Vintage Guitars Info's
Vintage Epiphone Guitars.
General Information and Specs.

Epiphone vintage guitars general info and collecting. Private vintage guitar collector. Pictures, history for epiphone vintage guitars.
Contact the Vintage Guitar Info Guy
1965 Epiphone Sheraton (Route 66 Guitars)




  Guitar Model Information:

    Epiphone was a family business established in 1873 as "the House of Stathopoulo" by Anastasios Stathopoulo, a greek violin maker. In 1923 they incorporated and at this time made mostly high quality and fancy banjos. In 1928 the name was changed to "Epiphone" after Epi Stathopoulo, president of the company and one of the founder's sons. In the 1930's, the company changed its emphasis to guitars. Epiphone was the only banjo company to successfully switch to guitar production.

1954 Epiphone catalog with a blond
Emperor Zephyr Regent.

    In 1952/1953 the C.G. Conn Company's (a band instrument manufacturer) Orphie got Epiphone distribution rights moved. Now most guitar production went to Philidelphia (although the labels still said New York). This was done partially as a "strike break" move, as New York Epiphone workers were in conflict with the Stathopoulio family. The Stathopoulo family regained control again in 1955, but few if any instruments were made in 1956 and 1957.

    The Chicago Musical Instrument company (CMI), which owned Gibson, bought Epiphone in 1957. When CMI purchased Epiphone, they got all of Epiphone's current stock of parts including bodies, necks, pickups, etc. Gibson used these "New Yorker" parts in conjuction with their own parts when making Epiphones from 1958 to 1961. By 1961 Gibson has used up all the original New York-made Epiphone parts, and then used Gibson parts made in Kalamazoo. Instruments from 1958 to 1969 are commonly referred to as "Gibson/Epiphones".

    When Norlin purchased CMI (Gibson) in 1969, all Epiphone production was moved to Japan. Later, productions was moved to Korea. Many of the imported instruments bear a label with Gibson's Kalamazoo address and no mention of Japan or Korea, which can be misleading. However, these import instruments have model numbers that do not correspond with Kalamazoo made Epiphone model numbers listed below. Also the serial number is usually 7 digits or longer (unlike U.S. made Epi's with a 6 digit or less serial number).
Contact the vintage guitar info guy
Back to the Table of Contents

Model Types.

    In addition to the Zephyr and Zephyr Regent models, Epiphone applied the two terms to other models to signify electric or cutaway:
    • Zephyr = electric.
    • Regent = cutaway.

    Contruction and Value.

      High-end acoustic archtop Epiphones are constructed of high quality, solid woods. Electric archtop Epiphones are made from laminated woods. Because of this, electric archtop Epiphones are much less desirable, and are worth considerably less than fully acoustic archtop models.

      Pre-1937 Epiphones are of very high quality and are generally much scarcer than later models. They have a smaller body and less modern neck feel than later models, and are less collectable.

      The most collectable models are those made from 1937 when body sizes were increased, up to the end of New York productions (1956). Most desirable are the professional grade models on which the company built its reputation: Emperor, DeLuxe, Broadway and Triumph. These models, along with Gibsons, are considered by most to be the best vintage factory-made archtop guitars produced. Mid-range and low-end models are generally regarded as student model instruments.

    Electric Archtop Epiphones.

      New York-made electric archtops are interesting but generally are not as collectable as equivalent acoustic models. Acoustic models are solid carved top and back whereas electrics are plywood. In addition, the electronics on New York Epiphones are not as sonically good as compared to Gibson of the same period or to the later Gibson-made Epiphones. Therefore, New York electric archtop Epiphones are worth considerably less than Gibsons of the same period.

    1940 Epiphone ad: "For those who prefer blonds"

      Early Gibson Epiphones with New York pickups are of interest to collectors. Most hollowbody Epiphone electrics bring less than the equivalent Gibson models. Double cutaway thinbody electrics are the most highly sought after electric archtop models. The Emperor (single cutaway) is the rarest of the thinlines (66 made). The Sheraton, especially the early version with blond finish, is also very collectable. Sheratons with New York pickups are worth the most, but not for sound. The Riviera, though equal in playability and sound, is not nearly as collectable. The Casino is collectable only because John Lennon played one.

