Last updated
Type Subsidiary
Industry Musical instruments
Founded1873;148 years ago (1873)
Smyrna, Ottoman Empire
FounderAnastasios Stathopoulos
Area served
Key people
Jim Rosenberg (President) [1]
Products Electric, acoustic, archtop & resonator guitars
Effects units
Parent Gibson
Website Official website

Epiphone is an American musical instrument brand that traces its roots to a musical instrument manufacturing business founded in 1873 by Anastasios Stathopoulos in Smyrna, Ottoman Empire and moved to New York City in 1908. After taking over his father's business, Epaminondas Stathopoulos named the company "Epiphone" as a combination of his own nickname "Epi" and the suffix "-phone" (from Greek phon-, "voice") [2] in 1928, the same year it began making guitars.


In 1957, Epiphone, Inc. was purchased by Gibson, its main rival in the archtop guitar market at the time. Gibson relocated Epiphone's manufacturing operation from its original Queens, New York factory to Gibson's Kalamazoo, Michigan factory. Over time, as Gibson moved its own manufacturing operations to other facilities, Epiphone followed suit; Gibson has also subcontracted the construction of Epiphone products to various facilities in the US and internationally. Today, Epiphone is still used as a brand for the Gibson company, both for budget models of other Gibson-branded products and for several Epiphone-exclusive models. Aside from guitars, Epiphone has also made double basses, banjos, and other string instruments, as well as amplifiers.


Epiphone began in 1873, in Smyrna, Ottoman Empire (now İzmir, Turkey), where Greek founder Anastasios Stathopoulos made his own fiddles and lutes (oud, laouto). Stathopoulos moved to the United States in 1903 and continued to make his original instruments, as well as mandolins, from a factory at 35-37 36th Street in Long Island City, Queens, New York. Anastasios died in 1915, and his son, Epaminondas ("Epi"), took over. After two years, the company became known as The House of Stathopoulo. [2] Just after the end of World War I, the company started to make banjos. The company produced its recording line of banjos in 1924 and, four years later, took on the name of the Epiphone Banjo Company. It produced its first guitars in 1928. After Epi died in 1943, control of the company went to his brothers, Orphie and Frixo. In 1951, a four-month-long strike precipitated a relocation of Epiphone from New York City to Philadelphia. In 1957 the company was acquired by Gibson. [2] Since then, the brand has been used for a number of different guitars, some manufactured by Gibson itself in its own factories, and some manufactured by other companies such as Matsumoku under contract to Gibson and marketed under the Epiphone brand.


Historically, Epiphone branded guitars have fallen broadly into three categories. Firstly, Epiphone is used as a "budget brand" for Gibson, producing identically-named but lower-priced versions of popular Gibson models, such as the Epiphone Les Paul, which serves as a budget model comparable to the Gibson Les Paul. Secondly, Epiphone has also been used to brand models under alternate names, but are otherwise similar to more expensive Gibson-branded guitars, for example the Epiphone G-400 is functionally equivalent to the Gibson SG, and the Epiphone Dot is essentially a budget version of the Gibson ES-335. Occasionally, the Epiphone version of the guitar is historically better known, for example the Epiphone Casino, functionally identical to the Gibson ES-330, is better known due to its close association with artists such as The Beatles. Thirdly are models which are exclusive to the Epiphone brand without equivalent models produced under the Gibson brand, such as the Epiphone Coronet.

As of January 2021, [3] Epiphone was marketing guitars under several lines, including several categorized on their website as "inspired by Gibson" for models that serve as the budget Gibson version. Historically, hundreds of different models have borne the Epiphone brand, and many are available in the used guitar market.

