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For Sale: PRICE REDUCED! Original 5 String 1926 Gibson Mastertone RB-3, Ball-bearing, FON 8447-7
For Sale: Original 5 String 1926 Gibson Mastertone RB-3, Ball-bearing, FON 8447-7
In 1926, Gibson experimented with a ball bearing system of supporting the tone ring. Part of the reason for this was that the skin heads of the day were subject to humidity and heat, but it was also seen as a design improvement. The ball bearings are supported by a system of strong springs, the intent being to hold the head at a constant tension. The tone ring is a cylindrical shape with holes, unlike the later years flat head and arch top rings, although the outside profiles is the same as an arch top, and it appears to be an arch top until one learns it's a ball bearing. The banjo is a one owner, belonging to the granddaughter of the owner.
Style 3, original 5 string neck, straight grain maple, some flame
3 ply maple rim
Original patent pending Grover tuners
Original 5th string friction peg
Resonator has one binding strip on the bottom, typical of a ball bearing of that year.
Original patent pending Presto tailpiece
Original 2 foot bridge that came with the banjo
Grooved tension band
Hex nuts instead of thumb screws attach resonator (Thumb screws only sometimes used in 1926)
Blocks and diamonds inlay pattern
Tube and plate flange. It should be noted that even though the single piece flange is most desirable, this is largely due to the fact that Scruggs, Reno, and other seminal players in the 30s and 40s played single piece flanges. The tube and plate was actually an upgrade from the pot metal single piece flange.
Dual coordinator rods
Thin mandolin style frets, nickel silver
Original bone 5th string nut
This banjo is listed on page 81 of Spann's Guide to Gibson, 1902-1941. There were approximately 35 five string RB-3s made between 1925 and 1926, all ball-bearing. This is number 7 in the 1926 run.
This banjo came to me for restoration in August. There was severe damage done in the 1970's (sat on by a child) that caused the neck to break at the nut. This was crudely repaired with a metal plate and screws, as well as a spline that involved removing part of the truss rod. The rest of the neck was in very good shape. The pot is in excellent shape.
The restoration involved removing the plate and screws from the peg head and using bits of veneer wood, rebuilding the peg head overlay below the 1st and 4th tuners. The metal plate was not only screwed to the overlay, but glued as well. Holes were filled with doweling and the spline was hidden as best as possible with new stain and finish blended into the existing neck wear patina.
All metal was polished and cleaned. Tuners were lubed.
Known issues (other than mentioned above or as visible wear in photos attached):
Missing part of truss rod (above 3rd fret). The neck is playable, with a good bit of relief. The rod has been missing for 40 years, so it won't move any more than it already has. The neck is therefore not mechanically adjustable.
Fingerboard is worn at frets one and two, where exploratory holes were also drilled during the old repair.
One replacement bracket hook, matching
New truss rod cover, period accurate
One missing resonator screw
Two replacement ferrules (1st and 4th tuners)
Lower neck coord rod hex nut stripped. I added a small 8-32 nut to secure neck in front of nut.
Frets in good shape, replaced 17 through 22 to match existing.
Nickel skirt has some pitting, but polished nicely
When matching the finish at the nut repair, I left the natural wear and patina rather than refinish neck.
Some binding has been replaced where missing matching as closely as possible.
I shimmed the neck to allow for a modern height bridge (5/8")
Included in the sale:
Original key/wrench for tensioning bracket hooks and removing resonator screws.
Period accurate Ludwig Whiteskin head in like-new condition
Choice of new rigid foam case or 70's Alvarez yellow lined HSC
5/8ths Grover bridge
HSC - Choice of Silver Creek Vintage Case or vintage 70's Alvarez yellow plush case. The Alvarez case is cool, but it's not a good fit for this banjo.
This banjo was played a lot. I am always very suspicious of old banjos with little wear. There's usually a reason for this, and the reason is usually that it is not a very good instrument. This has completely normal wear for a 90 year old instrument and is very playable. With the skin head, it sounds exactly as it would have in 1926. It is bright and poppy, without too much of a metal sound.
Serious inquiries only. Email inquiries only. Originally priced at 16,000.00, then 14,500. Now priced to sell! Seller will pay to ship and insure. Please email any questions or requests for more photos to Jim@Texas-Luthier.com.