Ca. 1938 Vega C-75

Vega successfully pivoted the focus of their product line from banjos to guitars in the early 1930s. Like Gibson and Epiphone, Vega had previous experience building high-quality guitars from long before the banjo boom of the 1920s; this allowed them to thrive while Bacon and Lange, who had no such guitar-building experience, gradually faltered as banjo sales declined. However, while Vega’s carved-top guitars represented the very highest quality available, they were never particularly innovative. After experimenting with cylinder-topped guitars around the turn of the 1930s, Vega began to build models that were more derivative of Gibson and Epiphone designs. While those competitors increased their body sizes from 16” to 17” and 18” in 1935, Vega held back and only introduced 17” bodies around 1937.

Unlike Gibson and Epiphone, who frequently changed the specifications of their archtop models during the 1930s, Vega actually changed model numbers when significant changes were made to the guitars. The first generation of archtops, in production by 1934, had model numbers ending in zero. When the high-end models were upgraded to 17” bodies around 1937, a five was added to each model. By 1939, the archtop models had been updated with new bridges and tailpieces (but retained the same bodies), prompting Vega to use model numbers ending in six. Thus, the C-70, C-75 and C-76 actually represent stages in the evolution of a single model; all had bodies of spruce and rosewood, all had gold hardware, all had engraved and inked fret markers, all were second to top of the Vega line, and all sold for $200. The C-70 featured a 16” body; the C-75 featured a 17” body, a fancier tailpiece and a different headstock veneer; the C-76 was given Vega’s asymmetric “acoustic balanced” bridge, the adjustable-tension “adjustone” tailpiece, and yet another headstock inlay design.

The 5-series models were only built for about two years and are therefore the least common Vega archtops. The practical differences between them and their successors are small, though the adjustable tailpiece on the 6-series gives those guitars a little more flexibility of sound. This particular guitar has undergone some restoration: it has new neck binding, new frets, and a replica saddle, and the neck has been reset. Aside from this work, it is remarkably clean; just a bit of checking can be seen in the finish.

 

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