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 E472004 Epiphone Elitist Byrdland Hollow Body Electric Guitar Made In JapanEpiphone Japan By Orville Gibson Les Paul Standard 59 Sunburst No Reserve!!! Mij2006 Epiphone Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar - Ebony Black - Right HandedEpiphone Es-339 For Parts Or Repair (body Only)Vintage 70's Epiphone Ea250 Hollow Body Electric Guitar Cherry RedEpiphone Riviera Custom P93 Mg Electric GuitarEpiphone Es-339 Ultra Sunburst Semi Hollow Usb, Original Case, Plek'd, Nr 1 Cent2005 Epiphone Elitist Les Paul Standard Plus, Vgc Husband Is Crying On This One.'58 Epiphone Explorer Project Korina Ebony Gold Hardware Nr!!!Epiphone Masterbuilt Ef-500ra-ns Solid Sitka Spruce Top Acoustic Guitar _3 458Epiphone Wildkat Hollowbody Archtop Guitar W/bigsby Factory 2nd Great Condition!Epiphone Zakk Wylde Les Paul Custom Plus Camo Passive Emghz PickupsEpiphone 1962 Crestwood Reissue Electric Guitar For Parts Or Repair Autographed Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plustop Pro Electric Guitar Limited Edition Epiphone Black Royale Collection - Dot Es-335 W/ohscEpiphone Les Paul Standard Plus Top 2007 Electric Guitar _9 13584Gibson Epiphone 1958 Explorer Korina Reissue GuitarEpiphone Casino 2014 Goldtop Barely UsedEpiphone Riviera P93 Black For Parts Or Repair (body Only)2002 Epiphone 50th Anniversary Les Paul Custom Le Electric Guitar W/ohscEpiphone Les Paul Model Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar Pelham Blue With Case1995 Epiphone Les Paul Standard Cherry Sunburst Guitar With Flame Top! Lot #h323Epiphone Thunderbird Iv Electric Bass GuitarEpiphone Les Paul Standard Black Electric Guitar1994 Epiphone Pr 350-12 12 String Acoustic Guitar With Hard Shell Epi CaseEpiphone Usa Coronet GoldtopEpiphone Les Paul Acoustic/electric UkuleleEpiphone Les Paul Limited Electric GuitarEpiphone Sg Prophecy Custom Gx Electric Guitar With Dirty Fingers PickupsEpiphone Prophecy Les Paul Custom Plus Ex Electric Guitar Epiphone Studio Acoustic 15c 2ch 15 Watt Guitar AmplifierRare Vintage 2003 Model 1956 Epiphone Les Paul Gold Top - Virtually Unplayed NosEpiphone Mm-50l F-style Acoustic-electric Mandolin No Case Pre-owned ConditionOlder Gibson Epiphone S-310 Strat Guitar Loaded Body Complete Pickups BridgeEpiphone Limited Edition Les Paul Standard Florentine Pro - Layaway AvailableEpiphone Limited Edition Les Paul Custom Pro Electric Guitar (alpine White)Epiphone Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar Body And NeckEpiphone Hummingbird Artist Acoustic Guitar Faded Cherry SunburstEpiphone Nighthawk With Hard Case2001 Epiphone Sg Les Paul Custom 3 Pickup Electric Guitar G-400!As-is Empty Epiphone Sg Project Guitar Set Neck Left-handed For RepairEpiphone Les Paul Custom Prophecy W/ Hsc Gibson Usa PupsEpiphone Les Paul Plus Top Pro Enlphbnh1 Electric Guitar, HoneyburstEpiphone Prophecy Les Paul Custom Plus Ex - Midnight SapphireEpiphone Hummingbird Electric Acoustic Guitar For Parts Or Repair Epiphone Broadway Custom 1954 L5 Electric Guitar Rockabilly Blues Country Epiphone Limited Edition Firebird Studio Electric Guitar Body (damaged)Epiphone Limited Edition Les Paul Custom Pro Electric Guitar (ebony) Epiphone Limited Edition Brendon Small Thunderhorse Electric Guitar Damaged Nice Epiphone Les Paul Special Electric Guitar Vintage Sunburst W/gig Bag L@@kVintage1964 Epiphone Ft90 Eldorado Acoustic Epiphone Zakk Wylde Les Paul W/ Coffin Case Epiphone Dot Electric GuitarEpiphone Les Paul Standard Plustop Pro Electric Guitar Translucent BlueEpiphone Double Cut GuitarGibson Epiphone Les Paul Junior Lp Jr Electric Guitar + Gig Bag Case Ready To GoEpiphone Prophecy Les Paul Custom Plus ExEpiphone Acoustic Guitar Ft-79 An TexanEpiphone Ivory Limited Edition Custom Shop Sg Electric Guitar