclipse Man In The Moon Banjeaurine. The way people talk about Icilio Consalvi, you'd think he hung the moon. And, like any other conspiracy theory, we can neither confirm nor deny this claim. However, we can confirm that he engraved a few moons in his time, i.e., this wonderful 1900 Cole's Eclipse banjeaurine. This distinctive instrument is in excellent condition, with little more than the bare minimum of wear & tear one might expect from an almost 120 year old item. It has a mahogany neck with 21-1/2" scale ebony fretboard, boat heel, and the original friction tuners with grained ivoroid knobs. Though the dowel stick is stamped "Cole's Eclipse," the rim is an 11" full spun over rim, as opposed to a 1/2 spun with Eclipse tonering. Consalvi-engraved mother of pearl and abalone inlays adorn the peghead and fretboard, including the iconic man-in-the-moon design. Hardware also includes long two pointed shoes, with closed ball end nuts, and the original Elite tailpiece. It's been outfitted with a high grade Stern Tanning calf skin head, and nylgut strings. Tone is round and warm but with a surprising bite, putting out far more decibels and twang than you might expect. Mucho fun. $2,200, including the original leather case. Sorry Sold. Photos
1920 Cole's Eclipse Professional. Though this is one of the banjos made late in this firms history, it is still a high quality instrument. With it's 27" scale and the 10 7/8" head it has a bright and precise sound. The ebony fretboard is inlaid with dots, the peghead features an engraved floral design. Modern ABM geared tuners have been installed, the frets replaced, and a proper neck reset done here in our shop. Condition is in the very good range. With a modern hard case this banjo is $1,900. Photos
1999 Boucher Copy by George Wunderlich. Nothing screams Baltimore like National Bohemian, Blue Crabs, and Boucher. For the uninitiated, William Boucher's 19th century banjo designs laid much of the groundwork for the instrument's future as a commercially produced item. Critical to this was the bentwood rim design in place of the traditional gourd body, and use of metal brackets to hold the head in place. Not exactly a Mastertone, but for its time, it was definitely one giant leap for banjo-kind. This faithful reproduction of a ca. 1845 Boucher was built by George Wunderlich in nearby Frederick County, MD, in 1999, and it is indeed deserving of your undivided attention. The dark red muddy finish, and fire engine red tension hoop, are among a few of this instrument's eye catching features. It has the traditional scroll peghead with "beehive" carving, and is outfitted with 5 violin style ebony friction tuners, and honest-to-gosh gut strings. Rim diameter is 12" and scale is 25". But this instrument is far from being just some artifact to hang on the hall. The real victory of this banjo is its playability and exceptionally deep, rich tone. We'd love it to go to a good home. Won't you help us, please? $1,500, with cardboard case. Sorry, Sold. Photos
1968 Gibson RB-250 Bow Tie Mastertone. Every instrument tells a story, and in the case of this 1960s Mastertone, that story is a confusing one. The original, yellow interior lined, Lifton case comes with three stickers: two are from an outdoor theater in Beckley, WV, from their productions of the Hatfields & McCoys and Honey in the Rock. The other is a San Quentin prison inventory sticker. Between these, the massive Kluson Firebird tuners, and sliding 5th string capo, there is an element of intrigue surrounding this banjo. If you'd rather be spared the detective work, not to worry - because one pluck of one single string is all it takes for this instrument to instantly give up any mystery or subtlety it might've possessed. We know that sounds unkind, but we don't mean it like that. All we're saying is, this banjo does exactly what it was designed to do: saw your brain in half, in a good way. It has an 11" black multi-ply rim, chrome plated, one piece flange, and the original 3-1/4 lb, 20 hole Mastertone tone ring by Jim Faulkner. The neck is mahogany, with a bound ebony fretboard, 26-1/4" scale, bound peghead with inlaid Gibson logo, and crown inlays up and down the fretboard. The plating does have some checking, and there's also a dent in the binding at the 5th tuner, as well as the treble side of the 5th fret. The maple resonator sports an attractive sunburst finish, as well as marquetry around the sides, similar to a resonator from an RB-800. Not that there's much question as to what this thing sounds like, but let us say it again: for exceptionally articulate, precise, and hard-driving banjo playing, there is simply no substitute for a Mastertone. Mystery solved. Take it home today for $2,200 Photos
