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Jul 10, 2021 - 6:44:41 PM
Players Union Member

Grum

Australia

822 posts since 3/7/2006

Just how desirable in the world of banjos generally, is a Gibson RB250. I'm interested in terms of tone and playability, not so much in investment value.

Jul 10, 2021 - 7:44 PM

2662 posts since 12/31/2005

In terms of tone and playability, they represent a bargain if you are talking 1987 forward. Folks pay a premium for the RB-3 reissue while the 250 is essentially the same banjo with the differences being basically cosmetic. If it is pre- Greg Rich era then you have to look at the year made. There were ups and downs and changes to the model. Did you have a particular year in mind?

Jul 10, 2021 - 8:07:43 PM

14188 posts since 10/30/2008

As good a banjo as any professional would ever need, sound-wise and playability.

I agree those post 1987 are valued the highest, unless you talk about early 1960s flat head "bowtie" RB 250s.

Jul 10, 2021 - 8:53:07 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

25131 posts since 6/25/2005

In terms of quality, the bow-tie 250s, archtop or flathead, are as good as any Gibson made.

Jul 11, 2021 - 6:21:32 AM
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slammer

USA

3273 posts since 12/30/2008

I’ve got a 1975 RB-250 that plays like a dream and sounds fantastic. Some of the 70’s Gibsons don’t get the greatest admiration, but I love mine. It’s in great shape too!!!
Slammer!!!

Jul 11, 2021 - 10:20:29 AM
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12144 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Grum

Just how desirable in the world of banjos generally, is a Gibson RB250. I'm interested in terms of tone and playability, not so much in investment value.


Plenty desirable!

For his no-frills, no apologies, bluegrass banjo, Huber appropriated the model name "Workhorse," which had for years been an informal nickname for the RB-250. I think there's a reason for that.

I agree with everyone who says the most desirable RB-250 from a playing and enjoyment of ownership standpoint would be from late 1980s "Greg Rich Era" and later, through to the end of the line in 2009. Best prices seem to be on 1990s and early 2000s models.  What Greg did when he finally turned his attention to the RB-250 was replace the 1970s-80s two-piece flange and multi-ply rim with one-piece flange and 3-ply rim. He also switched to a traditional one-legged armrest (from two)  and Presto tailpiece (from clamshell). He changed the neck back to a traditional one-piece, from the 70s-80s version three-piece laminated (with wide center ply of mahogany running from head to heel). But he kept the fiddle cut peghead and the sort of late pre-war RB-75 inlay. He may have changed the scale from pre-war 26-3/8 to 26-1/4.

This version of the RB-250 lacks nothing that any serious bluegrass picker needs.  Same era RB-3 is more desirable because of its looks: double cut peghead, slightly different inlay, and rings on the back of the resonator. What does any of that sound like? How does it improve playability? Didn't think so.

I've played only one or two and thought they were pretty good. I remember the necks feeling good, but can't dredge up any specific memory. On the other hand, I've played two completely stock 1990s-2000s RB-4 or Granada reissues and both had necks I thought were just phenomenally comfortable and easy playing. Sort of soft flat ovals that just lay in the hand.  If this is the same neck as on the RB-250 (and no reason to think it's not) then that I would certainly desire one of those.

The 1950s-60s bowtie model has become really popular in the past decade. The earliest versions still had 3-ply rims. I think as late as '63. Don't quote me on that. Gibson eventually went to multi-ply. These were arch-tops at first. Flat heads later. I think the necks are kind of chunky up high.

The 1970s-80s RB-250 is Gibson's least respected Mastertone. So it's your most affordable way to acquire a genuine Gibson. Or -- like mine -- a mongrel with a mix of genuine Gibson parts and replacements.  These are players, not investments, so that doesn't matter. Judge them by feel, looks and sound. Worn frets can be replaced. Finishes can be repaired. Many of these have suffered delamination of the tube-retaining bead for the two-piece flange. Replacement with a 3-ply or block rim is a structural improvement. These are players, not investments, so anything you do that improves playability and performance is not detrimental to the instrument's value. Though, of course, pristine instruments always garner the best resale value.

Jul 11, 2021 - 4:09:54 PM
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12144 posts since 6/2/2008

This 1970s one-owner RB-250 just hit the Classifieds for $1650 plus shipping, to be determined. A very good price for one in the condition it appears to be in. Of course, we can't hear it through an ad.

Another issue I forgot to mention on some from this era is they had a much lighter tone ring. The inverted "V" profile in the area above the rim was more hollowed out -- meaning the ring was thinner, contained less metal, and so weighed less. Up to a pound less, I've been told.

Not knowing what rings were in the various ones I've played and heard, I have no idea how different they sound. I've liked the sound of every one I've heard. But if this one has a lighter ring and you'd prefer full weight, a Sullivan ring is only $210. The same ring Gibson later used in the J.D. Crowe model. 

Jul 11, 2021 - 4:52:20 PM

2608 posts since 4/5/2006
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The much maligned, ugly bow tie/flyswatter RB250's had arched fret boards. The only other Gibson banjo's having arched fret boards were the top tensions. Every now & then you see someone playing one of those bow tie 250's. If he's an old guy, chances are he's had it for a very long time & wouldn't part with it for all the tea in China.

