Dating a gibson banjo
Gibson Ukuleles come in either Soprano or Tenor scale, (I've never seen a Concert Gibson) and are usually mahogany, (there were a very few spruce top examples made).
They also produced a few special models over the years like the Poinsettia with flowers painted all over the body and a pearloid fretboard or the Florentine with scenes of Venice(!? In 1937 the range was cut back so only the single soundhole ring versions were made but sometime during the 40’s the fretboard length was increased to 13 frets on Sopranos.
Orville Gibson started making Mandolins with a carved, arched solid wood top and back, (prior to this, Mandolins had a flat solid wood top and a slatted bowl-like back), in 1894. It has been rescued again by its creditors, and with a new management and stripping back to its core business it is once again a going concern.
This design proved to be more robust that the bowl back Mandolins and was easier to mass produce so in 1898 he patented it and in 1902 incorporated his Gibson Mandolin & Guitar Co. Orville died in 1918 and Lloyd Loar became the chief luthier for the company in his place. Gibson don't currently have Ukuleles in their catalogue but from 1926 through to 1967 they made some of the worlds finest Ukuleles and Banjoleles.
And while on the topic of famous historic names Gibson currently own, there is also Dobro (now used by Epiphone) and Slingerland, (still owned but not currently used), but as they are not being used for any Ukulele branding currently, though they were before Gibson took them over, both of these get their own entries too.
Kramer and Steinberg are two other well known Guitar brands that Gibson own but neither of these have produced any Ukuleles.
And FDH are famously the only OEM reseller that still had Gibson on all of their Gibson made Guitars!
As well as FDH, Gibson did make some Recording King, Studio King, Carlsen Robinson and other brands for Montgomery Ward, some Washburn and Fascinator brand instruments for Tonk Bros; plus many other small distributors The only OEM Ukuleles that are known to exist though are some SS Stewart ones they made between 19 for Buegeleisen & Jacobson, and whilst they did make OEM Banjos for other there are no records of them making OEM Banjoleles for anyone.
As an example, Gibson made Guitars for the British distributor Francis, Day and Hunter, (FDH), but I have seen people trying to suggest on the back of this that George Houghton made Banjoleles branded by FDH were "possibly made by Gibson" and quadrupling the price, despite the fact they still had the golden lion on them!
After consultation with Joe Spann, whose ongoing research into original Gibson records has shed new light on true production dates, I have now changed to a listing of banjos by year.
This listing will be subject to revision as we continue to gain more insight into Gibson's factory order numbers, serial numbers, and production practices in the prewar and wartime periods.
Usually the type 1 just has a ring around the sound hole, the type 2 has some edge binding as well as the sound hole ring , and the type 3 (or deluxe) would have extras like headstock motifs, extended 17 fret fretboards, or fancy fret markers.
Due to the infrequent batch nature of building there is a lot of variation in the actual builds of the Ukulele itself.
Since then there have been some custom shop Ukuleles made, certainly in the 90's, and I guess it would still be an option now if you were willing to pay enough.