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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Alvarez 5-string *Very Early 70's*

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

BanjoMacc - Posted - 08/26/2011:  10:15:09

Note: Ad removed, decided to keep this 5-string in the family.

Please excuse my first post being a "For Sale" topic.  I am a newbie.  A friend suggested I post my ad on these fine forums. ---

This is a very early 70's 5-string model Alvarez. It was purchased during 1972 (if my memory serves) I am the original owner. It is very clean, straight and true. The hard shell case is included.

I changed the tailpiece, bridge and head in 1980. The original tailpiece is included. (in the case) It has seldom been played since 1984; family, home and business have occupied my time.

I cannot recall the specific model-name. It is a great sounding instrument.

Economics forces me to sell. The asking price is my best guess. If a member of these  forums has a better grasp of the actual value, please contact me. 

Thank you for looking.

Classified Ad:  Removed 

Edited by - BanjoMacc on 08/30/2011 11:24:05

Lonesome Will - Posted - 08/26/2011:  11:00:19

Unfortunately these old Asian banjos do not bring a large price. I would guess $325-$375.

5stringpicker2 - Posted - 08/26/2011:  14:03:57

Average price from my research is actually a bit higher at  between $425.00 to $550.00 for the Alvarez Banjos they were of  the better quality of the Asian Banjos of that ere. I owned several , my main Banjo for 20 years was the Alvarez Montana 5 Star Gold Plated Model. I  played with several groups through the years, Many Festivals and tons of Jam sessions and she never let me down. She was the Banjo I used when I played with Joe Stuart's Bluegrass Band

More Info on Alvarez Banjos


Alvarez - Early 70's banjos, usually bow tie fingerboard, delicate and unique filigree peghead inlay with die cast flathead tone ring, 3 resonator screws, cast flange with a the holes being an oval with a larger circle in the middle of it, like a current Deering flange but without any points into the hole, They were pretty good value for the money. Some have been reported to have the brass rod ring under the tone ring like the Tokai Blue Bell and Orpheum. Thin wooden shell.


  • No. 4282? Five string banjo. The normally encountered one, sometimes purfling on the upper edge of the resonator, light reddish mahogany finish, non Gibson peghead shape, clunky tuners, bow tie inlay, one or two coordinator rods.

  • No. 4280 Idaho Bell five string. Similar, nickel plate, wood inlay on the edge of the back of the resonator. Inlay on back of peghead.

  • No. 4284 Silver Princess Folk banjo. Open back, geared pegs, special tone ring to meet the demands of folk banjo players.

From Wayne Norman, who has acquired one:

Has inlaid name "Silver Princess" on the headstock, but no mention of Alvarez anywhere. This is a copy of a Vega Tub-a-phone open back. Early 70's. Chrome plating.

Pot: 28 hooks, shoe brackets on bracket band, with steel fillister head screws instead of flat head brass as used by Vega. Nuts are closed end Vega style. Heavy notched stretcher band. 10-15/16" dia. (Vega). Tone ring is a well-made copy of Vega's. Tone rings rests fully on the rim whereas Vega undercut their rims just past the first 1/4". Hot dog arm rest. Clam shell adjustable TP. 5/8" bridge. Multi-ply pot with pearloid and ivoroid bindings inside and out. Coordinator rods.

Neck: 2 piece mahogany with black stripe. 27" scale (Vega). Small frets. Rosewood FB, diamond inlays, black behind ivoroid binding, side dots. Follows Vega profile, except has thumb stop, and working truss rod. Planetary tuners with finger adjustment of screws. Geared 5th. Bone nut, 1-3/16" at nut. Action easily adjustable.

Tone is quite good. One of the best sounding Tub-a-phones I have heard. Clear, crisp, and bright up and down the neck. with a new Fiberskyn 3 head.

  • No. 4286 Montana Five Star Banjo. Bow tie with different inlay on head, "heavy tone ring" (verified by an owner April 02), gold plate, big clunky imitation Grover tuners, pearl lotus flower and dots onlay on rosewood resonator, Mahogany (?) neck. Also seen with patterns of dots inlaid on the fingerboard in x's, etc., on a very early example, c. 1971.

  • No. 4289 - Bow tie inlays. Same as No. 4282, but with metal button friction tuners on the peghead in place of the imitations of the large square Gibson ones of the 60's on No. 4282. The 5th string peg is still a metal button and friction. The pot is better finished than 4282, it is semi gloss in place of matte.

  • No. 4291 Tenor version of 4282.

