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Banjos, Contact us...

Page updated 6-3-2023

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Just In;

1896 Cole's Eclipse Man-In-The_Moon. Details below. On Hold. Photos
1895 Cole's Eclipse Man-In-The_Moon. Details below. Photos
1925 Ludwig Bellvue Tenor Banjo. Details below. Photos
1963 Gibson RB-170. Details below. Photos
New; As-Is collection. Scroll to the bottom of this page for the list.



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 do have resonator Bluegrass banjos for sale from time to time. Send us an email or check back.

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; $1,475 fretted, $1,375 fretless. All our Enoch Tradesman Banjos are made with the optional fretboard scoop.

Enoch Tradesman banjos allways sell quickly. Currently we have 3 new and 1 used in stock. Click here for details regarding the Enoch Tradesman banjos we have available and on order.

1886 Fairbanks and Cole Imperial. 137 years old. Dang. I hope I look as good as this Fairbanks and Cole banjo when I'm 137 years old. Built for the style of banjo playing now known as "classic", the tone and playability of this instrument is inspiring to sneak out of the box and try new things. It works well for clawhammer, and I suspect electric bass tapping technique could also be applied. The mahogany V-shaped neck has a 3/16" thick ebony fretboard with attractive abalone and mother of pearl inlays. The frets and tailpiece appear to be ivory. The tuners have been replaced with modern Pegheds planetary geared tuners for tuning ease. The 11-7/16" maple rim is elegantly finished with black shellac and all 32 brackets are original, though not all the washers are patent applied for. Price is $2,000 with a hard case. Photos

2008(?) Doug Unger Prague Castle Commemorative Banjo. When you think of the Czech Republic, banjos are usually not the first things that pop in to your mind. This highly decorated banjo with an inlaid image the Prague castle sitting on the 12th fret has a good reason to have that design element. Builder Doug Unger was granted an artist's residency in Prague, Czech Republic in the summer of 1999. His daily walks had him studying the Prague castle for inspiration in both his paintings and the musical instruments he builds. The neck on this banjo is mahogany with a 25-7/8" scale bound ebony radiused fretboard. The engraved pale abalone and mother-of pearl inlay was inspired by Icilio Consalvi's work at the W.A. Cole company. I recognize the inlay designs being influenced by the models G and H (AKA 4000 and 5000). The back side of the neck features a carved heel and a back strapped peghead with a Fairbanks style dogwood blossom inlay. Most of the 10-1/2" Whyte Laydie rim came from Bill Rickard's shop, with the exception of the vintage long 2-pointed shoes, the square drive ball end nuts, and the vintage Common Sense tailpiece with a reproduction ivory rosette. Tone is warm and precise. Though the neck is bigish (At the nut 1-9/32" wide and 1-1/16" deep) it is definitely comfortable to play. The $6,000 price includes an Eastman bump hard case and all the afore mentioned engraved pearl work. Photos

Circa 2001 Doug Unger Cole style neck on Modified Cole's Eclipse Pot. To fans of modern interpretations of famous Boston banjos, the name Doug Unger carries a strong reputation for visual perfection. This particular instrument is strongly influenced by a Coles Eclipse 4500 model. The iridescent mother of pearl inlay fills nearly every fret space. With the delicate engraving lines reminiscent of Icilio Consalvi's landmark work this banjo takes you back 125 years to Boston's Tremont Street. The one-piece mahogany neck also has inlay on the back-strap and a carved heel. Look carefully and see if you can see the Greenman peering out at the world. The 10-7/8" rim is an original Cole's Eclipse that was modified here at SFI for a recent owner with the addition of a Fairbanks electric scalloped tonering. Though the wood and the tension hoop are original 125-year-old parts, the shoes as well as the hooks and nuts are modern, quality reproductions. Recent work done here at SFI to get this banjo in to top playing condition includes; new dowelstick and neck reset, new calf skin head, refret, and new planetary ABM tuners with a complementary Schaller 5th, outfitted with tortoise color buttons. The 27" scale offers a tension and precision to the warmth of the modified vintage rim. Yes, it plays and sounds as good as it looks. Price is $6,000 and includes a Harptone hard case. Photos

