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 Gibson Epiphone Sheraton Electric Guitar S7025436 Loft Find SuperbEpiphone Limited Edition Les Paul Traditional Pro Electric Guitar -no ReserveVintage 1973 Epiphone Riviera Ea 250 Hollow Body Electric Guitar W/case, JapanEpiphone Slash "afd" Signature Les Paul Special-ii Electric Guitar Includes GigEpiphone Es339 Pro Semi Hollow Electric Guitar Natural60s - 70s Vintage Epiphone Ft79 Texan Pre Gibson Acoustic Guitar Kalamazoo Rare!Vintage 1959 Epiphone Ft79 Texan Pre Gibson Acoustic Guitar Kalamazoo ~rare!Epiphone Les Paul Classic Electric Guitar ~ Grover Tuner Knobs ~ No Reserve Epiphone Emporer Swingster W/bigsby Wine Red No ReserveCruzer "custom Shack" Lp Special Style Electric Guitar,hot Epiphone P90 Pu'sEpiphone Es339 Pro Semi Hollow Electric Guitar EbonyEpiphone Sheraton 2 Semi Hollow BodyEpiphone Es-339 Dot Natural Finish Electric GuitarEpiphone Les Paul Custom Electric GuitarEpiphone Tony Iommi Sg G-400 6 String Electric Guitar1967 Epiphone Eb-232 Rivoli Semi Hollow Electric Bass Vintage Cherry With HcEpiphone " 1962' Crestwood 50th Anniversary R I Solid Body Electric GuitarEpiphone 1958 Korina V W/ Duncan Antiquity1959-60s Epiphone Wilshire Electric Guitar 9 / Crestwood, Coronet ?Epiphone Ej-200 Artist Acoustic Guitar NaturalEpiphone 2012 Hummingbird Pro/fc Faded Cherry Acoustic Electric Guitar2006 Epiphone Les Paul Custom Ebony RefurbishedEpiphone Masterbilt Dr500mce Acoustic Electric Guitar Vintage SunburstEpiphone Flying V Electric Guitar White Body With Hard CaseEpiphone Lp Standard Plus Top Pro Guitar Vintage Sunburst2012 Epiphone Les Paul Standard With UpgradesEpiphone Goth Les Paul Studio Electric Guitar2010 Epiphone Les Paul Custom Shop Limited Edition Electric Guitar Ref. 289315-1Authentic Original 1966 Gibson Epiphone Archtop Sorrento Electric Guitar Epiphone Special Ii Electric GuitarGibson Epiphone Rare All Snow White Wilshire Electric Guitar Batwing Headstock!Epiphone 58 Korina Flying VEpiphone Dot Studio Electric GuitarEpiphone Les Paul Wine Red Electric GuitarEpiphone Les Paul Special-ii Electric Guitar, EbonyEpiphone Electric Guitar, EbonyEpiphone Es-339 Electric Guitar Hollow BodyEpiphone Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar, Honeyburst FinishEpiphone Sg Electric Guitar White Body With Hard Case Rare Epiphone Basher E-series Electric Guitar W/ Paddle Headstock And Gig BagEpiphone Les Paul Custom Pro Electric Guitar, Alpine White, With Gold HardwareEpiphone Sg - Seymour Duncan Pickups - Early 90s Vintage - Good ConditionEpiphone Les Paul Custom Zakk Wylde Electric Guitar W/ Coffin Case (fe2015201)Vintage 1973 Epiphone Et-270 T Electric Guitar With Case, Kurt Cobain, MatsumokuEpiphone Les Paul Standard Plus Top Electric GuitarEpiphone Dot Studio Electric Guitar Faded CherryEpiphone Junior Electric Guitar (lot 10220)Epiphone Dove-e/ch Acoustic Electric Guitar W/hard CaseEpiphone Sg G-400 Custom Electric GuitarEpiphone Sg Special Electric Guitar W/gig BagVtg Epiphone Guitar Shell Ea-250 W/case Usa Needs Work/parts/repair Vgc NrEpiphone Casino Electric Guitar Natural W/hardshell Case! 1995Epiphone Explorer Black Pearl Limited EditionEpiphone Les Paul Custom Pro Electric Guitar, Ebony, With Gold Hardware2001 Epiphone Dot Made In Korea Es335 Hsc Upgraded Wiring And ComponentsEpiphone Les Paul Studio Electric Guitar - Worn Cherry - Excellent Condition!Epiphone Zenith Vintage Jazz Arch Top 1944Epiphone Viola Electric Bass GuitarEpiphone Korina '58 2006 Flying V W/ Gibson Hard Case - No ReserveEpiphone Les Paul Plustop Pro/fx Electric Guitar - No Reserve