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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: For Sale: Rare 1954 Gibson RB-250 (w/ original 5 string neck & skin head)


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: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/375216

KD Banjer - Posted - 05/23/2021:  14:03:09


Are you interested in owning and experiencing a Gibson Mastertone banjo almost exactly as it was almost 70 years ago in 1954?



Down to its original 5 string neck, this is a rare Gibson Mastertone banjo that is essentially a time capsule banjo that also has a great story.



The year this Gibson banjo was built- 1954- was the FIRST year that Gibson re-manufactured its Mastertone banjo after World War 2, after they stopped production for about 10 years because of a scarcity of raw materials. 



There were only 62 of these five-string RB-250s made that year, and this is one of them. I would estimate that there are very very few of these that are around (or in their original condition).



This 67-year-old bowtie RB-250 has all original parts (including its archtop tone ring), except for the 5th string friction tuner and the bridge (I have an unmarked bridge that is in the original Gibson pink-lined case, that might be the original bridge).



It also has its original Rogers skin head, as well as the original frets on its original 5 string neck.



This is an archtop that doesn't sound like a typical archtop... After 67 years of aging and being played in essentially its original condition, it has a beautiful complex rich tone.



I really hesitate to sell this banjo, and am only doing this after long and careful thought. I am moving to a tropical and humid climate, and I am not sure if this almost 70 year banjo (and skin head) would survive in that climate. I have felt like a caretaker of this banjo, and I feel that it is my responsibility to pass this on to someone who will take care of it as carefully as I have so that it can retain its excellent original condition, and later, when the time comes, to be passed along to another generation of banjo pickers and collectors who care about its history.



Decades ago, there was a thin wood shim added between the pot and neck, but Banjo Luthier Richie Dotson carefully examined the banjo and said that it was no issue whatsover, and that if I wanted, the shim could be removed and the neck fit to the pot. But, I personally do not want to mess with a banjo that sounds so good.



I am willing to accept offers, but I am no hurry to sell this banjo.



Ad Link: banjohangout.org/classified/87409


Edited by - KD Banjer on 05/23/2021 21:42:07

csacwp - Posted - 05/23/2021:  20:01:16


You have this priced higher than a prewar one piece flange style 3 archtop conversion would sell for. If you are serious about making a sale you will have to lower it by at least half, probably a good bit more.

Lemon Banjo and Supply - Posted - 05/23/2021:  20:06:43


I know for a fact that the maximum I would pay for that would be $3,500. Like John said, lower it by at least half, most likely more.

Try starting off at about $4,000. Even $4,500. This way it'll be much more likely to sell than at $9,500. Plus, it's still priced a bit high so you have room to lower if need be.

KD Banjer - Posted - 05/23/2021:  20:30:15


I appreciate your feedback, John and Hunter, and I understand your perspective.



Since these original first-post-WW2 5-string '54 RB-250s don't come come to market often, and the demand for vintage Gibsons is high at the moment, I am happy to see what the market brings...



The value of an instrument is determined what the current market will bring for it, and values change over time, just as PreWar flathead Gibson prices increased dramatically from the 70s and 80s to the 1990s.



What an instrument sold for in the past, doesn't necessary equal what it sells for today.



If a buyer is interested in owning the bowtie, I am happy to have a conversion and I am sure they will contact me.



Thank you again for your thoughts and feedback.


Edited by - KD Banjer on 05/23/2021 20:43:59

Bill Rogers - Posted - 05/23/2021:  21:34:01


The question is whether those -250s have reached collectible status yet. $9,500 is a collector’s price. No one buying it to play is going to pay that.

KD Banjer - Posted - 05/23/2021:  21:38:58


quote:

Originally posted by Bill Rogers

The question is whether those -250s have reached collectible status yet. $9,500 is a collector’s price. No one buying it to play is going to pay that.






Hi Bill... Yes, time will tell.



But, I know of at least one banjo picker who regularly plays his $60k-plus pre-war flathead, even playing it on stage when he doesn't need to fly.



So, I'm sure there are those who would want to play a banjo that is essentially a time capsule banjo.


Edited by - KD Banjer on 05/23/2021 21:39:48

YellowSkyBlueSun - Posted - 05/24/2021:  05:20:02


What an incredibly rude response from John, Greg, and Bill. Particularly from Bill, I can't believe a moderator would behave this way.

KD Banjer - Posted - 05/24/2021:  06:13:14


quote:

Originally posted by YellowSkyBlueSun

What an incredibly rude response from John, Greg, and Bill. Particularly from Bill, I can't believe a moderator would behave this way.






Hi YellowSky...



I appreciate that you added your thoughts and opinion about this discussion.



I think they are just presenting their thoughts and opinions as well, and I respect their right to do that (even I have a different opinion).

