This is one of the most sought-after of all prewar Gibson Mastertone banjos: It is an original flathead style 3 plectrum with a one-piece flange and the rare wreath inlay pattern. The majority of 1930s style 3 banjos had leaves and bows inlays, while a few featured the flying eagle pattern and a handful were made with the wreath pattern. It has been speculated that this small run of wreath-inlay style 3s was prompted by Gibson’s desire to use up inlays left over after the discontinuation of style 5, on which wreath inlays had been standard.
Aside from the inlays and tone ring, this banjo conforms to standard catalog specifications for the style 3 of the period. The wood is mahogany, with two white/black/white purfling rings on the back of the resonator and single white binding. The hardware is nickel-plated and the tailpiece is a Grover Presto. The rim is three-ply maple with a high-profile twenty-hole flathead tone ring. The peghead is double-cut.
This banjo has been converted to five-string with a new neck by Gibson and the resonator has been refinished to match the new neck.
Photos courtesy of Bernunzio Vintage Instruments.