1991 Gibson RB-250. 1991 was a simpler time in the Nashville-Davidson County Metropolitan Government Balance. No one could have fathomed that one day the Gulch would be overrun with drunken bachelorette parties bellowing "Remix to Ignition" off of pedal taverns, or that tapas would be available for purchase within walking distance of the "Murder Kroger" on the east side. But its probably safe to say that when this banjo left Nashville twentyeight years ago, Greg Rich and his crew in the Gibson banjo department figured this banjo would still be making rakes, forward rolls, and tenth fret b string bends sound great today. The aforementioned Mr. Rich was responsible for early 90's Gibson banjos being held in high regard, and this is proof why they are. The workmanship is really nice and while it sounds just a little mellower than some Gibson banjos, it will still bring the drive and volume to let your neighbors know you can play "Lonesome Road Blues." Plus this is in great shape. The 11" three ply maple rim with a 3.3 pound flathead tonering has a frosted plastic head, nickel hardware, mahogany neck, and 26-3/8" scale ebony fingerboard and peghead overlay are all very clean save for some mild tarnish on some of the hardware and mild finish checking on the peghead overlay and resonator. Whether you're a masher or someone who likes playing Cherokee Shuffle in A without a capo, you'll find something to like here for only slightly more money than it took to bail out Jessica after she tried to fight the bouncer outside of Tootsies Orchid Lounge. $2,400 With original hardshell case. Photos
1890's Thompson & Odell Artist Banjo. We estimate this banjo was in its late teens to early 20s when it heard news of the RMS Titanic sinking into the icy Atlantic waters. It was a witness to the great depression, both World Wars, the birth of television, disco, and American Idol, and now, sitting majestically by my desk as I write this, it is no doubt wondering why I purchased a smartphone the size of a toaster oven. Instruments as old as this one have a certain kind of knowing quality to them, and at SFI we're proud to call them our specialty. This banjo has an 11" spun over rim, mahogany neck, 26-3/8" scale ebony fretboard, and fancy inlays from top to bottom. It also features a most unusual tonering, where the hoop is suspended on posts visible through small cutouts in the wood. It's outfitted with ABM small shaft peghead tuners, a Schaller 5th, steel strings, and a calf skin head. Tone is brassy and bright, and has been expertly set up for smooth, responsive playing. Sent to straight to your door with a Superior II gig bag for $1,000, plus shipping. Sorry Sold. Photos
1890 SS Stewart American Princess. We recommend banjo lovers being as specific as possible when Googling "American Princess." Otherwise, you may end up knowing more than you ever wanted to about a Lifetime TV series revolving around an Upper East Side socialite who flees her own wedding to join a Renaissance Faire. Fortunately, if you're reading this description, that means you're safe (for now). Quite simply, this banjo is more than deserving of its royal namesake. It has a 24-1/4" scale, 10" spun over maple rim with faux rosewood grain finish on the inside, and a cherry neck. It's been outfitted with ABM planet tuners and a Gotoh 5th, and the peghead and fingerboard were graced back in 1890 with stylish mother of pearl & pale abalone inlays. Immaculately restored by SFI's stable of expert banjologists, this banjo looks, plays, and sounds fantastic. Tone is tight and sparkly, equally suited to delicate solo playing, or broadcasting in a jam setting. Comes with Superior gig bag. $1,200. Sorry, Sold, but we just got another. Photos