Gibson-equivalent electric guitars

Epiphone-exclusive electric guitars

Gibson-equivalent acoustic guitars

Epiphone-exclusive acoustic guitars

Epiphone PR-5E VS Cutaway Acoustic Electric Guitar (Vintage Sunburst).jpg
PR-5E VS Cutaway Acoustic.
Epiphone ET-270T Kurt Cobain's autographed @ HRC Pennsylvania.jpg
ET-270T with Kurt Cobain's autograph.
John Lennon's guitar, Imagine room replica of the Beatles Story museum.jpg
Casino model, used by John Lennon.
Epiphany banjos at the American Banjo Museum, "Recording", "Concert Deluxe", "Dragon Emperor", "Recording Dragon Custom".jpg
Jazz Age Epiphone banjos at the American Banjo Museum, “Recording”, “Concert Deluxe”, “Dragon Emperor”, “Recording Dragon Custom” models.
1945 Epiphone Blackstone archtop guitar, made in New York.
Epiphone Mandolin, Clearleft Hack Farm 2012.jpg
Modern Epiphone mandolin


Valve junior stack. Epiphone valve junior stack.jpg
Valve junior stack.

Epiphone began producing amplifiers in 1935 with the Electar Hawaiian Lap Steel Guitar Outfit. This outfit was an amplifier, case and lap steel guitar stand all rolled into one unit [4] and was supplied by a suitcase manufacturer of the time. Electar Century and Zephyr amplifier models followed.

Gibson produced Epiphone amplifiers in the 1960s. These were copies or variations of Gibson and Fender amplifiers[ citation needed ]. They used a tube design, and some had reverb and tremolo. Gibson decided to launch a new line of Epiphone tube amplifiers in 2005 with models including the So Cal,Blues Custom, Epiphone Valve Junior and the solid state Triggerman range. The Valve Hot Rod and Valve Senior followed in 2009. The Valve Hot Rod is a 5 watt amp like the Valve Junior, but has a gain and reverb control. The Valve Senior offers 20 watts of power, with a full equalizer, gain, volume, reverb, and presence control.

As of 2012, Epiphone has ceased production of their line of amplifiers with the exception of the Player and Performance Pack practice amplifiers, available only in Epiphone's starter packages. These Amplifiers were under the Epiphone Electar brand. [5] In 2014 the 1939 Electar Century 18-watt valve amplifier was reissued in an updated 75th anniversary Limited Edition.


United States

Epiphone instruments made between 1957 and 1970 were made beside the Gibson factory at 224 Parsons (Gibson located at 225 Parsons) St and on Elenor St; Kalamazoo, MI 49007. Solid body guitars with flat tops and backs were made at the Elenor Street plants (both Gibson and Epiphone) in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Some of these Epiphone instruments were effectively identical to the relevant Gibson versions, perhaps made with same timber, materials and components as the contemporary equivalent Gibson guitars. Epiphone also continued its production of world class archtop guitars using the same patterns and molds from Epi's New York era.

Some specific examples of Gibson-era Epiphone instruments from this period includes the Epiphone Sheraton (co-developed with the Gibson ES-335 & sharing its semi-hollow body, but with, Epiphone's pre-Gibson "Frequensator" tailpiece and "New York" mini-humbucker pickups, and significantly fancier inlays) and Sheraton II (replacing the Frequensator with Gibson's "stop-bar" tailpiece), the Epiphone Casino (similar to the Gibson ES-330), the Epiphone Caballero (similar to the Gibson LG-0), the Epiphone Cortez (similar to the Gibson LG-2), the Epiphone Frontier (similar to the Gibson Hummingbird), the Epiphone Olympic Special (similar to the Gibson Melody Maker), the Epiphone Sorrento (similar to the Gibson ES-125TC, except for a few cosmetic changes), and the Epiphone Texan (similar to the Gibson J-45, apart from a change in scale-length). The other Kalamazoo-made Epiphones had technical or cosmetic relationship with the similar Gibson version.