KD Banjer - Posted - 05/24/2021:  06:26:46


One thing that I would like to add to this discussion...



I own two 1927 Gibson Banjos (one a style 3 and one a style 4), and continue to really enjoy them.



Even though I enjoy those, and understand that the majority of the parts on those banjos are vintage, I also understand that the necks are conversion necks, and therefore they will necessarily sound different than a 1927 Gibson that also has a 94 year old original neck. But that's ok to me, and I enjoy these banjos with this understanding, and appreciate the still-unique tone they produce.



One of the reasons that I bought this 1954 original 5-string bowtie is because I personally wanted to step back in time and play a vintage banjo that sounded as good ( or better) than it did when it was manufactured so many decades ago.



So, for me personally, I am more interested and place more value in a vintage banjo with all original parts than a banjo that is somewhat older with modern parts added, like a new neck and even a new tone ring that is added after cutting the original rim.



I love my modern banjos (like my Sullivans), I enjoy my 1927 PreWar banjos (even with their modern made necks, and I have enjoyed the specialness of playing a vintage banjo in virtually original condition.



What has been difficult for me in trying to decide whether to sell this banjo, and why it has taken me almost a year to decide to sell it, is knowing that I will probably not receive this opportunity again to buy a similar timecapsuled 1954 Mastertone again. But this 67 year old skin head will not survive the tropical climate where I'll be moving, and I feel like it is my responsibility to pass it along to the next banjo caretaker.


Edited by - KD Banjer on 05/24/2021 06:33:15

csacwp - Posted - 05/24/2021:  14:04:28


I think you are overestimating the difference in climate. Having traveled in Southeast Asia myself, it's not really that much more humid than Fredericksburg in summer. You've also said that you will have air conditioning, so that eliminates potential storage issues. Just bringing a banjo outside to play in a high humidity environment isn't going to damage it.



I'm not going to argue with you about the tone of vintage vs conversion necks (some of which are made out if vintage woods), but you are still missing the point. Collectors and players want prewar original 5-strings. It's irrational, but that's the market. Postwar 5-strings, however good they are, just don't bring the kind of money you are asking for. 


Edited by - csacwp on 05/24/2021 14:06:31

Eric A - Posted - 05/24/2021:  14:20:26


Gee Whiz guys, a guy has a right to ask whatever he wants for a banjo. Maybe that's the price where any less than that and he'd rather keep it. I have a few like that.  I owe nobody nothing in terms of just giving those good banjos away.


Edited by - Eric A on 05/24/2021 14:23:37

KD Banjer - Posted - 05/24/2021:  15:52:38


quote:

Originally posted by csacwp

I think you are overestimating the difference in climate. Having traveled in Southeast Asia myself, it's not really that much more humid than Fredericksburg in summer. You've also said that you will have air conditioning, so that eliminates potential storage issues. Just bringing a banjo outside to play in a high humidity environment isn't going to damage it.



I'm not going to argue with you about the tone of vintage vs conversion necks (some of which are made out if vintage woods), but you are still missing the point. Collectors and players want prewar original 5-strings. It's irrational, but that's the market. Postwar 5-strings, however good they are, just don't bring the kind of money you are asking for. 






Hi John...



I don't think my concern about the Sri Lankan climate is over stated... The average humidity, all year round, is between 80% and 90%, and they have months during the Monsoon where it rains daily. Of course, what most damages an instrument (or electronics, etc) is the change in temperature and humidity. Two of my Macbook Pros have been fried in Sri Lanka by taking them in and out of an AC room. I'm very careful about that now. My greatest concerns are: 1)  this bowtie's 67-year-old skin head (which, as I'm sure you know, are dramatically affected by high humidity) and 2) the potential unreliability with the power/AC in Sri Lanka... Right now, we will be living in a suburb of Colombo (which does still experience occasional black outs). Also, when an AC unit breaks (which my wife told me a few days ago that one of the units has), it could take some time to repair it, given the Covid situation in Sri Lanka). So, there are some risks in taking a sensitive instrument to Sri Lanka. I'm already a bit nervous with the instruments that my wife has already taken over and that I will be taking over when I fly there when the Sri Lankan airport opens to international arrivals. 



>> Collectors and players want prewar original 5-strings. It's irrational, but that's the market. Postwar 5-strings, however good they are, just don't bring the kind of money you are asking for. <<



I understand what you are saying. Of course, an original PreWar 5-string will be in the many tens of thousands of dollars (and perhaps $100k plus). For someone who doesn't want to spend that, literally the best next thing to a PreWar original 5 string is an original 5 string manufactured during the first year after the war that Gibson remanufactured the Mastertone (1954).



