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    

1941 Epiphone Triumph Vintage Jazz Archtop Guitar Sunburst Epi W Ohsc E47Epiphone Japan By Orville Gibson Les Paul Standard 59 Sunburst No Reserve!!! Mij2004 Epiphone Elitist Byrdland Hollow Body Electric Guitar Made In JapanEpiphone Wildkat Hollowbody Archtop Guitar W/bigsby Factory 2nd Great Condition!Epiphone Riviera Custom P93 Mg Electric GuitarEpiphone Es-339 Ultra Sunburst Semi Hollow Usb, Original Case, Plek'd, Nr 1 CentEpiphone Les Paul Standard Plus Top 2007 Electric Guitar _9 13584Epiphone Les Paul Limited Electric GuitarAutographed Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plustop Pro Electric Guitar 2005 Epiphone Elitist Les Paul Standard Plus, Vgc Husband Is Crying On This One.Electric Guitar Les P@ul Dc Double Cutaway W/ Epiphone Pickup Luthier ProjectEpiphone Mm-50l F-style Acoustic-electric Mandolin No Case Pre-owned ConditionEpiphone Prophecy Les Paul Custom Plus Ex Electric Guitar Epiphone - Limited Edition Custom Shop - Firebird - Korea - Electric Guitar1999 Gibson Epiphone Sg Les Paul Custom***korean Made*** W/original Hard Case***Epiphone Elitist Les Paul Standard PlusEpiphone Les Paul Standard, Gold, Gig Bag, New Strings.Epiphone Limited Edition Les Paul Custom Pro Electric Guitar (alpine White)2002 Epiphone Les Paul Elite Mij Sunburst Epi Japan Near Mint W/hardshell CaseEpiphone Prophecy Les Paul Custom Plus Ex - Midnight Sapphire1995 Epiphone Les Paul Standard Cherry Sunburst Guitar With Flame Top! Lot #h323Epiphone Usa Coronet Goldtop2006 Epiphone Sg White Electric Guitar With Dual Humbucking Pickups! Lot #h324Epiphone Studio Acoustic 15c 2ch 15 Watt Guitar AmplifierEpiphone Les Paul Standard Plustop Pro Electric Guitar Translucent BlueEpiphone Zakk Wylde Les Paul Custom Plus Camo Passive Emghz PickupsAs-is Empty Epiphone Sg Project Guitar Set Neck Left-handed For RepairEpiphone Les Paul Plus Top Pro Enlphbnh1 Electric Guitar, HoneyburstEpiphone Les Paul 1960 Tribute Plus - Exceptional Aaa Flame Top - MintEpiphone Nighthawk With Hard CaseEpiphone Sheraton 1997 Samick Plant (korean)Vintage Epiphone Ea-250 Project Guitar Gibson Es-335 StyleVintage 1965 Epiphone Ft-30 "caballero" Folk Acoustic, Vgcond, New Hsc!Epiphone Dove Pro Vintage Burst W/fishman Sonitone Pickup, Excellent ConditionEpiphone Les Paul Standard Plus Top Electric Guitar Body And NeckEpiphone Prophecy Les Paul Custom Plus Gx - Black CherrySweet Epiphone Les Paul Ultra-iii Electric Guitar Midnight Sapphire & Case * NrEpiphone Black Nighthawk Custom Reissue With Seymour Duncans & New Hard CaseEpiphone Les Paul Plus Top Pro Enlpwrnh1 Electric Guitar, Wine RedStunning Flight Case For Gibson 335, Epiphone Dot, Sheraton, Casino, Brand New Gibson Epiphone Les Paul Special 1 One Wine Red 6-string Electric GuitarEpiphone Limited Edition Les Paul Custom Pro Electric Guitar (ebony)Epiphone Dot Semi Hollowbody Electric GuitarEpiphone Vintage Joe Pass Emperor Ii Electric Guitar No Reserve!!!Gibson Epiphone Flying V *model Veewee/bk *indonesia W/case! PeeweeEpiphone Les Paul Gold Top '56 Electric Guitar Hard Case 6 String Right HandedEpiphone Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar Body And NeckEpiphone Casino 2014 Goldtop Barely UsedEpiphone Les Paul Custom Electric Guitar W/ Gibson 490t W/ CaseEpiphone Dr-500mce With Stereo Electronics 6 String Right HandedEpiphone Es 335 Dot Project Guitar For Parts Or Repair. NrEpiphone Sg Short Scale BassGibson Epiphone Les Paul Pee Wee Sunburst 6-string Electric GuitarVintage Epiphone Ft-150 Bard Bolt On Neck Acoustic Guitar Japan Epiphone Prophecy Les Paul Custom Plus ExEpiphone Mandobird-viii MandolinNice Black Epiphone Sg Special Electric Guitar Very Versatile And Light L@@kEpiphone Es-339 Pro Ebony Semi-hollowbody Electric Guitar1996 Epiphone Les Paul Gibson Electric Bass Guitar Epiphone Limited Edition Brendon Small Thunderhorse Electric Guitar Damaged