Epiphone DeLuxe Masterbilt Arch Top Acoustic Guitar (1934)

Epiphone  DeLuxe Masterbilt Arch Top Acoustic Guitar  (1934)

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Item # 8369
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Epiphone DeLuxe Masterbilt Model Arch Top Acoustic Guitar (1934), made in Long Island City, NY, serial # 7664, sunburst lacquer finish, Maple back and sides, spruce top; laminated maple neck with rosewood fingerboard, black hard shell case.

This guitar is a "second generation" Epiphone Masterbilt DeLuxe, with some small changes from the initial 1931 models but still from the time before the company completely redesigned the model in response to arch-rival Gibson's "Advanced" line in 1935. These original high-end Epiphone archtop guitars were very popular among professional users when new, but nice examples are exceedingly hard to find today.

This DeLuxe dates to 1934. Around the time this guitar was made, the Stathopoulo family were just moving their guitar-building operation from Long Island City to the second floor of a large loft building on West 14th street where Epiphone, Inc. would operate an integrated factory and showroom in the heart of swing-era New York.

At this time, the Deluxe was the top of Epiphone's line, among the very finest orchestra guitars available. It competed directly with the Gibson L-5, selling for the same then-sky-high $275 price -- without the case. The company was then headed up by Epaminondas ("Epi") Stathopoulo. By all accounts, he was an extremely fastidious and dedicated man who personally inspected every instrument. All high-end carved-top Epiphone guitars are fine instruments, but the earlier models produced under his watch are among the very best and were often preferred by the era's top players to anything else available.

This Deluxe is a late transitional example of the 1931-style "Masterbilt" style, slightly larger than the original at just over 16 1/2" wide, but smaller than the 17 3/8" 1936 models would shortly be. The 5-piece laminated neck is fairly wide, with a shallow C profile. The headstock is still the older "offset peak" design, but with the newer fancy "tree of life" pearl inlay on the face and "EPIPHONE" spelled out above it in pearl block letters. The back of the peghead is veneered with beveled celluloid, an elegant practice that ended soon after.

The body is bound in 4-ply celluloid with a strip of half-herringbone marquetry around the top; another feature soon to disappear. The finish is a fairly dark sunburst showing off some fancy burl figure on the maple back; the top has a distinct greenish tint, as the red aniline coloring has faded completely away. A distinctive feature of the 1934 models is the white celluloid pickguard, which was only seen in this period and can be readily distinguished in period photos.

The sound of this guitar is both rich and powerful, with the definition and punch to drive a big band for which old Epiphones are known. We are always pleased to offer original top-line Epiphone archtops, especially the earlier ones. They are not only great guitars, but a huge part of swing-era history and our New York area musical heritage.
 
Overall length is 41 1/4 in. (104.8 cm.), 16 5/8 in. (42.2 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 5/8 in. (9.2 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 25 1/2 in. (648 mm.). Width of nut is 1 11/16 in. (43 mm.).

This early DeLuxe has some wear and repair over the years, but remains an extremely fine-sounding guitar. The finish has been oversprayed and polished out to a thin semi-matte look on the back and sides, so the patina is no longer original, although the period look is preserved. The top finish is original with some dings, dents, and scrapes but no overspray. The back of the neck also remains original, though quite a bit of the lacquer is worn off. The headstock face has been polished out.

The fingerboard is a replica of the original, made of ebony with the correct shaped pearl inlay, either re-purposed from the original or expertly re-created. The tailpiece and unique ivory celluloid pickguard are original; the tuners and bridge are reproductions. This guitar has a truly excellent sound, and despite the various repairs is a very good example of this extremely rare swing-era classic. Very Good + Condition.