EPIPHONE | SOLID BODY GUITARS

Vintage Epiphone solid body guitars

Electric guitars manufactured by Epiphone

Epiphone guitar manufacture can be spit into four main phases: (i) Stathopoulos family, 1873-1957, (ii) CMI/Gibson, 1957-1969, (iii) Norlin (Matsumoku, Japan), 1970-1985, (iv) Gibson Guitar Corporation, 1986-date. Solid body guitars had been available from Gibson and Fender through the 1950s, but the only Epiphone electric guitars produced prior to 1957 were electric acoustics, typically full body jazz guitars.

USA Epiphone solid body guitars

When Gibson owner CMI bought Epiphone in 1957, they also bought tooling, unfinished guitars and a lot of parts. Epiphone solid body production did not start until two years after the take-over, with the first two models (Coronet and Crestwood Custom) shipped from the Gibson Kalamazoo plant in 1959. These guitars were joined by the Olympic and Wilshire a year later, and the Crestwood Deluxe in 1963. These guitars used much of the same woods, construction methods and hardware as the Gibson models that were produced side-by-side in Kalamazoo. As mentioned, Gibson inherited numerous Epiphone parts, and many early examples were fitted with Epiphone New York pickups, headstock badges and Epiphone knobs.

In terms of design, the Gibson-made Epiphone solid body guitars were quite unique. There were two versions, the first was a compact guitar with deep, symmetrical cutaways and large symmetrical pickguard - built between 1959 and 1962. From 1963 the guitars were lengthened, specifically with a new 'batwing' headstock, but also loosing it's symmetry, with the stubby cutaways, longer on top, and almost non-existent on the bottom.

1962 Epiphone Coronet with the early symmetrical body shape. Image Heritage auctions

1965 Epiphone Crestwood Deluxe with the better known asymmetrical design. Image Heritage auctions

From the 1966 Epiphone catalogue - A natural development of the electric guitar was the solid body instrument... both guitar and bass. Contributing no acoustics of it's own, it's music is all produced by the pickups and the amplifier. This instrument was becoming popular with artists in the late forties and early fifties/ then, the age of "Rock and Roll" came into being and for music with a beat, the solid body had no equal. It is now used as a lead guitar in combos and bands across the country, and is uniquely a product of the age of electronics. 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.

Gibson vs Epiphone

In terms of construction and specifications, the Epiphone solid bodies were more or less analogous to the Gibson SG and Melody Maker guitars. They had the same basic construction: mahogany bodies and necks, with a (usually) rosewood fretboard, and the same translucent Cherry finish. They were wired more or less the same and listed at more or less the same prices. Actually, where there was a difference, the Epiphones tended to be the higher priced of the two. The table below compares the different models.

Epiphone modelEquivalent Gibson model
modelspecifications1963 pricemodelspecifications1963 price
Epiphone Olympic 1 or 2 PU-380 pickup $139.50, $169.50 double pickup Gibson Melody Maker 1 or 2 PU-380 pickup $119.50, $155 double pickup
Epiphone Olympic Special 1 PU-380 pickup $119.50 Gibson Melody Maker 1 PU-380 pickup $119.50
Epiphone Coronet 1 P90 $162.50, 189 with vibrola Gibson SG Junior (TV) 1 P90 $155
Epiphone Wilshire 2 P90 or 2 mini humbuckers $249.50, $277 with vibrola Gibson SG Special 2 P90 $225
Epiphone Crestwood Custom 2 mini humbuckers, tremotone vibrola $345 Gibson SG Standard* 2 humbuckers $310
Epiphone Crestwood Deluxe 3 mini humbuckers, ebony fretboard, nickel plated hardware $450 Gibson SG Custom* 3 humbuckers, ebony fretboard, gold plated hardware $450

* SG Standard and Custom were still officially called Les Paul Standard and Custom at this point, though would be renamed shortly afterwards

Japanese Epiphone solid body guitars

In the late 1960s, American guitar manufacturers were in financial trouble. Imported Japanese guitars were consistently undercutting the US built ones, with quality improving all the time. So in 1969, Epiphone production ceased at Kalamazoo, being replaced by a series of guitars built by Aria in the Matsumoku plant in Japan. These guitars were loosely based on the US models, but at a significantly lower price.

The first guitar was the 1802T debuting in 1970. This was fairly quickly renamed the ET-270, with newer models ET-275 and ET-278 added to the line in 1972, and the ET-290 added in 1973.

1976 price lists show new models, the ET-276, and ET-285. In 1977 the Scroll series was launched (SC-350, SC-450, SC-550, later SCIIB), followed by the Genesis series in 1979 (Standard, Deluxe and Custom).

American-built Epiphone guitars had a brief revival in 1983, with the American series: Challenger, Corvus, Spirit, Special. These models were quickly discontinued, being rebranded as Gibson guitars, to be replaced by the Wilshire II, Wilshire III and Crestwood II in 1984 - once more made in Japan.

Once Norlin sold out to the current owners (Gibson Guitar Corporation), Epiphone guitar manufacture was firmly based in Asia, specifically Korea and China. Today, the Epiphone guitar range is more popular than ever, selling lower priced versions of many USA-built Gibson models in large numbers.