      It may seem like a contridiction in terms: New York pickups are sonically inferior to Gibson pickups, but models fitted with New York pickups from 1958 to 1960 are worth more than post-1960 models fitted with better Gibson pickups. These Epiphone models made from 1958 to 1960 like the Sheraton and Coronet are much more collectable (and valuable) with New York pickups, even though everyone agrees the later models sound much better fitted with Gibson pickups.

    Solidbody Electric Epiphones.
      Solidbody electric Epiphones with New York pickups are interesting to collectors, but not for their sound. Later solidbody models with mini- humbucking pickups bring less money than Gibson equivalents with standard humbucking pickups. None are especially valuable, although Epiphone workmanship and playability is equivalent to Gibson of the same period.
Contact the vintage guitar info guy
Back to the Table of Contents

Epiphone Model Numbers, 1953 to 1981

    Model numbers date from Epiphone's ownership by Conn in 1953 until Gibson moved Epiphone production to Japan in 1970.

    Letters preceding model number: E=electric archtop, A=acoustic archtop, FT=flattop, SB=solidbody, EB=electric bass or banjo, EC=classical, EM=mandolin, BV=bass violin.

    Letters after model number: D=double cutaway, N=natural finish, T=thinbody, V=vibrato, MV=maestro vibrola, C=cherry or cutaway, E=electric.

    1953 to 1970 Model Numbers

      Number  Prefix  Model
      ------  ------  -----
      7P      EA      Professional
      8P      EA      Professional
      28      FT      Caballero tenor
      30      EC      Madrid
      30      FT      Caballero
      44      EB      Campus banjo
      45      FT      Cortez
      66      EM      Venetian mandolin
      77      ETB     Tenor banjo
      79      FT      Texan
      85      FT      Serenader
      88      EB      Minstrel banjo
      90      EC      Entrada
      90      FT      El Dorado
      95      FT      Folkster
      98      FT      Troubadour
      100     EC      Seville
      110     FT      Frontier
      111,112 E       Emperor (blond, sunburst)*
      111,112 A       Emperor cutaway (blond, sunburst)*
      112     FT      Bard
      120     FT      Excellente
      121,122 A       Emperor non-cutaway (blond, sunburst)*
      150     EC      Classic
      188     EB      Plantation banjo
      200     EC      Espana
      210     FT      Deluxe Cutaway
      211,212 E       Deluxe, 1949 to 1956 (blond, sunburst)*
      211,212 E       Sheraton, 1958 to 1970 (blond, sunburst)*
      211,212 A       Deluxe cutaway (blond, sunburst)*
      221,222 A       Deluxe non-cutaway (blond, sunburst)*
      230     E       Casino
      231,232 EB      Rivoli (blond, sunburst)*
      232     SB      Crestwood Deluxe
      251,252 E       Broadway (blond, sunburst)*
      300     EC      Barcelona
      311,312 E       Zephyr thinline cutaway electric (blond,sunburst)*
      311,312 A       Broadway cutaway (blond, sunburst)*
      321,322 E       Zephyr non-cutaway (blond, sunburst)*
      321,322 A       Broadway non-cutaway (blond, sunburst)*
      332     SB      Crestwood
      351,352 E       Windsor (blond, sunburst)*
      360     E       Riviera
      411,412 A       Triumph cutaway (blond, sunburst)*
      421,422 A       Triumph non-cutaway (blond, sunburst)*
      421,422 E       Century (blond, sunburst)*
      432     SB      Wilshire
      444     E       Granada
      451,452 E       Sorrento (blond, sunburst)*
      521,522 A       Devon (blond, sunburst)*
      533     SB      Coronet
      621,622 A       Zenith (blond, sunburst)*
      721     SB      Olympic Special
      722     SB      Olympic
      Caiola          Caiola
      EBDL            Embassy Deluxe
      EBS             Newport
      EBV             Rivoli
      Hr-SE           Howard Roberts Standard
      HR-CE           Howard Roberts Custom
      ------  ------  -----
      Number  Prefix  Model
      * In 1961, Gibson began using only the even-number model designation for sunburst, blond or any other finish.

    1971 to 1981 Japanese Model Numbers
    Note: not interested in these model. Information here for completeness. Model number listed on a blue label with a Kalamazoo address, but usually say "Made in Japan" at the bottom edge of the label.

