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Most Valuable/Rare Prewar Gibsons?

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Mar 17, 2020 - 8:12:29 PM
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2019 posts since 10/17/2013

Is there a certain prewar Gibson banjo that takes first place in value, appearance, and tone?

I know some folks may say it’s Earl’s Granada, but I’m sure there is a prewar Gibson that has an even higher status than that. 

Also, is there any one prewar Gibson banjo designation that is not complete? I know that there have been a lot of interesting examples, but I’m sure there are some of us (myself included) who have never seen pictures of those “rarest of the rare;” the banjos which for the most part have stayed off the Hangout radar.

Some intriguing prewar Gibsons have been discussed and photographed, but not given near the amount of publicity they deserve; some Gibson banjos have yet to surface, and still others have been lost to fire or unfortunate circumstances.

Of course, due to Gibson’s records being destroyed in the 1960s, and their shipping ledgers not extending prior to 1935, there will never be complete certainty with certain banjos. It’s a shame we don’t have as complete a banjo chronology as we do on Martin guitars, but Joe Spann (and others) have given us a pretty good history and done a fantastic job (which I’m sure at some point or another became tiresome), on tying up as many loose ends as possible. With a joint effort, the banjo community knows a lot about Gibson banjo history, but, as has been the case more often than not, “Never say never with Gibson.”

Rare birds, like the prewar Recording King five-string (on Greg Earnest’s site) with the possibly-original “Gibson” in MOP on the headstock, (and factory original OPF Kalamazoo’s), are proof alone that Gibson did everything but produce the same old, uninteresting kind of banjo, year after year!

Edited by - okbluegrassbanjopicker on 03/17/2020 20:15:17

Mar 17, 2020 - 8:45:12 PM
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9836 posts since 1/15/2005

Scotland Granada!

Mar 17, 2020 - 8:58:55 PM
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12812 posts since 10/30/2008

In terms of DOLLAR value, Earl's Granada has got to be at the top, due to HIM.

The Scotland Granada was the first one I thought of, like BanjoLink. Cause it's so clean.

I am very interested if anyone suggests one worth more than the Scotland Granada.

Mar 18, 2020 - 4:50:24 AM

458 posts since 2/6/2018

Mar 18, 2020 - 6:02:02 AM

chief3

Canada

1102 posts since 10/26/2003

I would say, considering the provenance, tone and originality, Sonny Osborne's Granada is arguable the most valuable. It isn't pretty but that is not necessarily a factor in value.

Mar 18, 2020 - 6:34:25 AM
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3374 posts since 4/27/2004

If you don't consider ownership and historical significance, I would think the only factory-original RB-All American that Gibson ever made during the prewar years, would be the most valuable/rare. The All American was the most expensive catalog model that Gibson offered. In addition, this particular banjo sports an original flathead tonering, 1-piece flange and a factory-original 5-string neck. In terms of scarcity, this banjo has to be at the top! Add to it that Jim Mills spent a considerable amount of money trying just to see it...…….which he was never able to do...…….then my vote is for that banjo!

Mar 18, 2020 - 6:55:25 AM

9836 posts since 1/15/2005

quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer

In terms of DOLLAR value, Earl's Granada has got to be at the top, due to HIM.

The Scotland Granada was the first one I thought of, like BanjoLink. Cause it's so clean.

I am very interested if anyone suggests one worth more than the Scotland Granada.


Agree Dick!  You can't separate Earl's banjo from its provenance, which makes it so valuable, but otherwise the SG would be at the top ..... in my view even better than Sonny's.  With ot without the provenence, I had rather have the SG than Sonny's.  Probably in the monority though,

Mar 18, 2020 - 7:31:56 AM

RB3

USA

668 posts since 4/12/2004

It depends on what you mean by "valuable". If it's monetary value, then some of the instruments that have already been mentioned are the prime candidates.

For me, the condition, playability and most importantly, the sound are the real measures of value. I play an original, Gibson, 1-piece flange, 20 hole flat head. At Banjothon, this year I was having a conversation with Steve Huber and another fellow, and Steve pointed at me and told the other fellow that my banjo was, in his estimation, the best sounding banjo at the event. The best sounding banjo I've ever played is Don Reno's RB75. It's the only banjo I'd rather have than the one I currently own.

