c.1975 Japanese-made Iida Model 233 5-String Banjo

While almost a Masterclone (Mastertone "clone") this Iida 5-string from the early to mid 70s is aesthetically a little different. Still, it boasts a very "Gib" build and tone and "why" becomes obvious in the fact that it has a big old flathead tonering on top of what appears to be a multi-ply heavy duty maple rim.

These higher end Japanese-made Iidas are sought-after player's instruments because they come so close to the real thing. They're also pretty hard to find as well since there were far fewer of these nice ones made than the less-expensive and dull-sounding aluminum rim models one can find at nearly every yard sale.

Here are some quick "under the hood" shots.

There you can see the flathead ring.

After a bit of cleaning, new strings, and setup, it now plays effortlessly and has that big, saucy, loud bluegrass tone. I got stuck in droney banjo land for about an hour or so after tuning up. It's a fun one.

The head appears to be the original synthetic Remo.

Pearl inlay all over. The pegs are all 4:1 geared/planetary tuners for easy tuning and the solid mahogany neck is fitted with a (functional) truss rod.

Note the nice pearl inlay in the bound rosewood fretboard.

Older Grover ebony/maple bridge. The tailpiece has a spring-loaded hinged cover and is adjustable.

The resonator is rosewood-veneered and looks pretty fancy.

Note that this still has its "made in Japan" label on it. This one was taken care of really well and is essentially spotless and "as new."

Here you can see the resonator's fancy binding.

Good heavy-duty hardware.

Note the "volute" at the base of the headstock. This adds some strength.

Yes, it even comes with its original hard case (and head tuning wrench and case key as well).


B Harper said...

I just purchased a very similar Iida circa early '70's for $260. The pot is built up of 13 plys & has a slightly different looking resonator. It sounds fantastic in spite of the broken tail piece which is identical to the one shown here. Are replacement tail pieces available?


Ann Lippert said...

I also have this banjo! (looks very similar but mine has a CLEAR Remko head) I bought it in 1982 and still have it. Been wanting to clean and change the head and put new strings on it. But I live in Las Vegas. Not many banjo shops that I know of?
Trying to find out more info on the Banjo I have. Sentimental as I've owned it for so long. Do they still make Iida banjo's?