Gibson RB-00 #E2789-2

“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.

#E2789-2 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) was shipped on April 29, 1941 to L. Oppleman, a pawn shop opened in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1890 and still in business today, advertising itself as “America’s Oldest Pawn Shop.”  It was not at all uncommon prior to World War II for pawn shops, particularly in the South, to hold Gibson dealerships, and Gibson’s shipping ledgers from the period record a number of shipments to companies such as the memorably-named “Uncle Sam Loan Office.”  Gibson shipped fifty-two banjos to Oppleman between 1935 and 1943, the majority of them five-strings, including RB-7 Mastertone #5820-1; Oppleman would also be the first dealer to receive a postwar Gibson banjo, an RB-100 shipped on July 1, 1948.  

#E2789-2 departs from standard specifications for style 00 in that its maple rim is full-thickness and its neck is mahogany rather than maple.  An HR-30 tone ring by Steve Huber has been installed and the banjo has been upgraded with the addition of a prewar Grover Presto tailpiece, a notched tension hoop and round hooks from the 1950s, a second coordinator rod, new frets, a geared fifth-string tuner, a new fifth-string nut, a bone nut replacing the ebony original, and modern Waverly tuners with large amber buttons.

Photos courtesy of Chris Protos.