1892 S.S. Stewart American Princess. You don't want to buy this banjo right now, and we can't blame you. First of all, it has an eerie quality to it darn near 130 years old and in fantastic condition. Ageless. Might be an implement of witchcraft. And that cozy little 10" spun-over rim with faux rosewood graining on the interior? That won't match anything in your wardrobe. Neither will the cherry neck with 24-1/4" scale ebony fretboard. And all that new hardware! New frets, geared tuners, renaissance head, no-knot tailpiece, reproduction hooks and nuts, wire armrest, steel strings . . . are you sure you can handle that much technology? Not to mention the sound of the thing so full, crisp, and articulate. Imagine it - all eyes trained on you. Feel the pressure. You're beginning to sweat. Nope, you don't want this banjo right now. And that's no problem. Yes, indeed, we're more than happy to hang on to it. But, on the off chance you do want to send your life into a hopeless tailspin, a modest $1,200 is all we ask. It's your choice, pal. Photos
1890 SS Stewart Little Wonder Piccolo Banjo. Remember the noisy cricket from Men In Black? Here it is in banjo form. In case the analogy is lost on you, we mean this is a tiny instrument that packs a startling punch. We'll spare you any more Men In Black references, though it's likely people will look at you like you're a space alien with this instrument in your hands. Regardless, this 1890 Piccolo 5 string is yet another fascinating Stewart oddity, with a vulcanized rubber fretboard, cherry neck, 14-7/8" string length, and 7" spun over maple rim with faux rosewood finish. It's outfitted with era-appropriate Champion friction tuners, a new calf skin head, and nylon strings. Tuned well above standard pitch, tone is tight and focused - think, aggressive ukulele, or tuneful Pomeranian. Yes, this banjo is elegant and strange and terribly fun to play, just don't be surprised if folks give you a wide berth when you uncase it at the weekly jam. Yours for $1,300 with Superior hard case. Photos
1896 S.S. Stewart Thoroughbred with Fretless fingerboard. No horse jokes today. Just cold hard facts about this excellent banjo. First and foremost - if you've always wanted to present yourself to the world as a person of intrigue and refinement, now is your chance to throw some money at that cause. This gorgeous 1896 Stewart is, in our humble opinion, the perfect balance of subtlety and "look-at-me." This effect is in large part created by the contrast between the original fancy peghead overlay, beautifully carved heel, and new, fretless, ebony fingerboard. The 11-1/2" spun-over rim is outfitted with a thick calf skin head, and the cherry neck has been refinished. Surprisingly not-frustrating friction tuners keep a short leash on the nylgut strings. The sound is warm with good clarity, and the new fingerboard means it plays great. An item that is sure to delight collectors of Stewart banjos, and anyone with a zest for fretless / solo banjo playing. This lovely instrument is yours today for a "mare" $1,000. (Sorry.) Comes with an Enoch Banjos gigbag. Photos
1920's Harmony(?) 5-string piccolo banjo conversion. You don't have to be an elf to play this banjo, on the contrary - this instrument is capable of elevating anyone's shtick from "charming" to "alarming." Originally a banjo uke, this 1920s 5-string piccolo conversion is likely a Harmony, though we cannot say for sure. And if it isn't a Harmony, it sure seems like one, because despite its gently battered, cheap-o appearance, it's surprisingly fun to play. Outfitted with a calf skin head and nylon strings, the string length is 13", and the rim diameter is 7". Neck and rim finish is a pleasing dark brown. This thing sounds quite a bit better than it should, and if nothing else, would look very cute sitting on the mantle at Christmas time with a little elf-hat on the peghead. $400 Sorry, Sold. Photos
Circa 1895 SS. Stewart rim with modern Jim White fretless neck. Much like DJ Jazzy Jeff, the name S.S. Stewart is synonymous with '90s music of various centuries from Philadelphia. Similar to the many of the sweet jams DJ Jazzy Jeff is involved with, this instrument is something of a collaboration. While the 12-3/8" spunover rim is an S.S. Stewart creation, the stained maple neck and rim interior marquetry is the handiwork of Seattle based craftsman Jim White. Using original Stewart style decoration Mr. White has created an appropriate presentation grade fretless that's as attention grabbing as the jacket Mr. Jazzy Jeff wore on the cover of Things That You Do. The peghead is covered in engraved mother-or-pearl. The ebony fingerboard has less decoration, but is quite complementary of the peghead. Turn the