Gibson PB-1 #9559-40

The PB, or plectrum banjo, is a four-string banjo with the same scale length and tuning as a five-string.  It allows for chord melody playing without a fifth string to get in the way; standard plectrum tuning was CGBD, low to high, but it was common for guitar players doubling on banjo to tune the plectrum to match the four highest strings of a guitar, DGBE.  PB-1 #9559-40 was apparently once owned by such a player, who wrote the notes of the guitar tuning on the calfskin head just below the end of the fingerboard. 

The style 1 of the 1930s was a non-Mastertone model and therefore had no true tone ring–only a small-diameter brass hoop on top of the rim.  It did, however, feature the same pot metal one-piece flange and three-ply maple rim as the Mastertones of the same period.  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 fiddle-shaped peghead was retained on the style 1 even though the Mastertone models had by this time gone to the double-cut peghead shape.  The rosewood fingerboard was inlaid with a fleur-de-lis inlay pattern which is also known by such varying names as “bats” and “flying birds”; in the late 1930s, this inlay pattern was replaced on style 1 by a simple dot pattern, although the “inverted bud” peghead inlay remained.  Style 1 banjos have an oval “The Gibson” label inside the rim which is similar to the Mastertone label found on the higher models.

This example dates to 1930 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) and is housed in its original red-line hardshell case and remains in excellent original condition with the exception of a replaced tailpiece.  There is no armrest, which is most likely the way this banjo left the factory.  Most style 1 banjos of the 1930s had only three resonator screws, but some were produced with four screws and on these the added screw is typically positioned symmetrically in relation to the other three, rather than being displaced one bracket to be out of the way of the armrest attachment hardware as was usually done on four-screw models.  This positioning of the fourth resonator screw apparently led Gibson to leave off the armrest on a number of these style 1 banjos.