1927 Gibson Florentine Tenor Banjo

Value (2010) | $8,000 Retail$10,000 Retail

The guy's name on here is my grandpa. In 1939, he was nine years old. My great-great-grandfather drove him to Kalamazoo, Michigan, to pick it up, and then it came into my possession and now I'm going to cherish it, for sure. He played...it's the square...

square dances. With a tenor banjo?

With a tenor banjo.

Which, you know, is a Gibson.


And it's a very interesting model. It's a Florentine model. Gibson, during the Big Band era of the 1920s and '30s made lots of these very loud...

Yeah, it is.

Mastertone model banjos. And not only very loud, but in some cases very fancy, like this one. The Florentine was all carved and painted up as you can see. And this is an interesting variation on the Florentine, because Florentines generally didn't have what we call the "hearts and flowers" inlay here and this checkerboard pattern. That's what you'd find on Style 6 Gibson Mastertones. This is probably a custom model. The banjo was actually made in 1927. '27, okay. According to the serial number; I looked inside. The first year for the Florentine banjo. And I'm not really sure whether the first year involved some variations or not. Perhaps the strangeness of the banjo is because it was the first period for them, and strangely, a pearloid peghead overlay that doesn't have any rhinestones in it, and originally these all had rhinestones, the ones I've ever seen. The other thing is that it's got an ebony fingerboard, and some of these models back then had rosewood. You'll see that this one is rather heavily carved with this interesting kind of royal motif.


The metalwork is engraved metalwork and gold-plated as well. You have that also on the tailpiece and on the armrest. And... you've got gold-plated tuners.

Okay. Just gold-plated.

Gold-plated, not solid gold, gold-plated.


And this strange cord hanging down is because the gentleman who played it had a skin head on it before this and they used to use a light bulb inside to heat up the skin head to tighten it up before a performance. This should have a retail value of $8,000 to $10,000.

Yeah? That's amazing, really.

Are you going to play it?

You bet. Well, like I said, I can make it make noise, but I can't play a tune, but you bet I'm going to play it.

Appraisal Details

Vintage Instruments, Inc.
Philadelphia, PA
Appraised value (2010)
$8,000 Retail$10,000 Retail
Des Moines, IA (August 07, 2010)
20th Century
Ebony, Metal, Pearloid

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