Stelling Banjoworks was established in 1974 as a place where Geoff Stelling could improve upon and refine the traditional banjo design. Stelling banjos are among the finest banjos ever made. While other builders construct banjos from readily available parts, Stellings are constructed with as many proprietary parts, fittings, and hardware as possible. Although the Stelling shop has closed, we are fortunate that there are lot of great second-hand Stellings out there in the world.
The Golden Cross is a highly-appointed, elegant 5-string with a Flame Maple neck and Figured Maple resonator. This model was named named for Tony Golden, who rode motorcycles with Geoff and bought the first Golden Cross. Interestingly, it was the 9th Stelling model introduced, abut it was the first to feature the trademarked Stelling headstock shape.
This Golden Cross was made in 1999, and like a lot of Stelling banjos, almost every part on it was meticulously crafted in the Stelling shop. The tone ring, the tension hoop, the flange, the tailpiece, bridge, and even the armrest all bear the "Stelling" stamp and were crafted to Geoff's precise specifications. It has intricate rope purfling inlaid around the edges of the resonator and along the the edges of the neck. The fingerboard and peghead inlays are elaborate, and the 17th fret bears the "Golden Cross" badge.
This 1999 Golden Cross is in excellent cosmetic condition, but does show some playwear and the hardware is beginning to tarnish, especially the armrest. 5th string spikes have been added to the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th frets. It plays really nicely with a fast, low setup and a slim neck carve. Thanks to the careful nut shape and bridge design, the intonation is right where it wants to be. Soundwise, it produces powerful bluegrass pop. This Stelling would be an excellent resonator banjo to drive a string band—it has the cut and Maple presence you want, but also the body and balance to back it up.
This 1999 Stelling Golden Cross includes a basic featherweight zip case. It's not the most impressive case, but it will be plenty to protect the banjo and cart it around town.