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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Gibson trapdoor banjos


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EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 05/28/2008:  17:58:19


Can anyone give me a rough estimate of current prices for Gibson trapdoor-style banjos? A quick internet search hasn't turned up any for sale that I could find. I know it would depend a lot on exactly which model, the year, condition, etc., but thought maybe there is a pretty well established range in value one could expect.

beegee - Posted - 05/28/2008:  20:49:47


They generally aren't worth much unless one is a pristine example. I've seen them on ebay for $200-700, never followed one long enough to see what the final price was. They don't make good bluegrass banjos.

__________________________
turtle on a fencepost....

wfawley - Posted - 05/28/2008:  21:06:33


I sold an original RB-3 trapdoor for $1200.00 10 years ago. On the other hand...a friend of mine just bought one for $450.00

Like the other Gibson models...the fives bring more. They do make good clawhammer banjos.

Wyatt

If your friends criticize the car you drive, or the banjo you play. Get new ones.

BTuno - Posted - 05/28/2008:  21:44:13


I concur with BGs price range, for tenor trapdoors. The 5 strings generally go higher. Gruhn sold a really nice RB-4 for several grand earlier this year. True they aren't commonly played as bluegrass banjos, but I've played my TB-5 trappie, with a conversion neck at many bluegrass jams, and it holds it own well. Nice thing about it is I can take off the picks and claw a tune if say, Soldier's Joy is called...a convertible of sorts. They are excellent clawhammer banjos!

To digress a bit, I really think the trapdoor banjos are way undervalued. These are the original mastertones (lowercase 'm') and the heritage of all Gibson banjos. 5 strings trapdoors are VERY rare. I've been keeping track of trapdoor serial numbers (or whatever they are) for over 5 years now, and I only have records of 12 RBs from 7 lots, 1922-1924. Using a similar calculation method as Spann or Spiers, only about 155 RB trapdoors were ever made. I'm sure there are a few more out there, but the ratio of those known to those made is very similar to Post 1925 Mastertones. I have played what is probably the earliest remaining Gibson RB banjo, a sweet little RB-jr. But dang, there has been no interest in one exactly like it (a later sn) that I have listed in the classified. I really don't understand why these banjos are not more sought after and appreciated. The tenors are ripe for conversion. Some enterprising person will produce a 10 1/2 inch reproduction flange and tone ring to fit the old trappie rims, then watch them go!

BT

''Ya gotta get all them tunes in you head''

beegee - Posted - 05/29/2008:  04:44:10


I don't recall ever seeing a 5-string trapdoor. I've seen some really clean tenors and one plectrum that I recall.

There's what appears to be a TB-Jr for sale on ebay right now for $101.00. I just can't excited about one for any price. Maybe if I was an OT guy?


__________________________
turtle on a fencepost....

Bill Rogers - Posted - 05/29/2008:  07:46:08


Most 5-string TDs you see are conversions. They are nice clawhammer banjos, but on the quiet side--in part probably because they have 10-1/2 in shells and not 11".

Bill

black flag - Posted - 05/29/2008:  08:46:01


I've owned two RB-4 Trapdoors over the years, both with and without the BB tone ring. In the long run what I liked most about them was their elegant design, but I didn't care much for the 10 1/2" rim nor the 1 3/16" neck width at the nut.

I've seen one BB TB-5 with a 12" rim on Ebay that I'm sure would have made a great conversion, but it got away from me at the last moment

Chris

EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 05/30/2008:  08:36:04


Thanks to all for the information. If I purchased such a banjo it would be for clawhammering and other OT playing, not bluegrass. In many ways choosing a Gibson trapdoor banjo (or any vintage instrument for that matter) isn't the most practical option for me right now, and I'll probably end up with a new open-back. But, like Chris, I admire their design, and there is some evidence that a great-great-uncle of mine (the only other family member I know of who played the banjo) owned a trapdoor back in the mid-1920's. I have had no luck in tracking down that actual banjo among all my third cousins and other such relatives, so I figured owning the same model would be as close as I could get. Anyway, thanks again.

TB-4 Guy - Posted - 06/01/2008:  22:55:13


My only banjo at this time is a 1923 TB-4 that I inherited from my Uncle back around 1983 or so. I'm no virtuoso on Tenor but I love to work on chords and scales on it and it's a wonderful compliment to my guitar and mandolin pursuit. I would say that mine is in really excellent conditon. It has a three-piece neck with a bound ebony fingerboard, bar frets and the 4 grade Fleur De Lis on the peghead. It was not played very much by my Uncle who also played my 1917 Gibson A-3 mandolin quite a bit.

Mine has the ball-bearing ring with the original non-mastertone decal inside. The original head was skin and I still have it although it's broken. I replaced it with a Remo Weatherhead frosted one and it's got a great sound. Mine has all silver-plated hardware and tailpiece and geared Waverly pegs. The case is original and in perfect condition, I even got the Gibson key to tighten the head and a mute.

