Vega Vegaphone Artist Tenor Banjo , c. 1926

Vega  Vegaphone Artist Tenor Banjo ,  c. 1926

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Item # 8150
Prices subject to change without notice.
Vega Vegaphone Artist Model Tenor Banjo, c. 1926, made in Boston, Mass., serial # 75038, shaded maple finish, laminated maple neck, rim and resonator, original black hard shell case.

This is a completely original example of one of the finest "Industry Standard" Orchestra tenor banjos from the 1920s, the Vegaphone Artist. Vega's "Vegaphone" line was introduced in 1923 as an answer to the Paramount line of resonator-and-flange banjos. Essentially a long-scale tenor Tubaphone with a resonator and multi-flange system, the Vegaphones were an instant success, and along with the Paramounts established the basic design of the modern banjo.

The Artist was originally the middle model in a 3-banjo line, although a fourth, the Soloist, was added below it not long after. The Artist was quite a high-priced instrument for the time, selling originally for $250.00. It features all of Vega's high-grade construction features and fairly fancy decoration, including gold-plated metal parts and elaborate engraved pearl inlay on the headstock, fingerboard, and heelcap.

All workmanship is to the highest level, as is common with Vega. The pie-section resonator back has beautifully shaded figured maple sections and a tortoise celluloid-bound outer edge. There is elaborate engraved varied shaped pearl inlay in the heavy bound ebony fingerboard, with a 3-piece shaded maple neck featuring a carved heel. The pearl headplate inlay is Vega's fanciest floral pattern with no logo, and the headstock carries gold Grover tuners with real pearl buttons.

The gold-plated Oettinger adjustable tension tailpiece has each arm engraved in turn "Vegaphone-Artist-155 Columbus Ave. -Boston". These Vegaphone banjos were classier than many of their celluloid-swathed peers, with the old-line flavor of their 5-string Fairbanks ancestors continued into the flashier jazz age. They are arguably the best-sounding instruments of their type ever made, and from the beginning were extremely popular with period jk=azz musicians and can be seen in many old photographs, as well as heard on literally thousands of early dance band and jazz recordings.
Overall length is 33 1/2 in. (85.1 cm.), 10 15/16 in. (27.8 cm.) diameter head, and 3 in. (7.6 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 23 in. (584 mm.). Width of nut is 1 1/8 in. (29 mm.).

This banjo is in completely original condition, including even the original Rogers skin head, marked on the underside. It shows some general light wear overall but the finish remains largely intact with only some checking and light rubs. The engraving is still crisp with very little wear on the fingerboard. The gold plating on different areas has survived in varying degrees of completeness, with the hoop being quite faded, but only the hooks showing major corrosion and loss. The head is a bit dirty but fully functional after 90 years, and this banjo plays and sounds great. It is still housed in the original green-lined Vega-branded HSC and equipped with a removable Wilmott tone modifier sliding mute. Excellent - Condition.