View Full Version : Alvarez f style mandolin - "the alvarez"

Dan McIntyre
Feb-28-2007, 6:06pm
Is anyone familiar with the Alvarez F style mandolins? I have one with "The Alvarez" on the headstock and I was wondering where it was built and how old it is? Any other info would be great. Thanks, Dan

Lane Pryce
Feb-28-2007, 8:03pm
Dan how bout a pic. Lp

Dan McIntyre
Feb-28-2007, 9:06pm
I may try and borrow a digial camera and post a picture. It's just a standard looking, satin looking sunburst, F style with block inlay for fret markers and flower pot headstock and it says "The Alvarez" on the headstock and is fully bound in white or ivory. someone told me they thought it was made in Japan in the 70's or 80's but I don't know. I thought someone here might know when and where these were made. Thanks, Dan

Feb-28-2007, 9:47pm
I thought the '70's vintage Alvarezes had the "double A" inlay on the headstock; nice Japanese made instruments, IMHO.

Feb-28-2007, 11:35pm
I like Alvarez guitars. Don't know much about their mandolins.

Alvarez guitars are made under the direction of a fellow from Japan. Starting in 1970, a number was stamped on the neck block which corresponds to how long the current emperor has been on the throne or something line that. This stopped within the last few years, not sure what they do now. If the first two numbers is from around 45-88 then it was made somewhere from 1970-1988, count them up. They got a new emperor in 89.

I don't know-- it worked somthing like that.

Don't know if they did that with mandolins or not. They may not have. But that might be a good start for you. Check around on the internet.

Mar-01-2007, 12:41am
this is an A700 from the 70's- solid top, laminate back


this is an A800 from the early 80's


an A900 (http://www.finemusicalinstruments.com/item183202.ctlg) from the early 80's

and another A700 from the 80's- i believe these were solid wood, unlike the 70's models


there was also another A900 model from the late 70's that had the double-A and abalone vine inlay that covered the scroll part of the heastock, above the double-A

Dan McIntyre
Mar-01-2007, 8:32am
Hey Cooper, thanks for the great photos! Mine looks like the top one (A700 from the 70's) except it has "The Alvarez" on the headstock instead of "Alvarez". Got any ideas?

Mar-01-2007, 9:03am
it's the same one, just a little later model.

Mar-01-2007, 9:11am
I had a Japanese Alvarez f-model mandolin and the top was carved WAY too thick. I question their quality control and realize that some of them were quite nice. I had an all-wood A-model Alvarez (stamped "hand-made") that was a great little mandolin.


Celtic Saguaro
Mar-01-2007, 9:44am
I remember playing a Japanese Alvarez F in the store in about 1977. It did not have the double a's. I think that came later. #I don't remember whether it said "Alvarez" or "The Alvarez". #About all I remember was that the particular Ibanez A next to it on the wall was a much superior instrument compared to that particular Alvarez. Not too surprising since they cost about the same at the time.

Dan McIntyre
Mar-01-2007, 9:56am
Thanks guys for all the good posts. I have to agree with everyone on the quality and sound. I have an A100 that is a laminate top A style that is louder and maybe even better sounding than the F-style. From what I gather then the mando is probably a late 70's or early 80"s Japanese. Thanks again, Dan

Hal Loflin
Mar-01-2007, 9:19pm
I have one of these mandolins and have asked previously on the cafe for dating. What I got back was that this one is an A-800 made in the mid 70's. Mine also has "The Alvarez" written on the headstock and is stamped on the inside with


It sounded alright when I first got it but when I added the ivory saddle it became louder. It is great to play and one of my favorite mandolins.

Hal Loflin
Mar-01-2007, 9:20pm
Here is a closeup of the headstock...

John Flynn
Mar-01-2007, 9:26pm
I had a "double A" A800 as my main mando for about 10 years. It had "Handmade in Japan" woodburned on the inside. In the early 90's I got it as a factory second that had been returned for a finish flaw. I don't know when it was made. It was a decent mandolin that I played hard for a decade and then got exactly what I paid for it on a trade in. A pretty darn good deal.

