View Full Version : Can anyone help to name the maker of my Banjo-Manolin?

Rodney Hopkins
Jan-08-2017, 3:29pm
I need some help from some folks who know about traditional music and musical instruments. I have an old banjo mandolin, which I bought around 1999 at the Galax Fiddler's Convention from Roger Sprung. I have not played it enough to justify keeping it out of the hands of one who would play it more than myself. The problem is that I do not know who made it. The only marking on it is partially scraped off, and it says "Made expressly for Joseph Gilman; Bridgeport, Conn". Gilman Music Store was in operation up until the 1930-1940s as far as I can find. I have spent a couple hours combing the internet looking for a headstock of the same shape and/or matching inlay work. Any leads or info will be appreciated!

Jan-08-2017, 6:25pm
Something looks just a touch "off" with the center medallion on the peghead to me but, I am far from any kind of authority. Anyway, it's kind of cool!

Jim Garber
Jan-08-2017, 11:31pm
I firmly believe that you cannot go by inlays to determine the brand. I have a Luigi Ricca bowlback and I have seen a Yosco banjo with that same complex inlay as your banjo. These were supplied by pearl suppliers and the same goes for the butterfly inlays and eagles you find across many brands of the period.

Headstock shape, tone ring configuration, method of lamination on the banjo pot and shape of the fretboard end might be a better indicator. Still I would not hazard a guess but I would say that you can estimate a selling price based on the quality of the build comparing to known makers and then knock a bit off for the no name factor. Frankly, mandolin-banjos with some small exceptions are generally not a high ticket item so I would not worry too much about lowballing the value. For the most part they are an acquired taste. Perhaps include a bottle of Advil in the case for potential buyers. :-)

Jan-08-2017, 11:38pm
.... For the most part they are an acquired taste. Perhaps include a bottle of Advil in the case for potential buyers. :-)

Ha! A great meme on the old tale about Paul Desmond's alto sax sounding like "two dry martinis."

Brings to mind an old recording of an M-B version of La Calabrisella Mia I heard on one of those "Italian Mandolin Masters" reissue discs.

Don't get me wrong. I like the song...when I play it on the mandolin. ;)


Rodney Hopkins
Jan-09-2017, 7:49am
Thanks for the replies, folks. I know it's a long-shot, but I didn't know if there were know makers who sold in-labeled instruments to stores for re-sale with store names. The most similar looking banjo-mandos I have found were made by Orpheum. I am also aware that this instrument could be comprised of parts from multiple instruments. Still hoping someone can provide more insight.

Jan-10-2017, 2:26pm
You might try contacting Roger Sprung.

Jan-10-2017, 3:51pm
I haven't bumped into Roger Sprung in years. There is a picture on the NJ Bluegrass and Oldtime Music site of me jamming with him when I had hair. The problem with no name banjos is that banjos that were made for the trade with no name on them from parts that were available to just about every builder from the same jobbers are really had to identify unless they have known traits. I don't see any of those on this. None of the tell tale signs are here that I see. That doesn't mean somebody else can't see them. I posted a tenor sold by Sears with the Supertone label on it and the builder was identified in a matter of minutes. I just don't see any real identifiers here.