Mike: I think you are right on the money (no pun intended) on your values for the 175 and 180. The other main difference in the two is that the 180 has a bound fingerboard and the 175 is unbound. The 175's show up fairly often but the 180's are few and far between.
Bob, the Gibson longnecks are interesting banjos but even during the folk era they were not as preferred as the Vega Pete Seeger models. John Stewart of the Kingston Trio played a 180 but said that he felt that the Gibson "didn't cut nearly as well as the Vega". I still like them and if you can can get it for a good price I believe it is worth it.
I recently picked up a banjo that had a 180 neck on a 175 pot. Last week Dan Pennington turned the rim and fit a Sullivan ring to it. When I get it back together in tha next couple of days it should be almost identical to the original 180 I already have. The tonering in my 60's 180 has a real nice tone. I have often thought about trying it one of my Bowties to see how it compares.
Bob, keep us posted on what you end up doing. There are quite a few of us longneck fans who would be interested in hearing. Thanks for the post.
The first RB-180 I got was back in the '70s. I was relatively new to banjos and very soon was caught up in a bluegrass lust stage. In around 1976 I rather stupidly let it go for less than the cost of an imported resonator banjo. I regretted it for years, until recently I was lucky enough to find and buy another RB-180 at a very good price. Both of mine were/are 1964s.
Considered by some to be the Mastertone of Gibson longnecks, Gibson only shipped 328 of the RB-180s between 1961 and 1968. Gibson shipped 2705 RB-175s between 1962 and 1973.
As has been mentioned, the Gibson longneck banjos weren't huge sellers, Vega and ODE/OME eclipsed this market. But the Gibson longnecks had a loyal following during the folk craze, and they still do now. With the right setup, the RB-180 has enough volume, snap and crack to keep up with any other longneck. Mine currently sports a Yellowstone head and it will peel the paint off the walls.
Don: I was wondering when you were going to post on this thread knowing you to be another Gibson longneck owner (and fan). The banjo that first started this thread and which I assume is the one now on Ebay appears to be an all original RB180. It shows the normal signs of age that these normally have in finish checking, chips on the peghead edges and a good bit of tarnish. All of the parts (tuners, tailpice, armrest,etc.) look to be original. The ones that I have/had as they say "clean up real good"! I agree that if set up properlly the 180's are great banjos and are fun to play. (Wives love them because the are quieter than our resonator banjos.) Having already put in a bid on this one, it'll be interesting to see what the market says this one is worth. I am still working (very slowly) on replicating the only longneck RB500 Gibson made in 1964. I would love to find out who has that one now. It was great sounding banjo.
As snobbish as the bluegrass folks can be, I believe that the long-neck folkies can be even more so. In fact, I am about to test those waters when I sell my early 60s Vega PS-5 with the blonde neck.
I guess I'm one of those snobs. No doubt the Gibson longnecks are great but I associate the Vega PS5 with all my favorites from the folk era and all the great memories that go with it...Pete, Dave Guard, Billy Faier, Bob Gibson, Alex Hassilev, Eric Darling, John Stewart, Peggy Seeger, Hedy West, Sandy Bull, Mike Kirkland, etc., etc.
Mike: I see you removed the pix or your Vega longnecks. This sounds like a drastic move...(selling your blond l/n, that is)
Our local store had an Epiphone long neck with a tone ring. It was a thin rim and the tone ring hung over on the inside. The rim also looked like it was turned for a flange but had shoes. Don't know for sure if it was stock or put together but it looked to be all Kalamazoo.
I love the history, I've seen three Gibson longnecks, saw their design philosophy, led me to make some changes. In fact, a Gibson longneck on E-Bay back in 2006, led me to research and purchase a Gold Tone OB250 Long Neck w resonator. I prefer the maple neck. Since then I've built 4 longnecks, 2 for personal use. I play bluegrass and clawhammer interchangeably on a longneck, oooooh.
I'm glad I didn't buy the Gibson, I see there are those who love them, I would re-rim it in a minute. The Gibson couldn't compete because of the Tubaphone. If Gibson would listen, we could rectify that. Marketing people thought the youth of the day to be too fickle. Now all the ugly ducklings are grown and they fly pretty good.
As far as alienation amongst the Polka Lions (Folk Alliance), Oh, shoot, just play will ya.
Gibson missed out. How hard is it to make a long neck with a double cut headstock, they're doing it in Asia.