As we've discussed, many of this is in the preferences of the beholder... I personally would not pay $9k for a 1930s archtop that has a modern 5-string neck made for it, and especially if the rim has been cut. If I want a PreWar conversion, I would much rather spend $4 to $7 for a 1927 no-hole T3 ot T4 (which I have done), and have a conversion neck made. Again, this is personal preference. 



I trust that this 1954 bowtie will "speak" to someone, and the right person for this banjo will get in touch with me.


Edited by - KD Banjer on 05/24/2021 15:56:47

KD Banjer - Posted - 05/24/2021:  15:54:39


quote:

Originally posted by Eric A

Gee Whiz guys, a guy has a right to ask whatever he wants for a banjo. Maybe that's the price where any less than that and he'd rather keep it. I have a few like that.  I owe nobody nothing in terms of just giving those good banjos away.






Thanks for your thoughts, Eric.

Bill Rogers - Posted - 05/25/2021:  13:14:23


Were I a grad student in some area of economics, I’d essay a master’s thesis on the market for used 5-string banjos. It would be an interesting study. The big problem with such a study would be finding the actual selling prices.

ChunoTheDog - Posted - 05/25/2021:  13:20:37


Dare to dream!

If it sells for anywhere near 6-7k tops, I might try listing my '27 TB3 for Style 5 money ;)

KD Banjer - Posted - 05/25/2021:  14:58:54


quote:

Originally posted by ChunoTheDog

Dare to dream!



If it sells for anywhere near 6-7k tops, I might try listing my '27 TB3 for Style 5 money ;)






 



:) I'm sure many people are shocked by the rising prices of houses, and the rising prices of used cars. Prices change, and we truly live in a free market.



Regarding your Gibson... It depends what kind of 1927 Gibson you have.



A 1927 style 4 conversion with a "no hole" tone ring (I have one), would sell from between $6k to $7k, before this latest vintage banjo shortage. I'm not sure what they are worth now.



If a person doesn't want to pay $6 to $7k for a 1927 TB-4 (or a particular asking price for any banjo or car or house), that person is always free to find another one for a cheaper price, or if they can't find one, they don't have to buy and own it.



I personally am, shocked by the price of gasoline and tomatoes, but I want them, so I am willing to spend the money.

KD Banjer - Posted - 05/25/2021:  15:14:49


quote:

Originally posted by Bill Rogers

Were I a grad student in some area of economics, I’d essay a master’s thesis on the market for used 5-string banjos. It would be an interesting study. The big problem with such a study would be finding the actual selling prices.






That's a great point, Bill, and would be interesting study in economics.



I do think research could be done using known sales prices (for non-prewar flathead banjos).

KD Banjer - Posted - 05/25/2021:  15:21:00


When I was first pricing this '54 Bowtie, I had a difficult time because of how rare the banjo was (and that it's in its near original condition), and the fact that they do not come up for sale very often.

Based on all of our conversations, I've decided to revise the asking price to $7,900.

ChunoTheDog - Posted - 05/25/2021:  17:06:22


quote:

Originally posted by KD Banjer

quote:

Originally posted by ChunoTheDog

Dare to dream!



If it sells for anywhere near 6-7k tops, I might try listing my '27 TB3 for Style 5 money ;)






 



:) I'm sure many people are shocked by the rising prices of houses, and the rising prices of used cars. Prices change, and we truly live in a free market.



Regarding your Gibson... It depends what kind of 1927 Gibson you have.



A 1927 style 4 conversion with a "no hole" tone ring (I have one), would sell from between $6k to $7k, before this latest vintage banjo shortage. I'm not sure what they are worth now.



If a person doesn't want to pay $6 to $7k for a 1927 TB-4 (or a particular asking price for any banjo or car or house), that person is always free to find another one for a cheaper price, or if they can't find one, they don't have to buy and own it.



I personally am, shocked by the price of gasoline and tomatoes, but I want them, so I am willing to spend the money.






Don't get me wrong, I hope you get your asking price because undoubtedly my no hole TB3 will have gained 20-30% of value overnight.



I also hope you get your price because cash is king and everyone needs more cash in their back pocket.



As for the price of gas and tomatoes...I'm Canadian, we live under socialism, we've been paying through the nose for everything since the 80s :P 

rupickin5 - Posted - 05/25/2021:  17:55:43


quote:

Originally posted by Bill Rogers

Were I a grad student in some area of economics, I’d essay a master’s thesis on the market for used 5-string banjos. It would be an interesting study. The big problem with such a study would be finding the actual selling prices.



banjohangout.org/classified/61984



sold this in 2017...don't believe prices have changed that much. Yes real estate, primarily residential, has seen significant upward movement this year (former real estate broker & prop mgr.) but I think that has to do with factors that I don't feel correlate to a '50's banjo...albeit a very nice example.






