Epiphone Olympic

SB722 solid-body guitar. Single or double pickup (SB722D)

Epiphone Olympic

The Epiphone Olympic was the entry level CMI/Gibson-made Epiphone solid body - also the best selling of all 1960s Epiphone solids. In fact the Olympic, and the very similar Olympic Special don't represent just one guitar - the design changed (somewhat confusingly) several times over the nine years of production, though the basic specifications did not. Vintage Epiphone Olympic guitars are just as collectable (though not as highly priced) as other USA-built Epiphone models, especially instruments with the earlier body styles.

The Epiphone solid-body range could be directly correlated to the Gibson solid-body range sharing many features: hardware, pickup configurations, body and neck woods, construction and controls. They were all made at Gibson's Kalamazoo factory, so this is not surprising. The Olympic corresponds to the Gibson Melody Maker, both fitted with identical hardware, built with the same construction, the same design (until 1963) and having the same price tag. Both single-pickup instruments cost $149.50 in 1/10/66, double pickup models cost $179.50. The only real way to tell these guitars apart was the headstock shape and branding.

Epiphone Olympic body styles

Like the Melody Maker, the Olympic started out with a Les Paul style single cutaway body (see the 1961 Epiphone Catalogue), both models changing to the same double-cutaway design, most-likely in late 1961 (see the 1962 Epiphone Catalogue). The two superb examples shown below come from 1961 and 1963 respectively, before changing again in late 1963.

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Prior to mid/late 1963, all other Epiphone solid body guitars and basses had the same almost-symmetrical body style. The Olympic was very much the exception. Then in 1963, the (now) better-known non-symmetrical body style (with 'batwing' headstock) was introduced to all models, including the Olympic. But the 'old' (double cutaway) Olympic continued, as a single pickup guitar only, with the name Olympic Special. The only difference between a 1962 single pickup Olympic and a 1963 Olympic special was the date it was built! The Melody Maker ultimately changed body style too, (though not until 1966) when it became another guitar in the SG line.

For the rest of the decade, the Olympic kept the same familiar 'Epiphone' body style of the rest of the solid body series, though the Olympic special did change cutaway shape everso subtley.

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Of course, the changes in body style made for a very different looking instrument, but more importantly, a very different playing instrument. The first, single cutaway had quite limited neck access and only 19 frets. The neck joined the body at the 12th fret, making access to the highest notes quite tricky. The second double cutaway version had a 22 fret neck, joining the body at the 16th fret. Note how much further forward on the body the bridge is in this second version. It is overall a longer guitar. Finally, the last style has a neck/body join at the 21st fret, giving by far the best access to the top end of the fretboard. With the extra headstock length, this version had, by far, the longest total length.

Epiphone Olympic and Olympic Double specifications

The Epiphone Olympic was Epiphone's best selling (Kalamazoo-built) guitar, shipping almost 10,000 instruments between 1960 and 1969. Of course there were several variants in specification, with single (SB722) and dual (SB722D) pickups, with and without a vibrola, and (between 1960 and 1963) 3/4 scale (SB722 3/4) student models, just like the Gibson Melody Makers - though the Gibson student model remained in production right through the decade. For a break-down of the production stats, and comparison, see the Epiphone Olympic shipping totals and Gibson Melody Maker shipping totals.

The specifications for the different models are summarised in the table below.

ModelOlympic SB722Olympic Double SB722DOlympic SB722 3/4
PickupsOne Melody Maker style PU380 single coil pickupTwo Melody Maker style PU380 single coil pickupsOne Melody Maker style PU380 single coil pickup
Scale24 3/4"24 3/4"22 3/4"
BodySolid mahogany.
1960-1961 Les Paul style single cutaway: 12 3/4" wide, 17 1/4" long, 1 3/8" thick
1961-1963 Les Paul style double cutaway: 12 3/4" wide, 17 1/4" long, 1 3/8" thick
1963-1969 Wilshire / Crestwood style double cutaway: 12 3/4" wide, 15 5/8" long, 1 3/8" thick
NeckOne-piece mahogany, rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays. No binding. Early models had a double sided headstock, changing around late 1963 to the Epiphone batwing one-sided headstock
Frets19 (1960-61)
22 (1962-69)
19 (1960-61)
22 (1962-69)
Hardware1 volume and 1 tone controls. Metal offset bridge with optional vibrola tailpiece. Plastic enclosed strip tuners.2 volume and 2 tone controls. Metal offset bridge with optional vibrola tailpiece. Plastic enclosed strip tuners.1 volume and 1 tone controls. Plastic enclosed strip tuners.
FinishesCherry, Sunburst and custom colours: Sunset Yellow, California Coral, Pacific Blue

Epiphone Olympic catalogue appearances

Epiphone 1961 full line catalogue
1961 full line catalogue

Body is solid mahogany with attractive shell celluloid pickguard. Mahogany neck with adjustable truss rod.
Epiphone 1962 full line catalogue
1962 full line catalogue

It provides big performance for students and professionals, too - at a very affordable price.
Epiphone 1964 full line catalogue
1964 full line catalogue

The Olympic shown in this catalogue still has the old symmetrical Epiphone body style - unlike the other solid-bodies which are all shown with the 'new' style
Epiphone 1966 full line catalogue
1966 full line catalogue

Epiphone is proud to present solid body instruments that offer the depth, the sharp treble, the biting tone and the virility that all guitarists seek from a solid body instrument

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There are 4 comments on this article so far. Add your comment

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Olympian Comment left 1st February 2013 08:08:22 reply
There was a time, not so very long ago when you could not give these away.... now they are vintage and collectable everything's changed. I sold one to my bro for 35 bucks and he didn't want to pay that... but he did. I'd give him that 35 back in a second :(
William Comment left 9th January 2013 21:09:22 reply
I have and have had since mid 60's this exact make and model Epiphone , just had it in the shop for new strings, the owner was surprised, and said I should have it appraised, any suggestions as to where I can have this done. I Live in Washington state. It has 1 vol / 1 tone, Vibrola tail piece. see model in this photo in your add. A perfect match, including case.
Ryan Davies Comment left 3rd October 2012 12:12:32 reply
I would like to buy a epiphone olympic single pickup pickguard just like the one on ebay. i do not have a ebay account. I would like to know where I could buy one.
vintage guitar and bass Comment left 3rd October 2012 12:12:19 reply
hey Ryan - you should sign up for ebay - assuming you want an original. Ebay is the absolute BEST place to get original vintage guitar parts at reasonable prices. If you want a repro, try pickguard heaven or one of the many other online sources



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