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Vintage Vega on Ebay-Help?

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Apr 8, 2020 - 12:39:09 AM
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Eric A

USA

575 posts since 10/15/2019

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vega-Fairbanks-Regent-Vintage-5-String-Open-Back-Banjo-Please-Read-Description/193408745985

Wondering what the Vega experts here think of this one.  Slightly mismatched serial numbers.  The only clear view of the action looks super high near the head.  And what on earth happened to that nut?  My spidey sense is telling me to stay away, because I'm not so sure that neck is straight, and no clue what kind of shape the frets are in.  Clearly been played a ton in it's day, but she's pretty rough now.  I have no skills to repair things myself, so for me it's just a potentially deep money pit.

What do you guys think?

Edited by - Eric A on 04/08/2020 00:44:09

Apr 8, 2020 - 5:18:55 AM
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29 posts since 12/19/2017

The nut does need to be replaced. Unfortunately none of the photos show an angle of the neck to see if it is warped. If it is not warped, the neck can be reset to bring the action back down. The pot appears to be in pretty decent shape. The good parts of the banjo are worth what the auction price is at the time I looked at it. I am doing a new neck for one in a lot worse condition than this one but I am changing the neck and making mine a custom job. If you want it, find a local shop that can do any repairs it might need and ask them for their opinion of it and potential cost of repairs.

Apr 8, 2020 - 5:58:11 AM
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4552 posts since 3/6/2006

I've owned and played a 20's Regent since 1962. I think this one is a good buy, judging by the photos. Mine has survived my 58 years of ownership, and some abuse when I was in college in the early 60's, along with hitchhiking with it around the country and checking it along with my luggage on many flights, something I would never do now. The neck on mine is still perfectly straight, which I attribute to the fact that it's maple. It has a wonderful tone quality, and although it has the rolled brass tone ring, the quality and volume is very close to my Tube-a-Phones. The fact that the serial numbers on the one you're considering are mismatched by two numbers is a bit of a mystery, but I'm guessing that occurred at the factory. I even considered buying this one, but I don't need two Regents. Good luck!

Apr 8, 2020 - 6:21:23 AM
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10681 posts since 10/27/2006
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The nut on the tailpiece bracket is the only original — no big deal as far as I’m concerned. The correct bridge height is 1/2” — no idea what’s on there now.

My ‘20s Regent could roar, no problems there. Like John says, keeping up with a Tubaphone isn’t an issue. If I could still play, I’d never have sold it.

The Whyte Laydie from this era brings in bigger bucks but the only differences between it and a Regent from this era are the tone ring, bracket band and nuts. The neck is identical.

The Schaller pegs end the debate on what to replace the friction pegs with — already done.

Apr 8, 2020 - 6:25:43 AM
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4552 posts since 3/6/2006

There's something about the fretboard that just doesn't look original, not that that matters if you're looking for a player, which is pretty much what this is. The star looks larger than what I've seen on Vegas from this time period. (I've attached a photo of the fretboard on mine). Also, many if not all bracket nuts appear to have been changed as they look like 5/16" rather than the original ball end 9/32." There are Vega experts whose knowledge far exceeds mine. Hopefully they'll chime in. Still a bargain, though.


 

Apr 8, 2020 - 6:33:03 AM
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10681 posts since 10/27/2006
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The original nuts on a ‘20s Regent are the short open like the one on the tailpiece bracket.

Most on this banjo are 5/16” Elton — good chance the hooks are too, You could buy them 12 sets a tube from any music store.

Apr 8, 2020 - 6:35:37 AM
Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

575 posts since 10/15/2019

With the only slightly mismatched serial #'s, and yet a 4 string tailpiece, do you figure this is a factory floor sweep banjo? Or did someone else cobble this together from other banjos?

Edited by - Eric A on 04/08/2020 06:37:37

Apr 8, 2020 - 6:43:52 AM
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csacwp

USA

2643 posts since 1/15/2014

The action looks fine . . . It's just the bridge that is too high. It should have high action with a 3/8"-1/2" bridge, and the bridge that is on it is taller than that.

Apr 8, 2020 - 7:24:31 AM

4552 posts since 3/6/2006

quote:
Originally posted by mikehalloran

The original nuts on a ‘20s Regent are the short open like the one on the tailpiece bracket.

