Overview of Style 5 Mastertone Banjos

Gibson's "Mastertone" line of higher-end banjos debuted in 1925 with style 5 as its highest-priced model.  Style 5's specifications included a walnut neck and resonator with two concentric rings of multicolored wood purfling on the back of the resonator:

The neck, resonator, and bottom of the rim were bound with this same multicolored purfling along with, in most cases, what Gibson called "iridescent ivoroid":


Style 5 banjos also featured an oval and fan design in wood marquetry on the back of the peghead:


The hardware was gold-plated with engraving on the tension hoop, armrest, tone ring skirt, flange, and tailpiece.  The earliest style 5 Mastertones had grooved tension hoops with flat hooks, first seen in conjunction with holes in the outer tone-ring skirt:

This first Mastertone tone ring was the ball-bearing design with sixty holes; later examples had no holes in the outer skirt:

Throughout the production run of the style 5 Mastertone, the peghead was fiddle-shaped and, along with the rosewood fingerboard, was inlaid with the "wreath" pattern in mother-of-pearl:

The earliest version, seen primarily on examples from 1925, had the word "Mastertone" inlaid in small individual letters on the peghead just under the script "Gibson" logo:

Circa 1926, the word "Mastertone" moved to a mother-of-pearl block at the end of the fingerboard:

Circa 1927, all Mastertone models including style 5 changed from the ball-bearing tone ring to a cast metal raised-head, or archtop, tone ring.  While the exterior "beveled" appearance of the head remained the same, the new tone ring construction is evident inside the body.  Some of the earlier raised-head rings had no holes. . .

. . . while the forty-hole variety soon became the standard on all Mastertone models:

With the change to cast raised-head tone rings also came a change to notched, rather than grooved, tension hoops with round, rather than flat, hooks:


Style 5 Mastertones of the 1920s were typically equipped with Kerschner tailpieces engraved with the word "DeLuxe". . .

. . . while a few later examples were equipped with the Grover "clamshell" tailpiece:

Style 5 was discontinued with the introduction of style 6 in 1928 and remained out of production until being revived briefly by Gibson as a reissue model in the 1990s.