1909 Bacon Professional Model No. 2. According to early 1900's banjo phenom, Fred Bacon, the Bacon Professional was "built on scientific principles" and he guaranteed it to be "The best banjo in the world". Who am I to argue? This fantastically nice example was made by the Vega company before Mr. Bacon had his own factory. The flowerpot peghead and fretboard inlay are exactly what you would find on a 1909 Fairbanks by Vega Tubaphone NO 3. The neck on this one is mahogany with a 27" scale fretboard of ebonized hardwood. The 11" diameter "Internal Resonator" rim is made of maple and includes the Bacon Professional tonering. Appears all original with the exception of the Remo Renaissance head, Labella model 17 nylon strings, wire armrest, and 2 leg bridge made of beech. According to Bacon's catalog, "all instruments personally tested by Mr. Bacon." Though Fred Bacon likely played this instrument at least once, we do not guarantee that you will be able to perform Nola with the same skill and drive as he did. Though if you purchase this banjo you'll have a better chance at accomplishing that goal than anyone on your street. With a modern Superior hard case, this banjo is $4,500 Photos

1896 Cole's Eclipse Style F, aka No. 3000, aka, Man In The Moon. Some of the nicest banjos of the 19th century were manufactured at 179 Tremont St, in Boston Massachusetts. Thinking about today's real estate prices in that gigantic city, there is no way a small manufacturing firm could afford to build artist grade banjos at that location today. Those of you that are fans of WA Cole's work, will have a true appreciation of this instrument. The neck is Mahogany with an ebony 27" scale fretboard. The peghead has the often imitated, but seldom duplicated Man-In-The-Moon peghead inlay. It is our opinion that the inlay and engraving was done by the legendary Icilio Consalvi. The 10-5/8" diameter rim is five plies of maple with a black finish and includes the "Eclipse" tonering, a spun-over metal hoop resting on steel round head nails. The metal hardware is all original and includes 28 long pointed shoes, ball end nuts on the hooks, Elite tailpiece, Neck tensioner, and patented neck angle adjuster. Like most of the Vintage instruments that arrive to our shop, there was necessary work to get this banjo to play its best. Besides cleaning and set up, we did a neck reset. Using the original screw tension friction pegs, the banjo is set up with Labella #17 nylon strings. It sounds snappy and precise. Just as it would have been coming off the Tremont St. final assembly table in 1896. Price is $3,000 and includes a hard case. On Hold. Photos

1895 Cole's Eclipse Style F, aka No. 3000, aka, Man In The Moon. It is rare that we will have two of these banjos in the shop at the same time, but here it is. This MITM banjo has a mahogany neck with a 27-1/8" scale ebony fretboard. Some of the fretboard inlays look like they have either been reengraved, or maybe even replaced. The rim is black painted 5-ply maple and has the patented Cole's Eclipse tonering, consisting of a spun over metal hoop resting on round head nails. Tuners are vintage Ludwig planets on the peghead and a vintage friction 5th. Rim hardware has 28 long 2-point shoes, closed ball end nuts with the hooks and the requisite OEM Elite tailpiece. With the calf skin head and the Labella #17 nylon strings, this banjo has a great full tone. Price is $2,500 and includes a hard case. Photos

2000 (?) Boucher copy fretless by Bob Flesher. So just what does the late burlesque performer Blaze Starr have to do with this banjo? Well, besides Blaze having been a banjo player herself (pictured with a Gibson RB-250), it is a little-known fact that one of the several Boucher music business locations happened to be the same address of Ms. Starr's famed Two O'clock Club in Baltimore's theater district. Being a modern reproduction, the closest this banjo ever got to 212 East Baltimore Street was about a block away during a recent banjo history conference. The slightly tangential history is all well and good, but what about the banjo? The neck is quilted maple with a burnt orange lacquer finish. The checking on the lacquer makes the instrument look older than it is. The 5 tuners are ebony violin style pegs. The oak rim is 11-15/16" in diameter and has 6 wing nut brackets. The gut strings and high-quality calf skin head complete this reproduction of a banjo made 170 years ago. Being a player of fretless gut strung banjos myself, I love this instrument! Somehow the tuning landed in a C# and suits it very well. Oh well, no G-string on this banjo. Price is $2,000 and includes a hard case. Photos

1880's Cubley Scratched Fret Fretless. Looks old. Sounds old. It is old! A low end Cubley fretless banjo that has the fret positions scratched on the neck for a 25-7/8" scale. They seem to be accurate, though I like the sound of the banjo with the bridge a little closer to the neck. But you can put the bridge anywhere you want. It is fretless. The neck appears to be made of poplar and finished with a muddy brown varnish. The approximately 10-3/4" diameter rim is maple with a wrapping of nickel-plated brass and 16 folded wing eagle brackets. Other appointments include ebony violin style friction tuners and an ebony tailpiece. The head is either calf or goat skin. A great instrument to play your favorite late 19th century banjo tunes, or anything else your heart and fingers desires. Price is $550 and includes a Superior II gigbag. Photos