banjo over and get a dose of the large carved lion on the heel and the floral carving on the back of the peghead. The 5-star planetary geared tuners and Schaller 5th are upgraded with carved bone knobs that are beaded around their exterior perimeter. For a sound somehow deeper than the lyrics to DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince's 1991 hit "Summertime" we set it up with Nylgut strings and tuned low to an open E. We can't resist a banjo that booms like that sick Kenwood system you installed in your Impala after DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince dropped there aforementioned smash hit. Bottom line: this banjo is really fun and inspiring to play. With a Lifton hard case from the 1960's, this banjo is $4,000. Photos
2012 Gold Tone CEB 5 Cello Banjo. Somewhere in between a bear hug and getting mauled by an actual bear, this exceptionally clean condition Gold Tone cello banjo is booming in our shop. If you're not familiar with the cello banjo concept, it's straightforward whereas the average banjo rim is usually around 11" in diameter, this monster clocks in at a beefy 14". Thus, the low pitch, and distinctive growling tone. Strung with thick nylon strings, it has a maple neck, ebony fretboard, and a 24-5/8" scale. It's set up with a Renaissance head and geared tuners, and the fancy abalone inlays give it a touch of class, which it needs. Not exactly your "daily driver" banjo, but dang if it isn't so much stupid fun to play. Yours for $850. Comes with original hard case. Photos
1960 Harmony Resotone. When Leo Baekeland invented the first synthetic plastic in 1907, it's difficult to say whether or not he would've approved of his invention later being used to further the cause of banjo players and banjo sympathizers. But, it's not our job to speculate - it's to get the very best of yesterday's weird & wonderful instruments into your hands. Bakelite was originally used to make automobile distributor caps and parts for radios and telephones, but that doesn't mean this 1960 five-string isn't a practical implement. On the contrary, it is more than loud enough to make sure band practice never goes on longer than it has to. This banjo has a 26-3/4" scale poplar neck, the original guitar style peghead tuners, and of course, the aforementioned, 10-7/8" dark brown-finished Bakelite rim, with integral flange instead of shoes. It's been outfitted with a new Remo cloudy head, as well as a geared Gotoh 5th tuner. It also comes with the original Bakelite resonator, easily mounted or removed based on what the situation calls for. This instrument is ideal for student players who want something with just a touch more character than current factory made offerings, or for those who simply revel in all things funky, cheap, and fun. $200 with vintage cardboard case. Photos
New Recording King RKOH-05. Do you hear that? It's the weary and worrisome staff of SFI, breathing a collective sigh of relief for beginning banjo players everywhere. Why, you ask? Five words: Recording King Open Back Banjos. In recent memory, we've been consistently impressed by the quality of Recording King's budget priced guitars, and now we are happy to offer a similarly priced banjo of the same caliber. The RKOH-05 has a mahogany neck with 26-1/4" scale rosewood fretboard, and an 11" cross ply mahogany rim. Both neck and rim are attractively finished in dark red mahogany. It's outfitted with geared guitar-style tuners, and a frosted head. 5th string railroad spike and SFI wire armrest installed at no additional charge. Tone is balanced and full bodied, and it plays great. A fine choice for anyone on the hunt for their first banjo, or anyone in need of a solid playable instrument that can handle overhead storage bins, festival mudslides, etc. Yours for $250. Comes with Superior gig bag. Pictures coming soon
J. French Cleve'd O. banjos. J. Lafayette French made banjos in Cleveland Ohio from the 1870's to about 1900. We are currently researching J.L. French and his banjos. If you have any information on J. Lafayette French the banjo maker, or his family we would love to hear from you. We are also documenting any banjos made by his company. Please click the contact button and let us know what you know. We will also gladly answer any questions about J. French banjos to the best of our ability. Check out the in progress web site www.jfrenchbanjos.com
