The Fender Banjo
Fender has been making great stringed instruments for over 50 years, and their banjo's are still top of the line when you get to the more expensive models.
Fender has a devoted following among banjo musicians, as they do with their guitars and mandolins. You often hear owners say "I will never get rid of my Fender!" or "It's the only one I will ever play!". An icon in musical instrument making, they have gone through ups and downs over the decades, like Gibson, but have always come back strong.
There has been a marked improvement in the last few years with their quality control, coming out of a brief rough patch a few years ago that saw a disgruntled fan base complaining about some of their lower end products being poorly made or packaged/shipped improperly. While most parts are made in China, the FB-54 at under $350 as I write this, is a real nice moderately priced model, and the one I would choose of the Fender line to start out with.
If you are beyond the "I just want to see if I like a banjo" stage, and want a Fender banjo, I would recommend getting the FB54.
The FB 55, FB58 and FB59 are all musician/performance quality, sound great and are beautifully crafted instruments. Remember, unlike the Deerings, these are not made in the USA, but are imports that are quality controlled by Fender in the US, like the other major brands including the Gold Tones.
So, if Fender means something special to you, you can't go wrong getting any one of these find banjos, for yourself or as a gift. The best Fender models start around $500.