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Jun 30, 2021 - 7:13:44 AM

Jbo1

USA

1029 posts since 5/19/2007

One of my band mates has his dads old Gibson tenor banjo. He'd like more info on it, and it goes beyond my knowledge about old Gibsons. He says his dad bought it new in Chicago around 1954-1955. Is is an arch top, but looks like it is a tone hope instead of a tone ring. It has one coordinator rod, the resonator has only the bottom binding, and inside the pot is embossed (if I remember correctly) "881-17". Inside the resonator, in black ink, appears to read "RB", but it is a bit of a scrawl and not very legible. There is a ding on the back of the neck. To me the case appears to be a 1970s case. I'm guessing this is a TB-150, but not sure. He would appreciate any info about the banjo, and a guesstimate of value. He doesn't want to sell it, but wants to better understand the instrument. Thanks in advance for your help.


Jun 30, 2021 - 7:43:59 AM

3920 posts since 5/29/2011

This is a TB100 in very nice condition for its age. The arch top hoop, one rim rod, and one strip of resonator binding are all standard features for this banjo. The case is definitely not original. Everything else appears to be, including the Kluson tailpiece. If the number in the rim is really 881-17 then the banjo was made in 1949. The marking inside the resonator was added later.
Most people would want to butcher this one by turning it into a Mastertone looking conversion but early model 100's like this one are getting fewer and harder to find. It would make a good candidate for an five string conversion if someone wanted to leave it as an RB100.

Jun 30, 2021 - 7:51:38 AM

Jbo1

USA

1029 posts since 5/19/2007

Thanks Culloden (Mark). It does have a nice sound, and yeah, just a neck swap would make a good sounding 5 string. For these banjos, does the tone hoop sit on the inside of the rim to give it an arch top look?

Jun 30, 2021 - 7:58:28 AM
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Players Union Member

Emiel

Austria

9947 posts since 1/22/2003

quote:
Originally posted by Jbo1

For these banjos, does the tone hoop sit on the inside of the rim to give it an arch top look?


Many of them (style 100, 150) have the smaller diameter tone hoop; others have a larger one, resulting in flathead appearance. When they started using the thinner rims, only the larger diameter hoop could be used.

Jun 30, 2021 - 8:01:48 AM
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Jbo1

USA

1029 posts since 5/19/2007

Thanks Emiel.

Jun 30, 2021 - 11:30:47 AM

1525 posts since 1/28/2013

As is, you could get $1800-$2000 due to the excellent condition. But converted to a Mastertone with a nice 5 string neck, recut rim with a modern tone ring, you are looking at twice that. But it would cost you $2000 to convert it. A Private Builder could make a profit.

Jun 30, 2021 - 12:03:50 PM
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3920 posts since 5/29/2011

But then the original rim would be destroyed. Once it has been cut it can never be made back to original. If someone is going to cut the rim for a tone ring then a sixties model would be less of a loss than a 1949 or early fifties model.

Jun 30, 2021 - 12:08:04 PM

Jbo1

USA

1029 posts since 5/19/2007

jan dupree and Culloden , thanks for the comments. My bandmate won't be selling the banjo, since it was his dads. They used to play together in Greek music bands. So there is a lot of sentimental value, beyond the intrinsic value of the instrument. If it is 1949 (I'll have to double check the stamp, that is pretty exciting. Wasn't that the first year post-war, that they started making banjos again?

Jun 30, 2021 - 12:17:50 PM

321 posts since 12/7/2017

I play tenor banjo and like very much TB-100s, from the 50’s as from the 60’s, and even prefer them rather than mastertones. It would be a pity to convert it into a 5 string and/or changing any thing, we would loose a wonderful tenor as it is now.
In my opinion, the value is under $1000 today (I recently bought one $700)

Jun 30, 2021 - 12:44:35 PM

2196 posts since 1/4/2009

quote:
Originally posted by pasdimo

I play tenor banjo and like very much TB-100s, from the 50’s as from the 60’s, and even prefer them rather than mastertones. It would be a pity to convert it into a 5 string and/or changing any thing, we would loose a wonderful tenor as it is now.
In my opinion, the value is under $1000 today (I recently bought one $700)


he is way off on the value, this is a 1948 / 49, one of the first made after world war two, this has the same parts as a prewar gibson tenor. Unlike the later tb-100 with lower end thin rims, this has all the meat of a prewar gibson and that is what boosts the value to $2000 or so.

Jun 30, 2021 - 6:36:45 PM

1525 posts since 1/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by kyleb
quote:
Originally posted by pasdimo

I play tenor banjo and like very much TB-100s, from the 50’s as from the 60’s, and even prefer them rather than mastertones. It would be a pity to convert it into a 5 string and/or changing any thing, we would loose a wonderful tenor as it is now.
In my opinion, the value is under $1000 today (I recently bought one $700)


he is way off on the value, this is a 1948 / 49, one of the first made after world war two, this has the same parts as a prewar gibson tenor. Unlike the later tb-100 with lower end thin rims, this has all the meat of a prewar gibson and that is what boosts the value to $2000 or so.


What is ironic is, the value of most 4 strings is mostly based on how much of a candidate it is for a Mastertone conversion. Sadly Gibsons fall into that category. If it is going to get at least some playing time as a 4 string then he should keep it original. But most guys don't have any intentions of ever playing a 4 string, so rather than have it keep sitting in case for the next 20 years, at least when it's converted it can be played for thousands of hours over the next 20 years.

Jun 30, 2021 - 7:54:21 PM

241 posts since 11/16/2011
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quote:
Originally posted by Jbo1

.... and inside the pot is embossed (if I remember correctly) "881-17". Inside the resonator, in black ink, appears to read "RB", but it is a bit of a scrawl and not very legible.


Check the number on the rim.  881 indicates 1949 however a 1949 resonator should have prewar lug spacing.  This resonator has later postwar spacing.  The mark on the inside of the resonator is R-something and typical for the bowtie period.

1955 TB100 at Guitar Center

Jun 30, 2021 - 8:40:15 PM

241 posts since 11/16/2011
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Resonator marking on RB150. Looks like "RS" on this example


Jul 1, 2021 - 7:09:32 AM

Jbo1

USA

1029 posts since 5/19/2007

Thanks everyone. 550Spyder, yeah it is 881 but like all things Gibson, who knows what they did with this rim? And the writing in the resonator is a scrawl, like I said, so it could be "RS". The 1954-55 timeline jibes with what my friend remembers for when his dad bought the banjo.

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