Epiphone is an American musical instrument manufacturer funded in 1873 by Anastasios Stathopoulos, currently based in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1957, Epiphone, Inc. was purchased by Gibson and relocated from New York to Kalamazoo, Michigan. Epiphone was Gibson's main rival in the archtop market prior to 1957.[2] Aside from guitars, Epiphone also made double basses, banjos, and other string instruments. However, the company's weakness in the aftermath of World War II and death of Epaminondas Stathopoulos in 1943 allowed Gibson to purchase it.[3] Epiphone also manufactures resonator guitars under the Dobro brand.

IndustryMusical instruments
Founded1873; 147 years ago (1873)
Smyrna, Ottoman Empire
FounderAnastasios Stathopoulos
Area served
Key people
Jim Rosenberg (President)[1]
ProductsElectric, acoustic, archtop & resonator guitars
Effects units
WebsiteOfficial website

The name "Epiphone" is a combination of proprietor Epaminondas Stathopoulos' (Επαμεινώνδας Σταθόπουλος) nickname "Epi" and "phone" (from Greek phon- (φωνή), "voice").[3]


Jazz Age Epiphone banjos at the American Banjo Museum, “Recording”, “Concert Deluxe”, “Dragon Emperor”, “Recording Dragon Custom” models.
1945 Epiphone Blackstone archtop guitar, made in New York.
Modern Epiphone mandolin

Epiphone began in 1873, in Smyrna, Ottoman Empire (now İzmir, Turkey), where Greek founder Anastasios Stathopoulos made his own fiddles and lutes (oud, laouto). Stathopoulo moved to the United States in 1903 and continued to make his original instruments, as well as mandolins, from a factory at 35-37 36th Street in Long Island City, Queens, New York. Anastasios died in 1915, and his son, Epaminondas ("Epi"), took over. After two years, the company became known as The House of Stathopoulo.[3] Just after the end of World War I, the company started to make banjos. The company produced its recording line of banjos in 1924 and, four years later, took on the name of the Epiphone Banjo Company. It produced its first guitars in 1928. After Epi died in 1943, control of the company went to his brothers, Orphie and Frixo. In 1951, a four-month-long strike precipitated a relocation of Epiphone from New York City to Philadelphia. In 1957 the company was acquired by Gibson.[3]



Epiphone Les Paul standard guitar.

After Epiphone became a subsidiary of Norlin (Gibson's parent after 1969), many of its instruments were later patterned after the more expensive Gibson versions. Occasionally, Epiphone models are of such high quality that sales of those less expensive instruments actually cut into the Gibson's sales. Case in point, the short lived solid body Epiphone Del Rey model was modeled after a Gibson Les Paul double cut. Workmanship and manufacturing standards were so high that Gibson killed the model. To help distinguish itself from the parent brand, Epiphone also maintains its own line of archtop guitars and basses.

As of January 2013, Epiphone makes the following guitars:

Gibson ModelsEdit

Original Epiphone modelsEdit

PR-5E VS Cutaway Acoustic.
ET-270T with Kurt Cobain's autograph.
Casino model, used by John Lennon.
  • AJ-100 / 100CE
  • AJ-150HS
  • AJ-220S / 220SCE
  • Allen Woody Rumblekat
  • Blackstone
  • Broadway
  • Casino / 1961 50th Anniversary / Elitist / Inspired by John Lennon
  • Century
  • Deluxe
  • Del Rey
  • DeLuxe Regent
  • Devon
  • DR-100 & 212
  • Dwight Trash Casino
  • Embassy Bass
  • Emperor Regent
  • Emperor Swingster / Royale / Black Royale
  • E422T Century Thinline
  • ET-270
  • ET-275 Crestwood
  • ET-276
  • ET-280 Bass
  • FT-79 Texan
  • FT-140 Japanese made 1970s dreadnought acoustic with a bolt on neck
  • Granada
  • Graveyard Disciple
  • Inspired by 1964 Texan
  • Jack Casady Signature Bass
  • Joe Pass Emperor II
  • Masterbilt Century Series
  • Masterbilt DR-500MCE
  • Masterbilt EF-500RCCE
  • MB-100 & 200 Banjo
  • MM-20 / 30S / 50E Professional Mandolin
  • Olympic
  • PR-150
  • PR-4E
  • PR-5E
  • PR7E
  • PR-715-N
  • Riviera P-90
  • Riviera Custom P93
  • Sheraton II / 1962 50th Anniversary / Union Jack Ltd Edition (inspired by Noel Gallagher)
  • Royale
  • Sonador
  • Sorrento
  • Supernova / Manchester City Blue / Union Jack
  • SST Classic
  • Triunfadora
  • Triumph
  • Triumph Regent
  • Viola Bass
  • Wildkat / Royale
  • Zenith
  • Zephyr
  • Zephyr Deluxe
  • Zephyr Deluxe Regent
  • Wilshire PRO / 1966 Worn / Phantomatic / II / III