      Number  Prefix  Model
      ------  ------  -----
      20      EC      Mahogany Classical
      22      EC      Mahogany Classical
      23      EC      Mahogany Classical
      24      EC      Rosewood Classical
      25      EC      Rosewood Classical
      120     FT      Dreadnoght Flattop (introduced 1979)
      130     FT      Mahogany Dreadnought Flattop
      132     FT      Mahogany Dreadnought Flattop
      134     FT      Mahogany Dreadnought Flattop
      135     FT      Rosewood 000 size Flattop
      140     FT      Dreadnought Flattop (introduced 1979)
      145     FT      Mahogany Jumbo Flattop
      147     FT      Mahogany Jumbo Flattop
      150     FT      Rosewood Jumbo Flattop
      155     FT      Ash Jumbo Flattop
      160     FT      12 string Mahogany Flattop
      165     FT      12 string Rosewood Flattop
      250     EA      Electric Acoustic, double cutaway, 2 PUs
      270     ET      Solidbody Electric
      275     ET      Solidbody Electric
      278     ET      Solidbody Electric
Contact the vintage guitar info guy
Back to the Table of Contents

Left: Epiphone label as used from 1935 to 1956; this one is 1956.
Right: Epiphone label as used on Gibson-made guitars from 1958 to 1969; this one is 1960

    General Specs:
      • "Epiphone Banjo Corporations, Long Island City, NY": 1928-1935.
      • Masterbilt label, high-end models, several different label styles, all with
      • "Masterbilt" in fancy lettering: 1931-1937.
      • Silver oval label, "The Epiphone Corp" on banner, "New York" and "Builders of Art Musical Instruments" below banner: 1932-1933.
      • Rectangular label, white paper with blue or blue-green border and "Epiphone, Inc, New York, NY, USA": 1935-1956.
      • Gibson made, rectangular label, blue paper, slashed C logo and "Epiphone Inc, Kalamazoo, Michigan": 1958-1970.

    Different Epiphone Pickups used.
    Pic thanks to LB Fred.

    Epiphone New York era pickups (left to right):

    • Row 1: 1941 TrueBalance Zephyr pickup, 1947 Zephyr Master pickup
    • Row 2: 1948 Tone Spectrum Zephyr Deluxe pickup, 1950 non-adjustable NewYork Century pickup.
    • Row 3: 1950's Adjustable DeArmond pickups, 1949 Tone Spectrum pickups, 1949-1961 "NewYork" pickups.

    Note: "New York" style pickups (right side column 3 above, and color picture below) are the most common New York-era Epiphone pickup. They are also considered the "best" top-of-the-line pickup model for pre-1962 Epiphones.

      • New York: retangular metal covered with small slot-screw poles, poles very close to edge, mounted to top by screws through cream-colored "blocks" or side extensions, dimensions 1 1/8" by 2 13/16" (3 5/8" wide including mounting blocks): 1946-1961.
      • Rectangular metal covered, larger than New York style, 1 1/2" by 3 1/8", phillips-head screw poles, poles not in center but not as close to edge as New York style, yellow/cream colored frames: 1950-1954.
      • Gibson made Mini-Humbucking: used on Gibson modela like the 1969 Les Paul Deluxe, samller than Gibson standard humbucking pickup, 1 1/8" by 2 5/8", double coil, rectangular metal covered, slot head screw poles close to edge, black plastic frame, similar in size to the New York style pickup: 1961 to 1969.
      • Gibson made P-90 pickup: standard on many Gibson models of the period, single coil, poles across center, attached by screws through triangular "ears" extending from each end, some models fitted with rectangular (no ears) "soapbar" P-90 pickup covers.

    Frequensator tailpiece as used from 1939 to 1970, and on many "reissue" Epiphones today. This tailpiece has a nasty habit of cracking at the right angle bend of the anchor. You can just barely see that this anchor is starting to crack as it passes over the edge of the body. If this part is taken to a saxophone repair shop, often they can repair it (best to do this while it's cracked, and before it breaks.)


      • Frequensator: allows for a longer string length on the 3 bass strings, shorter string length on the 3 treble strings, sometimes reversed by players to accommodate short strings, high end models: 1939-1970.
      • Vibrato: flat-arm, strings wrap around metal cylinder of graduated diameter, wooden plate with E logo: 1961-1970.

