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 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    

1954-5 Vintage Epiphone Century Electric Archtop BlondGibson Epiphone Flying V 6 String Guitar W/ Hard Case ~ Fully TestedEpiphone Limited Edition 2014 Left Handed Casino No Reserve!! LeftyEpiphone Dr-100 Acoustic Guitar, Vintage SunburstEpiphone Les Paul Standard Plus Flame Maple Electric Guitar W/hsc Made In Korea1965 Epiphone Olympic Batwing Headstock Cherry Red Original Gibson No Reserve2005 Epiphone Gibson Firebird Vii Sunburst Gold Hardware No Reserve W CaseVintage 1986-1988 Epiphone Sheraton Ii Samick Made Korea W/hsc ExcellentEpiphone Les Paul Pro Fx Plus Top Electric Guitar W. Floyd Rose And CaseEpiphone Ej-200ce 6 String Acoustic Electric Guitar With Case'03 Gibson Epiphone Les Paul Custom Electric Guitar White Fantastic No Reserve!!Epiphone Sheraton Ll 2005 Superior Korean Era 335 Style Original Clean NoresreveEpiphone Gibson Les Paul Studio Black Electric Guitar Nice - No Reserve See PicsEpiphone Lp-100 Les Paul Electric Guitar,Epiphone Es-339 ProEpiphone Es 339 Limited Edition Tv Pelham Blue Collection1995 Epiphone Non Reverse Thunderbird Electric Bass GuitarEpiphone Masterbilt Dr-500mce Dreadnought Acoustic Electric Guitar W/case - RhEpiphone Les Paul By Gibson2004 Epiphone By Gibson Dot-bk Electric Guitar Black With CaseEpiphone Floyd Rose Explorer Futura Locking Tremelo Trans Black No Reserve Ibanez Gio 4 String Electric Bass Guitar 32" Medium Scale Gibson Epiphone RipperEpiphone Riviera P93 Custom Shop- Semi Hollow- Wine Red - Electric Guitar W/caseEpiphone Eb-1 With Gibson Eb Pickup From The 1950s, Many UpgradesEpiphone Les Paul Bass Guitar 2003 Epiphone Les Paul Standard Quilt Maple Top Cherry Red Duncan Pus No ReserveEpiphone Ej-200ce Acoustic-electric Guitar, Shadow Preamp, Vintage SunburstEpiphone By Gibson Les Paul Standard Cherrry Sunburst Made In JapanEpiphone Les Paul Custom Prophecy W/ Hsc Gibson Usa PupsEpiphone Les Paul Custom Sunburst By GibsonEpiphone Casino Guitar W/caseEpiphone Les Paul Standard Model Cherry Sunburst With Case2010 Epiphone Riviera Mini Humbucker90's Gold Sparkle Epiphone Les PaulEpiphone Les Paul Special Limited Edition Custom Shop W/ P90 Electric GuitarEpiphone Les Paul Blue Electric Guitar Epiphone Les Paul Standard Honey Burst Electric 6 String Guitar (hard Case)Epiphone Casino Coupe Hollowbody Electric Guitar Natural In Hard CaseUsed Guitar Neck Conrad Epiphone Et-270/275 Aria Univox Teisco C2266Cream Epiphone By Gibson Sheraton Korea Semi-hollow 6 String + Hard Shell CaseEpiphone Limited Edition Matt Heafy Les Paul Custom Electric GuitarCherry Epiphone Eb-3 Electric Bass Guitar With Upgraded Dimarzio Dp120 Pickup Epiphone Les Paul Special Ii Electric GuitarUsed Tremolo Epiphone Et-270/275 Aria Univox Conrad Teisco C2233Epiphone Masterbilt Aj-500r Ns Advanced Jumbo Acoustic GuitarEpiphone Nighthawk Custom Reissue Flamed Maple Honeyburst MintEpiphone G-400 Clapton Sg 'the Fool Reissue Hand Painted Original No Reserve!F07 Epiphone Dot Es 345 Aw WhiteEpiphone Casino With Bigsby!Epiphone (out Of Production) Ej-200 Artist Acoustic GuitarEpiphone Hummingbird Acoustic GuitarEpiphone Les Paul 100 Guitar W/ Hard Case, No Reserve!!! Free Shipping!!!Epiphone Goth Les Paul Studio Electric GuitarEpiphone Les Paul 100/junior Hybrid (rare) Grover Tuners And HumbuckerUsed Epiphone Les Paul Special Limited Edition Custom Shop - VgcEpiphone Archtop Es-175 Reissue Electric Guitar With Compensated Brass Nut & BagLimited Edition John Lennon Ej-160e Vg Epiphone Acoustic Electric Guitar * NrEpiphone Thunderbird Bass 4 String Display Sales Model Used Guitar Body Conrad Epiphone Et-270/275 Aria Univox Teisco C2234Epiphone Wildkat Archtop Electric Guitar, Bigsby Vibrotone Hardware