J. French Banjos, Contact us...
1915 Cole Tenor Banjo marked S.S. Stewart. In this late period in Cole's manufacturing timeline they were making instruments for other companies. We have had some Cole banjos marked Washburn and now this one Marked S.S. Stewart. After Samuel Swaim Stewart passed away, his company passed through several hands. At the time this instrument was made the Stewart trademark was owned by Buegeleisen and Jacobson (B&J) a musical instrument wholesaler. As a tenor banjo the restoration work is significantly more than the value of the banjo. But the 10-15/16" diameter rim will make a great conversion. All the parts are there and the rim has a great Rogers calf skin head. Price is $500 in as is condition. Photos
1923 Vega Whyte Laydie Style R Rim. These hard to find 11-13/16" Whyte Laydie rims sound great when a conversion 5-string neck is installed. This one is in very good condition and has all it's hooks & nuts as well as all the original 2 point shoes. It does not include the dowelstick, but we will be happy to dig up the neck attachment hardware you need. All original finish with the exception of the bottom of the rim where we had to fill a few screw holes where a previous owner attached a plate resonator. Price is $800 and we can get it in tomorrow's mail. Photos
SIX STRING GUITAR BANJO
1924 Gibson Trap-Door Guitar banjo. Though the booming, growling tone of this guitar banjo doesn't exactly call to mind the slick, summery sound of The Ventures, it did come from the estate of Jack Lord, so, it is, at least in spirit, an acceptable vehicle for the Hawaii 5-0 theme song. But, quite frankly, what you do with this monster after it leaves the shop is between you and the cosmos, and of course, any frightened roommates, children, or spouses in your path. Down to business - this 1924 Gibson artifact has a meaty 14" trap door rim, and a Cremona brown sunburst resonator. It's outfitted with an elevated grained ivoroid finger-rest and a wire armrest. The 24-3/4" scale neck is 3-piece maple with a moccasin peghead, and ebony fretboard. The finish has been overcoated, and we've fixed it up with new Waverly 3-on-a-plate tuners. There is simply no denying the raw power and personality of this instrument; a time capsule with teeth! Yours for $3000, with original hard case and case cover. Photos
FOUR STRING & MANDOLIN BANJOS
1929 Bacon B&D Sultana Silverbell Number 1. For when playing it low-key just won't do - submitted for your consideration, this wonderfully over-the-top Silverbell tenor banjo. With an engraved & painted celluloid peghead overlay, fretboard, heel cap, and resonator, plus an F-hole flange, and patented knee mute, this banjo has all the subtlety of a slot machine, but with better tone. Made by Bacon Banjo Company of Groton, CT, the neck is 23" scale maple, and the maple rim is 11" in diameter, with Silverbell tonering. It's outfitted with the original Grover pancake tuners, and Oettenger tailpiece, too. The inside of the resonator is crudely carved "A.F. Bochenek, CC Academy 36," but the carving is not visible when the resonator is installed. Minor gluing, cleaning, and new frets done right here at SFI - and with fret wear past the 12th fret, there's little doubt that this was a professional's instrument. Tone is crisp and powerful, so much so that we can almost forgive the boss's chord melody renditions of Little Brown Jug & Winter Wonderland - almost. Yours for $1,600, with the original hard case. Please call soon. On Hold. Photos
1926 Vegaphone Professional Tenor Banjo. Old, charming, and loud enough to punch a hole in the fabric of space & time - some might say this is our specialty here at SFI. It's true that banjos in general get a bad rap for their tendency to pierce and throttle, but we've seen enough in our day to know that there is a serious sweet spot, where aggressive volume and soaring tone come together to make an instrument that you'll never want to put down. And for 4 string players, this 1926 Professional more than lives up to its name, commanding more attention and respect in the right hands than any uniform or three piece suit ever could. The maple neck has an attractive subtle curl, and a 23" scale ebony fretboard. The peghead sports the traditional Vega vine inlay, and is outfitted with small shaft Ludwig Planet tuners. The 10-15/16" maple rim has at its heart a powerful Tubaphone tonering, and has been set up with a new, bottom frosted, Remo head. It comes with the original Presto tailpiece, engraved "Vegaphone Professional," and the original quilted maple, sunburst finish, pie section resonator. Recent repairs include a refret done right here at SFI. Comes with excellent condition 1950's Lifton "Built like a Fortress" hard case. $1200. Photos
