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Oct 3, 2022 - 11:18:30 AM
16 posts since 7/25/2007

I recently played a 1930 Gibson Style 1 conversion with a Huber HR30 Tone Ring. It has a 5 string neck with the fiddle headstock. Everything else is original except for a presto tailpiece. It may have been one of the best banjos I have ever played. The guy is thinking about selling it for a price around $6,500. I play and tour a lot, and believe it would be a great banjo to play on stage all the time.

I know nothing about a Style 1 conversion? Anything you can tell me? What is it really worth? Anything would be great!

Oct 3, 2022 - 12:06:32 PM



2483 posts since 11/3/2016

There are a few style 1 conversions that heve crossed BHO cllassifieds but not enough to establish any benchmark price .
If it sounds & looks to your liking , probably , 6k is not far from its worth .
I think a super sounding style 1 would be very cool over the std Mastertone patterns .
Actually I almost bought one a while back .

Edited by - heavy5 on 10/03/2022 12:07:30

Oct 3, 2022 - 12:12:18 PM
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Players Union Member



622 posts since 3/25/2009

My problem with this is what of the original banjo are you getting: the rim, resonator, flange, tension hoop and hooks. I would suggest trying a Huber banjo with the 30 ring and matching Huber rim. You may find the same sound you like for less money.

Oct 3, 2022 - 12:21:59 PM
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4508 posts since 2/20/2016

A little technical information:

Gibson style 1's from this period were comprised of a standard size rim turned and fitted with a one piece flange, a round brass tone hoop rather than a Mastertone style tone ring, a single coordinator rod, and were fitted with a rather plain neck and resonator.

These banjos are currently sought for conversion to Mastertone specifications. Such a conversion entails fitting a modern 5 string neck and a modern Mastertone tone ring to the instrument. Some conversions also add a second coordinator rod.


As far as market value is concerned, a lot depends on the condition of the original rim, resonator, and one piece flange. The originality of the tension hoop [stretcher band], hooks and nuts, and other metal parts is another important factor, as is the quality of the 5 string neck.

A style 1 with a clean and original finish, high quality neck by a well known and respected maker, premium grade tone ring [cleanly installed], all original metal parts in nice condition, and the inclusion of the original tenor neck will bring quite a bit more than one with a worn or non-original finish, changed or damaged flange, modern metal parts, and a neck by an unknown maker.


It is not possible to evaluate the market value of the banjo you have in mind without seeing it, but $6500 is an absolute top dollar asking price for a OPF TB-1 conversion, and many people are asking less for one that's well done and in really good shape. So for $6500, I would want it to be squeaky clean and original except for the tone ring and neck. Also, I would want the neck to be made by one of the most highly respected neck makers, and have the original tenor neck included with the sale.

If you really like the banjo, you could try making an offer. If you have opportunity to play a couple of good style 3 conversions, it might give you a little more perspective on the banjo you are considering, and how it compares with other old Gibsons.

Bear in mind that a clean, really well done 2 piece flange style 3 conversion can still be found for around $4000 if you are patient.

Edited by - rcc56 on 10/03/2022 12:26:05

Oct 3, 2022 - 12:37:25 PM
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13697 posts since 6/2/2008

What Lloyd said.

You go into it knowing you're buying a conversion. HR30 tone ring in nickel: $650. Conversion neck: $1000 - $1500 (I'm guessing) depending on who made it.

Are the pre-war pot and fitting services worth $4350?

The rim will be cut. While that's necessary for the conversion, there are increasing numbers of people who advocate against doing that. They think it detracts from value. I'm not sure what I think.

All that matters is whether it's worth it to you.

Good luck.

Oct 3, 2022 - 4:15:53 PM

4994 posts since 11/20/2004

I agree on the top end pricing for a converted 1, but is it too much for the best banjo you have ever played ? Banjos that make you feel like that are rare.

Oct 3, 2022 - 5:43:34 PM

15005 posts since 10/30/2008

Jim Mills has been selling this exact same conversion for years at $6500 (similarly Gibson and Recording King Styles 10 and 11). That comes with his various certificates of authenticity and appraisals, etc. Generally regarded as ultra-reliable descriptions of the banjo and conversion.

