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Gibson TB-7 Tenor Banjo, 1937

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Here is a rare treat – a 1937 Gibson TB-7 Top-Tension tenor banjo with case in original condition, having one owner from new. This banjo would have been one of the very first TB-7’s built as they were introduced in 1937. Production was soon interrupted by the outbreak of war.

 The Gibson TB-7 appeared in 1937 as one of three new ‘top tension’ models; considered by many to be the “holy grail” of Bluegrass banjos. Though they were fitted with the same flathead tone ring, one-piece flange and rim as the standard Gibson Mastertone banjos (as played by Earl Scruggs), there was one important difference: the top-tension hoop was designed to be quickly adjusted from the top without the need to remove the resonator. This was a huge advantage in the days of calf skin heads as often the head needed minor adjustments during a performance, as venues were always hot and humid in the days before air conditioning.

The top tension hoop should have become obsolete when Mylar heads took over in the late 1950s, but this hoop has considerably more mass than a standard Mastertone hoop. This extra weight adds sustain and clarity to the banjo and their rarity makes them arguably the most sought-after of the pre-war Gibson Bluegrass banjos.

 Since 5-string versions of these banjos are rare as hens’ teeth, any Tenor TB-7 banjos that surface are destined to become a donor-banjo for a 5-string-neck-conversion. No-doubt that will in the near future for this banjo.

 This 1937 TB-7 banjo is all original.

Neck: Original finish, frets and inlay, Grover ‘pancake’ tuners, and the sticker on the back of the neck at the volute has been there since the owner’s father purchased the banjo in 1937.

The “Made in USA” stamp imprinted on the back of the peghead proves that the instrument was built specifically for export to Canada.

Pot: Original lacquer finish on the maple resonator and rim.

Hardware is original and complete:

  • Bronze flat-head tone ring,
  • One-piece zinc flange,  
  • Original armrest,  
  • Clamshell tailpiece,
  • The tension hooks and reso-thumbwheels are all present and accounted for.  

The calfskin head is torn and fitted with a ‘period-correct’ original bridge. 

The nickel plating is remarkably well preserved. Typical of banjos of the period, the interior metal parts are a mix of nickel and chromium plating.  

Inside the pot, the serial number is inscribed as it should be; in three places: – imprinted on the rim, -painted onto the resonator back and – chalked onto the resonator back.  

The Gibson decal on the inside of the rim is intact and complete.  

 The original ‘Redline’ hardshell case is in good shape with all latches and hinges working.


 

Price: $56700 CAD
  • Model: TB-7
  • Year: 1937
  • Finish Natural
  • Class: Vintage
  • Serial Number: 390-9, built during 1937 at the Gibson plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
  • Country of Origin: USA
  • Condition: Good
  • Date Posted: 11/10/2017

  • Consignment Item

  • Including original Hard case

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