Mar 18, 2020 - 8:00:14 AM
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12812 posts since 10/30/2008

Lynwood, have YOU seen the original 5 string flat-head All American? I was gonna mention it, but it still feels somewhat "mythical" to me. I seem to remember some discussions suggesting it was somehow converted, retro-fitted or the like. I'm not challenging you at all about it's real existence. Do you know of any good photos of it?

I tend to agree it would be more valuable than the Scotland Granada, but sometimes those overly fancy banjos don't beat the popularity of a really good Granada.

Thanks.

Mar 18, 2020 - 10:35:56 AM
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1352 posts since 10/5/2006

quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer

Lynwood, have YOU seen the original 5 string flat-head All American? I was gonna mention it, but it still feels somewhat "mythical" to me. I seem to remember some discussions suggesting it was somehow converted, retro-fitted or the like. I'm not challenging you at all about it's real existence. Do you know of any good photos of it?


Thanks.


Dick, it is real.  FON 9947-2.  All original RB-AA, but restored by C C Richelieu around 1960.

Oscar Hutchins, probable original owner:


Dick Smith playing 9947-2:


Don Reno with 9947-2


Big Bill Bryson with 9947-2:


Notice it is dash -2 -- There may be a dash -1 somewhere............

Edited by - Oldtwanger on 03/18/2020 10:46:22

Mar 18, 2020 - 10:41:36 AM

12812 posts since 10/30/2008

Thank you Frank for the photos. Does a Richeleau "restoration" get the same respect in the bluegrass community that it does in the 4 string community?

I'd buy a ticket to see it!

Mar 18, 2020 - 10:49:23 AM

2019 posts since 10/17/2013

I seem to remember that someone here had personally seen a prewar RB All-American, with five pegs on the headstock, and the fifth peg was tunneled through the neck and emerged at the fifth fret.

The above-mentioned banjo had been last seen by said individual, at Hunleth Music (now defunct) in St. Louis, MO, and was a custom order for a bishop. The banjo was in a tweed case, stored amongst dozens of other instruments. There was an auction when Hunleth went out of business, and this All-American most likely went to a private collector or a university. If “9947-1” still exists, it has to be the AA-RB with the tunneled fifth string.

Edited by - okbluegrassbanjopicker on 03/18/2020 10:51:38

Mar 18, 2020 - 12:17:53 PM

1837 posts since 1/4/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Oldtwanger
quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer

Lynwood, have YOU seen the original 5 string flat-head All American? I was gonna mention it, but it still feels somewhat "mythical" to me. I seem to remember some discussions suggesting it was somehow converted, retro-fitted or the like. I'm not challenging you at all about it's real existence. Do you know of any good photos of it?


Thanks.


Dick, it is real.  FON 9947-2.  All original RB-AA, but restored by C C Richelieu around 1960.

Oscar Hutchins, probable original owner:


Dick Smith playing 9947-2:


Don Reno with 9947-2


Big Bill Bryson with 9947-2:


Notice it is dash -2 -- There may be a dash -1 somewhere............


Banjophiles has this listed as tb-all american. Also the -1 resonator was found on 9948-3 so i wonder if it never left the factory and got used on the next batch. Wondering why banjophiles has it listed as a tenor?

Mar 18, 2020 - 12:53:42 PM
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1352 posts since 10/5/2006

Banjophiles has been historically full of errors mostly due to the information gathering methods of the original Tom Biggs list. I generally ignore it.

Mar 18, 2020 - 2:09:25 PM

3374 posts since 4/27/2004

From Jim Mills' research on the RB-AA; "Bill Bryson bought this RB-All American from a pawn shop in either Bassett or Martinsville, VA about 1947." This was some time before anyone was building 5-string necks to convert TBs to RBs. Especially a neck such as the All American! Like Frank says, Banjophiles info is often incorrect.

Mar 18, 2020 - 3:34:15 PM

65 posts since 9/27/2014

Wayne- you have a wonderful banjo and I am glad you are picking-

Mar 18, 2020 - 5:59:14 PM
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eljimb0

USA

1990 posts since 7/24/2007

I have seen it and played it.

Mar 18, 2020 - 6:45:53 PM

10213 posts since 7/4/2004

quote:
Originally posted by okbluegrassbanjopicker

I seem to remember that someone here had personally seen a prewar RB All-American, with five pegs on the headstock, and the fifth peg was tunneled through the neck and emerged at the fifth fret.

