Gibson TB-3 Mastertone #9550-47

Style 3 was the least expensive model in Gibson’s Mastertone line.   It was introduced in 1925 and remained in production through 1937, when its price was lowered from $100 to $75 and it was renamed style 75.  While the style 3 of the 1920s had a two-piece flange with maple neck and resonator, a fiddle-shaped peghead and the diamonds and squares inlay pattern, the style changed in 1929 to the configuration seen here.  The flange is one-piece; the wood is mahogany with two white/black/white purfling rings on the back of the resonator, and the peghead shape is double-cut.  There is single white binding on the neck and on both edges of the resonator.  The tone ring is a forty-hole archtop, and the tailpiece is a Grover Presto.

While most style 3 banjos of this period have the leaves and bows inlay pattern in a rosewood fingerboard, a small number were produced with the intricate and beautiful wreath pattern seen here.  It has been speculated that this small run of wreath-inlay style 3s was prompted by Gibson’s desire to use up inlays left over after the discontinuation of style 5, on which wreath inlays had been standard. 

Style 3 banjos from lot 9550 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) have been seen with a number of unusual features, indicating that Gibson may have used this lot as an opportunity to clear out some leftover parts.  TB-3 #9550-13 is equipped with a mute-style armrest but no internal mute mechanics are present; TB-3 #9550-33 lacks a Mastertone block; and TB-3 #9550-36 features an unusual inlay combination.

Photos courtesy of and copyright RZM Fine Arts and Antiques, Inc.