A friend of mine had a 70/80's two piece flange RB250. A plain Jane, no frills, working banjo. It played & sounded fine.

Jul 11, 2021 - 5:39:38 PM
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4724 posts since 2/24/2004

Take a listen to "Foggy Mnt Clawhammer" on my old Gibson RB250 if you'd like to hear its tone.

I bought this Gibson in the last century as a bluegrass banjo & have had it set up as a clawhammer open back in this century.  It was my first really good banjo & its always been a desirable banjo to me set up in either genre.  

Of course, I've had maintainence & set up work done on it all along to keep it sounding fresh--but even though it may not be as pretty & flashy as some of my other banjos--it may still be my favorite because of its great tone and fingering & it is probably my best recorder :)

Hope this helps,

Mary Z. Cox

 

Jul 12, 2021 - 1:21:14 PM

688 posts since 2/14/2007

TOTALLY! quote:
Originally posted by Bill Rogers

In terms of quality, the bow-tie 250s, archtop or flathead, are as good as any Gibson made.


Jul 12, 2021 - 3:36:41 PM

12406 posts since 1/15/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Grum

Just how desirable in the world of banjos generally, is a Gibson RB250. I'm interested in terms of tone and playability, not so much in investment value.


Asmentioned here, it depends entirely on the year.  As to what you pay for it could be almost double according to what year it was made.

Jul 12, 2021 - 4:43:45 PM

Joeblo

Australia

31 posts since 3/1/2021

I see your a fellow Aussie. I just saw that there's a Gibson RB800 on Trading Post Victoria. Big bucks though

Jul 12, 2021 - 7:28:25 PM
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2197 posts since 1/4/2009

I like my 70s 250s it's got a Cox rim but the rest is orginal. The binding is cracking off the inlays are popping out.. but man it cracks like a whip and booms like a canon. They aren't collectible, well I guess maybe I should say they aren't as collectible as other gibsons, but they ain't making Gibson banjos anymore. So people still desire them.

Jul 13, 2021 - 7:52:57 AM

3860 posts since 3/28/2008
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by monstertone

The much maligned, ugly bow tie/flyswatter RB250's had arched fret boards.

 

 


Really? I never heard that. It does make a kind of sense though, since Gibson was mainly producing guitars then, and I suppose radius boards could have been SOP for their factory at the time.

Jul 13, 2021 - 8:07:10 AM
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58066 posts since 12/14/2005
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ALL banjos are good.
Some are just more gooder than others.

Best wishes that whatever you do get, suits your purposes.

Jul 13, 2021 - 12:58:15 PM

12144 posts since 6/2/2008

 Grum:

Kyleb mentions another potential issue with 1970s RB-250: Binding failure. On some (many?) the binding simply disintegrated. It dries out and crumbles. One of my Hangout friends has commented there was no in-between: either the binding would completely fail or it would be fine.

I wouldn't let fear of this keep me from buying one.

If you're actually shopping, good luck.

Jul 14, 2021 - 11:02:34 AM

2197 posts since 1/4/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Old Hickory
 Grum:

Kyleb mentions another potential issue with 1970s RB-250: Binding failure. On some (many?) the binding simply disintegrated. It dries out and crumbles. One of my Hangout friends has commented there was no in-between: either the binding would completely fail or it would be fine.

I wouldn't let fear of this keep me from buying one.

If you're actually shopping, good luck.


its a super easy and cheap fix. I think mine suffered every problem associated with these banjos. The one thing that no one ever mentions which I think is best part of these 70s 250 is the neck. My 250 neck is by far my favorite banjo neck. 

Jul 14, 2021 - 11:45:40 AM

12144 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by kyleb
its a super easy and cheap fix. I think mine suffered every problem associated with these banjos. The one thing that no one ever mentions which I think is best part of these 70s 250 is the neck. My 250 neck is by far my favorite banjo neck. 

I think the binding on mine was replaced before I acquired it. But it sat shallow of the side wall instead of flush, so I included thick (.09) binding when I sent the resonator to John Boulding for a refinish to take care of a huge worn spot on the back.

As to the neck, I liked it, but thought it was a touch big front-to-back above the 5th fret or maybe had a bit too much cheek or shoulder, so a year before the resonator work I sent that to John to reprofile at the same time as I had him clean up the previous owner's inartful modification of the heel when he converted the banjo from two-piece flange to one-piece.  Like yours, this is now the favorite banjo neck I own.  And this surprises me because my favorite shape (but not one I own) has always been a sort of flat oval shape (like some old Stellings or 90s Gibsons), and this is now more like a Deering "D" profile.  But it has the original 70s side-to-side measure, so it's comfortably narrow without being skinny.

Jul 14, 2021 - 11:50:05 AM

2197 posts since 1/4/2009

thats a great example of the varrying quality control, my 250 neck is super tiny, the thinest gibson neck ive played.

Jul 14, 2021 - 1:38:54 PM

2750 posts since 4/16/2003

OP:

If you want the best iteration of the RB-250, look for one made between 1988-2009, with the one-piece flange.

Biggest problems in Australia will be
1. Finding one there
or
2. Paying shipping from the USA.

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