Valve junior stack.

Epiphone began producing amplifiers in 1935 with the Electar Hawaiian Lap Steel Guitar Outfit. This outfit was an amplifier, case and lap steel guitar stand all rolled into one unit[5] and was supplied by a suitcase manufacturer of the time. Electar Century and Zephyr amplifier models followed.

Gibson produced Epiphone amplifiers in the 1960s. These were copies or variations of Gibson and Fender amplifiers[citation needed]. They used a tube design, and some had reverb and tremolo. Gibson decided to launch a new line of Epiphone tube amplifiers in 2005 with models including the So Cal, Blues Custom, Epiphone Valve Junior and the solid state Triggerman range. The Valve Hot Rod and Valve Senior followed in 2009. The Valve Hot Rod is a 5 watt amp like the Valve Junior, but has a gain and reverb control. The Valve Senior offers 20 watts of power, with a full equalizer, gain, volume, reverb, and presence control.

As of 2012, Epiphone has ceased production of their line of amplifiers with the exception of the Player and Performance Pack practice amplifiers, available only in Epiphone's starter packages. These Amplifiers were under the Epiphone Electar brand[6]. In 2014 the 1939 Electar Century 18-watt valve amplifier was reissued in an updated 75th anniversary Limited Edition.



Epiphone instruments made between 1957 and 1970 were made beside the Gibson factory at 224 Parsons (Gibson located at 225 Parsons) St and on Elenor St; Kalamazoo, MI 49007. Solid body guitars with flat tops and backs were made at the Elenor Street plants (both Gibson and Epiphone) in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Some of these Epiphone instruments were effectively identical to the relevant Gibson versions, perhaps made with same timber, materials and components as the contemporary equivalent Gibson guitars. Epiphone also continued its production of world class archtop guitars using the same patterns and molds from Epi's New York era. Some specific examples of Gibson-era Epiphone instruments from this period includes the Epiphone Sheraton (co-developed with the Gibson ES-335 & sharing its semi-hollow body, but with, Epiphone's pre-Gibson "Frequensator" tailpiece and "New York" mini-humbucker pickups, and significantly fancier inlays) and Sheraton II (replacing the Frequensator with Gibson's "stop-bar" tailpiece), the Epiphone Casino (similar to the Gibson ES-330), the Epiphone Caballero (similar to the Gibson LG-0), the Epiphone Cortez (similar to the Gibson LG-2), the Epiphone Olympic Special (similar to the Gibson Melody Maker), the Epiphone Sorrento (similar to the Gibson ES-125TC, except for a few cosmetic changes), and the Epiphone Texan (similar to the Gibson J-45, apart from a change in scale-length). The other Kalamazoo-made Epiphones had technical or cosmetic relationship with the similar Gibson version.

