Gibson TB-11 #DA-5070

“This model is alive with flash and color and yet is not gaudy”, proclaimed Gibson’s Catalog X of 1936 in describing the TB-11.  Introduced in 1931, style 11 used pearloid, blue paint, and silkscreened designs to dress up what was one of the company’s less-expensive banjo offerings.  Selling for $50, half the price of the least expensive Mastertone model, the style 11 proved to be quite popular and remained in production through the early 1940s.  Besides lending “color” and “flash”, the pearloid and paint provided Gibson with a way to use cosmetically flawed wood which might not have been suitable for more expensive models.

Gibson’s Catalog Y of 1937 mentioned style 11‘s “new type raised tone ring” which was purported to “improve tone and volume” and provide “more brilliancy”.  The new design, seen on #DA-5070 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers), was not a heavy cast archtop tone ring as found on the Mastertone models; instead, the archtop appearance was caused by the placement of the brass hoop on the inner edge of the rim rather than the outer edge. 

#DA-5070 does not appear in Gibson’s shipping ledgers, but other banjos in its serial number range were shipped in the fall of 1938.  The banjo is housed in its original flannel-lined case and remains in good original condition with the exception of a replaced tailpiece.  The metal truss-rod cover is often seen on Gibson banjos of the late 1930s.

In 1930 only, Gibson made an S.S. Stewart-labeled banjo for New York City-based musical instrument distributor Buegeleisen and Jacobson which was essentially the same banjo as the Gibson-brand TB-11.

Photos courtesy of an anonymous owner.