      Truss Rod:

      • No truss rod: pre-1939.
      • Truss rod adjustment at body end of neck: 1939-1951.
      • Truss rod adjustment at peghead: 1951 and later.

      Epiphone used their own tuners with a slashed "C" logo and a pearloid button from about 1947 to 1961 on most mid to high-end models. On their low-end guitars, they used an assortment of different tuners.

    Epiphone style tuners as used on most
    mid to high-end guitars.

      • Script: most Epiphones of the pre-Gibson period have a script logo with a standard script "E". A few early models have block letter logos. Gibson continued using New York-made Epiphone necks, with laminated construction and script "E" logo, until all New York necks were used.
      • Slashed "C": Epiphone's stylized "E", which looks like a "C" with a horizontal slash, appeared in 1939 in literature and on metal peghead plates.
      • Models with inlaid or paint logos made the changeover to Gibson necks and the slashed "C" logo style circa 1961. On flat tops, the Gibson neck can be distinguished by a wider flare towards the top of the peghead. By the 1963 catalog, all solidbody guitars are pictured with the slashed "C" logo.

Peghead "ferns". These varied considerably from guitar to guitar, year to year.
Left: peghead style on most Deluxe models. Note the standard script "E" and cloud style fingerboard inlay. On some Deluxe model, Epiphone used Emperior style fingerboard inlays instead.
Middle: peghead style on most high-end models like the Emperior. Note the standard script "E" and "V" fingerboard inlay; it's pearl with a "V" insert of abalone.
Right: close-up of the "V" inlay used after WW2 on Emperor models and certain Deluxe models. Before the war, the "V" inlays were all pearl (no abalone), and had a black separating line to separate the "V" from the block.


      After Gibson bought Epiphone in 1957, Epiphone parts were used up before Gibson parts were issued. This occured on Gibson-made Epiphone starting in 1958. In addition to New York pickups, both acoustics and electrics featured New York necks with a pronouced "V" shape that Gibson necks did not have. The New York Epiphone peghead shape is also different from that of the later Gibson made necks. The stock of Epi-made necks ran out in late 1961 or early 1962 on most models.

    Binding on an Epi: very typical to see shrinking binding
    pulling away from the body on NY era Epi's.

      Binding: The binding used on NY era Epiphones (1958 and before) was troublesome. The binding was made of celluloid, and glued in place with an Acetone based glue. The problem is that the binding shrinks considerably with age, and can literial turn to dust. There is no way to fix this short of replacing the binding. Environmental issue (UV light and temperature extremes) can make the problem worse.

    Epiphone "carrosel" knob from the 1950's.
    These were used from the late 1940's
    until about 1960. The brass "ten position"
    nail was Gibson's idea to embelish these


      Knobs: Epiphone most typical electric guitar knob of the 1950's was the "carrosel" knob. This bakelite material knob was very unique to epiphone.



    1937 Epiphone ad that caused some stir (she holding an Emperor)...

    PegHead Markings other than Serial Numbers ("seconds")

      When Gibson owned Epiphone (after 1957), they often marked inferior quality guitars as "seconds", and sold them at a discount to dealers or employees. These markings were stamped into the wood on the back of the peghead. A "2" stamp is sometimes seen, designating a "second", which had some cosmetic flaw. If there is a serial number on the back of the peghead, the "2" is usually seen centered above or below it. Another type of Gibson/Epiphone reject stamp is the "BGN" stamp, designating that instrument as a "bargin" guitar. These were only sold to employees at substantial discounts. This stamp is also seen on the back of the peghead. Sometimes the "BGN" is stamped vertically with the "N" below the "G" which is below the "B". BGN instruments weren't acceptable to Gibson/Epiphone as sellable to the public.

      All second instruments are usually worth less than the same guitar that is not a second (given condition as the same). BGN instruments are worth less than a second instrument because these tend to have some fairly serious cosmetic flaw.

Contact the vintage guitar info guy
Back to the Table of Contents

December 1947 Epiphone ad.
Epiphone Serial Numbers (How to Find the Year).

    The easiest way to tell the year of an Epiphone instrument is by its serial number. Serial numbers are from Jim Fisch, L.B. Fred, Tom Wheeler, Walter Carter.

