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Seeking info on Vega Plectrum

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Sep 11, 2019 - 6:21:20 AM
7 posts since 9/11/2019

Hello I'm asking for information on this Vega Regent plectrum banjo [SERIAL# 92473] which I love but which I do not know much about. I can play banjo but don't know where to begin researching specific instruments.

The seller says it was built in 1920, and that the resonator is a later add on (50s or 60s). Is this true?

Whats the hoop style and material? What tone ring is in there? What wood is this banjo? Nut material? Are tuners and hooks and hardware looking original? (Obviously not the tailpiece!). Any specifications or observations will be very appreciated.

Best wishes

Edited by - Ezra Hound on 09/11/2019 06:36:26

Sep 11, 2019 - 6:24:30 AM

7 posts since 9/11/2019

Here are photos




 

Sep 11, 2019 - 6:25:49 AM

7 posts since 9/11/2019

More photos




 

Sep 11, 2019 - 6:26:50 AM

7 posts since 9/11/2019

More




 

Sep 11, 2019 - 7:46:01 AM

12110 posts since 10/30/2008

The Regent was a model priced somewhat below that of the Whyte Laydie and Tu Ba Phone models because it has much less metal. No true "tone ring" for instance. It has a "tone hoop" with a metal skirt visible on the outside, like the even less expensive "Little Wonder" model or "Senator" model. Also, no heavy bracket band nearer the bottom of the rim to anchor the bracket shoes -- instead it uses the old traditional method of holes drilled through the rim with the shoes held on by bolts/nuts through the rim.

Now what metal it does have (the tension hoop for instance) is the same stuff Vega used on the higher priced banjo -- nickel plated "bell brass"/bronze, whatever you want to call it. With notches cut in it. Some of the LOWEST priced banjos used a thinner/cheaper tension hoop minus notches.

The flange pieces could have come on it from the factory, or could have been after-market purchases/additions along with the resonator. It was fairly common for owners of open backs to add these items to make the banjo louder, and more "flashy". Does your resonator have a wood burned "Vega" stamp inside it? Your resonator might be Vega-made, but it has a look about it that I haven't seen before in an pre-war Vega resonator. But my experience is limited.

The tailpiece appears to me to be a later-made replacment.  We usually call these Waverlys and they were sometimes made of plated steel instead of brass.  I don't know what the original would have been for a banjo made this close to the war period.

The wood in the neck is most likely mahogany as I remember. The Whyte Laydie model introduced maple necks. The Tu Ba Phone #3 used a mahogany neck and reserved pretty curly maple for the top of the line #9 series.

Now I may be off a little here and there, I'm no pre-war Vega expert, but I've shopped these banjos and owned a few, so I have some first-hand experience. Others will know more and give you better details I'm sure. Nice banjo.

Edited by - The Old Timer on 09/11/2019 07:48:17

Sep 11, 2019 - 8:54:34 AM

4484 posts since 3/6/2006

Your serial number puts it closer to 1930 than 1920. My 5 string Regent is #59855, putting it at around 1923. According to the Vega catalog reprint I've had for 30+ years, Regents had "white maple necks" which is consistent with the few other Regents I have seen, including mine. I'll agree with Dick that the resonator "might" be a Vega product, but the pie sections don't look like the many I've seen and owned over the years. Although lacking the hardware and volume of a Tubaphone or Whyte Laydie, the quality of the tone of a Regent comes close to the Tbph or WL. The tailpiece, as Dick said, isn't original, and not sure about the tuners, but mine came with friction pegs, which yours are obviously not. The flange plates look original as do the open-end bracket nuts, although mine, several years older, had the closed end nuts.


Edited by - mainejohn on 09/11/2019 08:57:12

Sep 11, 2019 - 8:55:38 AM

6040 posts since 8/28/2013

What is the serial number? That can be looked up and will either confirm or not confirm the seller's information. It should be stamped on the inside of the rim and on the dowelstick.