You don't come across them every day, although they tend to be more common than conversions of original arch top Mastertones of the same vintage.

If you think it's the best banjo you've played and you want it, you can buy with confidence that you're not OVER paying. Could you find one cheaper? If you are patient and know how to look, possibly.

Can you negotiate a little on this banjo's price? It's ALWAYS worth your time to try a polite negotiation. Ask for full documentation of the conversion!
Good luck.

Oct 3, 2022 - 5:46:42 PM
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4508 posts since 2/20/2016

Well, I just looked up "sold" listings for OPF TB-1's on banjobuyer, reverb, and gbase.
There were several expired listings [we'll assume unsold] on banjobuyer for $6000. There was one "sold" listing for one with a Wyatt Fawley neck and Burlile tone for $4750. That was the only "sold" listing that I found. I did find a a "sold" listing for an original 5 string RB-1 for $7000, but that's a different animal.

If you decide you like this banjo well enough to pay $6K+ for it, it may be worth it to do so for your own satisfaction. But be aware that it may be difficult to recoup your full investment if you ever decide to sell it.

While Jim Mills has been able to sell style 1's for $6k+, some of the people who bought those banjos from him were unable to sell them later at full price. I've seen several such examples pass through the classifieds over the last few years.

I'll mention that there's a '27 TB-3 no-hole archtop with 5 string neck at Denver Folklore Center for $4000. I don't know what the instrument sounds like, or if such a thing would suit you or not, but it's there.

Edited by - rcc56 on 10/03/2022 18:01:37

Oct 3, 2022 - 7:07:49 PM

13697 posts since 6/2/2008

Wow. All-original pot on that conversion, except for the tailpiece.

Unfortunate it doesn't include the original 4-string neck and the shop appears not to know anything about who did the conversion.

But that sure seems like a reasonable price to me.

Oct 4, 2022 - 7:02:36 AM
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16 posts since 7/25/2007

Great responses - y'all are awesome. I have a 2011 Huber VRB3 truetone that I bought brand new and has been a beast. It is beat up and played throughout the country. But this gibson has that old sound, the notes are so clear, you can play it hard and it doesn't lose it. Thanks for all the advice!

Oct 4, 2022 - 10:10:15 AM

13697 posts since 6/2/2008

So it appears that Banjo Warehouse has a 1930 TB-1 conversion with Huber HR30 tone ring for $6500. They're also showing it on eBay. Seagulls neck made by Don Bryant, one of the respected makers and an active Hangout participant.

Is that the one?

They're also showing a 1929. Same price. Has the original tone hoop instead of a flat head tone ring. Also has a punched pre-war Presto tailpiece, not original to the banjo.

And, for good measure, they're also showing a 1933 with an HR30 ring and a hearts and flowers conversion neck by Tim Davis.

As being discussed in an unfriendly discussion right now, Banjo Warehouse's advertised prices on used and vintage instruments are typically at the top of the market. What customers actually pay is anybody's guess, but I imagine it's above average (whatever average means).

If Jim Mills gets $6500 for these, then it looks like that's the current top. There's no predicting when or if you'd ever recoup that on resale. If you intend to own and play the banjo the rest of your life, then resale is a non-issue.

Oct 4, 2022 - 5:39:41 PM



23124 posts since 7/6/2005

When I lived in Pompano Beach back in the early 70's, Sunrise Pawn had an RB-1 hanging in the window. It was $500.00 I didn't have $500 to spare so I couldn't buy it. A guy who I would meet later bought it and I can attest it was a GREAT banjo, even with no tone ring. I liked it so much, my first banjo I built was an RB-1 copy. If you have the money. Buy it!

Edited by - beegee on 10/04/2022 17:40:17

Oct 7, 2022 - 5:43:58 PM

4031 posts since 9/21/2009

Not all pre-war banjos sound the same. Some don't sound so great at all. If this banjo has the sound you love, you'll regret passing on it.

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