Anyone know the model/style of what the 30s Vega catalog describes as the “extended” type tailpiece on a Vega Regent plectrum? Fixing one up and I want to hear what it sounds like “period appropriate” (and see if one of the ones I have might be the original). TIA
I couldn't say for sure but they probably meant that it's not a no-knot. Possibly a Presto or Waverly.
A total guess using deductive reasoning. But it is only a guess until we have more information.
Based on catalogs and advertisements from the late 20s, if it was a Kershner it would be named as such.
At some point they went to Grover Presto tailpieces (these were marketed as a inexpensive tailpiece so they likely started using them to cut costs.
The Presto first appeared on the Vegaphone Professional in October (?) 1923.
Based on the serial #, I'm sure this banjo is not that old. More like mid 30s. This is a Regent with a laminated maple rim, not a spun over rim. The drawing in the catalog looks kind of like a Presto tailpiece, but it's just a drawing etc. Catalog just indicates "extension" type. Based on conversations above, I would guess it could indeed be 4-string Presto type.
Vega serial numbers by year are known accurate beginning 1933. Good educated guesses are out there for the 1904–1932 era.
After a certain year (I don’t recall at the moment) the Regent has a half-spun sleeve over a 1/4” rod known as the Little Wonder made by Waverly. No plectrums would have anything else as the earliest date back to 1918 or so (exact year unknown as is if any of the earliest plectrums were Regents).
At some point, Vega streamlined the naming and all banjos with that ring were known as Wonder, no matter the configuration. Wonders were still offered through the Martin era.
Properly set up, a Regent/Little Wonder/Wonder can be a powerful, throaty banjo.
As to the “extended tailpiece”, Vega catalogs are often inaccurate but, when the detail isn’t spelled out, you can’t assume. Waverly was making the VegaVox tailpiece. My ‘30s Regent had a riveted Presto but I’ve no idea if original or not. Both designs were easily broken.
I have a 4 string un-punched Presto body from my late ‘20s Vegaphone plectrum—it’s been converted to 5 (I never had the plectrum neck) before I got it so I’m using a modern body with the original Vegaphone cover. Conversely, a modern repro cover snaps onto the 4-string body and it has one now. By the mid ‘30s, a Presto cover should be riveted — good luck finding one that is unpunched for 5 string.
If interested, send me a message.
This one is a 4 string. I'm excited to get it set up. One of the tailpiece included in the pile was a Waverly style. I think it will do the job until I decide if I want something else (after I get set up and hear it a bit). "Tone ring" appears to be that half sleeve/rod like you mentioned. In the catalog that year they indicate the "Senator" as the entry level model and the Regent as the step up before you got to the real Whyte Ladies and Tubaphones etc. I think the serial is 74448.
74448 is mid-late 1920s. Some charts say 1927 and that's as good a guess as any.
The original tailpiece was a 4 -string NoKnot. That is certain as were the gut strings it would have sported. Gut was louder. Thin maple bridge like my circa '26 Tubaphone.
Being gut strung, it would have had these pegs. This is my circa '27 Regent plectrum (sold). What a PIA with metal strings!
The common aftermarket tailpiece of the day could have been a number of Waverly tailpieces or a 4-string Presto like mine. The Lyon & Healey Kershner was so popular that many are convinced they were OE. Although certain upper end Vegas were equipped with Kershners, if the tailpiece is stamped Kershner Unique, it's aftermarket.
It would have been sold as an open back or special ordered with a resonator which would have been a pieplate with the 28 piece flange.
I'm surprised! I had not researched deeply (mugwumps, a couple old catalogs online, forums, etc), but I got the impression that it wasn't that old based on that number- so that's pretty cool! (What's a good source for that?)
I thought Regent's were a spun over rim in the 20s. This one is laminated maple. maybe because this is late 20's? Change of model name? 4/5 string? Is as described in the one 30s catalog I found (maple, single stripe, fingerboard looks like ebony (as advertised), peg head veneer is definitely dyed wood ("blackwood")-no decoration, same tuners as above, etc.. Only the star at fret 5. Its in even better shape and more good solid parts than I had hoped when I won the auction. I will put up pictures as I get it together (waiting for the work week to end and a couple parts to arrive...I am freaking dying to get this one playing). Thats a good tip about the gut strings. I will string this one with nylgut, then. I bet that will actually sound kinda sweet as a plectrum. Thank you @mikehalloran !
Lots of well-intentioned, absolutely wrong info about Vega banjos available online. This is the closest to a catalog I can find online with yours in it. The 1923 date is ... let's just say not even a good blind guess. First off, there are no plectrum banjos which would have been catalog items by 1921 or so. They were available special order by 1918 and some think 1915 but there were announcements from Vega in 1920.
The Standard 10 3/4 pot was smaller. The Professional 11" pot is 10 15/16". The Professional Artist's 12" pot is 11 13/16". A plectrum is a 4 stringed version of a 5 and that's the only difference. The tenor/mandolin/uke/melody banjos were never named the same. The guitar/cello banjos could have either name.
I'm not certain that the Regent still existed in the 1930s. I've never seen one nor a 1930s catalog except this:
Yea, 1928 can't be correct for many reasons. That the Little Wonder can be a plectrum or a tenor means the Regent was gone as a catalog item. This is 1930 at the earliest, possibly '31 or '32.
Catalogs often had pictures of older instruments (Vega, Gibson, Bacon, Fender... everybody). It would surprise me if the individual flanges were offered this late. Also notice that the pot size was now 11" (10 15/16" actual) as it would remain till the late 1990s on USA made Vega banjos.
Vega dowel stamps are a different headache altogether. Then there are the various "floor sweeps" from the mid '20s that fit no catalog description completely as Vega was using up old parts. They were still doing that in the 1960s, too.
Most Vegaphone Professional plectrum players probably think that the spec called for a mahogany neck with a carved heel because that's what they have. Nope—uncarved maple was the spec but Vega had to do something with all of those surplus Tubaphone NO 3 necks. The dowel stamp can be Vegaphone, Tubaphone NO 3 or both.
Edited by - mikehalloran on 08/28/2019 15:50:54
That first catalog looks most similar to the ad I had dug up. I will measure the rim precisely this weekend. I was pleasantly surprised that whoever initially put this banjo in storage without the head was sharp enough to retain the nice, stout, brass flesh hoop (which seem hard to come by anymore). I really appreciate your information here.
Since there is no bracket band, you can measure the pot from the back to the nearest 1/16". If not perfectly round, measure 3 places and average.
>whoever initially put this banjo in storage without the head was sharp enough to retain the nice, stout, brass flesh hoop (which seem hard to come by anymore).<
You'll never guess (ok, you probably will by now)... I have a 10 15/16" flesh hoop in the basement. I bought this box o' Vega parts from MusicMan Steve about 20 years ago and...
I like how the 4 corners are sharp. You know that nothing could ever slip on one of these. Actually, because of the proteins in the skin (think hide glue), the hoop could be coated with Teflon and a head wouldn't slip if installed wet.
Edited by - mikehalloran on 08/29/2019 13:22:31
'14" or 17" bandsaw' 2 hrs