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Thread: Looking for info on a Victory Star banjolin

  1. #1
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    Default Looking for info on a Victory Star banjolin

    I ran across this funky little banjolin at a folk festival this past weekend and it came home with me. Kind of in love with it right now. The lady who was selling it got it from somebody in Tazmania. Tiny body, what seems like a bakelite resonator, good action and a nice loud sound that ought to cut through some fiddles at the next old time jam. I'd love to know more about it. Where do these come from? When were they made?

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Looking for info on a Victory Star banjolin

    The case is a British made Reliance case- George Houghton and Sons, and that is no surprise if it came from Tasmania. The instrument's tailpiece looks American but the tuners appear to be German. Houghton (GH & S) made banjolins but I cannot say this is one of that firm's output but they would have been sold in Australia. I cannot make out what the label states and assume it gives no clues. The instrument may have been European made- the nut hints at Germany and imported in the 1930s and the dealer paired it with the case. I suppose looking at banjolins online for a similar example may reveal the maker.
    I found this online- a post from Australia:
    I've inherited a plectrum banjo from a family member and I was hoping to find out a little about the history of the maker, and of the model, as I can't find anything specific online, except that it the George C Dobson company made "Victor" banjos. It has "Victor Star Artist" on the neck and appears to be of a reasonable age, though I actually have no idea. I'm reluctant to take the resonator off as it seems quite loose, the screw in the back may be damaged and I'm worried I won't be able to get it back on again. I'm located in Australia, if that is of any help at all. Any advice you knowledgeable folks could throw my way would be greatly appreciated.

    Edit: The attribution to Dobson was questioned due to the period the instrument mentioned was made and that probably applies to your banjolin which must be 1920s or 1930s.

    This thread was started by somebody in Australia- so it is Australian made or more likely imported and possibly a brand created by an Australian dealer but not much was confirmed: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...ictor-Banjolin

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Looking for info on a Victory Star banjolin

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    I suppose looking at banjolins online for a similar example may reveal the maker.
    I'm really striking out on that front. There's almost nothing online that's similar to this. I did discover a website for the Victoria Banjo Club, whose emblem is on the headstock. I'll try to reach out to them and see if they know more.

  5. #4

    Default Re: Looking for info on a Victory Star banjolin

    As the earlier thread mentioned, it is probably British made but I would not rule out continental Europe but it seems Australia is where they are found which makes me think somebody there organised their production and importation- but it is just possible they were assembled in Australia with some parts made locally.

  6. #5

    Default Re: Looking for info on a Victory Star banjolin

    I second for British-made. Unlikely made in Australia. There were local makers in Australia, but they all well known and documented, the ones like Hec McLennan etc. This one doesn't look like one of those.

  7. #6

    Default Re: Looking for info on a Victory Star banjolin

    Nothing concrete, but I’d be surprised if a dealer or distributor would go to the expense of having a Bakelite molding like that done just for re-branding.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Looking for info on a Victory Star banjolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard500 View Post
    Nothing concrete, but Id be surprised if a dealer or distributor would go to the expense of having a Bakelite molding like that done just for re-branding.
    Here's the thing, though: the printed badge on the headstock is for the Victoria Banjo Club of Melbourne, Australia. It says "sole agents / Victor Star / quality instruments". Some digging revealed that the Victoria Banjo Club was established in 1932:

    "During the height of its popularity from the 1930s to the late 1950s, the Club had a headquarters and music store in central Melbourne and boasted a membership numbering in the hundreds."

    The club was revived in 2002. Their website shows old photos of auditoriums full of children wielding similar instruments to the one I picked up. Perhaps if this was a big enough concern, it might have been worth the Bakelite molding?

  9. #8

    Default Re: Looking for info on a Victory Star banjolin

    It could be then that the banjo club had these made- possibly using a local dealer who imported from the UK to create something a bit special for the club. There was a huge music boom in the 1930s in Britain and this was replicated in Australia and Melbourne was the most important city, too. It seems likely that these were only sold in Australia and are a bit more than just re-badged off the shelf George Houghton & Sons or John Grey products from England. You may be able to find banjolins with some of the same features but not exactly the same. As I wrote earlier you cannot rule out the parts being assembled in Australia with some domestic input. On a prosaic note, I have a no-hope Harmony guitar that is date stamped 1940. It was clearly shipped to the UK in the late 40s from Australia and has Nick Manoloff guitar tutors which were an edition published in Australia in the case and its hard case was made in Australia, too. During WW2 Australia's industrial capability burgeoned out of necessity- they started to build various British aircraft- although the engines were shipped in, so their ability to make things increased dramatically. I think this instrument is 1930s but it could be a little newer but its case is a British one made by George Houghton in England.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Looking for info on a Victory Star banjolin

    I would think it highly unlikely that there was anything Australian in that banjo-mandolin other than the decal telling us it was sold by the Victoria Banjo Club. I would be fairly certain they would have got as many as they wanted from a wholesaler either in the UK or Germany. As Victor says there were a couple of small scale manufacturers here in the 30s, but as far as I can tell they were small and mainly concentrated on guitars. There was a banjo-mandolin craze here for a few years, I think in the early 30s, but that was overtaken by an Hawaiian music craze until 1939, when any frivolous social musical activity shut down quickly at the start of the war (which late 1939 here not the end of 1941). After 1945 there was little musical instrument production at all for a few years ( though there were some very interesting early pedal steel guitars made in the late 40s) until a few guitar builders like Bill May (Maton Guitars) started up as the import duties on American or European guitars made them prohibitively expensive. The large music shops in Sydney and Melbourne were still advertising banjo mandolins on things like 78 record sleeves well into the 1950s and there an awful lot of these dreadful things constantly being offered for sale at silly prices, which I suspect are rarely realised.

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