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jennyfurwhen
11-13-2010, 06:53 PM
I was looking to buy this, what I think is, banjolele for about $150, and I was wondering if anyone could tell me what their opinion of it is. There are no makers marks nor date, but it is made of solid mahogany and has nickel screws. (This is an online buy so unfortunately, I can't try it out)

mm stan
11-13-2010, 07:03 PM
I was looking to buy this, what I think is, banjolele for about $150, and I was wondering if anyone could tell me what their opinion of it is. There are no makers marks nor date, but it is made of solid mahogany and has nickel screws. (This is an online buy so unfortunately, I can't try it out)

Aloha Jennyfurwhen,
Welcome to the UU and the forums..Chack out. and google...Banjo ukuleles go to the second page second link from the top....Banjo ukes.comManufactures/Model....
Good Luck, and Let us know how it turns out!! MM Stan

jennyfurwhen
11-13-2010, 07:21 PM
Hi!
Thanks for the great link, so I gave a quick scan through, and there's not one that looks exactly like the one above, but can I assume that the headstock is a distinctly unique feature of each company?

mm stan
11-13-2010, 07:43 PM
Aloha Jennyfurwhen,
You can try the : Ukulele Hall of Fame museum vintage ukulele Q & A....google it, but it may take a while....Stan...

Chris Tarman
11-14-2010, 01:39 PM
No matter who made it, I would snap it up for $150! It looks great.

RyanMFT
11-14-2010, 02:54 PM
I agree with Chris, I would grab it for $150 if I came across it. I love the inlay and overall it looks like a really good quality instrument. I was reading on www.frets.com that one can use a regular pink pencil eraser to get rid of a great deal of the dirt on the skin of a banjo/banjo uke. I bet that one would clean up well. Good Luck!

Jnobianchi
11-15-2010, 05:05 AM
Jennyfurwhen,

You've found what has proven an enduring mystery to banjo uke enthusiasts; no one knows definitively, at least no one posting on the internet, who made this particular uke. This company made a variety of no-names of varying degrees of ornate-ness. Most have no decoration at all, and just follow this basic pattern with plain maple, but this one here is their most ornate model, and I've run across a few over the years.

Yes, headstocks DO tend to constitute a signature, but this particular company used a few different headstocks, sometimes varying the headstock for different jobs. They made ukes for Sears, Progressive Musical Instrument Company of New York (P'Amico), La Pacific, Neptune, B&J NY - the 'Mele' and a cheaper model, and several others; most had a spatulate headstock. This one has a spatulate headstock with those extra indentations in the waist. I've also seen the same ornate uke but with a typical "Harmony" or "Martin"-style three-pointed headstock. it's slightly bewildering.

The sheer numbers of them out there - and several hundred come up for sale on eBay every year - make me think that the company is, in fact, Harmony of Chicago, which made several hundred thousand instruments each year in the 20's, many of them ukuleles, and a staggering high production of 300,000 instruments in 1930 - at the height of the depression. A few have been found with Harmony's "Standard Approved" stickers on the back of the headstock, which is another point in favor of Harmony in my book.

All that said, this is not an expensive uke, probably in the $4-5 price range throughout the 20s and early 30s. They are also not high quality instruments, but if in good shape, should be a lot of fun to play. The inlays and decals increase the value significantly.

So, if you've read this far, I still haven't answered your question; what is it, exactly? If you think as I do that its a Harmony or not doesn't really matter; you'll find that the value is remarkably consistent on these. Unadorned, they run from $50 to $100 for instruments in good shape. Tricked out, like yours is, you'll find them going for between $80 and $180 based on condition and playability. $150 is a reasonable price if the instrument is a good player and you like the sound.

Let us know what you do - I love these things and I'm always looking for more information on them. Here are a few links that should give you some information.

http://www.musurgia.com/products.asp?ProductID=668&CartID=4828429102010

Antebellum has restored several of these and similar:
http://antebelluminstruments.blogspot.com/2009/07/c1920-neptune-banjo-ukulele.html

there's several on eBay now:
http://cgi.ebay.com/VINTAGE-BANJOLELE-BANJO-UKULELE-PROJECT-NO-RESERVE-/330496811219?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4cf32520d3

Scroll Down:
http://ukuleleguide.com/gallery.html

The banjo uke page is a great resource, and if you go to the auction records page for the names above, you can get a sense of what some have been going for.

Tudorp
11-15-2010, 06:51 AM
So many manufactures of banjo ukes popped up during it's popularity in the 1920s-1940s, so it is hard to tell. But, that style is pretty common, BUT that one is much fancier than any I have seen in that style. It looks like it may be a better quality than many of them of that era. The more common, and plain looking ones sell between $100-$150 in playable, or near playable condition, so, like mentioned above, I would snap that one up in a heartbeat for $150.

TwoTrax
11-15-2010, 04:57 PM
It has hints of Tonk Bros. but it's not, it also has hints of English made instruments I've seen, can't confirm. Any Identifying marks would be most likely inside of it, but you can't do that.