  • No. 4300 Denver Belle. High end mahogany banjo, carved heel, tortoise binding, Reno inlay, double cut peghead, tube and plate Gibson type flathead ring, nickel plate, wood marquetry binding on upper edge of resonator and on edge of fingerboard.

  • No. 4310 White Eagle - S/N 1461 - Vega griffin (Tubaphone #9) style inlays, engraved, carved heel, peghead of unique shape. Sunburst finish maple banjo, Gibson style 2 piece flange 3 ply maple pot, full height 20 hole archtop tone ring (possibly a later conversion), dual coordinator rods, flamed maple resonator (inside and out), chrome finish. Kershner tailpiece appeared to be a later addition.

I've seen a second one of these, not flamed inside the reso, no washers on both the coordinator rods at the neck end, it appears to be holding the neck to the tailpiece side of the pot (!). This one had no S/N and model number tag. The owner also called it an Alvarez Eagle, so maybe it is a slightly different model.

A third one is different still: Labeled Whyte Eagle, the banjo weights approximately 13.5 pounds; the neck and resonator is made of curly maple, resonator is finished on the outside only, inside has a dark stain applied to the exposed wood and the lip of the resonator is half round inset to accept the flange. The neck is butterfly with a thin piece of ebony running down the center. The head and heel are black acrylic, ebony fingerboard with mother of pearl inlays. The fingerboard and resonator are trimmed with cream binding. The pot is 7/8 inch thick ten ply veneer maple, two piece flange with 24 hooks/ nuts. The tone ring is chrome plated bell brass 40 (note the difference to the above) arch top with It has a replaced tortoise shell tail piece. (The original was also a tortoise shell) The heel is carved, the bottom of the heal is black acrylic with a mother of pearl inlay. It has a chrome armrest and had a fifth string slide capo, (6 - 12 fret) originally. Brown hard-shell case, $900.00 and change paid for the banjo and case in '78.

The owner wrote, ".........I bought it brand new in 1978. This is a complete hand made banjo and there is not a single flaw in the construction. All the binding is tight fit and perfectly smooth surface. All the inlay has exact fit with all round edges round. No flat mistakes. The sound is superb, out of the box. In my biased opinion, this banjo is as good as they come. I have seen several high priced banjos with bad bindings, flat spots on inlay and inlay that does not fit."

Around 1980, Silver Belle model was a Mastertone clone with an as yet unknown tone ring, 2 piece flange, H&F, mahogany, chrome(?), Presto, Silver Bell on the 21st fret, nice detailing.


( I  )====='----<::)

Edited by - 5stringpicker2 on 08/26/2011 14:14:00

grm405 - Posted - 08/26/2011:  17:20:47

I have a very similar model, except with a somewhat fancier inlay (actually a very thin overlay) on the resonator. These are not very good banjos by modern standards. I paid $450 in 1998. Today I would guess $250 to $350. Some Alvarez banjos were pretty good. These Kasuga made bowties are not among them. The faults are the cheesy thin black plywood rim and the die cast zinc tone ring, along with the wobbly coordinator rod setup and the very thick (deep) neck profile. And those clunky Kludsen copy 12:1 tuners are just terrible to use.


FXHERE - Posted - 08/27/2011:  08:53:55

I agree with the 250-350 price range..This same banjo was made under many different names like Conrad, Conquer. etc.. They have a metal tonering and not has the plywood rim cut like the tone bell system...They are really loud with little tone. I have an old Conrad that I upgraded to an archtop without any work at all to the rim....This is my experence and opinion and your milage may vary, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express..

tdennis - Posted - 08/27/2011:  14:11:36

These Alvarez banjos (70's Japan) could have a tone ring made of either brass/bronze, steel, aluminum or pot metal(zinc).  Even within the same model it's hard to tell what tone ring metal was used, on each particular banjo. , The quality of the sound greatly depends on this.   Some of the models were well built,  others not so.   Even the high end models do not  bring  much lately on ebay auctions :  $200-400.  (and I have seen some really preposterous asking prices around the internet & ebay  "buy it now") .   The prices had peaked in 2008 (especially for the Montana 5 Star , a really excellent banjo),  but have been rapidly falling off since then for all models. 

Edited by - tdennis on 08/27/2011 14:19:52

pick1936 - Posted - 08/27/2011:  20:50:27

The  holes  in  the  flange  look  just  like  Deering.



Nechville.  In  Higginsville.

Lee  Kelso

BanjoMacc - Posted - 08/30/2011:  11:21:23

Thank you to all for the feedback and information.

I have removed the Classified Ad, decided to keep it in the family.

It has the heavy brass/bronze 5/8" tone ring, with good volume and tone. It is more valuable, to me, than the current market price.

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