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For Sale or Trade: Prewar Gibson / Montey Ward’s Original 5 String 955

A rare original pre war 5 string, fully playable!

Posted By: crowfielder | Rate Member
 Verified Seller  Returns allowed with money back refund

$1,750 USD

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Restoration walkthrough:

Sound sample:

More videos below! This obscure prewar model is a “955” which was a basic OPF unit made by Gibson for Montgomery Ward’s between the years ‘39-41. This 1940 example is a rarely seen original 5 string neck with simple dot inlays, single coordinator rod, and hollow brass tone hoop as found on RB-1 banjos of the era. It’s a unique mix of components, ranging between Kalamazoo, RB-00, and RB-1 models, showcasing Gibson‘s “consistent inconsistency” of the prewar days.

From Mr. Spann:

“According to the Gibson shipping ledgers FW 916-8 was a model 955 five-string banjo, sent to Montgomery Ward in Baltimore, Ohio on Thursday, March 28th 1940. Gibson made the model 955 for Montgomery Ward in 1939, 1940 and 1941, but strangely it only appears in the 1941-1942 Fall-Winter catalog. It was a very basic instrument, thin wood rim, one-piece die-cast flange, simple brass tension hoop, flat hooks, and many shipped with no peghead logo.”

This banjo was found in a sad state and patiently nursed back to life to the best of my ability. Many are “three foot fixes” in that you’d never notice them from three feet away, but up close they’re there. See my “Restoration Walkthrough” video up top for a detailed description of its condition. All in all I think it’s very passable, and certainly “good enough for government work.”

Most notably, the headstock shape was modified by previous owner, a chip filled with walnut (final pic), and an overlay added so it could accept modern planetary tuners. The flange is chipped, and the resonator is a replacement. Side dots were added and some after-factory inlays on the neck were filled with rosewood.

This has been a difficult banjo to price given the modifications but I’ve tried to leave room for further restoration costs in my asking price. Ships free in a beat up TKL hard case. Returns accepted, but buyer will assume the risk of return shipping as well as reimbursement of original shipping cost (deducted from refund). Feel free to make offers.

See the link below for “as-found” pictures for some idea of how far this instrument has come and some discussion from other Hangout members.

First video below is a sound sample. I’m not a bluegrass player but I hope it gives you an idea of the tonal range and playability. I’ve never played a more “articulate” banjo! I think tuning the head and dialing in the set up would help bring out even more tone (or just getting it in the right player’s hands!). Second video is a close up overview.

Trades I’m open to include old violins, bows, mandolins (flat top or bowlback), banjolins, open backs, parlor guitars, pots, necks, projects, etc. Only really interested in pre-1940 and always like things that need work but if you’ve got something dusty try me out! Only really open to partial trades up to $300 in value.

Thanks for looking!


United States, Yakima, WA, 98901


Free! In beat up TLK hard case

Payment Methods:

Cash (in person), Paypal

Payment Option Notes:

Zelle also accepted

Return Policy:

Returns accepted. Buyer must contact seller within 2 days to arrange return. Refund will be given as Money Back. Buyer pays return shipping.

Additional return policy details: Original shipping cost withheld from refund

Condition of Item(s):

Used - Fair Condition




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Contact Info:

Please email (link at top of page) and we can talk details or schedule a call from there.

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