Several Epiphone guitars have been produced in the United States after 1971. The Epiphone Spirit and Special were produced in the early 1980s in Kalamazoo.[ citation needed ] In 1993, three historic Epiphone acoustic guitars, the Texan, Frontier, and Excellente, were produced by Gibson Acoustic in Montana.[ citation needed ] The Paul McCartney Texan was produced in 2005, and in 2009, the Epiphone Historic Collection was created, beginning with the 1962 Wilshire, built by Gibson Custom. Several other models, such as the Sheraton and John Lennon Casinos, were built in Japan and assembled and finished by Gibson USA.[ citation needed ]


In the early 1970s, Matsumoku began to manufacture Epiphone instruments in Japan [2] with the production and distribution being managed by Aria, in cooperation with Gibson. At this time, Epiphone ceased production of all of its traditional designs and began manufacturing markedly less expensive guitars, many of which had less traditional bolt-on style necks and unspecified wood types. [6] Some of these guitars had similar body shapes to traditional Epiphone and Gibson designs but had different names while other models retained certain model designations, such as the FT (Flat Top) guitars. [7] Construction of these guitars differed greatly from past Epiphone models. For the first several years of production in Japan, Epiphone guitars were actually rebranded designs already produced by the Matsumoku Company. [2]

By 1975, the Japanese market started seeing some of the more familiar designs and names being reintroduced. These guitars were of higher quality than that of the previous years of production in Japan and included models such as the Wilshire, Emperor, Riviera and Newport bass. [8] These models were available to the Japanese market only. By 1976 new designs of higher quality were being introduced for export but did not include the current Japanese market models. Notable new designs from this era were the Monticello (Scroll Guitar), the Presentation (PR) and Nova series flat tops and the Genesis solid body guitar. By 1980, most Japanese-only designs were available for worldwide distribution. One in particular, the ES930J, was made at the famed Terada factory and was a superior instrument. The Matsumoku-made archtops, such as the Emperor, Riviera, Sheraton and Casino, were available into the mid-1980s.


From the 1980s, Epiphones were manufactured mainly in South Korea and Japan by contractors licensed by Gibson. One of the contractors was Samick, which also built instruments under license for other brands, and in its own name. The brand was primarily used to issue less expensive versions of classic Gibson models.< [2]

The guitars were constructed using different woods, generally only distantly related to true mahogany, and were fastened with epoxies rather than traditional wood glues.[ citation needed ] Gibson and Epiphone guitars all use Titebond resin glue, which is simple carpenters' wood glue, and were finished in hard, quick-to-apply polyester resin rather than the traditional nitro-cellulose lacquer used by Gibson[ citation needed ] Epiphone guitars assembled or made in the US use lacquer finishes unless it's a san lacquer (SL for short), but those made outside of the US use a polyurethane finish because of pollution requirements. Those particular budget considerations, along with others such as the use of plastic nuts, and cheaper hardware and pickups, make for a more affordable instrument.

After 1996, Epiphones were built by the Peerless Guitars Co. Ltd., established in 1970 in Busan, South Korea.

There is a controversial Epiphone guitar using "LU" serial number. It is said those guitars were made in Indonesia under license from Unsung Korea.


In 2004, Gibson opened a factory in Qingdao, China, which manufactures Epiphone guitars. [9] With few exceptions, Epiphones are now built only in the Qingdao factory. [9]

Also in 2004, Epiphone introduced a series of acoustic guitars named Masterbilt, after a line of guitars of the 1930s, which are built in the same factory. [10]

Imperial Series and Elitist

During the early 1990s, Epiphone released a series called the Imperial Series. These were remakes of the classic Epiphone archtops of the 1930s and '40s. Each instrument was handmade in the FujiGen factory in Japan.[ citation needed ] This short-lived series was discontinued in 1993, after only 42 Emperors were made.[ citation needed ] Several other models, including De Luxe, Broadway and Triumph models, were also produced in varying quantities.

