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How to Identify the Year an Alvarez Banjo Was Made

Alvarez banjos are known for their rich, full sound.
Banjo Picking image by Tequila Photography from Fotolia.com

Founded in 1965 as a result of the partnership between Japanese luthier Kazuo Yairi and American investors, St. Louis-based Alvarez guitars has steadily grown over the decades. Manufacturing banjos and mandolins with their guitars, the company has become known for the warm, full tone that can only come from the finest hand-crafted instruments. As demand and production increased in the '70s, Alvarez began assigning serial numbers to their products to easily identify the year and month of production.

Locate the serial number on your Alvarez banjo. This is found on the inside of the body, opposite from the neck and tuning pegs. Turn the banjo over and on the rim or just below the neck, you will find the serial number either stamped or on a clearly marked sticker. The serial number will be between three and four numbers.

Identify the first one or two numbers in the serial number. These numbers correspond to year the banjo was made. In the years between 1970 and 2000, these initial numbers referred to the emperor of Japan at the time. From 1970 to 1988, the years of Showa and Alvarez began this sequence with 45 and ended it with 63. For example, if the first two numbers read "45," your banjo was produced in 1970; if it is "46," the banjo was made in 1971, and so on. 1989 saw the beginning of the Heisa era, which ended in 2000. Alvarez began this series of serial numbers with 1 and ended with 12. If the first number of your serial number is "1," your banjo was produced in 1989. If it is "2," your banjo was produced in 1990, and so on. In 2001, Alvarez discontinued their use of the Emperor date code and simply began assigning two digits which corresponded to the year of production. For example, "01" means the banjo was made in 2001.

Identify the final two numbers in the serial number. These numbers indicate the month of production and are between 01 and 12. They are in sequential order with 01 corresponding to January, 02 corresponding to February, and on through December with 12.


There is no standard location for the placement of the serial number, but it will always be one of the most prominently displayed pieces on the back of the banjo.

To prevent the serial number from fading, keep your banjo in a dry and moderately cool room.

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