Vintage Japanese Banjos sold on eBay®

For about five years, between 2003 and 2008, I watched eBay banjo sales and kept track of the better Japanese banjos that sold during that time. I define "vintage" as pre-1990, which means the banjo would have been made from the early '70s to about 1985.

I present the data in two pages:

I do not appraise. Please do not ask me what your banjo is worth - I don't know.


Dec 12 GF 200s are making an appearance.
Oct 03 A hybrid sells again five months later with some changes but nets a mere $10 premium.
Sep 14 A G20 for $3,500.
Jun 14 Three Gold Stars added, including the highest price I've ever seen on eBay for a model 100 and a hybrid. There is a little more activity on eBay recently, which may have something to do with the economy.
Apr 01 Some time ago eBay starting concealing bidders' identities during an auction but revealing the winner. Now the winner can remain private. eBay continues to make moves to ruin the market it so effectively created. I don't think I'd try to sell a banjo on eBay these days.
Apr 01 No joke, just updating. Two Gold Stars added, including a resale of the G11 from October.
Oct 30 A G11 listed as Buy It Now sells instantly at $999.
Oct 25 I decide to stop watching all the Japanese brands. I will continue to watch for vintage Gold Stars. See the note on the Japanese page.
Oct 09 Catching up with a broken G11 and a record-setting Aria II Archtop.  Also, another Ibanez hits the $1,000 mark.
Oct 09 There is no question that fewer better banjos are showing up on eBay. This may be the result of eBay evolving into more of a commercial site than a private auction site or it could mean the market for used Japanese banjos is drying up. I think it's eBay.
Aug 21 A very strange Gold Star hybrid - a G12 converted to a flat head. Was it converted or is it a different rim? I could not tell but the auction did not include the AT ring.
Aug 04 There has been a long gap in my coverage; my last entry to the tables was in March. On the other hands, pickings have been on the slim side. I've started to pay closer attention again.
Jan 20 It was pointed out by a fellow Banjo Hangout member that the GF100 that sold on September 2 does not have an original tailpiece. I've updated the table. Thanks, Danny! This is of current interest because the same banjo is currently listed on eBay with 2 days left to go.
Dec 22 2007 Year-end Gold Star Summary
  The average selling price for all models except the G20 was $1,246, slightly up from last year's average of $1,212. 13 sales completed, about the same as last year. There were some other listings that were either withdrawn or did not complete. There were more "Buy It Now" listings than in previous years, which I think contributed to some of the incomplete auctions. 2007 was a big year for the G11 and G12 arch top models, which contributed 7 of the 13 sales; in 2006, there were only 4. Arch tops represent 34% of the sales since I started keeping track in August, 2003.
Dec 22 A rare Saga "Special Florentine" model sells for $735 and an Alvarez Denver Belle sells for a very high price. Also, a 1977 Gold Star G12.
Dec 5 After selling in 2004 for $1,463, a GF100 sells for $1,275 despite its good condition.
Dec 2 A G11 goes for almost $1,100 and so does an Ibanez Artist hybrid.
Nov 29 A G20 sells for an all-time low $2,650 (no case). There were two G20s for sale at the same time; the other listing was cancelled before any bids were received and may have been sold offline. Two other Gold Stars, a 1984 GF100 and a 1977 G12, did not sell; both were poorly priced.
Nov 24 Catching up with several additions. A friend graciously provided updates to a few I missed due to my October slump. And an ordinary Alvarez that would not usually break my $500 barrier hits exactly that, probably due to gold hardware.
Nov 11 As of today, only four of the brands represent 10% or more of the sales I've observed:
Gold Star29%
The remaining 20% is distributed among the other eight brands.
Nov 11 I missed a few through sloth; sorry. I've added one Alvarez and one Iida. The Iida 239 seemed very cheap considering the hardware is gold. I have not seen any vintage Gold Stars in two months but a number of used contemporary models sold.
Sep 5, 7 A 3-month dry spell for Gold Stars ends, but with disappointingly low prices. A very clean Ibanez Artist does better.
Aug 26 The summer has been slow, with several banjos that normally would make my list not hitting the $500 mark. Added 8 listings but no Gold Stars.
Jul 1 The sale of the G20 that I previously listed on Jun 24 did not complete. The seller, who is a reputable fellow, acted as an intermediary and got burned when the owner reneged. I have removed the listing.
Jun 25 There are very few Japanese tenor or plectrum banjos listed in my tables because they have not risen above my price threshold of $500. A nice-looking gold Iida 239T has.