Production was moved back to Nashville and Bozeman for a similar limited run of instruments (250 each of Sheratons, Rivieras, Frontiers, Excellentes and Texans). [2] These guitars were the "Nashville USA Collection" (archtops) and the "Anniversary Series" (acoustics). Contrary to popular information, this line was related to, but not part of the 1994 Gibson Centennial Series commemorating 100 years of the Gibson Guitar Corporation. The Nashville and Anniversary Collections were intended as reintroductions of original, USA built Epiphone models.

In 2002, Epiphone began producing a range of higher quality instruments under the "Elite Series" moniker which were built by Terada and FujiGen in Japan.[ citation needed ] After legal action by Ovation the name was changed to Elitist in 2003. As of 2008, all of the Elitist models have been discontinued with the exception of the Elitist Casino and the Dwight Trash Casino. The Epiphone Elitist guitars included features such as higher grade woods, bone nuts, hand-rubbed finishes, "Made in the USA" pickups and USA strings. [11] Japanese domestic market Elitists used the Gibson Dove-wing headstock as opposed to the "tombstone" headstock used on exports. [12]

Serial numbers and factory codes

Current Epiphone serial numbers give the following information: [13]




Czech Republic


Example: SI09034853 SI = Samick Indonesia, 09 = 2009, 03 = March, 4853 = manufacturing number.


Players of Epiphone

Related Research Articles

Semi-acoustic guitar

A semi-acoustic guitar,hollow-body electric, or thinline is a type of electric guitar that was first created in the 1930s. It has a sound box and at least one electric pickup. The semi-acoustic guitar is different to an acoustic-electric guitar, which is an acoustic guitar with the addition of pickups or other means of amplification, added by either the manufacturer or the player.

Gibson ES-335 Semi hollow body electric guitar

The Gibson ES-335 is the world's first commercial semi-hollowbody electric guitar, sometimes known as semi-acoustic. Released by the Gibson Guitar Corporation as part of its ES series in 1958, it is neither fully hollow nor fully solid; instead, a solid maple wood block runs through the center of its body. The side "wings" formed by the two "cutaways" into its upper bouts are hollow, and the top has two violin-style f-holes over the hollow chambers. Since its release, Gibson has released numerous variations of and other models based on the design of the ES-335.

Archtop guitar Type of steel-stringed acoustic or semi-acoustic guitar

An archtop guitar is a hollow steel-stringed acoustic or semiacoustic guitar with a full body and a distinctive arched top, whose sound is particularly popular with jazz, blues, and rockabilly players.


Samick Musical Instruments Co., Ltd. is a South Korean musical instrument manufacturer. Founded 1958, it is one of the world's largest musical instrument manufacturers and an owner of shares in several musical instrument manufacturing companies.

Orville by Gibson

Orville by Gibson (オービルbyギブソン), also known simply as Orville (オービル), was a brand of guitars that was managed by the Gibson Guitar Corporation for the Japanese market during the late 1980s and most of the 1990s. The name is borrowed from Orville Gibson, who founded Gibson in 1902.

Hondo was an American guitar company and brand owned by IMC, and later Musicorp, that produced a range of entry level to high-end acoustic guitars, electric guitars and basses with designs primarily based on those of classic models such as the Fender Stratocaster and the Gibson Les Paul. From 1972 to 1989 the guitars were mainly produced in Korea by Samick, with the short-lived Professional Series being made in Japan. In 2005, the J.B. Player brand replaced the Hondo name.

Epiphone Casino Electric guitar

The Epiphone Casino is a thinline hollow body electric guitar manufactured by Epiphone, a branch of Gibson. The guitar debuted in 1961 and has been associated with such guitarists as Howlin' Wolf, George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Dave Davies, Paul Weller, The Edge, Josh Homme, Daniel Kessler, Noel Gallagher, Brendon Urie, Gary Clark, Jr., Glenn Frey, John Illsley, Peter Green and Dave Grohl.

