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June 14, 2009

Curtis McPeake Verifies $85K Pre-War Banjo Using Taste, Smell

“This is the real McCoy,” says expert appraiser

Curtis McPeake, a leading expert in vintage Gibson banjos, hordes them in a field guarded by a rabid dog.

Impressively, McPeake’s smell and taste test was able to pinpoint the banjo’s origin to a specific 1933 lot and serial number.

MT. JULIET, TN— Vintage banjo expert Curtis McPeake has awed the banjo world and fortified his own legend by successfully validating the origin of a pre-World War II Gibson Mastertone flathead based on smell and taste alone.

“I found this banjo in my grandpa’s attic after he passed on, and everyone told me that Curtis McPeake would be the world’s best guy to appraise it,” said the banjo’s owner, a Michigan native.

“Absolutely nobody else in the world has this level of familiarity with pre-war banjos. His appraisals are definitive, but I must admit there’s a certain element of mystery there,” said R. Smith, a Tennessee instrument maker.

Vintage Gibson banjos sometimes consist of nonstandard combinations of easily interchangeable parts that are notoriously difficult to verify. And in recent years high market values have driven ever more sophisticated forgeries.

McPeake customizes his appraisal regimen based on the exact attributes of each banjo, and much of his credibility derives from the intangible expertise gained by possessing and playing so many vintage Gibsons over the course of his lifetime.

During his analysis of the banjo, McPeake first removed the bronze tone ring from the pot of the instrument, briefly caressed it and smelled its entire perimeter several times.

“Then he licked it pretty extensively, like a lollipop,” said the banjo’s owner.

Within thirty minutes, McPeake had completed his written appraisal of the instrument, which is now for sale on consignment at for $85,000 or best offer.

“Yup, it’s the real McCoy,” said McPeake.

Impressively, McPeake’s smell and taste test was able to pinpoint the banjo’s origin to a specific 1933 lot and serial number.

“RB-3, 9469-6,” said McPeake.

However, some skeptics in the banjo community have quietly expressed concerns about the methods employed by McPeake and others.

“McPeake seriously licked a pre-war ring like a lollipop?” said Noam Pikelny, a pre-war banjo owner. “I find all of this very hard to believe.”


12 Responses to “Curtis McPeake Verifies $85K Pre-War Banjo Using Taste, Smell”

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  3. jeff wilson on September 27th, 2010 8:37 pm

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  4. jeff wilson on September 27th, 2010 8:35 pm

    I bought an old banjo at an estate sale. i have been told it is from the late 18 hundred’s or very early 19 hundred’s. i would very much like to get it appraised or get some information on it. is there anyone that can give me information on this banjo if i send pictures. or does anyone know where i can take it in the maryland delaware area. thanks for your help in advance

  5. mike & jen phelan on June 15th, 2010 4:41 pm

    wE BOUGHT A GIBSON BANJO AT AN ESTATE SALE.All original parts and played by one owner.the grandson of the man gave me a picture of his grand father who played the banjo. it has the original paper work and the showroom tag.the tag says gibson tb00.Also has original master tone strings in original box.Original case and hardware.Can you help us out with a value on this. THANKS MIKE AND JEN PHELAN

  6. Debbie Steele on April 11th, 2010 11:38 am

    Mr McPeake,
    I just aquired a antique childs banjo, I believe. It says Style A washburn
    No.2722. Do you know anything about these? Its in the case, and the people said it was their uncles when he was 12 yrs old and hes in his 80’s. Please let me know what you can.

    Debbie Steele
    New Carlisle, Ohio

  7. Tracy Latham on January 23rd, 2010 9:21 pm

    That makes for a cute story, but I doubt very seriously it is the ‘whole truth and nothing but the truth.’ Still, Curtis is a friend of mine, and until I get verification from him on the subject, I will not be asking him to guess my age.

  8. Wahrheiten aus der Bluegrass-Welt « Doppelstopp on January 6th, 2010 10:04 am

    […] dass der Vintagebanjo-Experte Curtis McPeake die Herkunft eines alten Gibson-Teils lediglich durch Riechen und Schmecken klären konnte. Nicht zuletzt ist uns eine Meldung entgangen, nach der „mandolin icon and […]

  9. Donna Allanson on September 15th, 2009 11:03 am

    I have a S.S. Stewart banjo. I would like to know what it is worth. I believe it is circa – 1888 from the trademark and information I obtained on line. Can you appraise it for me? Donna – phone # 540-247-3579

  10. Laura St Cyr on August 1st, 2009 10:24 am

    I have an old banjo that belonged to my grandfather who has passed on. All that I know about it is that it is a Framus 4 string banjo in excellent condition, it has either chrome or silver engraved lining around the drum part, the neck looks like it has mother of pearl inlay and the head has a golden eagle inlay, it’s kind of on the heavy side but sounds very nice. I have no idea how much it may be worth if anything, can you help?

  11. george on July 13th, 2009 11:09 am

    looling for some information on a banjo – it is a michigan make or at least that is what is on the neck along with a stamp at the top that is h120

  12. mark aymar on July 8th, 2009 7:21 pm

    I met Mr. McPeake about 17 years ago and he helped me authenticate and appraise a family heirloom- an old Bacon and Day Silver bell tenor. I have dealt with him regularly over the years and I have always found his advice and information to be right on. A real old school gentleman and one of the greatest banjo players who ever lived. His knowledge of vintage Gibsons and his hearing are legendary.

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