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”; #9812-43, however, which dates to 1931 (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; the practice seems to have been especially frequent in style 1 banjos, probably because it was the least-expensive Gibson banjo model featuring mother-of-pearl inlays. 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 of the few 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.
#9812-43 remains in excellent original condition with its #511 case by Geib and Schaefer.
Photos courtesy of an anonymous collector.