Several Epiphone guitars have been produced in the United States after 1971. The Epiphone Spirit and Special were produced in the early 1980s in Kalamazoo.[citation needed] In 1993, three historic Epiphone acoustic guitars, the Texan, Frontier, and Excellente, were produced by Gibson Acoustic in Montana.[citation needed] The Paul McCartney Texan was produced in 2005, and in 2009, the Epiphone Historic Collection was created, beginning with the 1962 Wilshire, built by Gibson Custom. Several other models, such as the Sheraton and John Lennon Casinos, were built in Japan and assembled and finished by Gibson USA.[citation needed]


In the early 1970s, Matsumoku began to manufacture Epiphone instruments in Japan[3] with the production and distribution being managed by Aria, in cooperation with Gibson. At this time, Epiphone ceased production of all of its traditional designs and began manufacturing markedly less expensive guitars, many of which had less traditional bolt-on style necks and unspecified wood types.[7] Some of these guitars had similar body shapes to traditional Epiphone and Gibson designs but had different names while other models retained certain model designations, such as the FT (Flat Top) guitars.[8] Construction of these guitars differed greatly from past Epiphone models. For the first several years of production in Japan, Epiphone guitars were actually rebranded designs already produced by the Matsumoku Company.[3]

By 1975, the Japanese market started seeing some of the more familiar designs and names being reintroduced. These guitars were of higher quality than that of the previous years of production in Japan and included models such as the Wilshire, Emperor, Riviera and Newport bass.[9] These models were available to the Japanese market only. By 1976 new designs of higher quality were being introduced for export but did not include the current Japanese market models. Notable new designs from this era were the Monticello (Scroll Guitar), the Presentation (PR) and Nova series flat tops and the Genesis solid body guitar. By 1980, most Japanese-only designs were available for worldwide distribution. One in particular, the ES930J, was made at the famed Terada factory and was a superior instrument. The Matsumoku-made archtops, such as the Emperor, Riviera, Sheraton and Casino, were available into the mid-1980s.


From the 1980s, Epiphones were manufactured mainly in South Korea and Japan by contractors licensed by Gibson. One of these contractors was Samick, which also built instruments under license for other brands and in its own name. The brand was primarily used to issue less expensive versions of classic Gibson models.<[3]

These guitars were constructed using different woods (generally only distantly related to true Mahogany), were fastened with epoxies rather than wood-glues.[citation needed] Gibson and Epiphone guitars all use Titebond resin glue, which is simple carpenters' wood glue, and were finished in hard, quick-to-apply polyester resin rather than the traditional nitro-cellulose lacquer used by Gibson[citation needed] Epiphone guitars assembled or made in the US use lacquer finishes unless it's a san lacquer (SL for short), but those made outside of the US use a poly urethane finish because of pollution requirements. These particular budget considerations, along with others such as plastic nuts and cheaper hardware and pickups, allow for a more affordable instrument.

Since 1996 the Epiphones were build by the Peerless Guitars Co. Ltd., established in 1970 in Busan, South Korea.


In 2004, Gibson opened a factory in Qingdao, China, which manufactures Epiphone guitars.[10] With few exceptions, Epiphones are now built only in the Qingdao factory.[10]

Unique Epiphone models, including the Emperor, Zephyr, Riviera and Sheraton, are built to higher quality standards than the company's "Gibson copy" line[citation needed]. In 2004 Epiphone introduced a series of acoustic guitars named Masterbilt after a line of guitars of the 1930s, which are built in the same factory.[11]

Imperial Series and ElitistEdit

During the early 1990s Epiphone released a series called the Imperial Series. These were remakes of the classic Epiphone archtops of the 1930s and '40s. Each instrument was handmade in the FujiGen factory in Japan.[citation needed] This short-lived series was discontinued in 1993, after only 42 Emperors were made.[citation needed] Several other models, including De Luxe, Broadway and Triumph models, were also produced in varying quantities.

Production was moved back to Nashville and Bozeman for a similar limited run of instruments (250 each of Sheratons, Rivieras, Frontiers, Excellentes and Texans).[3] These guitars were the "Nashville USA Collection" (archtops) and the "Anniversary Series" (acoustics). Contrary to popular information, this line was related to, but not part of the 1994 Gibson Centennial Series commemorating 100 years of the Gibson Guitar Corporation. The Nashville and Anniversary Collections were intended as reintroductions of original, USA built Epiphone models.

In 2002, Epiphone began producing a range of higher quality instruments under the "Elite Series" moniker which were built by Terada and FujiGen in Japan.[citation needed] After legal action by Ovation the name was changed to Elitist in 2003. As of 2008, all of the Elitist models have been discontinued with the exception of the Elitist Casino and the Dwight Trash Casino. The Epiphone Elitist guitars included features such as higher grade woods, bone nuts, hand-rubbed finishes, "Made in the USA" pickups and USA strings.[12] Japanese domestic market Elitists used the Gibson Dove-wing headstock as opposed to the "tombstone" headstock used on exports.[13]

Serial numbers and factory codesEdit

Current Epiphone serial numbers give the following information:[14]


  • I = Saein
  • U = Unsung
  • S = Samick
  • P or R = Peerless
  • K = Korea
  • F = Fine
  • C = Korea


  • MR = CHINA
  • DW = DaeWon
  • EA = Gibson/QingDao
  • EE = Gibson/QingDao
  • MC = Muse
  • SJ = SaeJung
  • Z = Zaozhuang Saehan
  • BW = China


  • No letter or F = FujiGen
  • J or T = Terada

Czech Republic

  • B = Bohêmia Musico-Delicia


  • CI = cort indonesia
  • SI = Samick Indonesia

Example: SI09034853 SI = Samick Indonesia, 09 = 2009, 03 = March, 4853 = manufacturing number.


  • YY year
  • MM month
  • FF factory-code
  • 12345 production#
  • FACTORY NUMBER CODES—for some models starting in 2008, if serial # begins w/numbers
  • [NOTE: The factories identified by these codes are based on patterns that forum members have observed. The numbers appear as the 5th and sixth digits in the serial number.]
  • 11 = MIC sticker on a '08 Masterbilt
  • 12 = DeaWon or Unsung (China—uncertainty remains as to which factory)
  • 13 = Sticker: Made in China (Unknown factory; Epiphone LP-100)
  • 15 = Qingdao (China) – electric
  • 16 = Qingdao (China) – acoustic
  • 17 = China – factory unknown MIC sticker on a J160E
  • 18 = China – factory unknown found on one 2009 model bass
  • 20 = DaeWon or Unsung (China—uncertainty remains as to which factory)
  • 21 = Unsung, Korea
  • 22 = ??? Korea (factory still unknown)
  • 23 = ??? Indonesia (factory still unknown, probably Samick,)
  • I = Indonesia (this letter has appeared as the 5th digit on two authentic new models made in Indonesia

Players of EpiphoneEdit


  1. ^ "Jim Rosenberg - The Epiphone Interview".[dead link]
  2. ^ Ingram, Adrian. The Gibson L5: Its History and Its Players. Anaheim, CA: Centerstream Pub., 1997. Print.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Epiphone - History". Epiphone.com. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
  4. ^ "Epiphone Les Paul Baritone Review". Guitarhoo!. Guitarhoo.com. June 30, 2004. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  5. ^ "Epiphone – The Vintage Collection". www2.epiphone.com.[dead link]
  6. ^ "Epiphone Introduces Three New Electric Packs!". Epiphone.com. Retrieved 2013-08-20.[dead link]
  7. ^ 1971 & 1974 Epiphone Catalogs
  8. ^ 1974 & 1976 Epiphone catalogs
  9. ^ 1977 Epiphone Japan catalog
  10. ^ a b "A Chat With Epiphone President Jim Rosenberg". Epiphone.com. Retrieved 2013-08-20.[dead link]
  11. ^ "Epiphone Masterbuilt Series" (PDF). Epiphone. Retrieved 2013-09-07.[dead link]
  12. ^ "Epiphone Elitist". Epiphone.com. Retrieved 2013-08-20.[dead link]
  13. ^ 2002 Epiphone Japan Elite/Elitist catalog
  14. ^ "Serial Number Search". Gibson. Retrieved 2013-09-07.

External linksEdit