Vintage Gretsch Guitars

Any vintage Gretsch banjo’s? (c’mon admit it)

Looking for vintage Gretsch banjo owners. Started a little research on these, and their history is so poorly documented, it's hard to get a handle on anything. So I thought I'd put a bit of effort towards it, and see what turns up. For those of you not wanting to "out" themselves (as closet banjo owners) please feel free to PM me. I'm looking for feature, model and serial # info.
Does this count? Up until a few years ago, I had this Rex Professional by Gretsch.
Hi Bryan, I'm focused on the Gretsch branded banjo's (which is convoluted on it's own!)... but this one is interesting. No mention of it in the '48/49 Gretsch catalog (No. 50), although there are Rex branded guitars in this catalog. So any idea on your banjo's vintage?
The guy I sold it to on fleabay knew all about it, but that info faded from my memory as soon as I spent the moola. There was a very knowledgeable Gretsch banjo player/collector on the old GDP, have you checked for threads at the old site archives? Might be before the big crash. If you have time to kill, try searching the old site thru Wayback It's a finicky site, links open one day and not the next, but there's lots of interesting info there.
here's a bit of info on another Rex banjo "This Rex Professional banjo was made by the Gretsch Manufacturing Company in New York. The owner of this banjo was Joseph Lane Hall (1895-1972) of Buncombe County. He is reputed to have walked barefoot across Hooker's Gap to purchase this banjo for $4. This manufactured banjo is a good example of musical instruments readily available by the late 19th century for those who could afford a store-bought instrument or for people who wanted to craft their own version. The Gretsch Company, founded in New York City by Friedrich Gretsch in 1883, is still in existence today although they have relocated to Savannah, Georgia and mainly produce electric guitars. The Rex brand name was produced by Gretsch from 1902 through the mid-1930s and their banjos were considered entry-level instruments."
KC, When I first noticed this thread and clicked on it (about an hour or so ago) it came back as a 505 error and it locked me out of the site until now! See what happens when you start a thread about the "B-Word"!!
K-Wad... I'm inclined to believe that the full moon we're experiencing tonight, is more to blame for odd and strange occurrences! Glad you got back into the site!
Sure, full moon, Halloween, that must be it... Actually, I have a couple of those 5 string drum thingies myself. One Epiphone Masterbuilt (I scored that one from GC for under $200 because it was missing an adjuster screw for the head) and a 50's Silvertone. The Epi needs a heastock repair as my cat decided to nock it off the stand one day.
Thank you for inviting me to your support group. My name is Jimmy and I own a cheap Gretsch banjo. Here are the photos. I can't tell you anything more about this. I still own it. It sounds like a five string banjo with all the high pitched tinny ringy rattle. I'll answer anything I can on this. Best wishes in your research.
jimmyd.... Great! Your New Yorker banjo is exactly like the one I've just acquired but mine is the 4-string tenor type. Your headstock has some slight aesthetic differences too which might be an indicator of a different model year. My serial number is about a 1000 early than yours... can you please confirm that yours is #7741?
KCeddieB... Yes, the serial number is 7741. I've had this about 15 years and I've never seen another like mine. What kind of metal do you think the ring is made from? When I got mine, it was black. Kinda like tarnished silver plate. I cleaned it up and it appears to be some type of brass or bronze. Any idea as to the age?
I don't know about the metal... sorry. I just started my research and frankly don't know squat about banjo's. You mentioned that you've not seen another like yours... here ya go! I have the 4-string tenor (19 frets) version. From what I know at this point, yours is probably from the '49 or '50 timeframe.
Do you think the banjo serial numbers were mixed in with the guitar serial numbers? That 7741 sounds like it could be a 1950ish number. That headstock overlay is about what you'd expect on an Gretsch student level guitar with that serial number.
John, I've got evidence to that both agrees and conflicts with the idea of the banjo numbers being the same system as the guitars. That's what got me going on all this actually. The 1948 catalog (No. 50) has what appears to be the debut of the New Yorker guitar, Mando and Banjo. It was a full page "announcement" of the line. Some of the other Gretsch branded banjo's like the Style B and C, the Orchestrella, the Broadkaster, and the Banner Blue also have serial numbers. I need to get a critical mass of examples before it will be clear if these are in fact part of the same sequential system.
Of course, then you'll have to figure out whether the ocarinas used the same numbering system, and it just spins out of control from there...
I've begun a database to track cow-bell info too!
I just picked up a Gretch banjo with the serial number 6075. The name Gretch is horizontal on the peghead, and it is open back. Ed Ball, who is doing research on old Gretch banjos, said it is a Folk Model from about 1960.
No Gretsch banjo but I do have a Vega banjo in my "odds and ends" collection!
this guy says he has done some research but i would say based on the guitar side serial format this would be a 71 guitar, not a 70
heres mine.lexington ky. got it in trade for a tattoo. dont know how to attach photos. anyway its a blue banner
Charmed... your timing is excellent! I'd really like to see your banjo. I have found a couple "Banner Blue" examples, but have only documented one serial number, so I'm hopeful to add yours to the research. I'll send you a private message with my e-mail, and maybe you could send me a photo or two, and the details. Posting a photo on this site required you to set up a (free) Photobucket (or the like) account for your images. Then paste an image's URL in the field on this site that appears when you click the camera icon. It's a bit clunky.

I have a Gretsch banjo also! It was given to me by my grandfather when I was a young boy. It's still in fair condition, but very old. I believe it was made in the 1920's or 30's. it's an old 4 string. It doesn't look like it was anything of high quality. If you want, I can take a picture of it.


I have a Bacon and Day Tenor Banjo that was my Grandfather's, but that's it.



Buck65... If your grandfathers banjo is Gretsch branded, and has a serial number (check the tip of the headstock or the dowel rod inside the resonator) I would be very interested in seeing her!

Cad Green... Great to see you back on the block! I'm focused on Gretsch branded banjos at the moment. The Gretsch factory made a lot of other brands too I realize, but things are muddy enough with just the Gretsch branded stuff (Orchestrella, Broakaster, New Yorker, and a few others).

I have made real progress however, and have a working theory. The serial numbers were all over the place and made no sense (which I was warned about by the banjo gurus at the Banjo Hangout website). But when I applied the same rules I've gleaned about Gretsch guitar production and their serial # systems, they suddenly seemed to fall into a more logical pattern. I'm not ready to do the victory lap quite yet, but with some additional documented examples, perhaps I can corroborate my work sometime in the future!

Register Sign in to join the conversation