The resonator-back version of the famous Whyte Laydie tone ring equipped Vega banjo is far less common than the open back. This example has the fairly standard 11 15/16” diameter head, which has been replaced with a frosted-on-the-face Mylar mama; it has a scale length of 22 7/8” nut to saddle, a 1 3/16” fingerboard width at the nut and a 1 5/16” strings spacing (C to G) at the maple and ebony replacement bridge. It has one notable aberration and that’s that the headplate (stained pearwood, King Friday) is scuffed in the middle where two additional holes were filled. Why it has two additional, evenly spaced holes there is beyond me. I’ve never heard of a tenor banjo have cam-style Scruggs tuners. Perhaps the person (euphemism) who owned this wanted to convert it to an instrument that two single strings and two double strings.
We do note that there is a small bow in the neck and as a result the playing action is a bit elevated. Players who play loud, or who have strong, sinewy fingers that look like above-ground oak tree roots will probably not mind, but timid, new-age, sensitive players who contribute to "Save the Cicadas" organizations may find it slightly tiring. Of course if the reason you're buying this is to have a 5-string neck made it won't matter in the slightest.
On the back of the headstock it is more obviously ‘cause there’s two dowel-filled holes. None of this affects its structural integrity (“Rocky said ‘Doc, it’s only a scratch’”); well, maybe a bit more than a scratch but nothing fatal. Tuners are “Grover Pat.” Stamped, geared and matching with grained ivoroid buttons, and if they ain’t original they’re certainly old. The black fingerboard (possibly ebony) is inlaid with a 8 mother of pearl dotmarkers in 5 positions, starting with a single dot at fret 3; and there is a star at fret 5 and an etched and blackened even larger star on the headstock that reads “Vega” although the etching is a bit worn. There is normal light hand-wear on the back of the neck, which is 3-piece, having maple on the extremes with a thin black line up the middle, and there is a corresponding black border (ebony perhaps) under the ivoroid bound 19-fret fingerboard. There are some chips on the inside of the lip where the metal flange pieces contact the tortoise shell binding on the top side of the resonator.
This banjo shows light finish clouding on its 28 flat and individual flange sections, some darkening of the plating (some might say “rust”) on its 28 vertical brackets. Its tailpiece is a proper replacement of a repro “No-Knot” with its 1901 patent stamp; the armrest is original with its stamped “Vega” star and normal signs of arm wear. The rim, inside and outside, is maple capped on its back edge with stained pearwood, and the heel cap is the same. The interior wood dowel has printing on two sides – one side has one of the two serial number stamps (the other is inside the rim, and yes, they match); and a dark pressure stamp that seems to say “White Laydie” but is hard to read. The facing side of the dowel, when one opens the back, has the Vega-in-a-star, then “Made by The Vega Company, Boston, Mass. U.S.A,” then another star, then “Style R, and then some patent numbers. It retains its metal cap over the southern terminus and metal tensioner at the northern. A single stout screw holds the 8-pie slice “The Vega Company, Boston, Mass. USA” stamped maple resonator to the rim. We don’t see very many resonator-backed Whyte Laydies and we don’t see many full scale ones either. This is, then a fantastic opportunity for some lucky future owner since it’s both clean, capable and affordable. NOW ON SALE! This was priced at $1438 but now on sale for: