~’59 ‘Foreign’ Archtop

A neighbour was about to downsize house and move away from the area. He found this in his roofspace and very kindly dropped it off the day before he left. It was pretty filthy and the action can’t be adjusted to play well, so initially I thought I’d keep it for decoration.

But then I cleaned it up and discovered how great it is for acoustic and, with the hot little neck-mounted Kent Armstrong mini-humbucker, electric, slide playing.

I’ve only been able to find one shot of anything close to this, which is from a page of an early sixties Ibanez catalogue on an early page in the Ibanez book. Antoria guitars were often made by the same (Fuji Gen Gakki) factory in those early days.

Reference to the excellent Antoria web site indicates that guitars with this legend are called ‘foreign’ by enthusiasts, after the small ‘foreign’ decal on the headstock.  Further insights most welcome…

26 Responses to ~’59 ‘Foreign’ Archtop

  1. Jacob Wright says:

    Hey i have the same guitar. it has a monogram that says its from 53. really hard to find any info on.

  2. Rockbeare says:

    Interesting. Please send me a pic to [email protected]?

  3. Ian McD says:

    I own one of these. My dad found it at a boot fair for £15 though it was a bit damaged, broken winders, twisted neck, and various holes in the body. He let me have it on the condition that I repaired it. It was fitted with a scratch plate, though I didn’t fit that back on as I prefer the look without it. I cannot put my finger on it but something about this guitar makes me smile when I play it.

  4. Rockbeare says:

    Would be great to see a pic of yours : [email protected].

  5. eightpans says:

    Just bought almost the same guitar …My one is a sunburst and a bit more beaten up than your one :(. The front of the headstock is coloured white and a white plastic scratch plate too. No pickup fitted although the scratch plate has been cut to fit one. I’ll send some pictures on to you.
    I’m going to clean it up a bit and fix the bridge,new strings and see if I can get a decent sound out of it.

  6. Rockbeare says:

    Rude of me not to reply sooner, sorry. Thanks for the great pix, before and after, and the tip re ferrules which as you say are missing on mine too. I’ve contacted the seller to see if he has any more….

  7. willie lowe says:

    looking for some help just had grandads Antoria foreign past done wuld like info on it please email me i have pics an stuff

  8. Mike Chapman says:

    Beautiful, looking at a beat up one on trademe (New Zealand’s Ebay). Did you fit the Kent Armstrong yourself?

  9. Rockbeare says:

    Hi Mike and yes. There were already two screw holes in the sides of the neck where a previous pickup had been attached, so I was careful to drill the mounting bracket so I could to use the same holes and not inflict any further damage. The pickup is quite hot, great for slide which is just as well as the guitar’s action is pretty horrible for fretted work!

    Since I posted the pic, I have sourced and reinstalled some period ferrules for the machine heads, so I will be posting a new pic in due course. Hope you won the eBay auction and are now the proud owner of one too…

  10. peat2000 says:

    Antoria was a British company which operated as a dealer. They didn’t build any guitars. Before they began importing from Fujigen they imported from a number of builders many of whom (perhaps all) were from Germany. The later Fujigen guitars were exactly the same as Ibanez of the time. Both companies were dealers who bought and rebranded the same lawsuit copies. This guitar is almost certainly a German build from the 50?s. The neck can be straightened by heating and clamping but it’s not a straightforward job and will probably cost more than the value of the guitar if performed by a luthier.

  11. Rockbeare says:

    Thanks for this helpful post.

  12. Mervyn says:

    Your gat is in great condition – I just bought one of these – it was in a quite rough condition I have stripped all the hardware off it – My guitar I noticed has a Lion sitting on a crown logo on the headstock – I plan to give it a light sand and finish of with some french polish – Is that the right thing to do? – or what do you recommend as a plan to restore this old guitar? Will send you some pics – All the best from downunder (New Zealand)

  13. Rockbeare says:

    Hi, Mervyn and thanks for your post. I haven’t seen an Antoria like this with a Lion on the headstock, but the ways of those days back then mean that dealers or distributors often added their own touches before selling to their customers. (The most famous example was probably the numerous Strats brought into the UK when the US trade embargo was lifted in the early sixties. The most well-known British Strat player was the Shadows’ Hank Marvin, who played a Fiesta Red one, so the importers simply oversprayed standard sunburst ones and charged a custom colour premium).

    As to your refurbishment, I’m always loathe to support drastic action like sanding and refinishing. However, if yours is in rough shape it sounds like it might merit serious intervention, and these instruments are not sufficiently valuable to give rise to concerns over erosion of investment value.

