Well I have a tone hoop converted Gibson style 11 from the 30’s (a Kel Kroydon). Because there is no tone ring, it only weighs a little under 9 lbs which I really like.
You can still find Kel Kroydon tenors for under $2400 (I’m not sure if you could snag a late 30’s Gibson for that though). You’d have to get a neck made so you’ll be over $3000 but this is a route to an affordable ‘prewar’.
Is this a good idea though? I don’t really know but I don’t look at other banjos anymore.
The standard answers are probably going to be Yates, Hubers, Sullivans and Hatfields. Maybe Stelling, probably not Deering though at this price point, you can get a very good instrument and the rest is just about showing off to your friends.