- Who are John Grey and Sons?
John Grey and Sons was a London-based subsidiary business, located in Westminster. It started in 1832 and manufactured watches and steel pens, as well as other fancy items, but expanded its wares and also sold banjos, guitars and drums as a wholesaler in future years. It wasn't actually called John Grey and Sons until 1911, which is when the trademarks started to appear on the musical instruments and their cases.
- Who made the banjos then?
Francis Beddard is attributed as the maker of the John Grey and Sons banjos. He was an Englishman, but it's not stated how long he worked for Barnett Samuel; the man who bought the shop and named it John Grey and Sons.
- Are there fakes out there?
Yes, lots. Banjo production suffered after World War II, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. In comparison to the original pieces from the late 1800s into the early 1900s, these were very plastic and lacked resonance or were not very durable.
An expert will be able to date the instrument for you and value it, but also tell if it's fake. A fake will have cheaper components or a different style of manufacturing which gives it away as not being genuine.
A common misconception is that because the name John Grey and Sons is on the piece then it must be legitimate. Do not be fooled - the company moved to just naming pieces Grey and Sons, and also the name is commonly replicated in an attempt to add authenticity.