The archtop is a class of steel-stringed guitar, acoustic or electric, with an arched top similar to a violin’s. Often sporting a pair of f-holes instead of a single, round sound hole, archtops were popular with jazz, blues, and country musicians, and are widely associated with music of the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s.

Gibson is considered the inventor of the archtop guitar, if not the archtop stringed instrument, which, of course, goes back centuries. Acoustic Gibson archtops from 1902 to the mid-1920s such as the early O and L models are collected more for their historical value than their sound quality. Gibsons from the second half of the 1920s through the early 1930s are somewhat better regarded, especially guitars with f-holes. But the best acoustic Gibson archtops are the prewar models, including the Super 400s and the L-5s, particularly those with cutaway bodies and natural finishes.

Prewar Gibson electric archtops are some of the most sought-after electric guitars around. Especially prized are the ES-150 (introduced in 1936, it had a sunburst finish) and ES-250 (a bit bigger than the 150, it was introduced in 1939 and was offered in sunburst or natural). Postwar models that fetch high prices include the L-5CES and Super 400CES, both of which were introduced in 1951 and are still in production. Of the more recent electric Gibson archtops, the acoustic Citation with humbucking pickups from 1969 is revered for its gold-plated hardware and fleur-de-lis inlays.

Though best known for its flat-top acoustic guitars, Martin made a few acoustic archtops in the 1930s, and an even smaller number of electric archtops in the early 1960s. Acoustic models include styles C (1931), F (1935); and R (1932); electrics were released in the F (1961) and GT (1965) series. Sure they are Martins, but archtops are not what Martin fans and collectors are looking for, or what the company did best, so prices for the instruments reflect their lukewarm demand.

In 1939, Gretsch came out with an acoustic competitor to Gibson’s 1935 Super 400, the Art Deco-styled Synchromatic—not coincidentally, its top-of-the-line model number was also 400. The Synchromatics were unique in that they had a stairstep bridge, a harp-shaped tailpiece, an asymmetrical neck, and cat’s-eye sound holes instead of the more traditional-looking f-holes. But the quality of these Gretsch guitars was never as good as Gibson’s, or even Epiphone’s, so the guitars are not aggressively collected today, despite their age.

When it comes to archtops, Gretsch is better known and regarded for its electric models, particularly the single-cutaway versions of the drop-dead-gorgeous White Falcon (1955) and the Chet Atkins Country Gentleman. Introduced as the Chet Atkins Hollow Body in 1954, the Gentleman was renamed in 1957 and achieved its greatest fame in 1964 when George Harrison of The Beatles played a double-cutaway model on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

During the 1950s, Guild staked its reputation on archtop guitars, which represent some of the company’s most collectible vintage instruments. One example is the A-50 Granada from 1956, which had a laminated-maple body with a sunburst finish, a rosewood bridge and fingerboard, and a three-piece mahogany and maple neck...

Of Guild’s electric archtops, the X-550 (a blond bombshell from 1953) and Aristocrat M-75 (1954) are two prizes from the 1950s. For ’60s fans, the DE-500 (DE stands for Duane Eddy, a popular guitarist when this archtop was introduced in 1962) and George Barnes (in 1963, Guild named a guitar for the acclaimed jazz guitarist) are most collected.

Last but not least is Epiphone, which, in the late 1920s, introduced a complete line of “Recording” acoustic archtop guitars. The guitars had model names from A through E and came in spruce and maple. Today these old archtops are either played by blues musicians or treasured by collectors. Even more prized are the later acoustic archtops. Models to look for include the Broadway (1931 to 1958), De Luxe (1931 to 1957), and Emperor (1935 to mid-1950s).

Epiphone’s electric archtops are generally not as collectible as its acoustic counterparts, but collectors and players still seek out double-cutaway versions of the electric Emperor archtop (only 66 copies were made). Blond versions of the Sheraton from 1958 are also rare and in demand.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vintage Guitars Info

