What's New

December 30, 2013--I'm a real sucker for the Bella Voce inlay pattern in a double-cut peghead, as seen on a small number of TB-3 Mastertones in the 1930s.  Here's one such example residing in Ireland:  TB-3 Mastertone #347-10.

December 28, 2013--More shipping totals!  Here are August 1936 and September 1936.

December 27, 2013--Here are the shipping totals for June 1936 and July 1936.

December 18, 2013--TB-1 #122-20 has now been converted to five-string flathead with a straight-grain maple neck by Frank Neat and an HR-30 tone ring by Steve Huber.  You can hear this superb-sounding banjo on Poor Ellen Smith, Salty Dog Blues, Shuckin' the Corn, Take Me in the Lifeboat, The Girl in the Blue Velvet Band, and Weeping Willow Tree.  I have also posted shipping totals for May 1936.

December 15, 2013--I'm pleased to be able to add another great early 1930s Gibson banjo from the family of the original owner:
TB-1 #9877-14, the "Tommy Peterson".

December 12, 2013--TB-1 #9543-47, the "Ed Brenot", has now been converted to five-string flathead with a straight-grain maple neck by Frank Neat and an eighteen-hole, nickel-plated tone ring by Bill Blaylock.  Take a listen to this great banjo on Hot Corn, Cold Corn, Little Darlin', Pal of Mine, Home Sweet Home, Coal Miner's Blues, and Welcome to New York.

December 12, 2013--Here's another beautiful, unmolested vintage Gibson banjo straight from the family of the original owner:
TB-1 #234-13, the "Bob Bontekoe".

December 4, 2013--Here are the shipping totals for April 1936.

November 26, 2013--Website contributor Jim Bondra acquired the Kel Kroydon KK-11 tenor #9797-34, owned originally by Vineta Hemman of Painesville, Ohio, one year ago; now he has located its littermate, #9797-10!

November 20, 2013--Today's addition is TB-3 Mastertone #1034-3, dating to 1934 and previously owned by Arizona native Lawrence Flansberg, better known by the stage name Smokey O'Shea.

November 15, 2013--Here's another 1929 TB-4 Mastertone from lot #9271 featuring, as does every example I've seen from that lot, Bella Voce fingerboard inlays; the original owner of this one was Irvin O. Kenen of New Jersey.

November 11, 2013--I've added shipping information for TB-18 Mastertone #E3794-3 (shipped to the McIntosh Music House in Kalispell, Montana on December 19, 1941, making it the first Mastertone banjo shipped after the United States' entry into World War II), and TB-11 #F5924-9 (shipped to the New York Band Instrument Company on March 26, 1943).

November 8, 2013--Today's addition is a very nice original TB-11 owned and played for many years by Braden C. "Al" Aljoe of Pennsylvania.

November 3, 2013--As the only non-Mastertone model to have mother-of-pearl inlays (other than the dots of style 00), style 1 gave Gibson an opportunity to use up discontinued inlays from higher-priced banjos; compare the "diamonds and squares" pattern on today's addition, TB-1 #122-20, with the pattern on the Ezekiel Walder TB-3 Mastertone of three years before.

November 1, 2013--Today we have a fully original, excellent 1928 TB-3 Mastertone from the family of original owner Ezekiel Walder; I've also added shipping totals for March 1936.

October 19, 2013--Here's a sound file of the Jack Rice TB-00 set up with a reproduction five-string neck by Wyatt Fawley; I've also added shipping totals for February 1936.

October 14, 2013--Today I have updated shipping information on TB-6 Mastertone #9301-13 and shipping totals for January 1936.

October 13, 2013
--Here are the shipping totals for December 1935.

October 12, 2013--Here's a nice late tube-and-plate TB-4 with the Bella Voce inlay pattern on the fingerboard, originally owned by Russell Leonard Calm of Negaunee, Michigan.  I've also added the shipping totals for November 1935.

October 7, 2013--Here are the shipping totals for October 1935.

October 5, 2013--I'm continuing to compile Prewar Gibson Banjo Shipping Totals. . . here are July 1935, August 1935,
and September 1935.

September 29, 2013--The study of prewar Gibson banjos is full of surprises, and I recently encountered possibly my biggest surprise in over twenty years of researching these instruments: the existence of two PB-4 Mastertone plectrum banjos, both completely original and authentic, bearing the same factory order number stamped inside the rim.  PB-4 Mastertone #9639-5 formerly owned by Ralph Marquardt of Madison, Wisconsin has been on this site for a number of years; it is now joined by. . . the "other"
PB-4 Mastertone #9639-5
.  I have no explanation.  Your theories are welcome.

September 22, 2013--Happy Fall!  Two great banjos today. . . a 1930 TB-Granada Mastertone converted to five-string flathead and a PB-11 shipped to South African Gibson dealer H. Polliack and Co., Ltd. on June 11, 1940.

September 19, 2013--Here are shipping totals for June 1935.

September 16, 2013--Here's a 1927 TB-3 Mastertone with a bowtie-inlay fingerboard installed at the Gibson factory in the 1950s or 1960s; check out the picture of this banjo with previous owner Lee Mayo (who also owned PB-00 #FG-2539) in the Philippines during World War II!

