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How Do I Choose the Best Vintage Banjo?

Lori Kilchermann
Lori Kilchermann

When attempting to choose the best vintage banjo, you will need to examine three basic areas of the instrument to ensure that you have found a good, useable instrument. The neck, the tuning pegs and the resonator are all areas to examine when searching for a vintage banjo. There is however, one area that must be examined and its importance is as great to you today as it was to the original purchaser so many years ago: the name of the manufacturer. For the most part, the best vintage banjo will come from one of the best original manufacturers of banjos and a no-name original will not be worth much more than a low price when it becomes vintage.

There are certain manufacturers of musical instruments that tend to hold their value, sound quality and desirability through the years when compared to other makers, Gibson, Deering and Paramount are just a small few. If you are set on finding the best vintage banjo you can obtain, it is always wise to begin your search for a popular model from a popular manufacturer. Online auctions, music magazines and music supply stores are a good place to begin your search.

Man playing a guitar
Man playing a guitar

Once you have located a potential buy, you will want to inspect the neck of the vintage banjo to make certain it is not cracked, bent or twisted. If possible, lay a long, straight edge on the fret board of the banjo with the strings removed. This will show the condition of the neck without tension applied to it. If satisfied that the neck appears straight and sound, replace the strings, tune the banjo and repeat the straight edge on the fret board. Any changes, such as bends or twists, could be revealing a potential issue with the neck of the vintage banjo that could render the instrument useless.

The frets are the next area of concern; you will want to ensure that your frets are in sound condition when you purchase your vintage banjo. Inspect the top of the wire frets for flat spots and signs that they are loose in the fingerboard. The fingerboard of the best vintage banjo should also show no signs of wear, such as noticeable depressions or worn areas. The sound ring also should possess all of the hardware it was designed with. Any missing brackets, bolts or J-hooks could prove difficult to find and damage the value of your vintage banjo.

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