“The flashiest five-string banjo made” was how Gibson’s 1935 catalog described the RB-11. Introduced in 1931, style 11 used pearloid, blue paint, and silkscreened designs to dress up what was one of the company’s less-expensive banjo offerings; besides lending “color” and “flash”, the pearloid and paint provided Gibson with a way to use cosmetically flawed wood which might not have been suitable for more expensive models.
Style 11 banjos remained in production into the World War II years; #E4415-2 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) was shipped on July 7, 1942 to the City Music Company, whose location has not been determined. That day’s shipment to the City Music Company also included RB-11 #E2790-7, RB-00 #F5636-12, and
#E4415-2 features the pronounced blue coloration typical of many later style 11 banjos. The smaller-diameter brass hoop, giving a raised-head appearance, is also characteristic of later style 11s; it was introduced in Catalog X of 1937 (see above) and purported to provide “more brilliancy”. This example has no armrest and may well have been shipped without one; the tailpiece is the simple type seen on many lower-priced Gibson banjos of the early 1940s. The fifth-string tuner has been replaced.
Photos courtesy of an anonymous owner.