What’s New

February 24, 2021–Many thanks to prewar Gibson banjo scholar Frank Schoepf for today’s addition, an exceedingly rare no-hole flathead PB-4 Mastertone dating to 1929.

February 23, 2021–In the year 1930 only, Gibson made an S.S. Stewart-labeled banjo for the New York City-based musical instrument distributor Buegeleisen and Jacobson which was essentially the same banjo as the Gibson-brand TB-11; #9744-28 has had the original blue paint removed from its neck, rim, and resonator, but otherwise remains intact.

February 21, 2021MB-00 #EG-4421 was shipped to the New York Band Instrument Company on May 5, 1939; it’s had a little bit of a rough life but remains largely intact and original.

February 18, 2021–A very small number of 1930s style 1 tenor banjos were assembled, for unknown reasons, with tension hoops featuring the engraving pattern used on the gold-plated Granada model. TB-1 #293-6, the “J.F. Patchor”, dates to 1932 and is an example of one of these rare banjos in an exceptional state of preservation.

February 16, 2021–In a 1920s catalog, Gibson described the TB-3 as “(a) matchless model representing the utmost in practical values.” TB-3 Mastertone #8977-5 dates to 1928 and has been converted to five-string with a neck by Richie Dotson.

February 15, 2021–“The headliner of all modern tenor banjos” is what Gibson called the top-tension Mastertone TB-18, introduced in 1937: this example was owned for many years by Lloyd Dunn, a record executive and co-founder of The Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

February 14, 2021–Today’s addition is a fully original 1927 TB-4 Mastertone which was owned for decades by Harold F. Graham (1904-1983) and made music in his family band.

February 13, 2021–Here’s a beautiful catalog-standard 1934 TB-1 that remains in excellent original condition, including its flannel-lined #511 Geib case.

February 12, 2021–Today we have RB-11 #EG-6525, which was shipped to “Music Mart” (location unknown) on November 30, 1939 and was owned for decades by a circuit court judge in Winchester, Virginia.

February 11, 2021–1930s Gibson literature promised that the TB-6 provided “(b)rilliant, powerful tone in a rich setting of beautiful woods, engraving and artistic inlays.” TB-6 Mastertone #9368-1, dating to 1929, certainly does not disappoint with its particularly dramatic figured maple neck and resonator.

February 9, 2021Florentine banjos with the twenty-fret “plectrum-tenor” fingerboard are exceedingly rare, with only two examples known to exist; #9284-1 is even more desirable in that it came from the factory with a high-profile, full-weight, Granada flathead tone ring. In other news today, the website now has a snazzy logo thanks to Aaron Spitalnick!

February 8, 2021–Here’s a beautiful blue MB-11 shipped to South Africa in the summer of 1940; it remained there until November 2020.

February 7, 2021–Today’s addition is another style 3 Mastertone from lot #9524; rather than being a plectrum banjo with a flathead tone ring, however, #9524-5 is one of only two known archtop tenors from this batch.

February 6, 2021–Lot #9524 was a large batch of 1930 style 3 plectrum Mastertones which, for the most part, featured left-over “wreath” inlays as used on the discontinued style 5 of the 1920s; #9524-9 is instead inlaid with the more typical “leaves and bows” pattern and, strangely, lacks a Mastertone block. It has an original twenty-hole flathead tone ring weighing three pounds.

February 5, 2021–While many 1930s style 3 mandolin-banjos feature the simpler dark-stained, straight-grain maple resonator of the non-Mastertone style 1, this late MB-3 shipped to Australia in 1939 has the same mahogany resonator with two concentric rings of white/black/white purfling as seen on tenor, plectrum, and five-string examples.

February 4, 2021–Prewar top-tension Mastertones are highly sought-after instruments today, but that was not the case when these banjos were introduced in 1937; TB-7 Mastertone #390-2 was taken out as a salesman’s sample four times in late 1938 before finally being shipped to a music store in Buffalo, New York in March 1939.

February 1, 2021–Today we have a 1932 MB-3 Mastertone mandolin-banjo which appears in Gibson’s factory ledgers as a repair in 1936 for the Hissong Music Store in Sandusky, Ohio.

January 31, 2021–Welcome to the new Earnest Banjo website! With a tremendous amount of help from my friend Lee Hiers, the site has now been transferred to a new and more user-friendly format and I will once again be doing regular updates. My goal is to continue to make this site the best single source of online information for all things related to vintage Gibson banjos.

I’ve been able to add some nice banjos while working on the transfer, including Studio King tenor banjo #9717-11, the “Peter Miccio, Sr.” ; TB-4 Mastertone #276-11; and TB-2 #20-2. Please check back for many more additions in the days to come.

Thanks for visiting!