Fairbanks & Cole Clipper 5 String
S/N: 1916 1882 11 ˝ x 26 ˝” 5 1/2 lb.
Originality and Condition: This very elaborate banjo surfaced at an auction in Illinois and presented an amazing contrast in conditions between the pot and the neck. The pot was near mint and fully original with a full set of 40 Cobra hooks with square, ball- end nuts. The neck had multiple and varied problems including a hairline heel crack, one veneer under the fingerboard had disintegrated, and several inlays were missing from the peghead and board. Professionally restored to excellent condition by T. J. Thompson.
Background: Studying the few known Clippers
both sheds light on why collecting is such fun and teaches some interesting
lessons on collecting. As recently as 1993, over 100 years since they were made,
only one Fairbanks & Cole catalog had surfaced (1889) and only a single Clipper
model was known. It would have been logical to expect that future Clippers found
would be fairly similarly constructed. In just over 10 years another catalog
(1886) came to light and 3 more Clippers which show major variations in
construction. As one of the company’s highest priced models, they stimulate
special attention. Hank Schwartz and I are in the process of tabulating facts
about them and would appreciate any input.
About this instrument:
1) One of only 4 known Clippers and by far the
2) Features a metal cap that fits over the bottom edge of the rim; to my knowledge unique to Clipper models.
3) Several decorative features that are quite striking and “ ahead of their time”:
a) The inlay design
on the peghead and board is a “forerunner” of designs used on high-grade Cole
Eclipses and presentation models a decade later and semi-continuously occupies
about 75% of the frets.
b) The outside of the rim is decorated with a design of wood, pearl, and metal that forms a lovely garland.
c) Numerous veneers on the neck and peghead like top models a decade later; especially lovely back strap pattern.
4) Raised ivory frets which were offered in catalogs for $3.00 extra.
5) Cobra (flat) hooks with square, ball-end nuts.
6) Fancy ivory tuners.
7) Has a fairly sophisticated tone ring.
8) Tension hoop has a higher inner surface with a beaded edge and a lower outer surface that hides the flesh hoop.
Click to enlarge: