Gibson TB-4 Mastertone #9639-1

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.”  This style 4 tenor banjo dates to 1930 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) and is noteworthy in that its factory order number, #9639-1, is a duplicate of that on RB-4 Mastertone #9639-1, the “DeWitt ‘Snuffy’ Jenkins”. Two other banjos from this lot, PB-4 Mastertone #9639-5, the “Ralph Marquardt”, and PB-4 Mastertone #9639-5, have been observed with duplicate factory order numbers. No explanation is known for this duplication, and it is not known whether any other factory order numbers from this lot were duplicated.

While the resonator of the Snuffy Jenkins RB-4 features the white/black/white purfling normally seen on style 4 Mastertones of the 1920s, this banjo’s resonator has the catalog-standard multicolored parquetry normally associated with the style 4 of the 1930s. TB-4 Mastertone #9639-1 remains in excellent original condition including its original plush-lined #509 case by Geib and Schaefer, calfskin head, and period two-footed bridge. 

Photos courtesy of Mark Smith.