1930 Bacon Senorita Plectrum, As Is. For some time, this banjo was moping around the shop, directionless. Our first suggestion was that it join the circus, given the neck's flare for contortion - not only is it forward bowed and twisted, but bent to the side, too! Holy cow! Our next solution was to give it a good cleaning, stick it back together, and make it available as is. This turned out to be the more reasonable of the two options. This 1930 plectrum is a more than worthy project just waiting for a home or at least a good conversion neck. The aforementioned neck is mahogany with pearloid fretboard and peghead overlay. Scale is 26", and it still has the original tuners, which have been outfitted with new pearloid knobs. The 11" maple rim has no tonering, and like the resonator, is wrapped in pearloid. All hardware is nickel plated, including the 24 brackets and tulip flange. Resonator sports an attractive greenish-grey sunburst, and a few spots of pearloid on the resonator are in need of regluing. It's an altogether pleasing and unusual package, one that belongs on your workbench, not under the big top. Sent to your door in a wimpy guitar gig bag for $250 plus shipping. Photos
Recent Blueridge BR-40T. This Blueridge tenor guitar is not guaranteed to make you or your band sound more like the Delmore Brothers, but by God, you can try. What we can guarantee is that regardless of how long it takes you to perfect your brother-harmony railroad-tramp shtick, you'll enjoy yourself along the way. This instrument has mahogany sides, back, and neck, and a solid spruce top. Fretboard is Indian rosewood, and the scale is 22-7/8". Body is 13-11/16" wide (O size) at the lower bout. For best results, tune in Jazz tenor banjo tuning, or like the first 4 strings of the guitar. Bright and clear and surprisingly loud, this very lightly used instrument is a bargain at $400, including gig bag. Let it on shine you, indeed! Sorry, Sold. Photos
1920s Washburn Banjo-Mandolin. Yes, it's loud. But there is a surprising warmth and nuance to this banjo mandolin that is rare in any eight stringed, banjo head equipped instrument. The 10 3/4" maple rim has a donut style tonering, which would be responsible for any trace of tonal subtlety this instrument has. The well-worn neck has a 13 1/16" scale fingerboard and a 1 3/16" nut width. This would probably make a really nice five-string conversion with some help from your favorite neck craftsman, but if you want your neighbors to "enjoy" your version of "Daybreak in Dixie" too, its perfect as it is. $600 with original hardshell case. Pictures coming Soon.
1920's Weymann Style 40 Mandolin-Banjo. Like Will Smith's character in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," this banjo mandolin was West Philadelphia born and raised. While significantly older than Mr. Smith, this well preserved instrument has retained it's freshness through the decades just as he has. Anyway, the 10 1/2" rim and neck are both maple, and all hardware is original. The nut width is 1 1/4", and the scale length of the original refretted ebony fretboard is 14 3/16". And yes, it's loud, but it's a banjo mandolin so you knew that. $700 with original hardshell case. Photos
1925 Weymann Style 35 Mandolin-Banjo. This is a clean and interesting piece of Weyman's ingenuity. A 9" maple rim, with it's likely original calf skin head and the Weyman patented neck adjuster coupled with a one piece hard maple neck with a 13-7/8" scale fretboard. The big bonus with this instrument is the slip on resonator. Sure it's louder, but you also don't have to feel the neck adjuster dig into your belly when you stand up to play. The straight neck and recently dressed frets make this instrument play like a dream. We also made a custom compensated bridge so it plays in tune. Hmm The best of both worlds? Probably not, but this puppy has the punch to be heard in any jam session. From Jug band to alt rock this one will fit. In excelent condition and the price of $950 includes a boulder alpine gigbag. Photos
