Prewar Gibson literature promised that the mandolin-banjo combined “a certain portion of the mandolin sweetness with brilliancy, volume and tone quality of the banjo into one marvelous instrument.” Gibson had heavily promoted mandolin orchestras in its earlier years, and with the increased popularity of banjo ensembles in the 1920s the mandolin-banjo was touted as providing an essential “sweet soprano voice in the banjo band.”
#210-5 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) is a style 1 mandolin-banjo shipped on January 20, 1936 to the C.J. Kramer Music Company of Gary, Indiana. Although style 1 banjos in tenor, five-string, and plectrum neck configurations had by this time switched to a one-piece-flange design, this lot of MB-1s retained the older, 1920s-style “bracket-shoe” construction including a flange plate with hexagonal holes. The peghead inlay features the same “inverted bud” motif as seen on most style 1 banjos of the time, although the fingerboard is inlaid with simple dots rather than the typical style 1 fleur-de-lis pattern. #210-5 remains in excellent original condition with its #385 case by Geib and Schaefer.
Photos courtesy of an anonymous collector.