Gibson (used, 1930) RB-3 Conv. from TB-3 Flathead Mastertone Banjo

Tag No 32-3218 Used
This item is NOW ON SALE!

#9259-72, converted to 5-string from tenor banjo by the addition of a newer 5-string neck, in a stained maple finish, and in a newer hard shell plush lined carrying case; with both necks.

Remember the first time you heard bluegrass banjo and fell in love with the sound?  Then, put on your fingerpicks, friend, because THIS banjo makes THAT VERY sound!    Even the case is special, with that satin top cover, so when you open the case, the initial incongruity of not seeing the instrument is satiated by peeling back the satin with a flourish to the “oohs” and “aahs” of those aficionados around you who exclaim, “Oh wow, an actual Gibson Flathead Mastertone – the rarest of the rare!”  

During the Great Depression the Gibson Company found that banjos sales were slow (well, everything was slow).  Some of the banjos that were started in the early 1930s were still on hand in the period 1934-1939 and orders for banjos that came in after 1934 were finished using these parts. One theory is that when the original purchaser ordered the tenor banjo, circa 1937, the 20-hole flathead ring was installed as standard. 

The following introduction to flathead is excerpted from the extremely fine book Gibson Mastertone, by Jim Mills:   Gibson Mastertone: Flathead 5-String Banjos of the 1930's and 1940's   Book   (Reference). While Gibson produced literally thousands of banjos prior to WWII, only a handful were made in the now most desirable configuration: the Original Flathead Five-String Mastertone. Since Earl Scruggs helped to make them the most sought-after banjos in the world over 60 years ago, these instruments have amassed a cult-like following. These particular banjos featured a completely innovative design when the Gibson Company introduced them around 1930. They have since become the benchmark in design, sound quality, and just sheer power among banjo players. They have therefore also become the inspiration for nearly every successful 5-string banjo that has been manufactured for the past five decades. Like Martin Dreadnaught and Fender Stratocaster guitars, the Gibson Mastertone Banjo has achieved an exalted status: It is appreciated far beyond its utilitarian purpose as a musical instrument, and considered a truly original American art form. The Mastertone design and style are instantly recognizable by musicians and music lovers around the world, even if imitated by other manufacturers. [Only around] 130 or so Original Flathead Five-String Mastertones [are] known to exist. . . . .

First evaluated by us in 1980, we sent it to one of the foremost American banjo appraisers in 2002, Mr. Curtis McPeake, of Mt. Juliet, TN, for corroboration.   Mr. McPeake writes:   “[This is] in our opinion, a Gibson Mastertone TB-3 conversion, Ser. 9259-72, vintage late 1930.   Description:  Excellent condition, dark finish maple, nickel-plated hardware, two-piece flange pot assembly; standard equipment for this model was a 40-hole archtop tone ring.  This banjo is equipped with a high profile flathead tone ring with 20 holes.  This is a lighter weight tone ring that weighs 31 ounces that was commonly installed in the Style “6” banjos of the period.  This ring could have been retro-fitted by the factory but my opinion is that it was originally installed when the banjo was built.  It is very rare to see this model with an original flathead tone ring, but this one does have it.  This is a very nice quality banjo with average finish wear to the back of the resonator.  It is equipped with a custom five-string neck with original style inlay pattern; original pancake tuners; the tailpiece is a later version.  The sound quality of this banjo is great.” 

This banjo, in excellent condition, is finished in dark maple and bears nickel-plated hardware.  It has a two-piece flange pot assembly.  While the more common equipment for this model was a 40-hole archtop tone ring, this one was provisioned from the factory with a high profile flathead tone ring.  Both the original tenor neck and the more recently made five-string have the diamond and snowflake fingerboard inlays in a rosewood board, and a script "Gibson" peghead logo.  This type of piece is considered to be one of the holiest of five string grails: a prewar flathead Mastertone with both necks, a hard case – a banjo that pours forth with rich, effusive tone and volume in excess. 

 DRAMATIC PRICE REDUCTION!! THIS WAS $87,635 BUT NOW ON SALE FOR: Our Discount Price is $30,930.00 and Our Cash Discount Price is $29,999.00.

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