View Full Version : Vega cylinder back owners

Mar-05-2004, 1:33pm
A few weeks back there was a thread on these beauties, and since I have found and purchase one. My questions are how do I date mine, sn# 360, it apears to be a model 205 from what I can tell,flamed maple back, inlayed pick quard,etc. but where the model # should be its got a # 2x, some one put a eyelet where the second digit is, and no third digit. Inside on the neck block its dated Nov 4 1913 Vega co. also burned into the top brace Pat Nov 4 1913. Next question is the case(with the original key I might add) looks like a Gibson A case with some variations, I would think the case would be more form fitting to accomidate the highly arched back, #and body points, so is it the original case?? If any one has one a would like to share/compare notes that would be helpful.


Mar-05-2004, 7:35pm
Could I be the only member on the board with one of these, come on now..share the knowledge http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/cool.gif

Mar-05-2004, 9:17pm
I sure love mine..... #Bob DeVellis (bobd) was able to date mine by the serial number... #he'll probably weigh in here too!

My case is original. #It has a Vega company patch on the inside cover with three latches, one of which is locking. #Here are some pics of mine (1918), but I really don't know much about these mandos other than that I like it. #A lot!



Bob DeVellis
Mar-05-2004, 10:04pm

Congratulations on your purchase. They're wonderful mandolins and I'm sure you'll enjoy yours. The serial number should be a 5-digit number stamped into the top edge of the headstock. Some of the numbers will be to the left and some to the right of the cleft in the middle of the headstock. It sounds like your number is 3602X, with three digits to the left of the cleft and two (one obscured) to the right. The serial number and maple body (stained dark brown, I'm guessing) date it to about 1919. Earlier models had rosewood backs and sides on the 205. If the wood is natural color and there's abalone around the top, it's a 207 but otherwise your description sounds like a 205. The Vega name and 1913 patent date typically appear on the cross-brace above the sound hole and again on the neck block.

Mar-06-2004, 10:08am
Thanks for the information guys, as far as the case goes would you say its like a teens Gibson A model case, just seems like the one that came with mine , which is reported to be original would of had some contours inside to support the back of instrument, it a fine case but just courious. Other than that its a great playing and sounding instrument, great projection, warm, smooth not harsh. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/cool.gif

Brian T
Mar-08-2004, 6:41pm
I have one that is in Birdseye maple with a burst (?) finish. It's dated at about 1919 as well. Very nice instrument with fiar volume and sweet tone. No case, though. Just a cheap chipboard case. Picked mine up from E-bay almost 2 years ago.

Bob DeVellis
Mar-09-2004, 9:57am
The cases look pretty much like any other but they're a bit deeper and they have a couple of plush-covered blocks on the back, close to the sides. When the instrument is in the case, the "valleys" on the mandolin's back rest on the blocks so that the cylindrical bulge is just barely in contact with the case lining. What a lot of people do when they have a non-original case is wad up (or, better yet, roll neatly) a couple of pieces of soft fabric to serve the function that the blocks do on an original case. I covered a couple of wooden blocks first with carpet padding then with plush and stuck them in the case I use for my 202 using 2-sided carpet tape. It holds well and I can always rip the blocks out if I choose. A finish bruise running down the crest of the cylinder is a sure sign of an instrument that's been toted around in a non-original case without this or some equivalent precaution.

Mar-09-2004, 10:16am
Is there a serial chart? I love the old vegas.. I could see adding a mandolin archive exhibit for them. I've personally played about a dozen of them. Love them all but can't get around the nut width!

Bob DeVellis
Mar-09-2004, 2:15pm
Dan -
I've been trying to crack the serial number code for a while now. My first thought was that Vega banjo codes might be useful. Then I realized that Vega mandolins had been around for a lot longer than Vega banjos, which came into the fold when Vega acquired Fairbanks in 1904. The banjo numbers used on Fairbanks/Vega banjos after 1904 were a continuation of the sequence used at Fairbanks and it didn't make a lot of sense that Vega would abandon the earlier mandolin number sequence and adopt the Fairbanks sequence. Then, I found that I couldn't locate any examples of Vega mandolis prior to 1904 that were clearly labeled as Vega and had a serial number. Through some communication with Boston instrument historians and Vega buffs Ed Britt and Jim Bollman, by way of Michael Holmes, I came to suspect that Vega may not have used serial numbers prior to 1904! Also, some comparisons of Vegas with known dates of origin to the Vega/Fairbanks system seems to give a very good alignment. So, my current belief is that the published serial number lists for dating Vega/Fairbanks banjos after 1904 will also work for Vega mandolins built after roughly that date. I'm yet to find a reliable discrepancy, although sellers often just guess at dates and those don't tend to agree with the serial number sequence. The cylinder-backs, of course didn't come along until about 1913 and the patent holder was David L. Day, the guy who ran the line at Fairbanks and, subsequently at Vega as well.

Mar-09-2004, 9:29pm
Hey Dan.. what do you mean about the nut width?? to wide,to narrow? I will say that the neck shape is much diffrent from say a Gibson teens A model, it has a very even #rounded shape, takes some getting used to. The example I have has a wonderful satin feel to the neck finish. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Brian T
Mar-10-2004, 3:32pm
Isn't David L. Day the same one from Bacon and Day instruments? I think it was mostly Banjos, but they built some mandolins as well.

Bob DeVellis
Mar-10-2004, 4:48pm
David L. Day first worked for Fairbanks; then Vega when they bought out Fairbanks in 1904; then around the end of 1922, he headed down to Groton, CT to work with Fred Bacon. He's credited with inventing and patenting critical features of the Fairbanks/Vega Whyte Laydie and Tu-ba-phone banjos, Bacon's B&D (for Bacon & Day) Silver Bell line of banjos, and of course, the Vega cylinder-back mandolins. Not a bad track record. Yet, because none of these companies had the marketing mojo of Gibson, he's far less known than Lloyd Loar.

Edward Holland
Jul-24-2019, 1:01pm
Hi, Bob,

You seem to know a lot about Vega cylinder backs. Can you recommend a good hardshell case for a Vega cylinder back, "lute" model 202? There are lots of options out there but I need one that fits it well. The original case is really too large for the instrument
and it moves around a lot when in transit.

Thanks in advance,


Jul-24-2019, 1:34pm
A modern case for a Vega cylinder back might be hard to find because of the depth of the instrument.

An easy alternative is to use a couple of washcloths or hand towels to provide additional cushioning inside the case you already have.

It is better for a case fit to be a little bit loose rather than too tight.