    There are no known factory ledgers for Epiphone. Therefore all serial numbers/years are approximations. Many serial numbers/years have been drawn from the sales records of Petty Music Company of Pittsburgh. Because this in the only known serial number/year sold list, it is the only real data available. Obviously it has some shortcomings as it is just the sales for one music store.

    For the most part serial numbers after 1932 are consecutive, and hence provide production numbers indicating the number of instruments produced.

    Jim Fisch, L.B. Fred have established an Epiphone serial number registry. This has helped in the dating of old Epiphones, and has given a lot of information regarding production numbers. Obviously any production number conclusions drawn are based on the instruments Jim has recorded only.

    Serial Numbers, 1932 to 1944, acoustic guitars only.
    For 1932 and 1933, the serial number is die-stamped on the interior side of an instrument's back. You can see this by looking thru the bass-side "f" hole, generally below the applied label. From 1934 forward, the serial numbers were typed or stamped directly on the Epiphone label. The last documented serial number in this series is 20142.
      Year            Number Range 
      ----            ------------
      1932            5000  to 5999
      1933            6000  to 7199
      1934            7200  to 7999
      1935            8000  to 9999
      1936            10000 to 10999
      1937            11000 to 11999
      1938            12000 to 12999
      1939            13000 to 14499
      1940            14500 to 15999
      1941            16000 to 17499
      1942            17500 to 18199
      1943            18200 to 18999
      1944            19000 to 20999

    Serial Numbers, 1935 to 1944, electric instruments only.
    With the start of the Electar model line in late 1935, Epiphone began a new serial number system for their electric instruments only. These numbers are die-stamped and are between 3 and 5 digits in length. Usually they are located on the top rear of the peghead. Since these numbers were applied before the instrument was painted, the serial number only gives an approximate age (especially on less popular instruments such as electric banjos and electric mandolins).
      Year            Number Range
      ----            ------------
      1935            001  to 249
      1936            250  to 749
      1937            750  to 1499
      1938            1500 to 2499
      1939            2500 to 3499
      1940            3500 to 4999
      1941            5000 to 6499
      1942            6500 to 7499
      1943            7500 to 8299
      1944            8300 to 9999

    Serial Numbers, 1944 to 1950, acoustic guitars only.
    For some reason, a new numbering system was started in 1944. The starting point of serial number 50,000 was used. There were a couple of reasons for this: the death of Epi meant his widow's shares where purchased causing a financial restructuring of the company and it's assets. Also changes in production methods prompted a change in inventory and the numbering scheme.

      Year            First Number
      ----            ------------
      1944            50,000 to 51,999
      1945            52,000 to 53,999
      1946            54,000 to 55,999
      1947            56,000 to 56,999
      1948            57,000 to 57,999
      1949            58,000 to 58,999
      1950            59,000 to 59,999

    Serial Numbers, 1944 to 1950, electric guitars only.
    From 1944 to the end of 1950, specific 2-digit prefixes were assigned to individual electric models. The ending 3 digits indicated the actual production number. Unfortuneatly, there is no data available for exact production numbers/years at this time. This impressed serial number may be found on the back top of the peghead.

      Model#    Production#      Model Name
      ------    -----------      ----------
       15          000           Century Hawaiian, other Hawaiians
       25          000           Zephyr Spanish
       26          000           Zephyr Spanish
       60          000           Century Spanish
       75          000           Zephyr DeLuxe
       85          000           Zephyr DeLuxe Regent

Serial number on a 1956 Epiphone acoustic guitar.

    Serial Numbers, 1951 to 1956, acoustic and electric guitars.
    The last known New York-made Epiphone was serial number 69637 (Epi Zephyr).
      Year            Number Range
      ----            ------------
      1951            60000 to 63999
      1952            64000 to 64999
      1953            64000 to 66999
      1954            67000 to 67999
      1955            68000 to 68999
      1956            69000 to 69999

"Ink stamped" serial number on a
1959 model solidbody.

    Gibson-made Serial Number, 1958-1960, solidbody guitars.
    Number is ink stamped on the back of the peghead. As with Gibson solidbody guitars of the same period, the first digit of the serial number is the last digit of the year.
      Year    1st Number
      ----    ----------
      1958    8
      1959    9
      1960    0

Gibson-made hollowbody serial number as used from 1958 to 1961.

