Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Banjo Lovers Online

Discussion Forum

Want to hide these Google ads? Join the Players Union!

 All Forums
 Other Banjo-Related Topics
 Shopping Advice
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: 1989 Blue Gibson Mastertone on themusiczoo website for sale is it for real?

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

Majorbanjo - Posted - 03/27/2020:  14:41:36

I know this was the Greg Rich Era and this looks right up his alley....your thoughts, opinions?

roydsjr - Posted - 03/27/2020:  14:53:34

I would think the inlay work would be better than that. That is one of things that he helped improve. The shape of the peghead is not good and the inlays were spaced badly. I would not want it myself. I've done better inlay work (with the LORD's help) . The finish is interesting! That's the first that I have seen done that way.

Blue20Boy17 - Posted - 03/27/2020:  15:14:17

I agree with Roy... I wouldn't want this banjo. It looks poorly inlayed. I have seen one similar (the RB-M00) in possession of Darrell McCumbers from the GR era, but its inlay is much, much better quality, its headstock is shaped properly, etc. This doesn't look like GR quality.

GStump - Posted - 03/27/2020:  15:14:53

Trey, I saw that banjo online somewhere too a few days ago. Interesting for sure, but i DO NOT think it's gibson, (or wholly Gibson) the peghead also caught my eye - doesn't appear to be shaped exactly right. The Tailpiece appears to be from the 70's. Having said that the neck does appear to be very well made, could in fact be from Gibson. Kind of reminds me of those first generation Scruggs banjos that were made in the mid 80's. You may or may not know, those were built using parts from a variety of sources, stew mac, Ryan rings, fqms, (or so the story goes) and they were not "bad" banjos" but certainly weren't up to the standards in place by the time greg rich came on board. IF one could get whomever is in possession of it right now, to take and post a LOT more pictures, it might be that it could be narrowed down just a bit more.

Alvin Conder - Posted - 03/27/2020:  15:26:19

I saw this same banjo advertised somewhere else, maybe Reverb or EBay. That would have been two weeks or so ago.

The only thing that looks Gibson to me is the tailpiece and the tuners.

As mentioned, the inlay is way worse than the worst example of Gibson inlay I have ever seen. Obviously the peghead is the wrong shape. Resonator looks to be poplar on the interior.

Doubtful it’s Gibson, but I’m not going to say 100% it’s not without having it in my hands. Could be a bizarre prototype. It’s ugly enough for the late 70’s.

Would look great with my Dads powder blue leisure suit.

RioStat - Posted - 03/27/2020:  16:10:08

Dried, crack lacquer around the peghead inlay (it says that in the ad)

Mis-shapen peghead, but this is a genuine Gibson.

Edited by - RioStat on 03/27/2020 16:10:55

OldWhiteGuy - Posted - 03/27/2020:  16:32:10

It sho is ugly

The Old Timer - Posted - 03/27/2020:  18:12:58

I believe that is the NECK from a 1984-86 Gibson Scruggs model. It purposely had that "wrong" peghead shape and gooney inlay.

On looking at an enlarge photo of the peghead the outline of the peghead is "wrong" down around the 1st and 4th strings.  Cut too close and too straight.

The photo of the case has "Scruggs" written in magic marker on the masking tape.

Anybody could have put that together. I've seen photos of a Greg Rich "blue Mastertone" and it had a completely different look from that.

Edited by - The Old Timer on 03/27/2020 18:15:17

Brett - Posted - 03/28/2020:  05:33:33

Music Zoo sucks.

J.Albert - Posted - 03/29/2020:  11:46:05

That looks like one of the "first run style" Earl Scruggs banjos (with the "incorrect" peghead and probably Stew-Mac parts) that received a "blue finish" (instead of sunburst).

Either a special-order or perhaps just something Greg Rich or someone else wanted to try. Could it have been an "employee-made" banjo?

I'm going to -guess- that sound quality and construction-wise, it is comparable to one of the first-run ESS banjos -- and perhaps not so much with the "revised" ESS Scruggs models that were introduced in the Rich period...

The serial number seems odd.

IIRC, ESS numbers are sequential, four digits or less.

This one is "1987-005" -- doesn't seem to fit.

Again, could be either a custom-ordered banjo, an employee banjo, or perhaps something else.