September 14, 2013--I'm adding a new section on Prewar Gibson Banjo Shipping Totals.  I have been working with this information for some time and welcome your feedback as to how it might be presented more usefully; I will be posting shipping summaries by month and am starting off with April 1935 and May 1935.

September 13, 2013--Today's addition is TB-1 #917-4, shipped on December 22, 1936 to J.D. Stacy, a Gibson teacher-agent and fretted-instrument orchestra leader in Sturgis, Michigan; I'm also glad to be able to identify the original owner of TB-75 Mastertone #FG-2661 as Florence "Flossie" Miller of Ohio.

September 8, 2013--According to prewar Gibson literature, no self-respecting banjo ensemble could be without a few mandolin-banjos; here's a nice MB-1 dating to 1931.

September 7, 2013--Today we have a wonderful example of an original five-string RB-3 Mastertone produced in 1925 in only the second known lot of such banjos ever made.

September 6, 2013--Here's another one from 1929, the first year of the one-piece flange, double-cut peghead, and other now-classic elements of Gibson banjo design; this time it's a beautiful all-original TB-3 Mastertone.

September 2, 2013--Style 2 was the highest-priced of Gibson's non-Mastertone banjos and, from 1929 to 1937, featured a walnut neck and resonator along with a pearloid fingerboard and peghead overlay; here's a nice example from the first lot of "new-style" TB-2s to be produced in 1929, now converted to flathead five-string.

August 30, 2013--Here's yet another TB-75; one of the last Mastertone banjos to leave the factory during World War II,
#E4266-2 exhibits much of the idiosyncrasy we would expect to see in a banjo that was shipped as late as 1943.

August 19, 2013--The more style 75 Mastertones I see, the more I believe that the model only existed to give Gibson a chance to get rid of surplus parts that couldn't be used on the top-tension series; this TB-75 Mastertone shipped on October 18, 1939 to Gibson teacher-agent Dale L. Cady is a prime example with its Granada-engraved armrest, mixed platings, and a serial number on the peghead as well as a factory order number in the rim.

August 15, 2013--Here's a likely one-of-a-kind prewar Gibson banjo:  a special-order four-string MB-3 Mastertone shipped to Gibson teacher-agent Dee Wells of Louisville, Kentucky in the spring of 1936.

August 12, 2013--Today we have a 1930 TB-3 Mastertone that has been beautifully converted to five-string flathead. . . take a look (and listen)!

August 8, 2013--Plectrum banjos never approached the popularity of their tenor counterparts and consequently were produced in much smaller quantities; this PB-00 was shipped on February 22, 1940 and was only the third plectrum banjo to leave the factory that year.

August 3, 2013--Gibson's prewar shipping ledgers recorded the return of instruments repaired under warranty as well as the shipment of new instruments; this 1930 TB-4 Mastertone was sent back to owner Joseph Mihalek on February 13, 1936.

July 30, 2013--Here's another (quite different) TB-75 Mastertone shipped on September 19, 1938 to the Royal Oak, Michigan branch of the Grinnell Brothers chain of music stores.  This one illustrates quite well that style 75 served as a way for Gibson to use up surplus components from recently-discontinued models.

July 25, 2013--Too long since an update!  Here's a beautiful 1940 TB-75 Mastertone which was shipped on April 16, 1940 to the Music Mart in Sandusky, Ohio.

July 12, 2013--In the early one-piece-flange era, Gibson made banjos under the odd "Kel Kroydon" brand name; here's a completely original KK-10 still in the family of the original owner.

July 1, 2013--As all prewar Gibson banjo enthusiasts know, the fingerboard of the elaborate Florentine model was decorated with hand-painted scenes of. . . Venice.  This 1927 TB-4 custom Mastertone gives us a clue that in the beginning, the Florentine model was supposed to make a little more sense.

June 28, 2013--Here's another fascinating style 3 Mastertone from lot #9903.

June 18, 2013--Lot #9903 was a most interesting batch of style 3 Mastertones with many oddities and departures from catalog descriptions; this one, however, conforms to standard specifications and has been converted to flathead five-string with an original prewar tone ring and a five-string neck by Eric Sullivan.

June 16, 2013--Today we have another nice unmolested banjo from the family of the original owner. . . this time a 1930 TB-1 with a first-generation one-piece flange and corresponding "fat" rim.

June 15, 2013--Here's a 1930 PB-1 that's all original except for a rather interesting attempt at converting it to a five-string.

June 14, 2013--Any prewar All American is rare but as if that weren't enough, #9422-1 is also likely the very first one ever produced.

June 9, 2013--I'm back from vacation with lots of new stuff to add.  Here's an all-original TB-11 shipped to the Holmes School of Music on December 10, 1940.

May 11, 2013--Here's a nice 1928 PB-1 with some "personalization" on the front of the peghead by a previous owner and on the back of the peghead by the banjo's original retailer in British Columbia.

April 30, 2013--Courtesy of Atlanta banjoist Mandy Dixon, today we have a circa 1936-1937 TB-11 which has been converted to five-string flathead with a neck by Frank Neat and a tone ring by Bill Blaylock.

