Gibson TB-3 Mastertone #9489-63

Style 3, the least expensive model in Gibson’s prewar Mastertone banjo line, was revamped in 1929.  The model’s straight-grained maple changed to mahogany, two concentric rings of white/black/white purfling were added to the back of the resonator, the brass tube-and-plate flange was replaced by a one-piece cast metal flange, and the headstock shape and inlay patterns also changed.  #9489-63 is from one of the first lots of style 3 banjos made in this “new” configuration and remains in excellent original condition, showing no damage due to “zinc pest“, a common problem with the earliest pot metal flanges and tension hoops supplied to Gibson by the Doehler Die Casting Company (see TB-3 Mastertone #9488-21, the “William Patton Kennedy”).

While Gibson banjos dating to 1929 typically feature a more lightly-built “first generation” flange with a corresponding rim thickness of approximately .640″ below the flange, this example is equipped with the later version of the flange and has a rim thickness of approximately .600″. #9489-63 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) retains its period Jos. B. Rogers, Jr. calfskin head and is now set up with a reproduction five-string neck by Frank Neat of Russell Springs, Kentucky. The banjo’s current owner acquired it from an estate sale after it surfaced in Albany, New York.

Photos courtesy of Tim Mullins.