“So that anyone may own a genuine Gibson regular banjo, we have created this fine model for only $27.50”, said the 1937 Gibson catalog of the RB-00. Introduced circa 1935 and in production through World War II, style 00 was the least expensive banjo bearing the Gibson name in the 1930s and early 1940s. A thinner maple rim, no tone ring, lighter-gauge hardware, plain dot inlays in an unbound fingerboard, and a silkscreened, rather than mother-of-pearl, peghead logo allowed Gibson to produce this model at an extremely low price while retaining the adjustable truss rod which separated Gibson-brand instruments from the company’s budget-brand offerings.
#DG-5210 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) left the factory for the first time on January 13, 1939 when it was delivered to the Kalamazoo branch of the Grinnell Brothers music stores. The banjo was evidently returned by Grinnell and was shipped on January 23, 1939 to the Southern California Music Company as part of a shipment which also included mandolins, guitars, and lap steels. On both occasions, the banjo was housed in a #121 “Challenge” case, the standard case for style 00 banjos. The numbers stamped on the pegheads of Gibson banjos in this period were true serial numbers rather than factory order numbers; although Kluson tuners with Catalin buttons would soon become standard equipment on style 00 banjos, as seen on RB-00 #FG-2588, this example still features Grover tuners with grained ivoroid buttons.
Photos courtesy of an anonymous collector.