In Chicago as well as in East coast instrument plants, parts were traded, purchased, contracted etc. These Banjo Ukuleles from the 20's and 30's, especially the Chicago brands, all share some of the same parts (tailpieces, neck hardware, hooks, nuts, shoes, rims, etc).

At the time in Chicago alone there were at least 12 Manufacturers, probably more, and most of them made more instruments under other trade names:

Slingerland
Tonk Bros
Harmony
Stromberg-Voisinet
Gretsch
Liberty
Pacheco & Klemm
Lyon & Healy
J.R. Stewart
Regal
Globe
Richter
Werco (later era)(Dixie brand)

TwoTrax
11-15-2010, 05:04 PM
I agree with Chris, I would grab it for $150 if I came across it. I love the inlay and overall it looks like a really good quality instrument. I was reading on www.frets.com that one can use a regular pink pencil eraser to get rid of a great deal of the dirt on the skin of a banjo/banjo uke. I bet that one would clean up well. Good Luck!

That doesn't work all that well.

I found this works best; I work quickly with an alcohol swab and try not to dampen any area too much at once. Once you've cleaned the head, the back of it too, wipe it for about 5 minutes with a piece of waxed paper. The alcohol removes all residue and dries quickly so it doesn't stretch the head. The waxed paper adds some natural oils back into the skin.

With brand new calf heads, sandpaper works well to smooth any imperfections or to remove stray hairs left in the tanning process, followed of course, by a good rubbing with waxed paper.

Jnobianchi
11-16-2010, 05:12 AM
I second TwoTrax: sparing application of alcohol and wax paper. After I mount a new head, I wax paper rub the whole surface with wax paper, which also gives a little water resistance. Pencil eraser can just create a smudge and leaves the head there unprotected.

RyanMFT
11-16-2010, 05:49 AM
Good information about cleaning the skin, glad to know it!

Looks like I forgot the steps before which includes removing most of the dirt up front. Here's the article if anyone's interested.
http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Musician/Banjo/BanjoHeadCleaning/banjoheadcleaning.html

Jnobianchi
11-16-2010, 12:26 PM
Nice article, Ryan. And good to know about the razor blade. I replace heads every couple of years, but after a couple of heavy playing sessions, they can get dirty fast.

TwoTrax
11-16-2010, 04:38 PM
I was looking to buy this, what I think is, banjolele for about $150, and I was wondering if anyone could tell me what their opinion of it is. There are no makers marks nor date, but it is made of solid mahogany and has nickel screws. (This is an online buy so unfortunately, I can't try it out)

After some thought and research I have concluded the following (members please correct me if I'm wrong);

The one you are considering is a Tonk Bros No. 4, Made in Chicago, 1930. $150 is a lot of money for that, $75 max. Remember delivery costs.

Below is one on eBay now. It's a Tonk Bros. No. 138 1/2, for a lot less money. Granted, it will go up but I doubt it will top $100.

http://cgi.ebay.com/Vintage-Banjo-UKE-UKELELE-Nice-1920s-/290500267461?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item43a32a4dc5#ht_7609wt_1061

Both of these instruments are above the standard model. They both have the Herringbone details.

Jnobianchi
11-18-2010, 10:06 AM
So Jenny,

I saw that Chuck felt it was worth it over at Collector's Uke Yak. What did you decide to do? :)

I'm vicariously experiencing your BUAS...

jennyfurwhen
11-19-2010, 06:50 AM
Hi there guys,
sorry for not responding, while I absolutely loved the look of it, I read a little more bout banjos and decided I wanted at minimum, a banjolele with a tone ring, so I decided not to buy it (if i wasn't a student though, I'd most definitely have that and another one as well) =). I searched Google Images quite a while, and found two other blogs that had the same instrument... but still had no idea where it was from xD.
I'm now looking at a Slingerland Maybell banjolele on eBay and hope that it'll go no higher than $200, and it's in really great condition as well! http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=320616285647&ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT Might not be as pretty as the other, but still really nice. Either that or I'll wait til Mainland has their banjo uke available or Waverly Street has another.

Jnobianchi
11-19-2010, 06:58 AM
Jenny -

That's a beauty. That's a walnut model 24, and yes, its got a brass tone ring. It's VERY clean and should be a great player - I've got the same model in maple.

Agreed that $200 is completely reasonable to hope for. Fingers crossed!

Jnobianchi
11-22-2010, 06:01 AM
I am SHOCKED that it went for near $400. Never seen that before; maybe because it was walnut (rarer) and in excellent condition?

TwoTrax
11-22-2010, 09:02 AM
WOW! I've never seen that before either....That's an astounding price. I don't believe that it was in original condition, I believe it was a professional restoration, including a complete refinish. I've seen that one before, or maybe its twin, that was professionally restored, refinished, etc. With prices like that I may have 2 or 3 Vintage Banjo Ukuleles for sale very soon.

Tim

http://i1189.photobucket.com/albums/z429/TwoTrax/Banjo/shocked.jpg