1933 Epiphone Dynamic 2

 

To many collectors, prototypes and custom-ordered instruments represent holy grails. They are valued for their uniqueness and rarity, though, depending on the exact features of the instrument, there may be some advantage from a practical perspective as well. Some of the most sought-after instruments are documented in literature but are rarely or never seen, such as the 1958 Gibson Moderne, the existence of which is not certain.

Every so often, the opposite happens: an instrument appears without any precedent in contemporary catalogues or manufacturers’ literature. This banjo is one such example. Epiphone banjos from the mid 1920s through the 1930s are fairly well documented; the higher-end models comprised the Recording series, and there were several more affordable models with simpler construction. There is no record of a Dynamic model, no record of a model with a metal rim, and no record of an Epiphone banjo with this kind of flange or fretboard decoration.

A little bit of information can be gleaned from this banjo, however. The serial dates to about 1933, a time when banjo sales were in a considerable slump. While Epiphone and other companies were shifting their focus to guitars, the Dynamic may have been Epiphone’s last-ditch effort to revitalize banjo sales. In fact, the “2” on the peghead suggests that an entire range of Dynamic models was planned, probably with increasingly ornate trim like the Recording and Seville guitar models 0 through 4. It appears that Epiphone was taking notes on the competition; the slanted fretboard inlays recall the Vega Moderne and the flange design – though it has Epiphone’s characteristic X-shaped cutouts – strongly resembles flanges by Bacon and a few other companies.

The most unique feature of this banjo is the aluminum rim and tone ring, which is a total departure from the more conventional construction of the Recording series banjos. The only substantial use of aluminum in a pre-War Epiphone instrument was the top plate on the Model M lap steel, which was still a few years away when this banjo was built. It’s not easy to see where the inspiration came from, though other aluminum-rimmed banjos did exist at the time. The square-profiled metal dowel and the holed outer rim are also unique, and they suggest that Epiphone spent a lot of money tooling up to make a banjo that never went into mass production. The most familiar aspect of the banjo’s design is the border of rhinestones around the headstock, which was already in use on the Emperor banjos.

Aside from a few missing rhinestones and a crack in the flange, this banjo appears to be entirely original and has survived in unusually clean condition. The sound is notably brighter than the Recording series models, though the neck has a similar feel.

 

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