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 Epiphone Casino Player Electric Hollowbody Guitar W Hard Shell Case E76Epiphone Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar With "burstbucker" PickupsCherry Red Gibson Epiphone Special Ii Solid Body Electric Guitar Sn Sj05080740Silvertone Teisco Mosrite Style Body Epiphone 12 Xii Neck What! Electric Guitar1966 Epiphone Casino John LennonEpiphone Dot Semi Hollow Electric Guitar Cherry, Professional Headstock RepairVintage 1950s Epiphone Pre Gibson 6 Tube Amplifier Amp 30 Century 2002 Epiphone Elite Standard Gibson Les Paul Elitist Made N Japan Mij Tea Burst2002 Epiphone Elite Standard Gibson Les Paul Elitist Made N Japan Mij Tea BurstEpiphone Dot Es-335 Cherry Red Semi-hollow Body Guitar In Hard Shell CaseEpiphone Limited Edition Les Paul Quilt Top W/hard Case12 String Epiphone Dove Acoustic GuitarEpiphone Les Paul Custom Pro *broken Head Stock*Epiphone Sheraton Ii 2009 Upgraded W/ '57 Classic Paf Pickups & HscEpiphone Mm-50e / Vn Mandolin With Hard CaseEpiphone Masterbilt Masterbuilt Dr-rans 500 D 45 Guitar With New HardcaseLimited Edition Epiphone Les Paul Custom Pro Guitar In Wine RedEpiphone Ej-200sce Acoustic-electric Guitar Vintage SunburstEpiphone B.b. King Lucille Electric GuitarEpiphone Casino Arch Top Electric Guitar - In Box - NaturalEpiphone Spirit Vintage Electric Guitar In Case Epiphone Bass Guitar Model Ebo/ch Red In Good Shape With Carrying Case 2002 Epiphone Les Paul Standard Black UpgradedEpiphone Wildkat Hollowbody Electric Guitar Wine RedEpiphone Chet Atkins Electric Classical GuitarEpiphone Les Paul Traditional Pro Electric Guitar Red Finish NewEpiphone G-1275 Double Neck Electric GuitarEpiphone 1990's Green S-310 Strat Syle Guitar Epiphone Es-175/vs Hollow Body Electric GuitarEpiphone Ej-200 Acoustic GuitarEpiphone Es-339 ProEpiphone Casino Electric GuitarGibson Epiphone Acoustic GuitarEpiphone Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar 6 String Used (see Description)Epiphone Black Les Paul Set Neck & Body Electric Guitar ProjectEpiphone Les Paul Standard Plain Top Electric Guitar Ebony Damaged, "u Fix It"Epiphone Les Paul Black Beauty 3 Triple-pickup Electric Guitar - Great ConditonGreat Condition!!! Epiphone Goth Les Paul Studio Guitar UsedGibson The Epiphone Mm-50 F Style Solid Top Mandolin Acoustic Guitar Vint SunEpiphone Limited Edition Genesis Deluxe Pro Electric Guitar "crack In Neck"Epiphone Pr-5e Acoustic Electric Guitar. Good Condition. No Case.Epiphone Archtop Wildkat Electric GuitarEpiphone Bass GuitarEpiphone Limited Edition Brendon Small Thunderhorse ExplorerEpiphone Masterbilt Ef 500rcce With Factory CaseEpiphone Bluegrass Mandobird Viii MandolinRare 1996 Purple Sparkle Korean Made Epiphone Les PaulEpiphone S Style "strat" Loaded With Rockfield "bad Ass" HumbuckerEpiphone Les Paul Peewee Electric And Carry Bag Epiphone Jr. Tobacco Sunburst Solid Body Electric Guitar - Fair Condition Epiphone Pr4e Player Cutaway Acoustic Electric Guitar1992 Beige Epiphone Gibson Sheraton-nEpiphone Les Paul Standard Plustop Pro - Honey Burst With CaseEpiphone Sg G-400 Deluxe Electric Guitar WhiteEpiphone Ejumbo Deluxe Ej200 Series Acoustic Guitar Case New Epiphone Dot Left Handed CherryEpiphone Les Paul Standard - Vintage Sunburst - Right Handed Electric GuitarNice Epiphone Ej-200 Eb - Jumbo Acoustic Guitar 6 String Rh - Black - W/ CaseEpiphone Les Paul Standard Cherry Sunburst With CaseGibson Epiphone Flying V Black 7 String Electric Guitar Sn- U00020865