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Thread: Orpheum mandolin banjo

  1. #1
    Registered User
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    Mar 2008
    Duluth Mn.

    Default Orpheum mandolin banjo

    Hey all. I just purchased a cool old Orpheum mandolin banjo, and was wondering its aproximate age. It says "Made by Rettberg and Lange- New York City". Also says "Patented" followed by the number- 724888. I realize some pics would be helpful, and I'll try and get some up. It has some very cool inlay work. It's not totally original, as the bridge, and head are newer. Anybody got any ideas as to its age? Thanks in advance.
    Chief. Way up North. Gibson 1917 A model with pickup. JL Smith 5 string electric. 1929 National Triolian resonator mandolin with pickup. National RM 1 with pickup. Ovation Applause. Fender FM- 60 E 5 string electric (with juiced pickups). 1950's Gibson EM-200 electric mandolin. 1954 Gibson EM-150 electric mandolin. Custom made "Jett Pink" 5 string electric- Bo Diddley slab style.

  2. #2
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Outer Spiral Arm, of Galaxy, NW Oregon.

    Default Re: Orpheum mandolin banjo

    I realize some pics would be helpful, and I'll try and get some up.
    pretty essential really..
    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

  3. #3
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Rochester NY 14610

    Default Re: Orpheum mandolin banjo

    Patent numbers aren't the same as serial numbers. There should be a serial number somewhere, perhaps stamped into the dowel stick that runs through the body of the mandolin-banjo.

    Here are a couple of informative discussions of Orpheum, Rettberg & Lange, and strategies to estimate manufacture dates. R & L apparently used different serial number series for different models of banjo, and factory records haven't survived, so going by appearance may be the only way to guesstimate your instrument's vintage.

    Banjo Hangout thread

    Joe Bethancourt's Banjo Manufacturers of the Golden Age
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  4. #4
    Registered User 8ch(pl)'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Suburb of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

    Default Re: Orpheum mandolin banjo

    This is from Joe Bethancourt's site, White Tree productions.

    by Bill Reese

    In about 1897 two New York instrument makers, Lange and Rettberg bought the J. H. Buckbee banjo factory. Buckbee of New York had been the banjo maker for many famous players, among them Farland, Foote, Converse, Bruno, Mather, H. Dobson and G.C. Dobson and produced banjos with the names of these performers as the manufacturer. Indeed, Buckbee had been the largest of the post-war banjo manufacturers and produced both handmade and mass produced instruments. Why they sold out to Rettberg and Lange remains a mystery. No banjos with the Buckbee name on the instrument seem to have been made, or if so, none have survived. (nb: "JHB" stamped on the dowel stick is one of the known markings of Buckbee -WJB) R & L continued to make banjos for these performers, as well as a line of their own.

    Exactly when R & L began to make the Orpheum is not known, but in 1903, W. B. Farmer was granted a patent, # 724833, for a tone ring which sits on brackets which are attached to the rim. This is the tone ring that was used on all Orpheum banjos by R & L and which gives the Orpheums their distinctive sound. It is not known who W. B. Farmer was or whether he worked for R & L. He was granted two additional patents for the banjo but these do not seem to have been used by R & L.

    Orpheums were made in Styles 1, 2, 3, 3 Special, Brass Band and the rare #4. They were made as Tenors, 5 strings & Mandolin Banjos. There were also many custom models such as the "Duchess". Most Orpheum 5 strings have Serial numbers from #1-#3000. Tenors have #3000 and higher. Highest serial number seen is around #17,300. R& L did not keep records on the dates for their Orpheums. That is why most vintage instrument catalogues list R & L Orpheums as "c. 1915".

    Many more tenors were made because Lange continued to make the Orpheum after he left R & L. in 1921. Many of the earlier features that were in the R & L Orpheums were incorporate by Lange in his top of the line Paramount Banjos which continued in production until about 1935. The Lange Orpheum 3 and the Orpheum 3 Special were among Lange's most popular Tenor banjo models during the "Jazz Age".

    I have not been able to locate a price list for the R & L Orpheums. In 1929, the Lange Orpheums' selling prices were: #1-$70: #2-$90; #3- $110;-#3 special-$135.

    The R&L Orpheums are not noted for their volume but do have a very distinct and pleasant ring. The 2 recent banjo CDs by Walt Koken, are fine examples of the sound of the Orpheum. Walt uses an Orpheum #4 on these recordings.

    Price Track: (These are some of the prices I have seen for R & L Orpheums offered for sale during the last few years by reputable vintage instrument dealers .... )

    1987 5 string #1 $650
    1988 5 String #3 Spec. $1250
    1988 Tenor #3 c. 1915 $400
    1989 Tenor #1 c. 1915 $250
    1990 Tenor # 1 c. 1915 $350
    1990 MB #1 $350
    1990 5 string # 1 $800
    1990 Brass band, c. 1910 $850

    1993 5 string #1 c. 1915 $575
    1993 5 string #3 special $1600
    1994 5 string model #3 $2500
    1994 5 string Brass band $2500
    1995 5 string #3 special $1000
    1995 Brass Band, 1922 $1095
    1995 Brass Band $950

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