Fairbanks Little Wonder Mandolin Banjo, made by Vega (1911)

Fairbanks Little Wonder Mandolin Banjo, made by Vega  (1911)
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Item # 9252
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Fairbanks Little Wonder Model Mandolin Banjo, made by Vega (1911), made in Boston, Mass., serial # 27539, natural varnish finish, laminated maple neck and rim, ebony fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

This is a very nice and extremely early example of a Vega Little Wonder 8-string Mandolin Banjo. This plain but sturdily built instrument consists of a 10 3/16" maple pot mounting a short 13 3/4" scale neck, strung with mandolin strings for melody playing "solo or with orchestra." Although one of the less fancy offerings in the 1910s Vega line, the Little Wonder is still a robust high-quality instrument, built to the same standard but lacking the fancier tone rings and bracket band of the expensive White Lady and Tubaphone.

This banjo features a heavy laminated maple rim and neck and ebony fingerboard, with a simple sheathed brass wire tone ring and standard brackets mounted thru the rim. The neck has a dyed wood heelcap and headstock facing, bone nut, and pearl dot inlay. The headstock has a small added decoration from the "Worcester Academy". This is one of the loudest little banjos you are likely to hear, and quite capable of making itself heard in any string band, or even in a jazz or dance combo setting!
 
Overall length is 24 in. (61 cm.), 10 3/16 in. (25.9 cm.) diameter head, and 2 1/2 in. (6.4 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 13 3/4 in. (349 mm.). Width of nut is 1 1/8 in. (29 mm.).

This is a lovely original piece, showing a bit of wear for its over 100 years on Earth but still in excellent-playing condition. Except for one slightly mismatched tuner gear, this banjo is completely original including the original carved bridge and oft-missing tailpiece cover. There is an old, very neatly repaired heel crack with no touch-up or overspray; not uncommon on these, as folks have often tried too hard to shim the necks back.

Other than that the instrument shows only generally light plating and play wear, and some divoting to the frets in the lower positions. Set up with a good skin head, this Little Wonder plays and sounds excellent...or at least exactly as intended. This is a VERY loud little instrument! Includes a nice OHSC with the key in the pocket. Excellent - Condition.