A reader in Germany writes:
GERMAN USSR OCCUPIED BANJO. I was selling this banjo and someone told me it was antique and rare. Can I send you pictures to get
Great to hear from you!
I would love to see photos. Also can you tell me whether the head of the
banjo is skin or a modern drum head?
Just reply to this message and attach your photos.
gdr_banjo.jpg [ 91.17 KiB | Viewed 14352 times ]
After seeing the photo I wrote:
Thanks for the photo. At first glance, it looks like a postwar student instrument, nearly identical to 1950s Harmonies made in the USA and the 1960s Aria and Lotus banjos that were made in Japan. So as a musical instrument, it's not that valuable. Unless it's very playable, which might make it worth something to a player. Also, if you can find someone who deliberately collects DDR-era musical instruments, they might be interested in it.
If there's a resonator, remove it and take a look. A wooden bar running from the neck to the tailpiece would increase its age and possibly make it pre-war. If the head is skin, that would increase its age further.
If there's a metal rim separating the banjo's head from the pot (shell or body) that would be at tone ring, which would increase its value.
On the other hand, if the entire pot is metal, that moves it to the low end of the "student model" range. Sorry.
BTW, though these were originally built for Jazz, some of them are being restrung and used for Celtic music - are there any bands in your region playing "Irish" music or the like? This would work great for them as long as the neck is straight.
Again, a collector of DDR-era musical instruments might be your best bet. I know sax players who have collected DDR saxophones on purpose - some were very well made. No, they wouldn't be interested in your banjo, but it's a thought. . . . .
P.S. The value of 4-strings varies from region to region. If your potential buyer wants to play Bluegrass, this banjo will be useles. If he wants to play ragtime/jazz/dixieland or Celtic, a 5-string is almost useless and this is what he needs. So few 4-strings change hands in my part of the country that it's hard to find them and it's hard to sell one, so what you can get for it locally can vary wildly.
Hope this makes sense and I haven't shattered your dreams or some such.