Gibson PB-Florentine Mastertone #8936-2

Gibson called the Florentine, introduced in early 1927, the “patrician leader among fine banjos” with “beauty that entrances the beholder”, “tone that inspires”, and “perfection that reveals itself with steadily increasing benefit to the player.”   One of the most ornate Gibson Mastertone banjos ever produced, the Florentine was offered in a variety of woods and finishes; this example is curly maple with a honey-colored stain.  While the majority of Florentines were tenors, #8936-2 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) is a rare plectrum model with the same scale length and tuning as a five-string or “regular banjo”, but without a short drone string.  Gibson promised that the plectrum banjo was “ideal for song accompaniment and feature playing–equally successful over the footlights, through the microphone, on the records or in the home.”

The Florentine featured a pearloid peghead overlay inlaid with rhinestones; the fingerboard was also pearloid and was decorated with hand-painted scenes not of Florence, as one would expect, but Venice.   Typical of the Florentine, this  example is elaborately carved and painted on the resonator and neck, and the hardware is gold plated and heavily engraved.  The flange is two-piece and the tone ring is a forty-hole archtop.  #8936-2 is one of three Florentines known to have been made circa late 1927 for Gibson endorsers The Mitchell Brothers, whose name appears on the personalized truss-rod cover.

Photos courtesy of an anonymous collector.