Nov. 23, 2020

A new book on the market.

Jim Jacquet presented a tour of his collection.

Co-founder of “The Gathering" Jim Bollman gives a virtual tour of some of the gems of his collection.

Details of an old Dobson banjo that I sold to Jim Bollman many, many years ago.

A small part of the most meticulous Hank Schwartz collection.

Definitely coming home

If buddy Charley will help me get this to the new house and get it set up it will be running once again. It’s one of the few remaining artifacts from the house on East Avenue

A birthday present from years ago

This 1920s Stylel 3 Koawood soprano ukulele from the Martin company seems to be calling my name.

"Heading" home?

Newsletter On collecting

November 23rd  2020

Good Morning Friends,

    Dealing with collectors has been a major part of our business for the past 45 years. The psyche of a collector is completely different than those of "everyday" people. Collectors have a different sense of history, passion and immortality as collections have a lifespan far beyond that of their human caretakers. Last weekend was the annual Banjo Gathering, virtually of course as most events are these days. This year's gathering included Virtual Banjo Collector Tours from Jim Bollman, Chuck Levy, Hank Schwartz, Mollie Smith, and Stan Werbin, in addition to presentations on various historical banjo related topics. 

    Now, I have never been a collector of musical instruments. It would of course be a conflict of interest. Dealers who are collectors just keep the best stuff for themselves and sell their customers the cast offs. I have often sarcastically remarked that my collection is everything that has not sold! This past week a customer asked me if I had any recollection of a banjo that I sold to him back in 1999. Of course I had all the details including serial number and pictures. That got me to looking at my database which I believe shows an excess of 40,000 instruments that we have cataloged, described in detail, photographed and sold. We have been selling instruments to players and collectors for a long time but it is the collectors who have the interesting stories. Some collectors are wealthy and price means nothing and others are on a budget but there is one thing they have in common..... passion for history and discovery. Now it may seem foreign or excessive to some folks that someone has more than one of something that is utilitarian. Why do you need more than one banjo? Of course we are not talking about need. We are talking about curiosity and passion and thirst for knowledge. There are no boundaries with this. Recently I polled my staff about collecting and they looked at me rather quizzically. They are all young and they don’t know any collectors in their generation. It is a foreign concept and it is not about money. Many of them are minimalists and distain the idea of having a burden of things. Collecting certainly is a burden and weighs heavily with the responsibility of maintaining and "feeding’ the herd. However, collecting forces us to give the reason why we like something, it expresses our values, it lends order to the world around us. 

     As Julie and I get ready for the move to Penn Yan in two weeks, we are faced with a new dilemma. What will we bring with us when we move? We will be going from an 1100 square foot apartment to a house three time that size. We need some things to fill up the space. As I walk around our shop I look at some things that have personal meaning and I  believe we will take them to the new residence for display. Even though they will still remain on our website for sale they are most likely things that will not sell in the store but on our website which we will continue to maintain and monitor. Over the years we have filled the store with many curiosities and ephemera that will certainly look appropriate in our new residence. It is an exciting time.

Have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving, 

John Bernunzio

This instrument, from the collection of Chuck Levy, is a Bacon Blue Ribbon banjo that belonged to Mike Seeger. Chuck gave a presentation of his unique collection. I have a special connection to this banjo because my teacher and Chuck Levy‘s teacher, Steve Slottow decided that this was the banjo that would produce the absolutely best sound. He became obsessed with finding one just like Mike’s. Since he didn’t have a car, I drove him all around trying to find some thing similar to the Bacon Blue Ribbon. The "quest" is a big part of collecting.

How many trinkets have accumulated at the store on East Avenue? It’s a tchotchke museum and it might be time to spread them out.

Definitely on the list of things to come home is this old Edison with a box of wax cylinders

I’ll have to pick a couple of these for sure