This very interesting original five-string RB-1 comes from proud new owner David Bootes. I’ll let him tell the story:
“I have no idea how I came to find this banjo. My searching lead me to the other side of the world just north of Sydney, Australia where I found this RB-1. #9527-18 is an all original RB-1 in good condition. This example is a rare original five-string that is especially unusual due to its non-standard peghead shape, sometimes referred to by collectors as the “Coke bottle” shape. It also varies from standard style 1 by having the Mastertone label and the “Made in the U.S.A.” sticker for exports. . .
This banjo was from the original owner who at eighty-plus years old wanted his banjos to go to a good person. He had owned it most of his life. He said everything is original to the banjo. Before I had even finished the purchase of this banjo I had named it “Sydney”. The gentleman who had sold it to me thought that “Sydney” was a good Australian name as well. When it arrived I opened the original case’s accessories compartment and underneath the flap was a vintage train pass sticker. In bold print it read “SYDNEY”. This was unknown to me. I thought this was special since I had already had it named “Sydney”.
I noticed on that old vintage train pass on the case his name is written in the old inkwell-and-pen calligraphy-style writing (A.E. Rawlonsory). The way everything went down was fate and even the person who sold it to me said “It was fate, mate”. I feel very fortunate and proud to have an original five-string in my collection”.
At least one other banjo from this lot, #9527-6 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers), is also known to have a Mastertone label although its inlay pattern is the diamonds and squares pattern normally seen on style 3 banjos of the 1920s.
Photos courtesy of David Bootes.