1915 Fairbanks by Vega Tubaphone style M Tenor Banjo. Manufactured only a few years after Vega first started producing tenor banjos. This one, like most style M's, has a maple neck. The scale length is 21" and has a freshly refretted ebony fretboard. The rim diameter is 11-13/16" and has all the original hardware with the exception of the reproduction No-Knot tailpiece. Set up for Irish playing, with low tuning and the Remo Fiberskyn head, this banjo has a full tone that is sure to please. 2 minor alterations worth mentioning; a filled hole on the back of the peghead & refinished headstock (good work) and new Gotoh tuners. In very good to excelent condition with an original hard case, this banjo is $1,200. Photos
1940 Wards by Gibson Tenor Banjo. A simple tenor banjo made by Gibson for the famed d iscount mail order and department store; Montgomery Wards. This banjo has a mahogany neck with a 22-3/4" scale dyed maple fretboard. The 11" diameter 2 ply maple rim is 5/8" thick and has 16 brackets. There was once a resonator, but is long gone. This one sounds great as a tenor and has great potential for a 5-string openback conversion. In better than good condition with a well worn soft (stiff cardboard) case. Price is $450. Photos
1920's Weymann 150 tenor banjo. From the city of Brotherly Love (and Mummers!), here is a pretty clean example of the work of the storied Weyman Company. This banjo, which is clad in its original sort of green/brown hued finish, has a moderately figured curly maple neck with a 22" scale length ebony fretboard with 18 frets. The 11" maple rim, which also has some nice though subtle figuring, features a Little Wonder style tonering. A bulky, yet functional, "Weyman Patented Neck Adjuster" is attached to the heel and dowel stick, and its recent setup by SFI gave the instrument new Gotoh tuners, a modern no-knot tailpiece, and a fresh set of frets. $650 can take this one home in its new Superior gigbag. Sorry, Sold. Photos
1923 Weymann Model 135 Tenor Banjo. This super clean instrument from the early jazz age is in mostly original condition. The blond maple neck has a 22" scale ebony fretboard with dot inlays with new Gotoh planetary geared tuners installed. Unfortunately the Weyman Keystone State decal on the back of the peghead has deteriorated. The 10-1/2" 6 ply maple rim has no tonering. The Remo Fiberskyn head sits directly on the wood. With the exception of the tailpiece, this banjo retains all it's original nickel plated hardware and includes Weyman's patented neck angle adjuster. Set up for Irish style playing, the tone is clear and precise. But all you early jazz fans take note that jazz tuning is as easy as a new set of strings and a bridge. An excelent condition instrument priced at $500, including a good gigbag. Photos
1926 Gibson UB-1. This is your chance to own a pre-war Gibson flat head banjo for about one tenth of the current market price of your coveted TB-3 conversion. Well, OK this instrument is not a Mastertone 20 hole flat head. Actually has no metal tonering at all. But it sure is loud! UB-1 were Gibson's least expensive banjo ever produced but with a maple neck and 2 ply 6" maple rim it does have the features of a high grade banjo. The resonator is a flat plate suspended with 4 spacers. I love the stenciled "The Gibson" peghead logo. In very good/excelent condition. At the price of $550 it comes with gig bag. Photos
1920's Slingerland Banjo Uke. Like other Slingerland banjo ukes we've had in the shop, this one offers a nice all-around vintage flavor that won't drain your bank account like a vampire. Just think of all the money you'll have leftover for iced coffees or whatever. It has a maple neck, ebonized hardwood fretboard, 13-7/8" string length, and 7" birdseye maple rim, outfitted with a calf skin head. Dowel stick is stamped S.S. Stewart Collegian, so you can walk around everywhere saying "check out my new Stewart!" if being sort of a liar is your thing. After a cleaning and a new set of strings, this little guy came out swinging. Good and loud, it does exactly what it was built to do - chugga-chugga-chugga-chugga. An ideal instrument to have on hand for those over-caffeinated Sunday mornings. $300, with gig bag. Photos
