Gibson’s 1930 catalog described the TB-4 as “the materialization of the dreams of the most distinguished artist”, yet “not too costly.” The model’s specifications included what the catalog described as “beautiful, compelling Burl Walnut” and chrome (or “Chromium”) plating, “the best wearing plate known to science.” The plating on this particular example has indeed held up well over the last seventy years, and the whole instrument remains in remarkably excellent, original condition, with only the tuners having been replaced. Some areas of birds-eye figure are noticeable inside the rim. While the catalog illustration showed the style 4 with flying eagle inlays, a small number were produced with the hearts and flowers pattern. Lots 9553 and 9554 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) are two of the larger lots of style 4 banjos from this period; lot 9553 banjos feature hearts-and-flowers inlays while those from lot 9554 are inlaid with the flying eagle pattern.
Photos by Mark Bramlett; courtesy of Chuck Wallace.