Most on this banjo are 5/16” Elton — good chance the hooks are too, You could buy them 12 sets a tube from any music store.


Good point on the short open nuts, but on my #59855,  I'm assuming the original 9/32" ball end nuts were on it when I bought it in '62, which had been in a closet for 3-4 decades.  The ebay Regent (#36612) predates mine by about five years. Did Vega go in an orderly fashion from the short/open nuts to the longer ball end then to open longer nuts? Sorry for deviating from the OP.

Apr 8, 2020 - 7:37:26 AM

ChunoTheDog

Canada

158 posts since 8/9/2019

In case anyone is interested, there's all original 1925 Vega Senator type 'N' 5 string available at the 12th Fret shop in Toronto, Canada. This used to be mine. Great banjo. It's for sale for roughly 1200cad, so +/- 800-900usd. Great sounding banjo in very good condition, loved the neck on that thing. Has a new hide head and a 1/2inch grover bone slotted bridge. Webpage says sold but it's still there.

12fret.com/instruments/vega-se...njo-1925/

full disclosure- NOT MY AD and NOT MY BANJO ANYMORE

Apr 8, 2020 - 8:44:31 AM
Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

575 posts since 10/15/2019

I'm thinking there's probably an old Vega in my future, but this isn't the one. Thanks all for your insight. You still have 14 minutes to bid!

Apr 8, 2020 - 9:31:53 AM
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10681 posts since 10/27/2006
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by mainejohn
quote:
Originally posted by mikehalloran

The original nuts on a ‘20s Regent are the short open like the one on the tailpiece bracket.

Most on this banjo are 5/16” Elton — good chance the hooks are too, You could buy them 12 sets a tube from any music store.


Good point on the short open nuts, but on my #59855,  I'm assuming the original 9/32" ball end nuts were on it when I bought it in '62, which had been in a closet for 3-4 decades.  The ebay Regent (#36612) predates mine by about five years. Did Vega go in an orderly fashion from the short/open nuts to the longer ball end then to open longer nuts? Sorry for deviating from the OP.


Ball end nuts were Electric/Whyte Laydie/Tubaphone by then. Regent/Little Wonder and lower Vegas had the short nut. The presence of one correct nut on the eBay banjo confirms this. You can see them on my Regent. When I restored it, I put the 28 best sets on the Regent and the remaining on my Little Wonder tenor. I probably should have put a ball end repro set on my Senator before I sold it ... oh well.

In the late '20s, Vega went to open ball end nuts on everything except Voxes that had short hex nuts. By the 1930s, if you sent the banjo to Vega for repair and there were worn hooks/nuts, you got a set of the open ball nuts that were still used through the Martin era—Greg Deering told me that he acquired hundreds of NOS sets when he bought Vega. 

Vega also put a decal on those that didn't have Vega on the headstock (Gibson did this, too). This explains the '50s Vega decal and open ball hooks on my 1924 Electric plectrum. 24 of those nice hook/nut sets now grace my PS-5 while the Electric was sold with the old set from the Pete Seeger filled out with old sets I bought from Gryphon. 

The problem with these Waverly made hooks & nuts is that the hooks are nickel plated steel while the nuts have raw brass threads. Water vapor acts as an electrolyte and sets up bi-metal galvanic corrosion. The nuts fuse to the hooks over time. Put a wrench on that and the threads break loose from the hooks. Proper lubrication prevents this but we're talking 50–125 year old banjos by now.

Whenever I work on a Vega, I apply WD-40 with a toothpick and wait 24–48 hours before touching it with a wrench. I often get lucky in being able to preserve these old sets.

 

It's great that Bill Rickard is making repro closed ball nuts and hooks with the correct thread.  I don't know of anyone making the old open end short or ball end nuts nowadays. I suppose there's not much demand.

Apr 8, 2020 - 2:11:51 PM

AldenS

Canada

67 posts since 10/23/2017

 

... It's great that Bill Rickard is making repro closed ball nuts and hooks with the correct thread.  ...

I thought he only made them with 8-26 thread while the Vegas were 8-24. Are 8-24 repros available by special order? It'd be great if they were!

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