1920's Lyon & Healy "American Conservatory" Concert Banjo Uke. Submitted for your approval, the weird and wonderful Lyon & Healy "American Conservatory" banjo uke (because nothing conjures up the rarefied air of the conservatory like a banjo uke). First item requiring immediate attention is the swirly, stucco/enameled/embossed situation on the resonator. Initial research hasn't yielded any hard answers as to the material or process present here, but this much we do know - the resonator is brass and the what-have-you is relatively stable but peeling. Furthermore, this instrument has a mahogany neck with a 15-3/4" scale ebonized fretboard, and an 8" maple rim. Tone is full and punchy, and the resonator gives it a nice bit of extra volume and chutzpah. Quirky, yet straightforward, this is a fine player's instrument at an even finer price - take it home today for $350 in a gigbag. Photos
1925 Epiphone Banjo Uke. For the practical strummer with an ear and eye for the antique and the archaic (we guess)! One of two fairly similar Epiphone banjo ukes in stock right now, this 4+ lb mini-beast has an 8-3/8" diameter rim, high grade calf skin head, and a maple neck with a knot on the heel. Low precision action plus a new 13-7/8" inch scale ebony fretboard installed right here at SFI means it plays great. The natural maple finish, unique bracket band instead of shoes for hooks & nuts, and the original vintage Epiphone decal on the back of the peghead, means it looks cool, to boot. Snappy and articulate and plenty loud, it's yours for $550 with a gigbag. Photos
New Banjo Uke Case For Vintage Gibson UB-2 and UB-3's. Several years ago noted banjo builder and inlay artist Kevin Enoch designed and had manufactured the nicest hard case for his banjo ukuleles (see below). They fit most any banjo uke with an 8" rim, with a notable exception; vintage Gibson UB-2's and Gibson UB-3's. The plate resonator of these instruments made them taller than the Enoch case could accommodate. Partnering with Enoch Instruments, Smakula Fretted Instruments has released a modified version of that case to fit those 8" diameter vintage Gibson banjo ukes. This case is attractive, sturdy and affordable. The introductory price is only $95 plus shipping. Photos
Banjo Uke Hard Case. Designed to the specifications of Kevin Enoch, this banjo case is certainly the nicest one on the market. It fits openback banjo ukes and 5 string piccolo banjos with an 8" diameter rim, 23-1/2" total length and a maximum depth of 3" (from the bottom of the rim to the top of the bridge). The simulated leather covering is brown, and the lid is arched for extra strength. Very nice. Retail price is $120, our discount price is $95. Photos
New Wire Armrest for Openback Banjo. One of the most important accessories we sell is this reproduction Vega and Fairbanks style wire armrest. Adding comfort to holding the banjo allows you to concentrate more on playing. Any banjo we sell that did not come with an armrest has one of these installed before the sale. And if you need one for your other banjo, they are only $18 for nickel plated and $15 for the raw brass. Photos
Guide to Physical Condition;
New; An instrument that came to us from the manufacturer. It has never been owned by a consumer and has it's full warrantee.
Mint; As the instrument came from the factory. No blemishes at all
Near mint; Almost as it came from the factory
Excellent condition, a very clean instrument that has a few minor blemishes
Very Good Condition, reasonable wear for its age.
Good Condition; plenty of player wear.
Plus or minus indicates the condition is half a grade better or worse.
We ship most of our instruments via UPS. Cost to ship a mandolin is $20 to $40. Cost to ship a guitar or banjo is $25 to $60. The cost of insurance is extra. We will be happy to quote before shipping.
Small goods like banjo heads and other parts cost $8 per order for Priority Mail shipping in the continental US no matter what the order size. The cost of orders headed out of the continental US will be quoted before they are shipped.
We are legally obligated to charge 6% West Virginia sales tax on anything purchased here at the shop or shipped within the state of West Virginia. We do not charge sales tax on orders sent out of state.
Call us at 304-636-6710. For payment we accept checks, wire transfers and MasterCard & Visa. If you prefer Paypal, please send us an email requesting a Paypal invoice.
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