How Much Does A Banjo Cost? - Part 2

by Jamie Latty

In part 1, we talked about the cost of a banjo as it pertains to the player who is looking at entry level banjos; in our case, the Goodtime line of banjos.

Now fast forward. You have been playing maybe 2-3 years and you are looking to move up a notch or two. Well now we are looking at a whole different ball of wax and as you might imagine, the question of how much does it cost does not get any easier to answer.

At this point, you have likely spent a few years familiarizing yourself with the banjo, its components and why things are the way they are. In the natural course of things, you have undoubtedly spent time researching the pro's and con's of different woods, what affects a tone ring, radiused or non-radiused fingerboards and so on. You know what style of banjo you are looking for and you have a deeper understanding of what is available on the market. This is typically the way it goes when you are passionate about something. You are no longer going in blind. Instead, you get to decide exactly what banjo you want with a high degree of certainty.

In my 14 year career in musical instruments, the parallel that normally comes up in conversation is with the automotive industry. If you are in the market for a car, you will inevitably be presented with an almost never-ending line of brands, all pitching their latest offerings. Compacts, trucks, sedans, minivans, sports cars, SUV's. And of course, within each of these, a variety of different standard versions that may or may not tick the boxes on your list. More notably though, is the sheer amount of custom options available when you start getting into the upper line.

For "research purposes", I spent arguably too much time (and had too much fun) on Ford's F-150 builder page, which allows you to spec out your dream F-150, as they say, "from the roof down" (this would be cool in banjo form, right?). Starting at a modest $28,000, I quickly jumped to $55,000 with the addition of a hugely sophisticated engine package, spray on bed liner, bed cover and, of course, a subwoofer. You know...for all that banjo bass...

If I was in the market for an F-150, it would be very difficult for Ford to tell me how much one would cost, since the customizations and add-ons can fluctuate the price so dramatically, depending on what you want.

Of course, the same applies to banjos, with upper line models being very customizable. 

Unlike the entry-level offerings, almost all of the upper lines being made in the banjo market today are made in the US. This usually allows for a much more personal experience for the customer who in many cases will get to speak with the company personally. [Note: Deering's own Customer Service guru, David Vega can be reached by calling +1 619 464 8252 or emailing info@deeringbanjos.com]. Some even travel to do it in person. And while we do have some customers who want something completely custom, most will take the Ford approach and start with a baseline model, which they can then modify.

Let's take the Sierra banjo as an example. The Sierra is Deering's flagship upper line model and retails for $2,999. Among its many adornments, the Sierra features Deering's Bell Bronze 06 tone ring, the  beautiful sounding 3-ply violin grade maple rim, Deering zinc flange, as well as the very popular Deering neck profile. Its already a first-class level banjo, but it is also our most commonly customized model. Some options might include:

  • Alternative colors
  • Gold or chrome plating
  • Hand engraved hardware
  • Hand carved heel
  • A higher grade of wood
  • Custom inlay.
  • Custom Truss Rod Cover

Now, these are all great ways to make a banjo unique to you. Certainly, the addition of all of these could add a few thousand dollars to a $2999 Sierra model very quickly. But they are all aesthetic. These are the truck's color, leather seats, or speaker upgrades. They are all great additions, but what about performance? What are your options there?

How about:

  • Lightweight Grenadillo tone ring upgrade (as featured on the Hartford Model)
  • Deep resonator Tapered resonator sidewalls
  • Keith Tuners
  • Sliding Shubb Capo
  • Kavanjo Pick Up
  • Alternative head
  • Custom string gauges. 

Assuming you opted for as many of these options as you could, that $2,999 Sierra is inching closer to a $9,000 range. It is definitely a shift up in price, but the result, should you chose to explore this route, is a banjo like no other, made especially for you, to your spec, that nobody else owns.

The challenge comes in deciding what you need, versus what you want. Dreaming is half of the fun and so Deering takes great pride in the fact that we can literally create whatever your mind can dream up. As for the question of how much a banjo costs, all we can do is offer you the prices for a standard model.

The rest is up to you and your imagination to decide.  

View Our Custom Banjo Options & Prices Here

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