1963 Gibson RB-170. Though openback banjos were never Gibson's claim to fame, these RB-170's have all the parts a great old-time banjo should have. The neck is mahogany with a 26-3/8" scale Brazilian rosewood fretboard and wide frets. The 11" diameter rim is 5 plys of maple and finished in a dark lacquer. The tone hoop rides on the inner edge of the wood rim, giving the banjo an archtop look. 24 nickel plated brackets and a Kluson # 82 "trunk lid" complete the rim. Nd best of all, the original head is most certainly "pre-EPA". This '170 has been upgraded with Gotoh planets and a 5th tuner. A relief in the tuning department. With the archtop tone hoop the sound is a little bright, but not crashy, working well for melody playing. Price, with a hard case, is $1,200. Currently in the shop for a little spa treatment. Photos

1925 Gibson PB-4 converted to 5-string. I have always been fond of these Gibson ball-bearing tonering model banjos with the "shot gun hole" skirts. They seem to suit bluegrass and old time styles very well. Originally manufactured as a 4-string plectrum banjo, this instrument has a modern professionally made "Hearts & Flowers" 5 string neck. For authenticity the maker chose a Brazilian rosewood fretboard with a 26-3/16" scale. But for some reason made the main neck wood curly maple rather than mahogany to match the resonator. The rim and its parts, to my eye, is mostly original. The resonator attachment bolts, the coordinator rods, the tailpiece and tuners are parts significantly newer than the rest of the metal on the banjo. Set up with a 5/8" bridge, a new Remo frosted Weatherking head, and a set of D'Addario EJ61 string this banjo has the bright tone of Ralph Stanley's Gibson style 5 ball bearing banjo. Price is $4,500 and includes a modern Asian hard case and the original PB plectrum neck. 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 Remo Fiberskyn 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 $300 Comes with Superior gig bag. Photos

Banjo Research

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

J. French Banjos, Contact us...


Banjo Rims

1970's Gibson RB-250 multiply wood rim and tone ring. 11" diameter. No other parts. Uses a tube and plate. $250. Photos

1928 Vega Little Wonder Rim. 10-15/16" diameter. 2-point shoes, open ball end nuts, blond maple finish. Nice condition. $350. Photos

1920 Vega Style K Rim. 10-1/8" diameter maple rim with steel hoop tonering. Burnt orange finish with some flaking. New hooks and nuts. $250. Photos



1925 Ludwig Belvue Tenor Banjo. With tenor banjos being the musical rage in the early and mid 1920's, it certainly makes sense that drum manufacturer Ludwig got into the party. They already had designs they could use for rims, and all they needed was necks. The neck on this Belvue is walnut with a 22-7/8" scale ebony fretboard. The fretboard and peghead overlay are decorated with intricate mother of pearl inlay. The 10-3/4" diameter rim is the earlier design with the scalloped tone chamber. All the metal parts are skillfully engraved with a mix of gold plating and gunmetal gray. Additional hardware items are the original gold plated Ludwig planetary tuners and a Kershner tailpiece. Work done here at SFI includes a cleaning with a new inside frosted Remo head installed and a neck reset to cure the loose dowelstick. Price, with the original Ludwig badged hard case, is $1.200 Photos

1923 Vega Regent Plectrum. 1923, by one estimate, was Vega's most prolific year. If the respected historian is correct, about 11,000 banjos were produced at the Columbus Avenue factory in Boston that year. Most were tenor banjos, some mandolin banjos, fewer were 5-string "regular banjos", and the smallest production was the 4-string instrument known as a plectrum. With the same length neck as a 5-string, the plectrum banjo is played with a pick to provide rhythm and chord melodies for popular dance bands of the day. This Vega Regent plectrum has a maple neck with a 27-1/8" scale fretboard. Simple mother of pearl dot inlays with a star at the 5th fret give you a good road map of where you are as you play up the neck. The 10-15/16", 6-ply maple rim is fitted with a spun-over tone hoop known to most as the "Little Wonder" tonering. 28 brackets with closed ball end nuts and somewhat rusty hooks tighten the inside frosted Remo head. String height is a very comfortable 1/16" at the 12th fret with a 5/8" tall bridge. We did upgrade this banjo by replacing the original tuners with Gotoh planetary geared tuners. Price is $850 and includes a vintage, period appropriate hard case. Photos

1920's Weyman 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 its freshness through the decades just as he has. The 10-1/2" rim and neck are both natural finished, blond 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". With the light gauge strings it plays like a dream and with the Hennig compensated bridge, it plays in tune. Though you didn't ask, yes, it's loud, but it is a banjo mandolin so you knew that. $500 with original hardshell case. Photos

1921 Vega Style L Whyte Laydie Mandolin Banjo. Like the Tubaphone listed above, this banjo needs a neck reset to be a playable banjo mandolin. But with original Whyte Laydie banjo rims being in demand for converting to 5-string instruments, this one is an ideal candidate. The 10-1/8" diameter rim has a calf skin head and most of it's original metal parts. The tailpiece is a replacement and its maker is unrecognizable. The as-is $800 price includes the original hard case that appears to have been coated with an epoxy of some sort. 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. Price is only $115 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. Affordably priced at $115. .



