Gibson TB Mastertone #8825-1
This tenor Mastertone bears a factory order number corresponding to 1927 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers), but some of its highly unusual features suggest that it most likely was not assembled and shipped until the early 1940s, a product of Gibson's "floor-sweep" era in which wartime material shortages led employees to assemble banjos out of whatever parts remained on hand with little or no regard for standard catalog model descriptions.
The resonator features the carved and painted ornamentation of the company's deluxe Florentine model, although the wood is straight-grain maple rather than the curly maple, walnut, "white holly", or rosewood options specified in the catalog for the Florentine. The two-piece flange and bracket hooks are gold-plated, while the tension hoop and one-piece armrest are nickel plated. The high-profile flathead tone ring is gold-plated and engraved as seen on the Royal P-T, although in a very unusual and possibly unique no-hole configuration. The Mastertone decal is cut and the bottom of the rim features fancy "Christmas tree" binding, as opposed to the checkerboard binding on the resonator. The straight-grain maple neck features the fiddle-shaped, checkerboard-bound peghead of the style 6 with the fleur-de-lis fingerboard inlay of the non-Mastertone style 1; there is no peghead volute, and the back of the peghead is painted black, a feature commonly seen on Gibson guitars of the period but extremely unusual on a banjo.
The tuners are nickel plated, as is the simple tailpiece of the type frequently seen on Gibson banjos of the early 1940s. The presence of a large truss-rod cover with Phillips-head screws is also characteristic of the "floor sweep" period. The case is a plush-lined #509 by Geib.
Photos courtesy of an anonymous owner.