Anastasios Stathopoulo, the Greek founder of the company that would become Epiphone, arrived in New York in 1903 from Turkey. In the beginning, the company produced traditional stringed instruments. After Anastasios died in 1915, Stathopoulo’s son Epimanondas moved his father’s company into the production of banjos. The shift came just in time to catch the American banjo craze of the 1920s, and by 1928, the company had changed its name to the Epiphone Banjo Company (“Epi” being Epimanondas’s nickname, “phone” being Greek for “sound”).

Even then, banjos were not Epiphone’s sole focus, and a good thing, too. When the bottom fell out of the stock market, banjo demand ebbed, so it helped that Epiphone was ready for the 1930s with a complete line of “Recording” archtop and flat-top acoustic guitars, which were given model names from A through E. The guitars came in spruce and maple, and these old archtops are either played today by blues musicians or treasured by collectors.

They weren't a hit at the time, however, their sound too timid compared to the big, boomy Gibson L-5. Thus began a decades-long rivalry with Gibson, in which Epiphone would try to outdo its tough competitor by copying Gibson’s dimensions, the use of f-holes (some Epiphones would have four), the style of its pegheads, and even its model names (Gibson had its Master Model line; Epiphone had a Masterbilt Series).

Epiphone Masterbilts of the early 1930s included the Broadway (the Regent version has a single cutaway), DeLuxe, Tudor, Triumph, and Zenith. Epimanondas made sure his company’s guitars were just a little bit bigger than Gibson’s, often by no more than 3/8ths of an inch in width. It was a silly feud but the guitars won the respect of some of the best musicians of the day, including Les Paul, who would become better known for the Gibson that bears his name.

Epiphone jumped into the electric market with the Electar archtop Spanish-style guitar in 1935, challenging Rickenbacker, which had pioneered the practice in 1931. Electrified Hawaiian guitars followed in 1939 (Gibson introduced one the same year), and in 1940, Epiphone launched a line of upright basses that are highly regarded by collectors and players today.

World War II put the fight between the instrument makers on hold, and by the end of the war, Epimanondas had succumbed to leukemia. Epi’s surviving siblings squabbled among themselves and the company drifted. Meanwhile, Gibson sharpened its game, looking past Epiphone to the west as it fought a new competitor in the electric arena, Fender. Finally, in 1957, the company that owned Gibson bought the upright-bass division of Epiphone for a fire-sale price.

At first, Gibson’s legendary general manager, Ted McCarty, planned to just build on the good name of the Epiphone basses, but it quickly became clear that using the Epiphone name...

In fact, the Epiphones of this period—from the late 1950s until the middle of the 1960s—were, and are, considered poor-man’s Gibsons, although two factors have made some of the electric guitars quite collectible. One is their relative scarcity. For example, only 66 copies of the double-cutaway version of the Emperor were made, and blond versions of the Sheraton from 1958 are also rare and in demand.

But the other factor that has made some Gibson-built Epiphone guitars collectible was the list of artists who played them. For one model from 1961, the Casino, three out of four of The Beatles (Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and George Harrison), played the guitar, McCartney most famously for his solos on “Ticket to Ride” and “Taxman.”