The above-mentioned banjo had been last seen by said individual, at Hunleth Music (now defunct) in St. Louis, MO, and was a custom order for a bishop. The banjo was in a tweed case, stored amongst dozens of other instruments. There was an auction when Hunleth went out of business, and this All-American most likely went to a private collector or a university. If “9947-1” still exists, it has to be the AA-RB with the tunneled fifth string.


Hunleth is where my TB12 EA5578 was originally shipped to.

Mar 18, 2020 - 9:38:13 PM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

23404 posts since 6/25/2005

Given the style, decoration and finish of an AA banjo, I would think that a Richelieu restoration, given his background with plectrums and tenors, would be appropriate to that banjo. Just my thought.

Mar 19, 2020 - 4:47:23 AM

1352 posts since 10/5/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Bill Rogers

Given the style, decoration and finish of an AA banjo, I would think that a Richelieu restoration, given his background with plectrums and tenors, would be appropriate to that banjo. Just my thought.


The current owner remembers that the banjo was not abused, but it was very "well used" when he saw it for the first time in the early sixties.  The painting was chipped and the peghead was pretty well bumped up. The owner at that time subsequently sent the banjo to C.C. Richelieu for a complete refinishing!!  The current owner saw the banjo after it returned and said the work was "OK" for the mid 60's, but today would be considered "not well done."

Mar 19, 2020 - 7:28:20 AM

79 posts since 9/2/2014

My most valued Gibson pre war banjo is the one I own!

Mar 19, 2020 - 9:31:46 AM
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1358 posts since 11/29/2004

The 5 string All American's original owner is thought to be C. L. Pennelle. That's the name on the truss rod cover.
I think this is the first probable documentation of the instrument. It was sold in July of 1943 newspapers.com/clip/322789/the...3-page-3/

Mar 19, 2020 - 1:21:46 PM
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adl1132

USA

161 posts since 12/18/2012

From those of us who click on Collector's Corner at least once a day, first thing, just hoping against hope that another Gibson prewar flathead has surfaced for discussion, or an entire house-full of old Gibsons has been unearthed in Portland OR, our thanks to the O.P. of this thread. We've nothing against Buckbees or Vegas or Weymanns, but if we go too long without serious discussion and/or pictures detailing the merits of the latest prewar flathead Gibson find, our hands start to shake, eyes twitch and we look pale and wasted. In desperation, we check Carter Vintage (did the plectrum sell yet?) and Gruhn and Huber's flatheads, and we spend hours just staring at Jim Mills home page, which is great for social isolation but not what our therapists recommend as healthy behavior.

But then along comes a thread like this, with pictures of THE original prewar five-string flathead All-American, being played by Don Reno no less, and those of us with this affliction, having got our fix, can now relax and get on with our lives, at least for a while.

Mar 19, 2020 - 1:34:37 PM
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260 posts since 2/21/2012

I am VERY fortunate to own a Pre war ALL American, with OPF, alas it has a 40 hole TR.
Could be for sale ? Also I have the mentioned “ house full of Gibson Banjos “
Keith

Mar 19, 2020 - 3:18:10 PM

12812 posts since 10/30/2008

Doug, wow!

Mar 21, 2020 - 5:30:51 PM

2019 posts since 10/17/2013

I just revisited the page on the Scotland Granada, and have to say that I forgot just how absolutely “new” that banjo appears, as if it was produced only yesterday. That is some painstaking care.

I think also, in terms of value and rarity, that it trumps even Earl’s banjo, because of all the original hardware and original neck (minus the head and perhaps bridge and strings) is still intact with practically zero wear of any sort. I believe that if one wanted to see a “new,” factory original prewar Gibson Granada (short of actually purchasing it), the search would STOP at the Scotland Granada. Few, and perhaps no prewar Gibson banjos (save for Earl’s 9584-3, JD’s “Banger,” “Nellie,” Snuffy Jenkin’s RB-4, and Sonny’s Granada) can boast of the fame (much less the incredible glory) that the Scotland displays.

Certainly no other Granada ever known, can match the unsurpassed glory of the Scotland.

Edited by - okbluegrassbanjopicker on 03/21/2020 17:45:20

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