I have no idea what it might be worth since it never occured to me that I would sell it. Obviously they are much less highly-valued than the later flahead five-stringers. I plan on adding a five stringer at some point in the near future but this one is a keeper since it's been in the family since new and I'm the second owner. I also have no plans to convert this banjo as I am primarily a collector and this is the condition that I value. The remainder of my collection is comprised of numerous older Martin and Gibson guitars and three mandolins: a 1917 A-3 Gibson, a 1949 F-12 and a 1964 Martin "A".

The trapdoors are a lovely banjo and a lot of fun to play with all due respect to the Blugrass devotees amongst us,

Here's a link to the National Music Museum with another 1923 TB-4 in a slightly different configuration for the fingerboard. My serial number is rather close to the one given for this one.

http://www.usd.edu/smm/PluckedStrin...anjoTB4.html


Here are a few pictures.














TB-4 Guy


Edited by - TB-4 Guy on 06/01/2008 23:11:21

f5loar - Posted - 06/02/2008:  19:51:07


I think the TB 5 Loar era gold plated traps are the prettiest banjos Gibson made in terms of inlay on the head. It's like a modified mandolin Fern pattern. They always used the best maple on the 5's too.
The TB5s are in the $2000 to $3000 range and the hardest model to find. I've got one and have only seen 3 others. My brother Bob had an originial RB4 trapdoor and put the neck on his '64 Bowtie Flathead.
Wish I knew what happened to that banjo!

Tom Isenhour

wvbanjo - Posted - 06/07/2008:  12:36:54


[quote]Originally posted by TB-4 Guy

The trapdoors are a lovely banjo and a lot of fun to play with all due respect to the Blugrass devotees amongst us,

Hi TB-4 Guy,
I have had my 1923 Gibson TB-5 since about 1980. I have never seen another one like it at any of the hundreds of festivals I have attended. Mine was already converted to a 5-string when I got it, and I don't have the tenor neck. I've always wished that I had that to go with the banjo. Mine has a ball-bearing tone ring, but it's not a trap-door like yours. It has the Mother-of-Toiletseat resonator, which I found out was originally called a Pyralin Resonator. I don't usually play it with the resonator on, mainly because it doesn't fit into the case. And YES, it is very fun & easy to play. The ball-bearing tone ring gives it a different sound than most of the other openback banjos I have seen.

I put photos of mine on my newly created homepage. If anyone has other information about it, I'd sure like to know about it!


kim johnson

TB-4 Guy - Posted - 06/07/2008:  13:06:01


quote:
Originally posted by wvbanjo

[quote]Originally posted by TB-4 Guy

The trapdoors are a lovely banjo and a lot of fun to play with all due respect to the Blugrass devotees amongst us,

Hi TB-4 Guy,
I have had my 1923 Gibson TB-5 since about 1980. I have never seen another one like it at any of the hundreds of festivals I have attended. Mine was already converted to a 5-string when I got it, and I don't have the tenor neck. I've always wished that I had that to go with the banjo. Mine has a ball-bearing tone ring, but it's not a trap-door like yours. It has the Mother-of-Toiletseat resonator, which I found out was originally called a Pyralin Resonator. I don't usually play it with the resonator on, mainly because it doesn't fit into the case. And YES, it is very fun & easy to play. The ball-bearing tone ring gives it a different sound than most of the other openback banjos I have seen.

I put photos of mine on my newly created homepage. If anyone has other information about it, I'd sure like to know about it!


kim johnson



Hi,

Thanks for showing us your banjo. I think yours is pretty unusual, especially that resonator. Note that both of our banjos are "pre-mastertone".

As I mentioned earlier, I'm more of a guitar collector than a banjo man. That being the case, I like my instruments original. Thus, the little TB-4 will remain a tenor.

I fully intend to pickup a five-string banjo as soon as I can fnd one that fits my budget. So far, the owners of the ones I've looked at value them higher than I do. LOL.

Regards,

TB-4 Guy


Edited by - TB-4 Guy on 06/07/2008 13:07:11

mikehalloran - Posted - 06/07/2008:  17:10:43


>I don't recall ever seeing a 5-string trapdoor. I've seen some really clean tenors and one plectrum that I recall. <

David Grisman has owned at least two RB-3 trapdoors. I sold him one in 1995. I traded straight across for my 1916 A-1 mandolin. Mine, like many, had a Mastertone label although it is clearly not the Masertone that came out a year later. I see them still priced between $1300-1500 with RB-4s going for a bit more if pristine.

The most famous trapdoor RB-3 certainly has to be this one:







You can hear it here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TVm...ture=related

Mike Halloran


Edited by - mikehalloran on 06/08/2008 12:09:54

mikehalloran - Posted - 06/07/2008:  17:29:08


Many trapdoor 3s, 4s, and 5s had the Mastertone label. Mine certainly did. I wish that I had a picture of it since so many others did not.

I found this site with good pics of an RB-4
http://www.earnestbanjo.com/gibson_...1101A-13.htm


Edited by - mikehalloran on 06/08/2008 12:00:11



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