 

KD Banjer - Posted - 05/25/2021:  18:14:08


quote:

Originally posted by rupickin5

quote:

Originally posted by Bill Rogers

Were I a grad student in some area of economics, I’d essay a master’s thesis on the market for used 5-string banjos. It would be an interesting study. The big problem with such a study would be finding the actual selling prices.



banjohangout.org/classified/61984



sold this in 2017...don't believe prices have changed that much. Yes real estate, primarily residential, has seen significant upward movement this year (former real estate broker & prop mgr.) but I think that has to do with factors that I don't feel correlate to a '50's banjo...albeit a very nice example.






 






Thanks Brian.



It sounded like you really enjoyed your bowtie. 



I would be curious to compare the tone of the two banjos.



You sold yours in 2017, and although it looks like a great banjo, it is in noticeably rougher shape than the one I have listed (the peghead, for example) and does not have the original calf-skin head.



But, I do appreciate you sharing your feedback.

HarleyQ - Posted - 05/25/2021:  19:28:08


KD, what ever you do, don't call it "Mint"..... That could lead to getting your account lockedwinksmiley. Good luck with the sale. Price it whatever you please. It's Yours!!!!

From Greylock to Bean Blossom - Posted - 05/26/2021:  05:06:22


KD, it is a gorgeous gorgeous looking banjo. I heard a guy in the 70's playing one of these and it about knocked me off my chair, but he had a clear head on it. I am far from being an expert but it was my impression that the Gibson's of this vintage were considered the same quality as prewar as Gibson had not lowered its standards at this time. There are people that having a time capsule in this pristine condition that will pay for it. Good luck. Sorry, but your move does not sound like fun.



Can you tell us the history on this? Just curious.

Ken


Edited by - From Greylock to Bean Blossom on 05/26/2021 05:09:01

KD Banjer - Posted - 05/26/2021:  08:06:57


quote:

Originally posted by HarleyQ

KD, what ever you do, don't call it "Mint"..... That could lead to getting your account lockedwinksmiley. Good luck with the sale. Price it whatever you please. It's Yours!!!!






Definitely not, Hoyt.  :).   (re: "mint")



That's a good reminder.



I've been here long enough to read the multiple threads about "mint" used banjos.  :). 


Edited by - KD Banjer on 05/26/2021 08:07:12

KD Banjer - Posted - 05/26/2021:  08:24:48


quote:

Originally posted by From Greylock to Bean Blossom

KD, it is a gorgeous gorgeous looking banjo. I heard a guy in the 70's playing one of these and it about knocked me off my chair, but he had a clear head on it. I am far from being an expert but it was my impression that the Gibson's of this vintage were considered the same quality as prewar as Gibson had not lowered its standards at this time. There are people that having a time capsule in this pristine condition that will pay for it. Good luck. Sorry, but your move does not sound like fun.



Can you tell us the history on this? Just curious.

Ken






Hey Ken...



Thanks for your input.



Yes... this move to Sri Lanka has been harder and longer than I could have expected, including involving 6 months of detailed packing and sealing most of my possessions in plastic (so that they will survive the ocean voyage). It really is a significant "monster" move. But, once I'm there, there will be many advantages there for my wife and I, and we will try it out for at least 3 years.



I do have a clear head on my '27 TB-3 (it came with the tenor), and I wouldn't change a thing with that banjo or its tone. It, and Arthur Hatfield's top notch conversion neck, have been killer from day one.



I had heard the same thing about that first year or two of Gibson post-war Mastertones. I heard that some of the Mastertone luthiers from the pre-WW2 era also were employed in early-mid 1950s and helped build some of those first post-war Mastertones. I also heard from some vintage banjo collectors that some left over parts from the pre WW2 era were used on these first Mastertone models. However, I also know that with the war effort, that withholding pieces of metal from the US Govt during its scrap drives was perhaps criminal at that time. However, I believe that old wood (for rims and necks) was a different story and could have conceivably been stored by Gibson and used after the war, as well as some packed away spare metal parts.



I will need to speak with the banjo collector who I bought the bowtie from (he has been a regular contributor to the BHO over the years), but he is a very discerning banjo collector and he bought this (and other banjos) for their rarity and pristine condition. He also very much cares about banjo history and historically significant banjos. I bought it from him a few years ago, and I can ask him where he purchased it.



I can tell you, there were multiple times over the years when I went to a bluegrass jam (or luthier shop) with this banjo, and have been handed a card and told that if you ever want to sell it, contact me. If the situation feels best, I will just keep this bowtie with a good friend here in the U.S. so it remains safe, and then play it when I come back once a year, or make another decision as to what is best for it.



 

KD Banjer - Posted - 06/27/2021:  08:31:20


Hi Everyone,

Hope you all are having a great summer.

I'm reducing the Rb-250 to $6,900.

Thank you.

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