Gibson (used, 1930) RB-1 5-String Resonator Banjo

Tag No 32-4344 Used

#9775-8, in “very good” condition, with the worn original hard shell case.

We present to you an all original Gibson RB-1 five string resonator banjo, made in 1930.  According to Spanns Guide to Gibson, this was estimated to be one of only 200 5-string necks made during 1929-1940.  The pot includes the famous and desirable one-piece flange; it has the standard armrest and flip open Presto tailpiece, and the “flying seagull” (a/k/a bats) inlay pattern – having flying birds at frets 3, 5, 7, 10, 12 and 15, then a parallelogram at 17, two dots at 19 and three dots at 22.  The headstock is inlaid with script Gibson and a hanging bell held in place by two screws.   The yellowed ivoroid binding surrounds the neck and resonator on both the front and back.  The headstock shows four Grover brand patented tuners, with “Gibson” script pearl logo on front.  The 11” pot is made from multi-ply maple and comes with a solid brass hoop tone ring.  All metal parts are nickel plated. 

The Factory Order Number is located in three places:  chalked into the inside back of the resonator, painted in red ink next to the neck opening on inside back of resonator and die-stamped into the rim wall (you can never have too many serial (FON) numbers).  The label on the inside of the rim states “THE Gibson” followed by “GIBSON INC. KALAMAZOO MICH.” on a pristine gold oval label. 

We call this banjo “very good” condition because it shows moderate amounts of use and wear.  The headplate shows normal string changing marks and other signs of use and the finish on the back of the neck is rubbed (by the hand) to dull in several places.  The banjo, in typical fashion, shows mild signs that it was held and played.  We can try cleaning it – but it will never look new and shiny – instead it will remain resplendent with the “patina of age” that an instrument of this pedigree needs to show, as proof of originality.   The resonator has a good amount of belt rash which one would expect from a well traveled instrument.  There are several spots of attempted touch-up which were likely done decades prior to its acquisition by us.  It is not generally over-sprayed or refinished.  There are no cracks or separations and the binding is 100% original and shows no signs of gas-out.  The original pot shows minimal signs of wear, likely because it had a Mastertone conversion early in its life.    The banjo was likely played sans resonator for a number of years and as such, the coordinator rod shows substantial wear on the nickel plating.  The original one-piece flange shows slight distortion but is still usable if you so desire. 

Our workshop has performed its world renowned “fret dress” which is a re-rounding of the frets, in order to bring them up to level and even, so that this can be easily and comfortably played.  The banjo arrived to us assembled to Mastertone spec with a newer pot.  Along with the fret dress, we also disassembled and reassembled to as close to the original as we could get as well as doing a fret dress, and setup.  Now that this work is complete, the entirety of the banjo remains original except for the plastic banjo head and bridge.  Packaged with the sale of this banjo is: the newer rim (c. 1970s, we think) with Mastertone flathead tone ring with chrome plated one-piece flange, the original adjustment wrench, the original or period skin head bearing the “Joseph Rogers” stamp inside, three bridges (one might be the original), case key, finger picks, thumb picks, tuning fork, and brown leather strap. 

For the banjoist of somewhat advanced years or those with back trouble, the absence of a cast bronze tone ring will be a blessing.  This is one of the finest flathead non-mastertone prewar Gibson banjos we have ever seen  – and sounds like church bells ringing from 2 dozen churches in a small town in Italy, on a sunny Sunday morning.   This is the banjo of your dreams.  

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