Gibson TB-5 Mastertone #8252-23

Style 5 was the highest-priced model in the original Mastertone line of 1925 and remained in production until about 1929 when it was replaced by style 6.  Style 5 banjos were gold-plated and heavily engraved, with two-piece flanges and either ball-bearing or archtop tone rings.  Ornamentation included multicolored wood purfling, multicolored wood inlay on the back of the peghead, and various types of fancy binding, including the “iridescent” variety seen here.  The peghead was fiddle-shaped, the inlays were wreath pattern and the neck and resonator were walnut.  Note the fancy binding and purfling even on the bottom edge of the rim, visible only with the resonator removed.  The gold-plated Grover tuners featured genuine mother-of-pearl buttons, and the Kerschner tailpiece was engraved “DeLuxe”.

#8252-23 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) is unusual in that its factory order number dates to 1926, at which time all Mastertones featured a ball-bearing tone ring, grooved tension hoop, and flat hooks; this example, however, has the forty-hole archtop tone ring, notched hoop, and round hooks one would associate with a manufacture date of circa 1928.  A horizontal seam visible inside the wooden rim indicates that the rim was likely made for a ball-bearing tone ring and was later reworked at the factory to accept the forty-hole archtop ring.  This factory modification has been seen on other style 5 banjos and suggests that a considerable number of style 5 rims remained at the factory for a few years before finally being assembled into banjos.  Other banjos from lot #8252, including #8252-19, are known with the standard ball-bearing tone ring, grooved tension hoop, and flat hooks.

Photos courtesy of an anonymous collector.