This is a very attractive mandolin-banjo, and, we have to say, rather unusual. We don’t recall ever having seen another Vegaphone Professional mandolin-banjo. First of all it has a full-sized body! Peter Paul Rubens, buddy, you got nothin’ on this baby. And then inside that body it has the famous and fabulous Vega Tu-Ba-Phone tone ring, a presumably original skin head measuring nominally 10 7/8” diameter, 28 nickel-plated brackets, the four-piece nickel-plated flange each quarter bearing 6 plateau shaped cutouts around each semi-circular section. Additionally it sports a stunning and sophisticated slide-on tailpiece cover in primo condition (so shiny you can shave in it) whose “invitation quality” engraving is as clean and fresh as if it had been etched yesterday. This reads “Vegaphone” at the top and “Professional” at the bottom and in between the two words a 5-point star that’s etched “Vega” at the center with 15 beams emanating from it like a subject depicted in a Keith Haring painting.
This banjo has the wooden dowel down the center of its two-piece bookmatched back, it has the full wooden resonator comprised of quilted maple on the back (the back shows a bit ‘o’ buckle wear near the center), and whose sides are golden pearloid. Its tuning buttons are grained ivoroid.
The back of its three-piece sunburst, grained ivoroid bound, neck is flamed maple on the two extremes; the tuning gears are enclosed behind a nickel-plated backplate on the headstock; the top of the stained pearwood headstock has the “acorn” shaped cutout that was popular on some Vega instruments and C F Martin mandolins in the olden days, and below the headstock opening is a five-point mother of pearl star inlaid that is etched and blackened “Vega” at the center with only 5 beams. The ebony (or more likely stained pearwood) fingerboard is inlaid with 4 mother of pearl dotmarkers and ends with a French curve. The maple and ebony bridge is stamped “Vega” so it’s original; the sides of the resonator are bound in a ring of black inside the ivoroid.
Interestingly, for a Vega banjo, the flange is attached to the resonator by way of two corrugated, nickel-plated thumbscrews, one at 3 o’clock and one at 9 o’clock on the flange. This mandolin banjo has 12 ½ frets to the body joint (well, to where it meets the stretcher band). The frets will have been cleaned by our crack staff of fully trained lutherers. It shall play like Mercury himself. This instrument has a very playable neck - and it is quite loud. Finding a resonator back, Tubaphone-tone-ring equipped Professional quality (it’s gotta be, since that’s what it’s called) mandolin-banjo is not something that happens every day around here. Mandolin-banjo players arise – your ride is here!