Jun 24 Catching up. One of the Gold Stars is a G20 with a repaired headstock crack. The other Japanese brands include a record low for an Alvarez Minstrel and two unidentified (but probably Style 1) Saga banjos with wreath inlays.
May 29 A Leo Deluxe almost breaks $900 but is far short of 2005's record $999, and an Alvarez Whyte Eagle sets a record. Five other entries, including three other Alvarez models and the second Iida long-neck model in just three months.
May 13 A number of errors and omissions in the Gold Star serial number list have been corrected.
May 12 I learn that the case I've been calling "GS Blue" was officially known as Saga's Superior 2903.
May 10 Two new Ibanez Artists, one with the Florentine-like vine inlay and Keith tuners.
Apr 22 I missed one! a Gold Star GF100W sold in 2 hours in February, fast enough to pass under my radar. Thanks to the new owner for alerting me.
Apr 22 The earliest Gold Star on eBay yet - a 1976 G11FE. This makes five G11s in the past four months; it took three years for the previous five to make an appearance. And don't miss the special note!
Apr 20 A 1977 Gold Star G11W flat head! Not a mistake, a conversion. The original tone ring was included in the sale.
Apr 20 A 2005 Gold Star GF100W fetches a miserable $540. It had a sanded neck and the spike installation looked a bit rough. Not recorded in my tables, just an interesting data point.
Apr 19 First appearance of the Ventura brand on my list in an unusual, gold model. Also, a rare Fender folk model.
Apr 8 Summary
  Since August 2003, there have been 73 sales of 52 unique Gold Star banjos, including hybrids. The average selling price, excluding the model 20, is $1,211, down slightly from a year ago. The average for sales since January 2006 is $1,212.
Apr 8 820076, a Gold Star GF100FE, makes another appearance. In between this year and last, it changed hands off eBay.
Apr 6 Three Denver Belles in one month; a beautiful Ibanez Tenor!
Apr 3 A 2005 Gold Star GF100W sells for a paltry $610. It's not vintage so it's not in the tables, but it's instructive.
Mar 9 Several updates - Alvarez, Aria, Ibanez.
Feb 9 Record-setting Iida.
Feb 9 A bargain Gold Star G11 and a new (whopping) record for a GF100.
Jan 24 Another Gold Star G11, a resale, appreciates 35% in less than a year.
Jan 14 A Gold Star G11 for under $1,000 ends a two-month drought.
Jan 14 Another breakthrough of a low-end (and ugly) Alvarez.
Jan 6 Catching up with a few new entries.  Prices may be rising; a few lesser models are breaking through my self-imposed $500 barrier.  Also, a rare Tokai makes an appearance and a badly damaged GTR sells for a mere $255.
Nov 26 A Fender and an Ibanez at strong prices.
Nov 8 Above average price without the original case.
Nov 2 A Saga BV reaches towards $1,000!
Oct 14 Rare Iida 240 in gold.
Oct 13 The Gold Star G20 buyer has some good news and some bad news.
Oct 7 A Gold Star G20 with some problems commands a respectable price.
Sep 30 Ibanez Artist - Archtop!
Sep 25 A Gold Star G12 resale; the buyer merely breaks even.
Aug 26 GTR for $1,425, significantly higher than previous sales.
Aug 23 Selling flurry continues with "cosmetically challenged" Gold Star GF100.
Aug 23 Ibanez Artist - one owner and 20 years in the closet.
Aug 21 The Leo Deluxe rebounds to $850.
Aug 21 Two Gold Stars sell on the same day at strong prices, with a new record high for the G12W  model.
Aug 14 A Gold Star GF-85 sells at an all-time low.
Aug 13 A long dry spell for Gold Stars ends with the resale of a GF 100 at a loss of nearly $300.
Aug 7 Aria Pro II, Vine Inlay.
Apr 30 A Gold Star G20JD goes for $4,000 after being listed at that price for 24 hours.
Apr 30 Two Leos sell on the same day.
Mar 21 A Saga Bella Voce gets some overdue respect at $860.
Mar 10 The Tokai sells for $1,500, more than a Gold Star fetches.
Mar 7 The Tokai deal fell through and the banjo has been re-listed.
Mar 1 A rare Tokai makes an appearance.
Feb 11 A unique instrument - a Gold Star GF100HF with Flying Eagle inlays, supplied that way from the factory.
Jan 29 Another Ibanez Artist breaks $1K.
Jan 25 A Gold Star G11W archtop goes for $1,350.
Jan 22 Added GTR, Saga, Sho-Bud, and Tokai to the list.
Jan 22 I removed the $1,233 Artist sold on October 11 because it is a US model. The US models from the 60s regularly command more than twice their Japanese counterparts.
Jan 1 The first Epiphone I've seen break the $500 barrier. Just days before, a '90s Korean Epiphone sold for $600.
Nov 28 A new high for a Gold Star G12 at $1,404.  Is the archtop coming back?
Nov 11 A 60s, made in the US Fender Artist at $1,233. (This is not in the tables but is an interesting point of reference.)
Aug 12 A new low for a Gold Star G20JD.
Aug 11 After watching for two years, I buy a pristine Gold Star G12W.