One final thought: I'm wondering if this was built with a "leftover" neck and resonator (from the earlier style ESS run) AFTER Gibson switched to the "revised style" (which more correctly resembled a Granada banjo)? Perhaps they had a few "old necks" "in the white" which couldn't be used, so they tried something else with them...?

waystation - Posted - 03/29/2020:  17:00:30

The 1987 factory records show that the 1987- serial number series was used between June and December 1987 for a variety of custom banjos. They were produced at the same time as the early Rich era standard models but did not match any of the catalog descriptions. The neck on the Music Zoo instrument is definitely from a 1984-era Scruggs model. The peghead shape matches. So does the crappy inlay quality and the shrinkage around the inlays.

The factory lists show 1987-004, -005 and -006 all completed November 4-5, 1987. -004 was "Custom red/candy apple with gold hardware and hearts and flowers. -005, this banjo, is described as "Custom blue and white", with H&F. -006 is "Custom silver/nickel" with H&F. -005 is dated 11/4, the other two are 11/5.

So this is unquestionably a genuine custom Gibson from 1987, not 1989. Whether that makes it worth having is a separate issue.

waystation - Posted - 03/29/2020:  17:21:42

It gets even more interesting. The factory was using four separate serial numbering schemes in the last half of 1987:

1. RB-250s used the standard 8-digit serial numbering system Gibson used for their guitars.
2. Earl Scruggs models used the 4-digit consecutive numbers that were unique to the 1984 blond reissue.
3. Granadas used the numbering scheme we're used to - yymm followed by a 1-3 digit number indicating the build order within the year.
4. Custom banjos apparently got the 1987 numbering scheme.

It seems they were trying to revive the tradition of serial numbers that no one can figure out.

The rest of the 1987 "batch":

1987-001 is "Custom Mastertone, pearl white, Gold hardware". 9/2/87.
1987-002 is "Custom Mastertone, brown finish, hearts and flowers". 9/3/87.
1987-003 does not show up in the records.
1987-006 is used again. The other one is dated 12/9/87 and described as "silver w/black chrome hardware".
1987-007 is a mandolin/banjo, described as "E.S. style". The factory records state the obvious and say it's a custom order. Dated 12/9/87.
1987-22 (!) is a H&F Granada with tonering #55, dated 12/10/87. However, 8712-22, which should have been a Granada, is missing from the list, so maybe they misnumbered the banjo or wrote it down wrong in the records. 8712-21 and 23 are both Granadas and 1987-22 shows up between them.

rcc56 - Posted - 03/29/2020:  18:26:30

Did banjos actually leave the factory with those noticeably asymmetrical peghead ears?? That looks really bad, even for Gibson during their worst days.

I guess the answer is yes.

I have seen lacquer lifting and dry, sloppy filler lines on other Gibson pegheads [possibly a result of to many coats of overly thinned lacquer], but that one is about the worst I've seen.

Oh well, we shouldn't be too surprised. I've seen some Norlin era [1970 to 1985] flat top guitars that looked more cheaply made than the cheap Chinese forgeries that have been floating around for the last few years.  I just would have thought that their work was starting to clean up by the time this banjo was made.  I guess not . . .

Edited by - rcc56 on 03/29/2020 18:36:26

waystation - Posted - 03/29/2020:  19:19:26

I remember being excited when I heard news about the Earl Scruggs model in 1984. I went to the music store to see it and ... Junk. Yes, the peghead was the wrong size, and asymmetric, the inlay was sloppy, and on top of all that it sounded terrible. Gibson's idea of reissuing a historic instrument involved copying the design of a neck that they didn't even build, imitating a poor imitation of their original product. This banjo is a reminder of those days, and of the amazing rescue Greg Rich and his compatriots pulled off. The Gibson banjos of 1986 are a completely different animal than their banjos of 1988, and we're all better off for it.

backinthegame - Posted - 03/31/2020:  05:07:37

I seem to remember this banjo from the 1988 Orange county NAM show. It was there with the snakeskin and pumkinhead banjos. I believe made for the NAM show as a very early customshop example; it was ugly then too, lol!!

waystation - Posted - 03/31/2020:  08:11:13

I saw the snakeskin banjo, I believe at Mandolin Brothers, in 1988, and saw pictures of the pumpkinhead around the same time. Those were true Rich-era banjos, with correct peghead and high quality construction and finish. They also showed Greg's sense of humor, unlike this banjo.

BTW, I found 1987-003. It's a Granada prototype dated Nov 2, 87 and documented as sold at the time to Bobby Hicks.

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories