Orpheum No. 3 Special Model 5 String Banjo, c. 1915, made in New York City, serial # 3236, natural varnish finish, laminated maple rim and neck, black tolex soft shell case.
A truly beautiful and rare 5-string banjo from New York's premier makers Rettberg and Lange. The fancy Orpheum #3 Special was the highest cataloged model in the numbered style series. Along with the oversize rim Brass Band model, this represents Orpheum's instrument craft at its finest. The #3 Special features fancy shaped abalone inlay in the fingerboard and on both sides of the headstock, pearl button friction tuners, wood binding, multiple contrasting wood laminations everywhere and an extra marquetry strip around the rim. This banjo is quite rare in a 5-string model; most extant examples of this style are tenors. This particular instrument also includes a detachable period (early 1920's) resonator in a Vega-like pattern. A very fine example of a 1910's era top-quality banjo.
Overall length is 36 1/2 in. (92.7 cm.), 11 1/4 in. (28.6 cm.) diameter head, and 3 1/2 in. (8.9 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 27 in. (686 mm.). Width of nut is 1 1/4 in. (32 mm.). Appears all original except a few tension nuts and possibly the 5th string tuner button. Well played and loved; some plating loss (notably to the bracket shoes) and general finish wear overall. The fretboard has some wear especially in the first position but still appears to be fitted with original frets in good playable condition. Fitted with an older plastic head, a fine playing instrument and a very nice example of the finest in New York City banjomaking 100 or so years ago.