Gibson TB-1 #720-6
The style 1, priced at $50, was a mainstay of Gibson's lower-priced non-Mastertone line of the 1930s. Style 1 had nickel-plated hardware and a dark-finished maple neck and resonator, with white binding on the neck and both edges of the resonator; the tailpiece was an inexpensive type referred to in Gibson catalogs as the "Grover first model". Even though the Mastertone models had by this time gone to the double-cut peghead shape, the fiddle-shaped peghead was retained on style 1, with a minor modification--the two small indentations normally found under the fourth- and first-string tuners were absent. The rosewood fingerboard was normally inlaid with a fleur-de-lis inlay pattern which is also known by such varying names as "gulls" and "flying birds".
This style 1 tenor banjo bears the factory order number #720-6 on the wooden rim, which dates to 1934 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers). The factory order number written in chalk inside the resonator, however, is #270-9, which dates to 1932 and corresponds to a batch of style 3 mandolin-banjos, which featured the same straight-grain maple resonator as the style 1. The small factory order number written in enamal by the resonator's neck notch was partially sanded out at the factory. As a Mastertone, the MB-3 would have been equipped with four resonator lugs rather than the typical three of a non-Mastertone, and four filled holes are visible where the original lugs were removed and three installed in the correct positions for a style 1. As if two factory order numbers separated by two years on one instrument weren't enough, the neck heel is marked with the lot number #9925, which corresponds to a lot of style 1 tenor banjos from 1930.
This banjo gives all indications of having been shipped from the Gibson factory in its current configuration. It is housed in a #511 Geib and Schaefer "red-line" case featuring an extremely rare Geib and Schaefer label on the underside of the case pocket lid.
This banjo is sold. Please visit my page of Prewar Gibson Banjos for Sale to see what's available now.
This banjo has now been converted to
five-string flathead with a neck by Ron Coleman; the pot remains unaltered with
its original brass hoop.
Photos courtesy of Dan Horner.