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.”
#238-11 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) is a style 1 mandolin-banjo dating to 1932. Although style 1 banjos in tenor, five-string, and plectrum neck configurations had by this time switched to a one-piece-flange design, many lots of MB-1s retained the older, 1920s-style “bracket-shoe” construction including a flange plate with hexagonal holes. The peghead features a silk-screened “Gibson” logo with no mother-of-pearl inlay; the fingerboard is inlaid with simple dots rather than the typical style 1 fleur-de-lis pattern. Although no shipping information is available on this mandolin-banjo, Gibson is known to have had at least one 1930s dealer in Sweden, where this instrument recently surfaced.
Photos courtesy of an anonymous collector.