Here it is… A one of a kind, unique and rare instrument; a banjo unicorn.
Bernunzio Uptown Music in Rochester, NY has listed for sale the only prewar five string All American banjo Gibson ever made, with a flathead tone ring and one piece flange. This banjo has been discussed for years by collectors and vintage enthusiasts, seen a few times over its lifetime, and long rumored to still exist.
John Bernunzio told us this morning that it is in all original condition, and being offered for sale by its current owners with its factory-shipped red line case. As best as he can figure, it was made in 1939.
“There were only 25 of these ever made by Gibson before the war, and this is the only five string. It was purchased from Gibson by CL Pennell in Danville, VA. Mac Justice bought it and had it restored in 1966 by CC Richelieu, who did some finish touch up and replating.
Mac wanted to sell it to open a VW dealership, and the new owner kept it under the bed. He actually owned a guitar shop, but kept it at home. He recently passed and his wife and daughter brought it to us on Sunday to sell for them.
We have pretty much the whole history of this banjo.”
The All American was the highest grade banjo Gibson ever offered, with gold plating, extensive engraving on both the wood and metal components, and a headstock carved in the shape of a bald eagle, with carved feather details, and then painted and finished. The heel likewise features detailed engraving and painting, as do the sides of the resonator, whose back is carved in a stunning eagle pattern that covers its circumference.
The fingerboard is made of yellow pearloid with etched and stained images of important events in the history of the US, placed where fret markers are typically found.
It is a truly stunning example of Gibson’s prewar artistry, and given its extreme rarity, is priced at $250,000.
John says that he is taking the All American and a prewar RB-3 with him to Banjothon this weekend, where it is sure to be a chief object of attention.
Bring your checkbooks.