Hmmm, interesting. In the midst of most pre-war Gibson values going down due to the economy, these RB-180s are going up or at least holding their own. It will be interesting to see what these puppies do over the next few years.
Don and Mike: I bought this RB180 to add to my collection of longnecks. It should arrive on Thursday (7/10) so I'll know then if it was a good deal. I first owned a 180 in the late 60's and have always had an appreciation for them. I do have a mid 60's Seeger model among other longnecks and like it also but it has a completely different tone as you know. Although I've played bluegrass for 30+ years I still have a soft spot for the longnecks. The other two 180's I have I picked up relatively cheaply in the last year. It will be interesting to see how this one compares. At the prices these have sold I don't necessarily see them as investments although they surprisingly seem to have increased in value a little bit in the last few months. The Seegers on the other hand have remained fairly stable in value over the last 2-3 years. I collect for fun and hope not to loose any money in the long term. The 180's work well in that role. The important thing for me is to never let my wife see all of my banjos at the same time!!! Hereford Percy
The RB180 that possibly started this thread arrived today and I was happy to see that it is in very good condition. There are no structural problems and has the normal finish checking common to these banjos. The head is split and the 5th string peg is not original but both are easily replaceable. I even have an original Grover 5th string peg used on the 180's. The serial number dates this banjo as a 1964 model. There is quite a bit of tarnish on the metal parts (tuners, armrest, brackets,etc) but I have had good results in polishing the parts on my other 180's. Overall I am very pleased with the purchase and hope to have it in playing condition in a few days. Bob, thanks for starting this thread.
Mike: This is really only the 2nd true 180 I have. The 3rd one is a banjo I found on Ebay about 6 months ago that has a 175 pot with a 180 neck. A few weeks ago I had Dan Pennington turn the 175 rim and mount a Sullivan ring on it. He did a super job but I haven't had a chance to reassemble it yet and see how it sounds as a "180" now.
Over the last year two friends and I have twice presented a workshop at a couple of bluegrass festivals on buying and collecting banjos. We are not experts but had between 30-40 banjos on display including some Gibson prewars, Odes, Fenders, Vegas as welll as Stellings and Hubers among others. It was in effect a chance to share our experiences in acquiring banjos over the years with other banjo pilayers who are interested in doing the same thing.
I would like to do a similar workshop sometime with longnecks and other folk style banjos. There are at least two other longneck collectors I know of here in Denver and it would be fun to try it with them. In any case at some point I will sell off some of the longnecks before my wife discovers how crazy I am!
I recnety had a new student start and low and behold he pulled out a Gibson long neck!! A Man would need a 7 foot wingspan to play the thing!! The only thing I found on it was a serial number. It was on the back of the headstock. I didn't write it down but I will get it next time he is here. It did have a turned tone ring in it though. Any thoughts on it? I thought longnecks were 7 frets from the 5th string. This one was 8 frets.
The standard long neck has the 5th string at the 8th fret. There are a couple of well-known examples including Erik Darling's with it at the 7th fret.
The Vega Excel Custom and at least one Folklore had it at the 9th fret (the catalog was wrong by stating the 10th). This was done at the request of Alex Hassilev of the Limelighters who wanted to be able to capo up and play in F (Shubb capos not having been invented yet). The Excel also featured a blonde neck.
For what it's worth I have a Gibson long neck that is part 180 part 175. The neck is 175 but with a bound fingerboard and the pot has two coordinator rods but no tone ring. The folks at Gibson, by way of the serial number, said that it was custom ordered that way.
That's interesting, Jack. What is the serial number of that one? The one that I have that is the same configuration is serial# 320814 and dates to 1964 I believe. It only has one coordinator rod but had a tailpiece bracket that attached to the rim with a screw through the rim above the coordinator rod. I have never seen that type of tailpiece bracket before. After Dan Pennington turned the rim for a tone ring the screw hole for the bracket was covered by the tone ring. When I took the 180 neck off the 175 rim the lag bolt holes appeared to have been altered. This leads me to believe mine was not a special order but rather had the original neck replaced at a later date. For that reason yours would have a higher value than mine. It is also the reason that I had no problem altering the rim with a tone ring. Thanks for the info.
I'll check the serial # when I get home. I really like the sound without a tone ring. My son played it at a school "coffeehouse" venue and sitting at the back I was impressed with the sound. I think they are very underappreciated Jack ps I bought this on eBay years ago for $600.