Identifying How Old Your Banjo Is (The Easy Way!)

Determining the age of a banjo is sometimes simple, and other times not so simple.

You can self assess, do internet research, or seek assistance from experts to help determine the age of a banjo, and there are benefits and drawbacks to each method.

So let’s dig into how to tell how old your banjo is.

Self Assessment of a Banjo’s Age

Depending on the instrument you’re trying to assess, there may be some clues which you can use to assess the age of a banjo. 

Looking at brand markings, serial numbers, model numbers, and other manufacturer labels are all a great place to start. 

In fact, this could be both the starting point and the end of your search, since many modern instruments are well labelled, and the information indicating the age of the instrument could be quite obvious after this simple assessment.

Other less obvious indicators of the age of the banjo might include the style or material of manufacture. 

Determining if the neck is reinforced with steel or not could indicate the age, since necks without steel reinforcement tend to be far older. 

Other key features which might indicate the age would be the tuners, the peg head, the nut, the resonator, and the number of strings.  

Where the instrument came from is even a possible indicator, since finding a banjo in your uncle’s dusty attic that he used to play when he was a kid in the 1920’s could help you with your quest by providing clues as to the age of the instrument.

Sometimes, it’s simply impossible to find the age of the banjo just by looking at it. 

In any case, once you’ve found as many obvious clues as possible on your own, if you haven’t yet determined the age of the banjo you’ll probably move to the next method. 

Do Internet Research

The internet is of course a great resource of knowledge and information sharing, and when it comes to banjos, information abounds. 

A simple google search will lead you to find many resources to help determine the age of the instrument, including manufacturer’s websites, online chat rooms dedicated to banjo enthusiasts, retailer websites, and more. 

You can even find out detailed information on banjo history, both in general and specific to certain manufacturers. In addition to web based resources, the internet can also be a source for finding books about banjo history, manufacturing, and playing. 

It’s important to take caution when researching your instrument’s age on the internet though, since you can go down many different rabbit holes which can lead to misinformation.

As with anything else, it’s a good idea to verify your findings once you’ve completed your search.

Seek Assistance From Experts

This is most often the very last step in the process, since there may be a cost involved in having your banjo assessed by an expert. 

Expert banjo assessors come in many stripes too, so you’ll want to be selective and possibly seek more than one opinion on the age of your instrument. 

Having an expert assess your banjo may be the best chance you have of determining an accurate age. 

They have more knowledge, experience, and expertise in assessing the value, condition, and age of banjos new and antique, and will usually be the best resource you have in helping you on your quest.

Understanding The History

By understanding an instrument’s age, you’ll be in a better position to know what the actual value is, which is especially useful if your in the position of either buying or selling a banjo.

Some banjos are worth thousands of dollars since they are very rare. Another reason might be to determine if the banjo is a collector’s item, or if it’s simply a commonplace instrument.

And of course there are sentimental reasons you might want to find out the age of a banjo, in the instance you possess a family heirloom or historical artifact.

Banjo music is as popular as it have ever been. It has gone from being an exclusive sound of the West Africa, evolving into the distinct bluegrass twang of the Appalachians and the unique picking style of clawhammer banjoists. 

It has evolved even further still to be adopted by players of modern folk music, country, alternative, and even pop music. It has truly become an instrument that is adored the world over, and it’s been around for a great many years. 

In fact, it’s been around since the 1800s, so it’s quite possible to find very old instruments indeed, and there are a few reasons you might want to know how old a banjo is.

Conclusion

Finding out how old your banjo is can be incredibly important to understanding it’s value whether it be sentimental or financial.

We have provided three main ways of identifying how old your banjo is, some are easier than others and most can be done quite easily.

We hope you can implement these tips into reality.

Image from flickr creative commons Jim, the Photographer

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