W. A. Cole Eclipse #3000 5 String Banjo , c. 1896

W. A. Cole  Eclipse #3000 5 String Banjo ,  c. 1896
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Item # 8940
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W. A. Cole Eclipse #3000 Model 5 String Banjo, c. 1896, made in Boston, Mass., serial # 2609, black varnish finish, laminated maple half-spun rim, mahogany neck with ebony fingerboard, black gig bag case.

This is a very nice-playing example of the Cole's Eclipse #3000 banjo with the famous man-in-the-moon headstock inlay, one of the iconic banjos of the classic 5-string era. These are generally considered to be one of the finest 5-string open back banjos ever made, rivaling Cole's ex-partner Fairbanks' instruments in beauty and craftsmanship if not always in sound.

These banjos have many distinctive design and construction features. The elegantly shaped "Boat Heel" neck is a Cole trademark, as are the screw-threaded neck adjustor, the uniquely stylish oval shoes, and the simple but effective Eclipse tone ring. The dowel is marked "Cole's Eclipse", "W.A.Cole Maker Boston Mass", and "Patented Jan-30-1894". The trademark engraved shaped pearl fingerboard and headstock inlays are a particularly lovely feature. This example was built with a smaller 10 3/8" head and a 27" scale neck, a somewhat unusual combination that gives it a very upfront sound, less mellow with more cut than many similar instruments. This is an excellent frailing or string band banjo, and still a wonderful player's instrument 120+ years on.
 
Overall length is 36 in. (91.4 cm.), 10 3/8 in. (26.4 cm.) diameter head, and 2 1/8 in. (5.4 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.).

This banjo is in excellent-playing condition, subtly re-worked to adapt it for steel stringing some time ago. The neck has had an adjustable truss rod invisibly added at the heel end (the neck must be removed to adjust it) and the back of the neck cleanly oversprayed. The lovely engraved pearl inlay appears original except possibly the man-in-the-moon piece itself, which looks more like a layer reproduction. The headstock is fitted with geared Planetary tuners and the face refinished. A geared fifth string tuner has been fitted along with a couple of railroad spikes and the nut is a wider piece than the original.

There is general wear and tarnish to the rim and dowel but no repairs or finish work. The rim hardware is original including the hooks, nuts, and neck adjusting hardware, and it is fitted with a period No-Knot tailpiece. The banjo is set up with an old plastic Remo head and steel strings and sounds great, with a very bright and punchy tone for a Cole due mainly to the smaller rim. This is a very fine authentic 19th century banjo that can be strung and played with steel strings (as opposed to gut as originally designed) without fear of damage to the instrument, and like all Cole's Eclipse models a real showpiece instrument. Very Good + Condition.