    Gibson-made Serial Numbers, 1958 to 1961, hollowbody guitars ("A" series).
    Hollowbody models: number is on the label, with "A" preceding the number. The Epiphone number series is different than the A-series used on Gibson brand instruments of the same period.
      Year            Number Range
      ----            ------------
      1958            A1000 to A1999
      1959            A2000 to A2999
      1960            A3000 to A3999
      1961            A4000 to A4999

Serial number as used from 1961 to 1969.
This is a 1962 Epiphone Coronet.

    Gibson-made Serial Number, 1961 to 1969, all instruments (non "A" series).
    Beginning in 1961, Epiphone serial numbers follow Gibson's serial number series. All models, stamped in back top of peghead. No "MADE IN USA" stamp below serial number! Note many serial numbers are duplicated from 1963-1969. To figure out which is the exact year for a guitar, see the General Specs section for details. Numbers thanks to Walter Carter.
    Number Range       Year
    ------------       ----
    0100   to 42440    1961
    42441  to 61180    1962
    61450  to 64222    1963
    64240  to 71040    1964
    71041  to 96600    1962, a few from 1963/1964
    96601  to 99999    1963
    000001 to 099999   1967  (all 6 digit numbers 
    			  starting with "0" are 1967)
    100000 to 106099   1963 or 1967
    106100 to 106899   1963
    109000 to 109999   1963 or 1967
    110000 to 111549   1963
    111550 to 115799   1963 or 1967
    115800 to 118299   1963
    118300 to 120999   1963 or 1967
    121000 to 139999   1963
    140000 to 140100   1963 or 1967
    140101 to 144304   1963
    144305 to 144380   1964
    144381 to 149864   1963
    149865 to 149891   1964
    149892 to 152989   1963
    152990 to 174222   1964
    174223 to 176643   1964 or 1965
    176644 to 250335   1964
    250336 to 305983   1965
    306000 to 310999   1965 or 1967
    311000 to 320149   1965
    320150 to 320699   1967
    320700 to 329179   1965
    329180 to 330199   1965 or 1967
    330200 to 332240   1965, 1967 or 1968
    332241 to 348092   1965
    348093 to 349100   1966
    349121 to 368638   1965
    368640 to 369890   1966
    370000 to 370999   1967
    380000 to 385309   1966
    390000 to 390998   1967
    400001 to 406666   1966
    406667 to 409670   1966 to 1968
    409671 to 410900   1966
    410901 to 419999   unknown
    420000 to 429193   1966
    500000 to 500999   1965, 1966, 1968, or 1969
    501009 to 501600   1965
    501601 to 501702   1968
    501703 to 502706   1965 or 1968
    503010 to 503109   1968
    503405 to 520955   1965 or 1968
    520956 to 530056   1968
    530061 to 530850   1966, 1968, or 1969
    530851 to 530993   1968 or 1969
    530994 to 539999   1969
    540000 to 540795   1966 or 1969
    540796 to 545009   1969
    555000 to 556909   1966
    558012 to 567400   1969
    570087 to 570643   1966
    570645 to 570755   1966 or 1967
    570857 to 570964   1966
    580000 to 580080   1969
    580086 to 580999   1966, 1967 or 1969
    600000 to 600998   low end models, 1966, 1967, or 1968
    600000 to 606090   high end models, 1969
    700000 to 700799   1966, 1967 or 1969
    750000 to 750999   1968 or 1969
    800000 to 800999   1966, 1967, 1968 or 1969
    801000 to 812838   1966 or 1969
    812900 to 819999   1969
    820000 to 820087   1966 or 1969
    820088 to 823830   1966
    824000 to 824999   1969
    828002 to 847488   1966 or 1969
    847499 to 858999   1966 or 1969
    859001 to 895038   1967
    895039 to 896999   1968
    897000 to 898999   1967 or 1969
    899000 to 899999   1968
    900000 to 901999   1970
    910000 to 999999   1968
    ------------       ----
    Number Range       Year

Contact the vintage guitar info guy
to Epiphone Model Info
Back to the Table of Contents
Copyright 1995-2002 all rights reserved.