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1917 Orpheum No. 2 Rettberg & Lange Five String Open Back Banjo w/ Case


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Up for sale, a 1917 Orpheum No. 2 five string banjo in exceptional condition and in perfect working order, complete with an era-correct hardshell case. In 1897, premier New York banjo builder, Buckbee, was purchased by Rettberg & Lange. With their patented tone ring, the Orpheum range of banjos was introduced several years later in 1908.

The banjo features a birdseye maple neck with an ornately carved heel, joined to a thick maple rim. With a cutting projection, this banjo has considerable presence and power, offering the articulation and attack that comes with this preferred banjo tonewood. The instrument has a crisp presence with a rich underlying warmth, and a clearly defined edge and snap. This Orpheum weighs 6lbs 9oz, professionally setup here at Mike & Mike’s Guitar Bar.

The two-piece maple neck has a deep V profile carve at the nut, filling out with more depth and roundness as you travel up the fretboard, transitioning into more of a U shape by the 5th fret. The profile measures .825” deep at the 1st fret and 1.040“ at the 12th. The bound ebonized maple fretboard features intricate inlays (comprising both pearl and abalone) and stock slender fretwire. The frets are in great shape, maintaining their full factory height with light uniform wear on the crowns of frets 1-3, and virtually no wear further up the fingerboard. This 22 fret banjo has a 27” scale, and the stock carved bone nut measures 1 3/16“ in width. The headstock features a stained maple overlay with intricate inlay and the original set of tuners with white ivoroid buttons.

All of the stock nickel-plated hardware is intact and remarkably clean, with 24 tension hooks, armrest, and original tailpiece. The serial number is stamped on the maple dowel stick with the original white and blue Orpheum badge intact, and patent number 724833 stamped inside the rim. Cosmetically and structurally, this early Orpheum banjo is in impressive shape, with signs of use limited to minor scattered marks and light wear in the finish from a tension adjuster.

An era-correct hardshell case with black small pebble exterior and green plush interior is included. The case has a makeshift handle, and the original latches are functional.