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Gibson Mastertone Tenor; real?

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Jul 26, 2019 - 11:33:07 AM
4 posts since 7/26/2019

I found a Gibson Tenor Mastertone for sale, and would like to ask all of you experts how to determine if it is authentic; and also what it might be worth.

The owner says he bought it in the 80's in a music shop in Germany.

Serial number is  8482-123  I haven't yet been able to determine the year it was built.

I will attach a few photos.

Thanks in advance!

Edited by - Question on 07/26/2019 11:37:31

Jul 26, 2019 - 11:55:24 AM



21293 posts since 7/6/2005

1926 TB-3. Looks right to me.

Jul 26, 2019 - 12:00:47 PM

4 posts since 7/26/2019

Thanks Bob,

are you saying "1926" because of the serial number or the construction?
Do you (or anyone else) have any idea what it might be worth?

Jul 26, 2019 - 12:51:56 PM
Players Union Member



4918 posts since 10/12/2009 for the year, plus the construction is "correct" (at least what can be seen from the photos)

I would guesstimate $1800.00 to $2300.00 for a ball-bearing Gibson TB3

Jul 26, 2019 - 12:52:48 PM

4366 posts since 11/20/2004

Looks like chrome? Shouldn't a '26 Mastertone be a nickel ball bearing? I would want more pics of inside the rim, the serial, and the label before being confidant.

Jul 26, 2019 - 1:26:13 PM
likes this



21293 posts since 7/6/2005

Bright nickel. I don't know anybody who would build a fake 1926 TB-3

Jul 26, 2019 - 1:41:53 PM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)


22216 posts since 6/25/2005

Exactly. You fake something in high demand.  This banjo would be in demand as much, if not more, for Irish playing as for conversion to a 5-string for bluegrass. 

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 07/26/2019 13:45:56

Jul 26, 2019 - 1:55:18 PM

2329 posts since 4/16/2003

Sumthin' ain't quite right with that one.

The neck -- looks original.

But if it's a 1926, shouldn't it be a ball bearing?
Is that what a BB ring looks like, from the top through a clear head?
(If I didn't know better, I'd say that's a solid archtop ring)

The tension hoop looks like it's flared out somewhat (pot metal).
But weren't the hoops brass on these older ones? They generally don't flare with age.

Something about the tube/plate flange just looks "too clean" -- even for chrome plating. Could it have been replaced along the line?

More photos definitely needed:
- pot from the side
- inside of pot
- inside of resonator
- outside of resonator

Jul 26, 2019 - 2:05:48 PM

1391 posts since 2/3/2005

Some more thoughts to discuss

Non original tail piece, round hooks, the stretcher band is for a five string banjo, that year would likely have flat hooks and grooved tension hoop.


Jul 26, 2019 - 2:17 PM

4 posts since 7/26/2019

Thanks for all of the responses, very helpful.

I have asked the seller to send me a few more photos.

Here is one of the resonator.

Jul 26, 2019 - 2:18:18 PM

440 posts since 5/19/2018

I may be wrong, but that looks like a original 1926 neck attached to a Stewart McDonald pot or similar pot.

From what I can see, that hardware does not look like Gibson.

As said above, More pictures will give others, those who are experts, more to judge by.

Jul 26, 2019 - 2:44:33 PM

317 posts since 1/28/2013

The Mastertone logo on the fingerboard block does'nt look right.

Jul 26, 2019 - 3:52:18 PM
like this



2301 posts since 1/15/2014

Originally posted by jan dupree

The Mastertone logo on the fingerboard block does'nt look right.

No, it looks fine. The neck is an original prewar tenor neck. The pot is suspect. Any photos inside the rim?

Jul 26, 2019 - 6:27:15 PM
Players Union Member



4918 posts since 10/12/2009


I need to start looking at photos closer....

However, the OP did give a 1926 FON....maybe original neck and rim...replacement hardware?

Looks like a ball-bearing tone ring to me, though

Jul 27, 2019 - 4:03:13 PM

4 posts since 7/26/2019

I received a few more photos from the seller.
Any thoughts?

Jul 27, 2019 - 5:20:44 PM

4366 posts since 11/20/2004

I have to say I am surprised, but all looks right to me for an original. Label pic is blurred , but ball bearing ring and rim look original.

Jul 27, 2019 - 7:41:31 PM

12097 posts since 10/30/2008

Very late 1926 ball bearings TB 3s had double bound resonators, notched tension hoops and round hooks. They blended right into the early cast archtop rings.

The only thing that looks odd to me is the 5 string tension hoop. If the photo is indeed showing "flaring" of it, it might be a post war replacement (potentially from a post war Gibson, I mean).

Everything else looks perfectly OK for a late 1926.

Is there a serial number painted of chalked into the inside of the resonator? It should match. If it doesn't it just looks like a slightly later one.

No doubt it is a genuined rim and ball bearing tone ring, etc. The early MASTERTONE blocks sometimes had the nice font with "extra" serifs and fancier letters.

Other than the slightly suspicious tension hoop, it looks like well preserved ball bearing TB 3.

ADDED RESEARCH:  Banjophiles in fact lists this exact banjo, but with no details.   It's in an obvious transition period.  8527 series in fact include mentions of notched tension hoop, round hooks and double bound resonator.

Edited by - The Old Timer on 07/27/2019 19:44:22

Jul 28, 2019 - 11:39:28 AM

2329 posts since 4/16/2003

OK, the pot looks original.

I'm wondering if the resonator got a complete refinish at some point. It's extremely rare to see one in as good a shape as that one is (and still be original-finish).

Perhaps the tube/plate flange got re-plated, too?
Then again, if it's chrome, and hasn't been abused, it could "come through the years" really well.

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