The tuners are not original.

The flange plates and resonator could be factory original or later add-ons. The resonator has the mock tortoise shell binding Vega used, but I haven't seen that grain orientation on a true Vega. However, like Dick, my knowledge of these is not extensive.

The nut is most likely bone.

Sep 11, 2019 - 9:28:19 AM

6040 posts since 8/28/2013

I say the tuners are not original because of the hex nuts holding them. The originals were most likely friction tuners, but if these were period Planets, the nuts would be round and tightened with a spanner.

I can't read the serial number in your pix (bad eyes) but I'll take Mr. Coleman's word on the date.

Sep 11, 2019 - 10:40:40 AM

7 posts since 9/11/2019

To those who have expounded on Vega and Regents here... thank you sincerely ! I am excited to find that I own a mid-tier Vega instrument with decent wood, even if it lacks the famous TubaPhone part. Its a heavy and solid banjo for how little metal it has.

For those asking about the serial number, it is 92473 (see original post).

Does anyone have an idea of the value of this banjo, roughly speaking? (I paid $895 for it).

Sep 11, 2019 - 10:49:59 AM

7 posts since 9/11/2019

quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer

The Regent was a model priced somewhat below that of the Whyte Laydie and Tu Ba Phone models because it has much less metal. No true "tone ring" for instance. It has a "tone hoop" with a metal skirt visible on the outside, like the even less expensive "Little Wonder" model or "Senator" model. Also, no heavy bracket band nearer the bottom of the rim to anchor the bracket shoes -- instead it uses the old traditional method of holes drilled through the rim with the shoes held on by bolts/nuts through the rim.

Now what metal it does have (the tension hoop for instance) is the same stuff Vega used on the higher priced banjo -- nickel plated "bell brass"/bronze, whatever you want to call it. With notches cut in it. Some of the LOWEST priced banjos used a thinner/cheaper tension hoop minus notches.

The flange pieces could have come on it from the factory, or could have been after-market purchases/additions along with the resonator. It was fairly common for owners of open backs to add these items to make the banjo louder, and more "flashy". Does your resonator have a wood burned "Vega" stamp inside it? Your resonator might be Vega-made, but it has a look about it that I haven't seen before in an pre-war Vega resonator. But my experience is limited.

The tailpiece appears to me to be a later-made replacment.  We usually call these Waverlys and they were sometimes made of plated steel instead of brass.  I don't know what the original would have been for a banjo made this close to the war period.

The wood in the neck is most likely mahogany as I remember. The Whyte Laydie model introduced maple necks. The Tu Ba Phone #3 used a mahogany neck and reserved pretty curly maple for the top of the line #9 series.

Now I may be off a little here and there, I'm no pre-war Vega expert, but I've shopped these banjos and owned a few, so I have some first-hand experience. Others will know more and give you better details I'm sure. Nice banjo.


Since the resonator lacks a VEGA stamp that must confirm that its an add on!

Sep 11, 2019 - 10:52:09 AM

4484 posts since 3/6/2006

If anything it's a durable instrument, as I've owned mine since 1962 when I was 19 and in college. Without a second thought back then I often checked it as regular baggage on a number of flights and hitchhiked with it all over the eastern US. Thankfully (and luckily) it survived all that youthful abuse. In all those years I had it refretted once (1968) and I replaced the fretboard binding in the 60's and (stupidly) refinished it in the 70's with polyurethane. I think $895 seems high for a plectrum, and I don't know how old you are, but judging by my personal experience, it'll give you years of pleasure.

Sep 11, 2019 - 2:14:57 PM

12110 posts since 10/30/2008

$895 is probably not a bargain price, but a fair price, if everything is whole and in working order (did it include a case?).

The market for these in plectrums and tenors is weak, and typically "under $1000" is a safe high end. But on the other hand, they don't sell as low as $300 either.

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