Gibson RB-1 #686-4




Gibson's style 1 of the 1930s featured nickel-plated hardware and a dark-finished maple neck and resonator, with white binding on the neck and both edges of the resonator.  Even though the Mastertone models had by this time gone to the double-cut peghead shape, the fiddle-shaped peghead was retained on style 1, with a minor modification--the two small indentations normally found under the fourth- and first-string tuners were absent.  By the late 1930s the inlay pattern in the rosewood fingerboard had changed from the earlier fleur-de-lis inlay pattern to the simple dot pattern seen here, although the "inverted bud" peghead inlay remained.  The horizontal logo placed low on the peghead is also characteristic of late style 1 banjos.

 Style 1 was not in Gibson's upper-end Mastertone line and so did not have a true tone ring, but only a small-diameter brass hoop sitting on top of the three-ply maple rim.  The one-piece cast metal flange was the same type used on the Mastertone models of the period.  Style 1 banjos have an oval "The Gibson" label inside the rim which is similar to the Mastertone label found on the higher models.

RB-1 #686-4 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) was shipped on December 27, 1937 to Grossman Music in Cleveland, Ohio and is a rare original five-string or "regular banjo", as designated by Gibson.  An unusual feature of this example is that the holes in the flange are threaded for use on a top-tension banjo.  The tuners are the Grover "pancake" type as used on mid-range Mastertone models, rather than the lower-quality "two-tab" variety normally seen on style 1 banjos.

Photos courtesy of Jim Schroth.