1959 Epiphone Century

Thinline semi acoustic

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1959 Epiphone Century

This early example of the Epiphone Century is one of 276 made in 1959. Gibson-assembled (Kalamazoo), but with numerous Epiphone components. 1959 was the first year of its production, and just two years after Gibson had bought the Epiphone name; along with tooling, partially completed instruments, and parts. These parts were gradually used up, until around 1961 when the Century was largely fitted with parts used on equivalent Gibson models.

The pickup is perhaps the most instantly evident of these parts; an Epiphone-made New York single coil pickup. Gibson used these on numerous Epiphone models in the late 1950s. By 1960 they had run out, and the Century went over to a single-coil P90 with a plastic dogear cover. But note also the control knobs and scratchplate, again pre-Gibson parts.

Early examples of the Century, like this, had the old Epiphone single coil "New York" pickups, later to be replaced by Gibson P90s.
Other original pre-Gibson era parts include the cream control knobs, and tortoiseshell scractplate.
The bridge and Bigsby tremolo are not stock - this was originally shipped with a nickel-plated trapeze tailpiece, and most likely a rosewood floating bridge.
One of the most interesting features of this guitar is the pre-Gibson Epiphone three-piece neck. The heel is a capped arched shape; quite different to the style typically used on later all-Kalamazoo examples. Compare this with that of a 1963 Century.

As was typically the case with Epiphone Shaded finish guitars, the backs and sides of this instrument are a deep translucent brown with body edges (but not neck) picked out with cream binding.

The neck and headstock of this guitar is full of pre-Gibson features. The Epiphone logo is on a metal triangular plate, pinned onto the peghead; again these were aquired when Gibson bought Epiphone. This was replaced with the familiar Epiphone logo (silk-screened) in around 1961. Note also the raised truss rod cover with three mounting screws.

The neck itself is three-piece, with a v-profile, and the heel (where the neck joins the body) is covered with a celluloid cap, very much in earlier Epiphone style. Again part of the stock bought by Gibson parent company CMI in 1957. Exactly how much of the manufacture this guitar happened in Kalamazoo is not at all clear. The 100% Gibson-made Centurys have one-piece mahogany necks, with a rounded profile, and rounded uncapped-heel.

The Century evolved somewhat over the next ten years it was produced; the body style and shape did not change, though various hardware updates did occur. The headstock shape changed towards the end of 1963, to the more familiar Epiphone 'cola bottle' style, with a more exagerated waist.

Images courtesey of justgreatguitars.com

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