April 28, 2013--Here's shipping information on two more banjos from the penultimate lot of prewar Granadas: TB-Granada #1485-2 and TB-Granada Mastertone #1485-3.

April 27, 2013--I have updated shipping information on TB-Granada Mastertone #1485-1, one of five banjos from the next-to-the-last batch of prewar Granadas produced before the model was discontinued in 1937.

April 23, 2013--Here's a very nice 1928 TB-2 that has been beautifully converted to five-string with a Robin Smith neck while leaving the pot unaltered with its original "tone hoop" configuration.

April 14, 2013--Gibson had a staff of hard-working salesmen before World War II who frequently took out large quantities of banjos, mandolins, and guitars on sales trips.  Here's a TB-00 which made a couple of such trips in the fall of 1938 before being placed with a dealer just in time for Christmas.

April 12, 2013--Here's a nice TB-1 from 1931 with an unusual combination of inlays.

April 11, 2013--Italian banjoist Gianluca Naldi has contributed photos of his beautiful TB-3 Mastertone #9489-26.

April 5, 2013--Prewar Gibson banjos are routinely converted form four-string to five-string these days. . . here's one that was done the opposite way at the Gibson factory in the 1930s.

March 30, 2013--Chris Collier has contributed photographs of TB-3 Mastertone #9385-42, the "Dean K. Peterson", with its new five-string reproduction neck by Wyatt Fawley.

March 28, 2013--Many thanks to mandolin master David Grisman for supplying photographs of PB-Granada Mastertone #9472-1!

March 26, 2013--I was excited to hear from the son of Dr. A.L. Brown of San Francisco, the original owner of MB-00 #DG-3644.  Dr. Brown apparently never played this instrument, which has left it in an amazing, "time-capsule" state of preservation for us to enjoy.  Be sure to check out the video, too!

March 15, 2013--I've added shipping information on TB-Florentine Mastertone #9137-1 and TB-75 Mastertone #FG-2662.  Also, thanks to Dr. Jonathan Finder for providing a link to this high-definition look into the window of the New York Band Instrument Company in 1921.

March 12, 2013--Today we have a couple of sound files of MB-11 #E2923-9 along with shipping information on RB-1 #EA-5316.

March 11, 2013--The later style 11 Gibson banjos tend to have a very bright "electric blue" color and really good hardware. . . here's one in a mandolin-banjo configuration from the collection of Dr. Jonathan Finder.

March 5, 2013--I've added a sound file of PB-3 Mastertone #66-2 in its current incarnation as a five-string.

March 4, 2013--Here's one of the very first TB-3s to be constructed in 1929 in the new one-piece-flange design.

March 2, 2013--What's not to like about a wreath inlay PB-3 flathead Mastertone in fully original, excellent condition?  Nope, I can't think of anything either.

March 1, 2013--I never know where old Gibson banjos are going to turn up. . . here's a nice MB-1 from Sweden.

February 24, 2013--Thanks to Dr. Jonathan Finder for providing photos and sound files of RB-1 #170-7, newly restored by Steve Huber!

February 19, 2013--From the family of longtime owner Nicholas Barbarito comes a TB-3 Mastertone from early 1926; on the Library of Congress National Jukebox you can listen to a 1923 Victor recording of "Hawaiian Medley Waltz" by Barbarito and his partner Warren B. Patterson.

February 9, 2013--Here's a nice "serpentine flange" TB-2 with period artwork on the Rogers calfskin head.  This one has a different fingerboard inlay pattern from the more commonly seen Nick Lucas pattern.  I don't know that there is a commonly-accepted name for this inlay pattern; I'm open to suggestions. . . the "star and curlicue" pattern?

February 4, 2013--Gibson's MB-0 provided a serviceable mandolin-banjo in an affordable, no-frills package; here's a nice example from 1926.

January 25, 2013--Despite Gibson's gauntlet of "hard-boiled" inspectors, once in a while something slipped through. . . like this 1925 TB-3 Mastertone with a "missing" piece of peghead inlay.

January 21, 2013--In 1937, Gibson literature hailed the company's three new top-tension banjos as the "alarm clock" that was "going to wake up new possibilities in banjo playing"; while these banjos are avidly sought by players and collectors three-quarters of a century later, the reception among Gibson dealers and the instrument-buying public at the time was decidedly less enthusiastic; perhaps nothing better illustrates this point than the convoluted shipping history of TB-7 Mastertone #390-1.

January 19, 2013--In the summer of 1938, Gibson began shipping out banjos with true serial numbers stamped on the back of the peghead as opposed to factory order numbers stamped inside the wooden rim, as had been standard practice since the early 1920s.  One of the first banjos to leave the factory under this new numbering system was TB-11 #DA-5007, shipped to the Sherman Music Company on June 29, 1938.

January 5, 2013--It's hard for me to believe, but the Prewar Gibson Banjos website turns fifteen this year!  Let's start off the new year with a very nice example of an RB-00 dating to 1939.

What's New 2012

What's New 2011

What's New 2010

What's New 2009

What's New 2008

What's New 2007

What's New 2006