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Epiphone guitars for sale

Vintage Epiphone Coronet 1965 Cherry Kalamazoo Gibson made electric guitar

EASTHAMPTON, MASSACHUSETTS, 01027, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$2399

1965 Epiphone Coronet electric guitar in Cherry finish Very good plus condition With original chip board case. All original guitar, the poor man's Les Paul Jr. and a Rock & Roll beast. The guitar has a few dings that I have tried to picture completely including the one on the back of the neck that is opposite the 11th fret. Single Dog Eared P90 pick up is a treat. This one won't last , so grab it while you can. Goat Peak strings is a brick and mortar shop . Located about 2hrs west of Boston. ... more

1964 Epiphone Crestwood Deluxe (EPE0030)

LOVELAND, OHIO, 45140, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$9495

Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 1964 Epiphone Crestwood Deluxe, Cherry Red, All Nickel parts, Rare top of the line model, Three mini humbuckers, Pearl block inlays with Abalone inserts, Pearl inlaid logo, Multi bound headstock, Vibrola, Vintage strap, Hang tag, Case key, Stunning clean condition, Gorgeous guitar! Clean original hard case... more

Vintage 1977 Epiphone ET-290 N Crestwood Electric Guitar Natural MIJ Matsumoku

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, 10003, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$899

Vintage circa 1977 Epiphone ET-290N Crestwood. A vibed out vintage electric from the early years of the Matsumoku factory. The neck has a chunky feel with wide shoulders but flattens out slightly in the back for an easy, comfortable profile. Plays great all the way up and down with a nice tight feel. Original pickups sound fantastic with a warm, punchy tone. Overall on the bright side for humbuckers with a low end that stays tight and clear and a shimmery, glassy treble that can really jangle. ... more

1964 Epiphone Olympic (#EPE0206)

LOVELAND, OHIO, 45140, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$2195

1964 Epiphone Olympic, Sunburst, Double cut, 1 & 11 / 16 inches wide at the nut, Black single pickup, Stud tailpiece, Excellent condition, Non original soft case, $2, 195 “At Gary’s Classic Guitars we professionally clean, setup & pro pack for safe transit of your new guitar to your door! We would love to earn your business ”... more

1964 Epiphone Coronet

LOVELAND, OHIO, 45140, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

C $7219

1964 Epiphone Coronet Cherry Red, P-90 Pickup, Stud tail, Lively guitar, EC, Vintage Soft Shell Case, $5, 295... more

Vintage 1965 Red Epiphone Olympic Bat Wing Headstock

PORT CHARLOTTE, FLORIDA, 33948, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$879

This is a 1965 Epiphone Olympic It has the Red Finish There is wear, scratches, nicks, finish wear, dings etc The guitar is light, weighs only 5 pounds 15 ounces Looks very Vintage There is a ding on the back at the bottom(pictured)Please look at all the pictures as to condition as this is Sold as Is Comes with the Tremolo Arm Tremolo looks nickel, bridge looks chrome I know 65 was a transitional year when Gibson switched from nickel plating to chrome Comes with the vintage case pictured The ... more

1961 USA EPIPHONE CASINO GUITAR MAESTRO VIBROLA NICKEL RARE LEFTY CRESTWOOD 1962

PLANO, TEXAS, 75025, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$595

USA SHIPPING ONLY. ALL AUCTIONS PAYPAL ONLY, WILL SHIP TO YOUR PAYPAL MATCHING ADDRESS ONLY, NO ALTERNATE SHIP ADDRESS. WINNING BIDDER TO PAY WITHIN 3 DAYS OF AUCTION CLOSE. ANY NEW EBAYERS ( LESS THAN 5 POSITIVE TRANSACTIONS) EMAIL ME BEFORE BIDDING, OR YOUR BID WILL BE CANCELLED. TEXAS RESIDENTS ARE REQUIRED TO PAY 8 25% SALES TAX. PLEASE ASK ALL QUESTIONS EARLY…SOMETIMES I AM REQUIRED TO BE AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER.... more

VINTAGE 1964 USA EPIPHONE GIBSON PATENT # HUMBUCKER GUITAR PICKUP WILSHIRE 1965

PLANO, TEXAS, 75025, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

C $726

I AM UNABLE TO SHIP TO ANY DESTINATION THAT USPS CANNOT INSURE, SORRY. ALL AUCTIONS PAYPAL ONLY, WILL SHIP TO YOUR PAYPAL MATCHING ADDRESS ONLY, NO ALTERNATE SHIP ADDRESS. WINNING BIDDER TO PAY WITHIN 2 DAYS OF AUCTION CLOSE. ANY NEW EBAYERS ( LESS THAN 5 POSITIVE TRANSACTIONS) EMAIL ME BEFORE BIDDING, OR YOUR BID WILL BE CANCELLED. TEXAS RESIDENTS ARE REQUIRED TO PAY 8 25% SALES TAX. PLEASE ASK ALL QUESTIONS EARLY…SOMETIMES I AM REQUIRED TO BE AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER. INTERNATIONAL EBAYERS: ... more

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There are 2 comments on this article so far. Add your comment

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bluesboybrown Comment left 28th April 2013 20:08:06 reply
Hey, I need an epiphone solid body vibrola, the early style also used on the SG special. Cash waiting. Any heads up welcome
faversham Comment left 3rd March 2012 10:10:38 reply
Looking for orig. 1961-63 molded Epi gray tolex/blue interior case(s) for my (2) '61 Wilshires.

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