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 on 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 1940's Epiphone Blackstone Electric Hollow Body W/ Dearmond Pup, Us MadeEpiphone 2015 Casino Hollowbody Electric Guitar With Epiphone Hard CaseEpiphone Les Paul Korea Blue Electric 6 String Guitar With Soft Case Instrument Dearmond Super Rhythm Chief 1100 1960 For Gibson L-5c Deangelico EpiphoneEpiphone Es-339 P90 Pro Semi-hollowbody Electric Guitar NaturalEpiphone Limited Edition Es-335 Pro Electric Guitar NaturalEpiphone Wildkat Hollowbody Electric Guitar With Bigsby Wine RedEpiphone Les Paul Custom Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plustop Pro Electric Guitar Translucent BlueEpiphone Dot 335 Semi-hollowbody Archtop Electric Guitar, Cherry RedEpiphone Limited Edition Wildkat Royale Electric Guitar Pearl WhiteEpiphone Dot Electric Guitar, Vintage SunburstEpiphone Limited Edition Riviera Custom P93 Electric Guitar RedEpiphone Rivoli Ebv232 Electric Bass GuitarJohn Lennon Revolution Epiphone Casino Limited Edition 946 Of 1965Epiphone Eb-0 Bass, Short Scale, Easy To Play, Good For Beginner Or TravelGibson Epiphone Les Paul Electric GuitarVintage 1965 Epiphone Olympic Electric Guitar Sunburst Light Weight W/ Hard CaseEpiphone Limited Edition Es-335 Pro Electric Guitar CherryEpiphone Dot Studio Sunburst Rare!~floor Model~lightly Strummed FlawlessEpiphone Ej-200 Jumbo Acoustic In Vintage Sunburst! Excellent Condition! Epiphone Emperor Regent As Archtop Acoustic Electric Jazz Style GuitarEpiphone Lp Special Model 6-string Electric Guitar New No Reserve !Gibson Epiphone GuitarEpiphone Les Paul Quilt Top Pro Electric Guitar Faded Cherry SunburstEpiphone Archtop Sheraton Electric GuitarEpiphone Joe Bonomassa Les Paul Electric Guitar With Lifton Style Case, GoodiesEpiphone Les Paul Right Handed Electric Guitar Sunburst 253664 TjbaEpiphone Les Paul ProphecyEpiphone Les Paul Standard Plustop Pro Electric Guitar Wine RedVintage Circa 1982 Epiphone Genesis Electric Guitar Plays Great No Reserve!!!!!!Epiphone Model E452td 6 String Electric Guitar + Coa + Hard Case (no Stand)Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plustop Pro Electric Guitar, HoneyburstEpiphone Les Paul Standard Plustop Pro Electric Guitar, Translucent BlueEpiphone Vintage Lap Steel Guitar For Restoration. Epiphone Texan Elitist Acoustic Lefty!. Owned By Ardy Sarraf Of Fab FourEpiphone Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar BlackNew Epiphone Casino Archtop Electric Guitar, Vintage Sunburst Epiphone Et-290 Vintage Electric Guitar With Original Case 1970sSpider Ii Line 6 Amp 120 Watt Amp + Gibson Epiphone Les Paul Standard GuitarEpiphone Casino Inspired By John LennonEpiphone Les Paul Standard Plustop Pro Electric Guitar, Vintage SunburstEpiphone Sg 1966 Reissue G400 Wine Red Professionally Repaired See PicsEpiphone Les Paul Standard Plus Top Pro Iced Tea BurstVintage Electric Lap Steel Guitar Knobs /epiphone / Lot Of 2 /1930's/ Nice Org.Slash Epiphone Les Paul Rosa Corsa Epiphone 50th Anniversary 1962 Sheraton Epiphone Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar W/ Hardshell CaseEpiphone Limited Edition Les Paul Quilt Top Pro Electric Guitar Translucent BlueEpiphone Dot Studio 2013 Limited Ed. Cherry Gloss Electric Guitar Local Pick Up Epiphone Es335 Dot 2009 Epiphone White Le Les Paul Studio Guitar Project Neck/headstock FracturesEpiphone Les Paul Standard Electric GuitarEpiphone Limited Edition Lee Malia Signature Les Paul Custom Walnut GuitarEpiphone Sg G-400 Deluxe Electric Guitar Cherry RedEpiphone Inspired By 1964 Texan Acoustic/electric GuitarEpiphone Les Paul Special Ii Electric Guitar Vintage SunburstEpiphone Thunderbird Classic Pro-iv Electric Bass Guitar Gibson PickupsEpiphone Limited Edition Les Paul Quilt Top Pro Electric Guitar Beautiful Les Paul Model Epiphone Ukulele Soft Case Acoustic / Electric Sunburst