Plastic banjo ukes are inexpensive, neat, and fun to collect. The real question is, are they banjo ukes or just toys? I consider them to be both. Obviously they were produced as toys; in fact, the packaging on one type made by Carnival says "for children over 3 years." But, they are playable (some more so than others), and most of them are about the same size as regular banjo ukes.
Mario Maccaferri is considered the "father" of the plastic uke and banjo uke. His company, Mastro Industries, which was located in New York City, started producing them in the late 1940s. In 1969 Maccaferri sold his business to another major manufacturer, Carnival Toys of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
This is one of my favorites. The box has cardboard hands coming out of the sides, to make it appear that "Mr. Banjo" is being played. I imagine the box is quite a bit rarer than the instrument! The maker was Emenee, a well known manufacturer of plastic ukes and banjo ukes.
Here we have another Emenee product in the original box, which lets prospective customers know that this "Swing Your Partner" banjo uke features an "adjustable mylar head" and is "designed and made for musical enjoyment."
I imagine the "Mickey's Hi Kickin' Banjo" was popular with children and a money-maker for the manufacturer.
These two Carnival banjo ukes, both still in their original packaging, are virtually identical except for the pegheads and the color. However, not only do they have different packaging artwork, but the one on the left gives Carnival's address as Bridgeport, Connecticut and on the other one the address is Peoria, Illinois.
Here we have three more banjo ukes made by Carnival. The one in the center is a much smaller size than the others.
The owner of a "Magic Electric Banjo" didn't need to know anything about music. All that was needed was to insert batteries and push the keys on the fingerboard. The maker of this ingenious product was Emenee.
Mastro banjo ukes were made by Maccaferri. These two are virtually identical except for the heads. The one at the top pictures a river boat and a black man, while the other one has a man playing a banjo in the center, with eight smaller scenes around him.
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