Here are some instruments that we are selling as-is. For details on our as-is pollicy, click here.

1891 W.A. Cole Style A. A simple banjo from Tremont Street's most famous banjo company. The neck is mahogany with a 26-5/8" scale ebonized hardwood fretboard with about .020" of relief. The rim is 11-5/16" in diameter. The construction is spun-over on the bottom with the head resting directly on the wood. Fitted with decently working celluloid friction tuners, a modern No-Knot Tailpiece, a not original Vega style neck tensioner, and Labella 17 strings. The instrument is a decent player, but to bring it to perfection that would require some work. We are selling it As Is to let you decide how much work to do to it. With a cardboard case, this as-is banjo is $700 Photos

1880's Cubley Horseshoe Bracket Banjo. The first time I saw this banjo was at an estate auction in central New York more than 20 years ago. As a good friend was bidding, I decided to not increase his cost and let it be. My surprise came about 4 years ago when a collector of old and weird instruments offered it to me when he was forced to move. Not the weirdest thing in his collection, but it certainly has its rustic charm, The neck looks like poplar and has scratched fret positions down the neck. The rim is maple, not particularly round, and is delaminating in spots. Painted red, the rim has the remains of 5 floral decals between the 6 horseshoe shaped bracket shoes. I suppose this banjo can be made playable, but I think it is better as an aged looking 19th century relic. Price, as-is; $225 Photos

1910's Gretsch. Maple neck with an ebonized hardwood fretboard (in good condition) with a 25-3/4" scale. 10-7/8" spunover rim with a decent calf skin head. Set up with ebony violin pegs and Nylgut strings. The distributor, Oliver Ditson, installed their celluloid badge on the dowelstick. Quite playable, but sold as-is. $350. Photos

1880's Monarch. Likely made by Buckbee. Neck has a 25-1/4" scale ebonized hardwood veneer fretboard nicely decorated with celluloid inlays, including the large "Monarch" at the fretboards end. The neck is not as straight as I would prefer, but is playable. The 10-11/16" rim is spunover, but when you peep through the tiny tear in the calf skin head, you can see the skin is resting directly on the wood. The wood tailpiece has a celluloid crown inlay and also a crack, but seems to be holding up nicely. Guitar style original geared tuners with bone buttons that are likely worth the price of the banjo. As-is for $450 and includes a chipboard electric guitar case to drag it around. Photos

1890ish Fretless. Some parts look like they came from Lyon & Healy, but I cannot say for sure. Has an interesting metal support for the dowelstick. Never seen one like it before. Neck is walnut and the rim is 10-5/8" diameter birdseye maple with a recent calf skin head. Has LF scratched in the peghead. Violin peg tuners, nylon strings, and highish action. As-is for $400 and a Superior II gigbag is included. Photos

1880's Dobson Victor. Buckbee manufactured for George C. Dobson in Boston, Massachusetts. Walnut neck with a 25-1/8" ebonized hardwood fretboard decorated with some nice pale abalone shell inlay. Full spunover rim is about 11" in diameter and has 36 brackets. Set up with violin friction pegs and a No-Knot tailpiece. Action is high (1/4" at the 12th fret) and would benefit from a neck reset. As-is for $400, including a beat up 1960's chipboard case. Pictures coming soon.

1890ish Buckbee Banjeaurine. Walnut neck with an 18-3/8" ebonized hardwood fretboard. Peghead and fretboard decorated with metal and abalone inlays. 11-7/8" diameter rim with a Fiberskyn head and 30 brackets. Strung with nylon strings and celluloid friction tuners. As-is, but quite playable, for $450. 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 $9 per order for Priority Mail shipping in the continental US no matter what the order size. Micro orders weighing less than 12 ounces and valued less than $50 are usually shipped via first class mail for $6. The cost of orders headed out of the continental US will be quoted before they are shipped.

Sales Tax
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.

To Order
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.

Occasionally a customer will let us know that the "Contact Us" button will not work on their computer. If you have that problem, please use sfi<at>smakula<dot>com You will have to change the <at> and <dot> to @ and .