Gibson TB-1 #9812-17

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 pattern which is also known by such varying names as “gulls” and “flying birds”.

#9812-17 dates to 1931 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) and conforms largely to standard specifications for style 1 banjos of the period, with two exceptions; it is equipped with four resonator lugs rather than the typical three lugs of style 1 and the peghead inlay, in common with other observed examples from lot #9812, is the “diamonds and squares” pattern used on style 3 banjos in the 1920s and early 1930s.

As the only non-Mastertone of the period to feature a rosewood fingerboard with mother-of-pearl inlays, style 1 gave the Gibson factory an opportunity to use up surplus discontinued inlays from other models; TB-1 #9545-3 is inlaid with the pattern that had been used on style 2 banjos of the 1920s and on the Nick Lucas artist model guitar; TB-1 #3-21 features diamonds and squares inlay on the fingerboard as well as the peghead; and TB-1 #9719-2 is the only known example of this model to have been made with the ornate Bella Voce pattern used on one of Gibson’s fanciest gold-plated, engraved, carved, and painted models of the 1920s.

While the factory order number #9812-17 is stamped inside the rim, the resonator is marked with the factory order number #9812-6; such mismatched rims and resonators are not at all uncommon and likely can be attributed to simple inattention on the part of the employee assembling the banjos.  The initials “HB” written in chalk underneath the small factory order number in the resonator have been observed on other examples from lot #9812; their significance is unknown. 

This banjo remains in original condition with the exception of a replaced tension hoop, replaced armrest mounting bolt, and a missing tailpiece cover, and is housed in its orignial #511 “Masterkraft” case by Geib and Schaefer.