Mar-01-2007, 10:26pm
the one you have pictured and all the block inlayed alvarez were A700's-whether they said 'alvarez' or 'the alvarez', later the A700's went to double-A headstocks and dot inlay with a carved scroll, not a flat scroll like the one you have (and i used to have), they were all made with solid spruce tops and laminate maple backs.

here is an old catalog scan

The A-800's all look like the one pictured next to the last in my earlier post above this one, its the one with the 70's gibson style inlays on the fingerboard (the sgwiggly-line things) and the carved scroll

Hal Loflin
Mar-01-2007, 10:38pm
Thanks cooper...I have not really been able to find much info on it. You have zeroed in a little for me.

I tell ya this though...it is light, has a good (not awesome) sound and is easy to play.

Mar-01-2007, 11:14pm
it took quite abit of searching to find that little bit of info, most i pieced together from old catalogs and pics of ones for sale. i even contacted alvarez (st. louis music) and they didn't know anything about any of their old mandolins from the japan days.

you're right about playability; i've never encountered few mandolins that have an action as low as my A700 had and still not buzz

Mar-02-2007, 10:10am
How can you tell the A700 had/has a laminated back?


Mar-02-2007, 12:30pm
the flame on the back wasn't on the inside of the wood.
i also had a luthier look at mine, and the catalog pick above describes the A700 has havings a solid spruce top (it says hand carved, but the scroll is flat?)

a few sentences later it says "back and sides are curly maple"- which usually means laminate, because they almost always will put solid when it it a solid back, unless the mandolin is a gibson, collings or what because they are always made of solid woods

Mar-02-2007, 2:53pm
it took quite abit of searching to find that little bit of info
Here's the full image.


Jeff E
Jun-16-2011, 9:52pm
Anyone have an idea about the double point model in the above ad? My wife's cousin has one, but he's four states away and I have no way of evaluating it, except that it's never been out of it's case since his gramps gave it to him in the 70's.

Austin Clark
Jun-17-2011, 7:58am
Wish I had a picture of it, but I got to see Alvarez #1 at IBMA last fall. As it was the prototype model, it wasn't exactly pretty, but what a cool piece of history. (It actually played pretty well...)

Jun-17-2011, 10:31am
The two-pointer is described as "A500." This two-year-old post from Mudcat Cafe may be of some help:

"Hey this may help, When I was about 12-13 years old I bought an A500 model it was cut away on both sides of body with an oval soundhole, this was in 1982/83/84 price then was $500.00 at a dealer new, headstock had pearl inlay up the scroll flower design but no double A's. Wish now I had of kept it, sold it to help pay for divorce in 1995."

Not a lot I could find about the A500. Twenty-five to forty (?) years ago, apparently carved top, similar (identical?) to Ibanez mandolins of the same vintage, based on Jethro Burns' Gibson A-5.

Vernon Hughes
Jun-17-2011, 1:47pm
I have an alvarez a900,the baroque model I think it was called..Bought it brand new in 1977 and played it on the road and on recordings for 22 years..It's a great mando other than the neck started to pull away from the back about 10 years ago and I retired it..Just last week I pulled the neck out and did a reset..Glued the f-board back on this morning..It always was a killer loud and woody mando and I look forward to playing it again..I bought another one exactly like it off ebay last year,mostly mint condition and in the original case with the hang tags still on it..It sounds terrible! Guess they varied from instrument to instrument..I'll post a pick of the old battle axe when i'm done..BTW,I paid 976.00 for it brand new in '77-32.50 a month for what seemed like forever..Paid 990.00 for the one off ebay 34 years later..

Nov-01-2011, 11:38pm
there was also another A900 model from the late 70's that had the double-A and abalone vine inlay that covered the scroll part of the headstock, above the double-A[/QUOTE]

That's my mando! I wouldn't trade it, and I get a lot of comments from good pickers who second my decision. No problem on this one with a "too thick" top. Once there was a site on the web to track down the date by serial number, and I think mine was 1982.

Nov-04-2011, 7:55am
Martin sued Takamine . Gibson sued Ibanez and Alvarez ..... patent infringement... late 1970's that was when the "The Alvarez" and flower pot disappeared from the headstock and the double V vine design started. Many of the pre-lawsuit instruments were of excellent quality but like any factory product you have to find one you like.

Nov-04-2011, 10:14am
There was only one lawsuit, it was Gibson's then parent company Norlin and it was brought against one manufacturer and all it covered was the open book headstock style. The rest is a myth that just keeps being perpetuated. You can read about it here (http://www.guitarattack.com/destroyer/lawsuit.htm).