The style 1, priced at $50, was a mainstay of Gibson’s lower-priced non-Mastertone line of the 1930s. 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; the tailpiece was an inexpensive type referred to in Gibson catalogs as the “Grover first model”. 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 normally inlaid with a fleur-de-lis inlay pattern which is also known by such varying names as “gulls” and “flying birds”.
This style 1 tenor banjo bears the factory order number #720-6 on the wooden rim, which dates to 1934(see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers). The factory order number written in chalk inside the resonator, however, is #270-9, which dates to 1932 and corresponds to a batch of style 3 mandolin-banjos, which featured the same straight-grain maple resonator as the style 1. The small factory order number written in enamel by the resonator’s neck notch was partially sanded out at the factory. As a Mastertone, the MB-3 would have been equipped with four resonator lugs rather than the typical three of a non-Mastertone, and four filled holes are visible where the original lugs were removed and three installed in the correct positions for a style 1. As if two factory order numbers separated by two years on one instrument weren’t enough, the neck heel is marked with the lot number #9925, which corresponds to a lot of style 1 tenor banjos from 1930.
This banjo gives all indications of having been shipped from the Gibson factory in its current configuration. It is housed in a #511 Geib and Schaefer “red-line” case featuring an extremely rare Geib and Schaefer label on the underside of the case pocket lid.
This banjo has now been converted to five-string flathead with a neck by Ron Coleman; the pot remains unaltered with its original brass hoop.