Matsumoku Industrial was a Japanese manufacturing company based in Matsumoto, Nagano, between 1951 and 1987. Established in 1951 as a woodworking and cabinetry firm, Matsumoku is remembered as a manufacturer of guitars and bass guitars, including some Epiphone and Aria guitars.

Epiphone Texan

The Epiphone Texan is an acoustic flattop guitar of the (advanced) Jumbo type. Recent models have an integrated light-weight internal electric pickup fitted; the original model was acoustic only.

Gibson Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo is the name for two different lines of instruments produced by Gibson. In both cases Kalamazoo was a budget brand. The first consisted of such instruments as archtop, flat top and lap steel guitars, banjos, and mandolins made between 1933 and 1942, and the second, from 1965 to 1970, had solid-body electric and bass guitars.

The Epiphone Sheraton is a thinline semi-hollow body electric guitar. Though the Sheraton and all its variations were introduced under the ownership of the Gibson Guitar Corporation, Epiphone is the exclusive manufacturer.

Lotus (guitar)

Lotus was a house brand of certain guitars made in various Asian factories from the late 1970s until the late 1990s. Lotus guitars were usually copies of better-known, up-market brand-name guitars, such as the Gibson Les Paul and the Fender Stratocaster. The quality of the instruments was very good for the price.

Epiphone Dot

The Epiphone Dot is a semi-hollow archtop electric guitar manufactured by Epiphone, a subsidiary of Gibson. It was introduced in 1997 as a more affordable version of the Gibson ES-335, at the high end of entry-level pricing. Reviews describe it as a robustly-constructed, versatile guitar with a smooth, powerful sound, suitable for jazz, blues and some rock styles, but lacking the high output required for heavy metal.

Lyle guitars were made in Japan between 1960 and the late 1970s in the Matsumoku guitar factory, which also produced Univox, Arai, Aria and other guitar brands.

Epiphone 5102T / EA-250

An archtop electric guitar manufactured by Matsumoku and sold 1970 to 1974 or '75 in the United States under the Epiphone brand. Matsumoku also manufactured the nearly identical Univox Coily guitar and several related guitars sold under the Univox brand.

Memphis Guitars were guitars produced during the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s.

Gibson American guitar manufacturer

Gibson Brands, Inc. is an American manufacturer of guitars, other musical instruments, and professional audio equipment from Kalamazoo, Michigan, and now based in Nashville, Tennessee. The company was formerly known as Gibson Guitar Corporation and renamed Gibson Brands, Inc. on June 11, 2013.

The Epiphone Rivoli was a semi-hollowbody electric bass guitar designed by Gibson and built by Epiphone in Kalamazoo, Michigan from 1959 until 1970. From 1993 until 1999, the model was reissued as a part of the Korean-Japanese Epiphone line.


  1. "Jim Rosenberg - The Epiphone Interview".[ dead link ]
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Epiphone - History". Epiphone.com. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
  3. "Home Page". Epiphone.com. Retrieved 14 January 2021.
  4. "Epiphone – The Vintage Collection". www2.epiphone.com.[ dead link ]
  5. "Epiphone Introduces Three New Electric Packs!". Epiphone.com. Retrieved 2013-08-20.[ dead link ]
  6. 1971 & 1974 Epiphone Catalogs
  7. 1974 & 1976 Epiphone catalogs
  8. 1977 Epiphone Japan catalog
  9. 1 2 "A Chat With Epiphone President Jim Rosenberg". Epiphone.com. Retrieved 2013-08-20.[ dead link ]
  10. "Epiphone Masterbuilt Series" (PDF). Epiphone. Retrieved 2013-09-07.[ dead link ]
  11. "Epiphone Elitist". Epiphone.com. Retrieved 2013-08-20.[ dead link ]
  12. 2002 Epiphone Japan Elite/Elitist catalog
  13. "Serial Number Search". Gibson. Retrieved 2013-09-07.