There is no rarer iteration of the style 4 Mastertone than the version with tube-and-plate flange and solid raised-head tone ring, only produced circa 1927-1928; such style 4 banjos with original five-string necks are so rare as to be practically nonexistent, with a total estimated production of no more than ten units. #8914-8 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) is from the only known lot of such banjos, dating to 1928, but is equipped with a circa 1925 RB-3 neck made of straight-grain maple with the “diamonds and squares” inlay pattern and “Mastertone” inlaid in small individual letters on the peghead. This banjo remains in completely original condition with its #521 case by Geib and Schaefer.
As is the case with the other observed banjos from lot #8914, a splice is visible on the inside of the rim, indicating that this rim had originally been prepped with holes for a ball-bearing tone ring assembly and was then modified for a cast raised-head ring by removing the drilled upper portion of the rim and replacing it with a solid cap.
Style 4 Mastertones, being in between the entry-level style 3 Mastertone and the gold-plated, engraved Granada, sold in small quantities. With five-string Mastertones also being much slower movers than their tenor counterparts, it is not surprising that the banjos in this one lot of circa 1927-1928 RB-4s remained in inventory at the factory for some time and eventually were subjected to various forms of reworking and reassembly to finally get them out the door. Other banjos from lot #8914 featured on this site include RB-4 Mastertone #8914-2, the “Reid Rakes”; RB-4/TB-3 Mastertone #8914-3, the “Paul Schantz”; and RB-4 Mastertone #8914-4, the “Cecil George”.
Photos courtesy of an anonymous collector.