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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Mastertone Banjo


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/388220

tonygo - Posted - 01/19/2023:  13:20:31


I have a chance to buy this one and would appreciate any and all comments. The number on the back of the peghead is 534949. The guy wants $1000.00 for it.

MoJoBanjo - Posted - 01/19/2023:  13:27:41


Can you post pics?

tonygo - Posted - 01/19/2023:  13:52:36


I tried and failed twice. Will try now.

Texasbanjo - Posted - 01/19/2023:  14:37:35


To post pictures, go to your home page and click on media. From there, then click on add photo and follow easy instructions for uploading pictures. Once you're through uploading the pictures (and you should see them on your home page), then you can add them to a thread you are posting. At that time, all you need to do is scroll to the bottom of the page after you type your text and your photos should be there. Just click on the photo(s) you want to add and you should see a thumbnail of them on the bottom of the attachments. To check be sure all your photos are uploaded, click on preview. If you're happy with that, then click on post reply.


lightgauge - Posted - 01/19/2023:  15:06:57


Most Mastertones will bring $1000, but if you want more info on this one, more pics are needed than the one on your page showing the fingerboard. Pictures of inside the pot without the resonator will help a lot.

Old Hickory - Posted - 01/19/2023:  20:22:03


quote:

Originally posted by tonygo

The number on the back of the peghead is 534949. The guy wants $1000.00 for it.






The number places it in 1974-75 and the one picture posted to the Media section of your profile is a 1970s RB-250. There were also 6-digit serial numbers beginning with "5' in the 1960s, but this is not that model. Besides this banjo having the 1970s and later inlay, the tube part of a two-piece flange is visible, identifying this as a 1970s.



If this banjo is in fair but playable condition, $1000 is a more than reasonable price.  In 2018,  I paid more than that for one in worse condition and possibly less originality than this one. The better the condition and the more original the parts, the better that price becomes.



The overriding issue to be aware of is this was Gibson's least respected era and least respected Mastertone. That keeps the prices down, which makes it more affordable to own a genuine Gibson. And the truth is, despite the few known problems,  these can be great sounding banjos that anyone would be happy to own.



So, what are the problems? Two main ones:  The rim was mulit-ply instead of three-ply, perhaps 10 or 11 ply. And the plies wer so thin, there was very little of the outer ply remaining to serve in the bead or protrusion of wood that retains the tube part of the two-piece flange (which is how the wood rim puts resistance against the flange when the head is tightened using the nuts beneath the flange). On some -- but not all -- of these rims, the bead delaminated (came off or apart) requiring repair. A better solution was using that opportunity to replace the rim with a new 3-ply or block rim. Problem solved and sound improved.



Another known issue is the plastic binding used in certain years has decomposed over time. On the resonator, this is a fairly simple replacement. A little more work on the neck, but within the skill set of any luthier who knows about Gibson's binding nibs at the fret ends. I'm no expert, but I think any 70s binding that was going to crumble would have done so by now. So if the binding on this one looks to be in good shape, then you're probably ok.



Any other issues are not necessarily problems with the instrument. In the earliest years, the tone ring had a larger cavity on the underside, resulting in the ring using less metal and therefore weighing less. As little as 2 lbs. vs the typical 3 lb flathead tone ring.  But they sound good. At some time in the 70s (I don't know when) Gibson switched the so-called "GBB" ring (because that's stamped somewhere) that weighed well over 3 lbs, so they went the other direction.



The necks on these are generally comfortable. Typical Gibson 1-3/16-inch nut width and somewhat narrow neck all the way. They can be a little thick in the 8th to 17th frets, but not unbearable.  I had mine reprofiled as part of some other repair work. 



Try to post more photos so we can judge this one. Again, $1000 is a good price and could end up being very good.


Edited by - Old Hickory on 01/19/2023 20:23:20

tonygo - Posted - 01/19/2023:  20:36:36


I think the pics might go this time.


tonygo - Posted - 01/19/2023:  20:44:33


Another try at more photos.




Old Hickory - Posted - 01/19/2023:  21:18:57


You're getting there. Do you have photos of the back of the peghead, neck, and resonator? Any side view of the "pot" (body)? In particular a view of the armrest to show whether it has two legs and is stamped "Gibson"? And any views inside the pot with the resonator off?  That's the range that can help identify what it is and its condition.



The photos so far confirm its a 1970s RB-250. The button on the fifth string tuner looks correct. The tailpiece is not original. This one is a Presto style. The final 20 years of Mastertones used that. 1970s would be a clamshell tailpiece stamped "Gibson" in script on the top flat surface.



These are not vintage or collectible, but I think originality factors into the price. to some degree.  But so far, this looks well worth the $1000 asking price.



Look for signs of repaired damage such as breaks or cracks at the base of the peghead or at the heel of the neck, between the base and the fretboard. Those are common places for repairable breaks. Well-done repairs last forever. But depress value.

tonygo - Posted - 01/19/2023:  21:30:13


quote:

Originally posted by lightgauge

Most Mastertones will bring $1000, but if you want more info on this one, more pics are needed than the one on your page showing the fingerboard. Pictures of inside the pot without the resonator will help a lot.






