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. Even though the Mastertone models had by this time gone to the double-cut peghead shape, the fiddle-shaped peghead was retained on style 1, with a minor modification–the two small indentations normally found under the fourth- and first-string tuners were absent. 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.
#87-5 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) dates to 1931 and is a rare original five-string. Owner Robert Heacox tells us, “I set the original rim aside and installed a 1929ish TB-1 rim on which I installed a McPeake ring. The result is my ‘Holy Grail’ banjo with amazing pre-war tone.” The banjo also retains its original hardshell case which is currently being restored.
Photos courtesy of Robert Heacox.