Gibson TB-1 #9812-30

The style 1 of the 1930s was a non-Mastertone model and therefore had no true tone ring–only a small-diameter brass hoop on top of the rim.  It did, however, feature the same pot metal one-piece flange and three-ply maple rim as the Mastertones of the same period.  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 fiddle-shaped peghead was retained on the style 1 even though the Mastertone models had by this time gone to the double-cut peghead shape.  The rosewood fingerboard was inlaid with a fleur-de-lis inlay pattern which is also known by such varying names as “bats” and “flying birds”; normally the peghead was inlaid with one piece of mother-of-pearl known as an “inverted bud”; #9812-30, however (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers), features the “diamonds and squares” peghead inlay used on style 3 banjos in the 1920s and early 1930s. 

Such mixing of inlay patterns was not unusual in prewar Gibson banjo production as leftover inlays from discontinued patterns were used up.  As the only non-Mastertone model to have mother-of-pearl inlays (other than the dots of style 00), style 1 gave Gibson an excellent opportunity to clear out old inlay stock; 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 is one a number of TB-1s to have been produced with 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.

Photos courtesy of Randy Barrett.