 






tonygo - Posted - 01/19/2023:  21:43:40


quote:

Originally posted by Old Hickory

You're getting there. Do you have photos of the back of the peghead, neck, and resonator? Any side view of the "pot" (body)? In particular a view of the armrest to show whether it has two legs and is stamped "Gibson"? And any views inside the pot with the resonator off?  That's the range that can help identify what it is and its condition.



The photos so far confirm its a 1970s RB-250. The button on the fifth string tuner looks correct. The tailpiece is not original. This one is a Presto style. The final 20 years of Mastertones used that. 1970s would be a clamshell tailpiece stamped "Gibson" in script on the top flat surface.



These are not vintage or collectible, but I think originality factors into the price. to some degree.  But so far, this looks well worth the $1000 asking price.



Look for signs of repaired damage such as breaks or cracks at the base of the peghead or at the heel of the neck, between the base and the fretboard. Those are common places for repairable breaks. Well-done repairs last forever. But depress value.






 


lightgauge - Posted - 01/20/2023:  04:33:38


Good info from Old Hickory. Not their best years, but worth the asking price. Some of these were well thought of, but overall, the multi layer rims and lighter rings in many, limits popularity.

The Old Timer - Posted - 01/20/2023:  07:19:02


You should inspect it and play it in person.

If you like the looks, sound and feel, $1000 is a good price. Be sure it doesn't smell bad. Don't buy it as an "investment" or to "flip". Buy it if you like it.

I agree it looks real. Be sure there are no repaired cracks at heel and peghead.

It would be a better buy if it has a good quality hard case with it.

tonygo - Posted - 01/20/2023:  09:09:15


quote:

Originally posted by The Old Timer

You should inspect it and play it in person.



If you like the looks, sound and feel, $1000 is a good price. Be sure it doesn't smell bad. Don't buy it as an "investment" or to "flip". Buy it if you like it.



I agree it looks real. Be sure there are no repaired cracks at heel and peghead.



It would be a better buy if it has a good quality hard case with it.






I have it for a few days. I like the sound, it has a lovely ring and does come with a Gibson marked case. My only concern is that it might be to loud for my venjue....  As Riley Baugus might say, I like my CouchXCouchwest venue the best. But I am leaning towards getting it . Thankyou for your response. TonyG

monstertone - Posted - 01/20/2023:  09:58:04


There is no such thing as a too loud bluegrass banjo. smiley There are numerous ways to quite a banjo down, the easiest is to simply pick lighter.


Edited by - monstertone on 01/20/2023 09:59:16

J.Albert - Posted - 01/20/2023:  11:21:37


Check the rim (resonator off) for de-laminations.

Check the "tube" (of the 2-piece flange) for any breaks.

Check the neck for straightness.

Check the BINDING to be sure it's not beginning to disintegrate (happens on some of the old ones).

Check the overall finish -- still in halfway decent condition?



If all of this checks out ok, for $1,000, I'd consider it a VERY good buy.



It may not have been from Gibson's most desirable periods, but if everything checks out it's still a pretty decent banjo, particularly if it plays easily and sounds good.

Old Hickory - Posted - 01/20/2023:  11:42:15


Sounding better.



The phot you marked "tailpiece" is the armrest, and it's the correc original equipment. The original tuners, which we haven't seen yet, will have big imitation pearl buttons like the fifth string and the housings will be stamped GIBSON. The button shafts will be off-center (called "eccentric").



Whether the "Gibson" case is original to this banjo or a replacement, it's correct for the model, so another positive.



So far the only non-original part of any consequence is the Presto tailpiece vs the Gibson-stamped clamshell. Plenty of people prefer the Presto. Clamshells, with their spring-loaded covers, can be a pain to restring. If you like the sound of this banjo, the tailpiece is contributing to that. If you ever want to replace the tailpiece with a model-correct clamshell, it seems orphaned originals come up for sale here and on eBay several times a year. I bought one for $100 shipped 4+ years ago. That's a typical price. Rare to see them less than $75 plus shipping any more.



If you like the sound with the Presto and would like the banjo to say "Gibson" in more places, Greg Boyd's House of Fine Instruments sells a Prucha-made script Gibson-stamped Presto similar to what was used in the final decades of Gibson banjos. 



This banjo looks like it could use a cleaning and polish. Lately I've been using Gibson guitar polish.  Available lots of places. Sometimes with a cloth. Microfiber cloth is good for bringing finishes to a shine.  I've also used Ken Smith Pro Formula Polish. It's also a liquid in a pump bottle and seems very similar to the Gibson.



This banjo is sounding like a better and better deal at $1000. Any additional money you might put into it for changing out parts (not necessary) or repairs that become needed would still keep your investment below the going price for these things.



Enjoy!

KCJones - Posted - 01/23/2023:  06:43:44


Step 1: Buy it. $1000 is a great price for a mid-70s Mastertone.



Step 2: Replace the rim. Huber or Sullivan.



Step 3: Buy a few pre-war J-hooks or thumbscrews. Install these parts on the banjo.



Step 4: Sell your new Pre-War Gibson Mastertone for $4000. Use the money to buy a high quality modern banjo.


Edited by - KCJones on 01/23/2023 06:44:54

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