This banjo conforms to the standard description of a previously owned, recently made, Gibson RB-4, having the “flying eagle” mother of pearl fingerboard inlay pattern and the double-cut headstock design inlaid in mother of pearl that has turned a golden hue with the “Gibson” script logo and a series of 9 pearl decorations whose designs can only be referred to as “squids and things.” The word “Mastertone” is etched into a rectangle of pearl at the 21st fret position and there are, in total, 10 frets that have powerful pearl designs made up of 1 to 3 segments, each depicting an impressionistic personal memory as interpreted from Vess Ossman’s recently discovered diary. Mr. Ossman was Fred Van Eps’ primary rival, both of them making cylinder recordings of classical banjo solos for Edison during the first years of the 20th century.
All metal parts are bright nickel (or chrome – hard to tell) -plated showing some smudges from finger and palm contact that may or may not clean up. The interior of the rim has the double coordinator rods, the Gibson Mastertone label, the 20-hole flathead tone ring, the serial number stamped in the rim and the “Patent Pending” stamp. This fine bluegrass banjo is fitted with Keith banjo de-Tuners on strings 2 and 3, Schaller geared tuners with large pearloid buttons that are not quite the same color as the pearloid Keith buttons, and a Kroll-type geared fifth peg. The heel cap is grained ivoroid and so are the top and back binding on the side of the resonator. The back of the resonator is inlaid with twin concentric rings of multi-colored wood marquetry that contrasts nicely with the one-piece attractively burled walnut back. In the prewar period, although most RB-4 banjos of the era 1925 to early 1929 were mahogany, from the fall of 1929 until they were cast off into the ether in 1939 their back and sides were very much this sort of burled walnut. So this is a case of history repeating itself and treating itself, and you reap the benefits.