Vintage Guitars Info

This great reference site features detailed sections for vintage guitar makers including Gibson, Fender, Martin, Gr… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Want to see all the old brochures and ads for your favorite vintage axe? Check out this great site, which showcases… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage 1968 Gibson Es-335td Electric Archtop Guitar ~ Super Nice! Great Tone!1936 Vintage Project Pre War Epiphone Blackstone Archtop Carved Curly MaplePeavey Arch Top Evh Usa Wolfgang Electric Guitar Vintage White Van Halen & Case1952 Gretsch Syncrhomatic 100 Archtop Acoustic Guitar CaseHarmony H950 Monterey "f" Hole Archtop Bowlback Guitar! Vintge 1964! Extra NiceVintage 1930's/1940's Gibson Kalamazoo Archtop Acoustic Guitar Project RepairHarmony H1414 Patrician Archtop Acoustic W/original Chipboard Case And Strap! Archtop German Huttl Huettl Acoustic Old Guitar Vintage Antique No Framus HofnerVintage Kay Hollowbody Guitar Hollow Body Set Neck Arch Top No ReserveHarmony 1954 Brilliant Cutaway H-1310 Archtop SweetVintage Harmony Archtop Brilliant Cutaway Guitar H1310Vintage 1950 To 1953 Gibson Es 150 Hollow Body Electric Arch Top GuitarVintage Circa 1950's Tempo Acoustic Archtop Guitar / Matsumoku Free ShippingVintage Antique Acoustic Archtop Jazz Guitar W/ F Holes No Markings Cloth LinedThe Loar Lh319 Hand Carved Archtop Electric Guitar1920 Gibson L-1 Acoustic L1 Rare!! Pre War Arch Top Original Peavey Usa Evh Wolfgang Gold Top H/t Usa Arch Top Guitar Evh 1962 Gibson Es 125 Tdc Cherry Sunburst Archtop Vintage Blues Rock Jazz KalamazooParker Pj12 J Man Sunburst- Jazz Archtop Silvertone Archtop Acoustic Early 50's No ReserveBeautiful 1990s-era Samick Artist Edition Archtop Jazz Guitar With CaseVintage Guild Ce-100 Archtop Hollow Body, 1979 Original Blonde, And Awesome! Wishnevsky Archtop Tenor Guitar. Factory Maple Body, 21" Scale, Piezo Pickup Benedetto Archtop Jazz Pickup With Vintage Style Pickguard Assembly No Reserve!Talented Peasant Parlor Archtop Guitar; Appalachian Hand-craftedEastman Ar372ce Archtop Electric Guitar, Maple Body, Hsc!!! Es-175 CopyVintage Circa 1950's Tempo Acoustic Archtop Guitar / Matsumoku Arch Top Vintage 1963 Harmony Broadway Archtop Model 327-h954Guild X-170 Archtop GuitarGodin 5th AvenueArchtop Electric Guitar With Hsc Nice Jazz Guitar1950s Vintage West Point Archtop Acoustic Guitar By Kay - Project!Archtop Jazz Guitar Gretsch Binding Falcon Luthier 6120 Project 25" Prs ScaleIbanez Ss300-dvs Artstar Jazz Archtop Hollow Body Elec Guitar Solid Spruce TopEpiphone Zephyr Regent Archtop Guitar With Gibson PickupB Stock Lp Style Spalted Maple Arch Top Electric Guitar Builder - 6Chrome Tremolo Vibrato Bridge Tailpiece Hollowbody Archtop For GuitarAlvarez Jumbo Archtop Guitar Case Godin 5th Avenue Archtop Acoustic Guitar Black SgEpiphone Wildkat Archtop Electric Guitar Bigsby Vibrotone Hardware 116739 JmIbanez Ak85 Electric Guitar - Artcore Archtop Must See!Epiphone Archtop Sheraton Ii Electric GuitarKay Archtop GuitarRare Vintage Original Hopf Arch Top Big Body 17" Jazz Guitar "project"* Vintage/rare 1970 Norma Archtop Barney Kessel Style Guitar--No Reserve B Stock Lp Style Arch Top Electric Guitar Builder Projectkit 1Victoria Guitar Case Vintage Archtop Gibson Etc. Cool No Reserve Needs HandleGibson Style Vintage Acoustic Archtop CaseEmg Pickup Active _jazz Style For Archtop_slim ProfileVintage Harmony Made Silvertone Catalina 1959 Cool Archtop Monterey Colorama Lp Style Flame Maple Arch Top Electric Guitar Builder ProjectkitArchtop Guitar Tail Piece TailpieceDean Performer Arch Top (patec) Blueburst Acoustic Electric GuitarWashburn Fullsize Archtop Hollow Body Jazz Guitar Tailpiece Chrome (no Screws) Cherry Archtop Style Pickguard #3