W. A. Cole Eclipse #3000 5 String Banjo (1895)

W. A. Cole  Eclipse #3000 5 String Banjo  (1895)
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Item # 9967
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W. A. Cole Eclipse #3000 Model 5 String Banjo (1895), made in Boston, Mass., serial # 2202, black varnish finish, laminated maple half-spun rim, mahogany neck with ebony fingerboard, black tolex hard shell case.

This is a truly superb 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. This one is completely original which is extremely rare to find considering the instrument's age.

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, 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 for the period that gives it a very upfront sound, less mellow with more cut than many similar instruments. Due to the fragility of the original bone tuners, we would strongly recommend using only gut, Nylon or Nylgut strings on this instrument. This is an excellent 19th century 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, amazingly virtually unaltered since the 1890s. There is some general wear and tear with tarnish to the plating overall. The only notable structural issue is some very minor de-lamination to a number of spots on the rim, mostly well-sealed bit visible in some areas. The rim was likely exposed to damp long ago, there is some minor finish flaking on the interior. There are no other visible repairs and no added finish work.

The hardware is original including the hooks, nuts, neck adjusting hardware and early pattern No-Knot tailpiece. The hoop has numerous hook marks on the top surface, the adjustment cap on the rear of the dowel is cracked along one edge but overall the hardware is well preserved. The original bone tuners are a complete matching set, which is very unusual to find this far along. The banjo is set up with a calfskin head and Nylgut strings and sounds great, like all Cole's Eclipse models a real showpiece instrument; we do not often see 120+ year old banjos in this sort of original state. Excellent - Condition.