    I’m not sure what the situation is regarding vintage gear in NZ, but there’s a link on my resources page to a UK-based Antoria owners’ web site which might be useful if you’re looking for any parts to complete your refurb. Good luck and I hope the result is everything you hope for…

  14. Achim says:

    those early 50ies Archtops were made by the German manufacturer “Fasan”.
    Those who are interested to learn more may visit http://www.euroguitars.co.uk/

  15. Mervyn says:

    Many thanks for you comprehensive reply, I will proceed with a minimalist refurbish – as it is quite rough – will let you know how I get on.
    Cheers From Downunder

  16. I’ve just bought a vintage arch top Antoria on trademe New Zealand, it’s a Beauty, the neck is warped a little but when I saw it I knew it was for me. I got my brother in law to bid for me and got it for $130(US). I flew down to NZ last week from Dubai and picked it up,it’s had a hard life but I know a Luthier in Dubai who can make her whole again. The colour Oscar amazing,it tone is even better.I will post photos befor and after from Dubai.

  17. Rockbeare says:

    Sounds like a fun trip! I look forward to seeing some pix…

  18. Gordon Cruickshanks says:

    Still waiting for the luthier to finish my Antoria, I now know it was made in Germany in 1954,it was purchased from Germany by a sea going engineer who took it back to NewZealand. Photos to follow.

  19. Ana says:

    Hi there. I have an Antoria archtop, f hole acoustic guitar. Very similar to yours but with white and black stringin around the edge of the top. Rosewood neck, 22 fret (brass), mother of pearl dots, and a white head. I cant find any info on this at all. How can you work out the age or model No. if there is one? Just wondering if its german, japanese or UK made. So confusing when there is so little info. Needs a new bridge as the person who owned before me had turned the bridge on its side and cut grooves into it when the top of the bridge came off. WTF? There is also a screw in the neck. i dont know if that is some botched job or and original “feature’ . I am also in NZ. Will send pics if you want to see

  20. Rockbeare says:

    Hi, thanks for your email – very interesting as there is so little around on these things. From my limited incoming to date it seems that several found their way to NZ (I assume you acquired yours there). I’d be interested in pix (to the regular contact address on my front page). As far as I know so far, they were all made in Japan and then exported to various markets. I assume the screw you refer to is in the neck heel, which would suggest it has come loose or detached at some earlier point – the animal hide and fishbone glues used back then have a habit of coming loose after a few decades!

    Thanks and best wishes / ‘Bockbeare’

  21. william walker says:

    dear sir, I have a ” ANTORIA ” archtop guitar which i purchased from new in 1961.
    It is of a similar model shown, but it does not have ” foreign ” stamped anywhere.
    It is stamped “West Germany ” on the headstock. it has black & white checked purfling.
    it has mahogany sides and matchboxed back, with a maple front.
    I believe it to be 58/59, and handbuilt by the framus family in bavaria, where the originals were made, and later taken over by the japanese.
    I had a gibson humbucker and pots fitted about ’63 by mr Alex Hush who was a luthier
    in glasgow.
    I have done some work to improve the action and it now plays perfectly, a great sound with or without electrics.
    yours sincerely

  22. Rockbeare says:

    Thanks for your comment, Willie. I’d love to see a pic or two…

  23. Sam Deeks says:

    Hi there – I just bought one locally in the UK (in the same ‘natural’ colour) for £40… I set up guitars (‘Reloved Guitars’ on Facebook & YouTube) so I had a go at this one and I’m SO glad I did!

    The neck had a permanent curve (thanks to 50 years of string loading and no truss rod) so I decided to sand out the curve and re-fret. To cut a long story short, it now plays beautifully and sounds gorgeous. I fitted a set of Gibson Deluxe tuners and moved the bridge saddle sideways to cure a misalignment of the strings. Apart from that, it’s pretty original but it’s become a favourite out of 25 or so guitars I have hanging in my home. I love the fact that it was destined for the trash…and now it’s playing again 🙂

    I just bought another one (this one masquerading as a ‘Hofner’ – it isn’t) to do the same refurb to it. It’s so satisfying that I can see an archtop addiction quickly developing. I won’t email pictures – but you can see what I did here:


    Hope that works!
    Thanks for your post, glad to find other people who own and enjoy these old beauties! Best wishes – Sam

  24. Rockbeare says:

    Thanks for your post, Sam, really lovely to see another and so similar. They do sound pretty good.

    I can play the things and can do setups and minor repairs but not the kind of serious stuff you do. Not sure where you are in Devon but I visit from time to time to see friends or on holiday. Renowned classical maker Kevin Aram is nr Gt Torrington, some friends have places in Brixham and near Honiton and I usually visit Dartmoor in October. Keep on restoring!

  25. Chrissy says:

    Hi I’m currently googling trying to find out about these guitars as I just listed one on Trademe in New Zealand and wasn’t sure what to sell it for.
    If you go to http://www.trademe.co.nz and search Antoria Archtop you will find it.
    Can anyone tell me what it’s worth with the case? Thank you

  26. Rockbeare says:

    Sorry I missed your enquiry – I was away.

    These things are really scarce but don’t go for very much, maybe UK£50-75. They sound ok but are tough to play – which is why I have mine set up for slide – and are of very limited interest except to diehard Antoria collectors or home restorers.

    I wouldn’t have mine had I not been given it by a neighbour who was leaving the area and decluttering.

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