Century Amp SN 1932

Close-up #14: 1939 Century Amplifier
SN 1932

Let's look at these great photos of an amplifier (saved from an auction listing I think).

In 1939 Epiphone revamped its entire electric instrument offering – by launching 3 new model lines: The high-end "Zephyr", the mid-range "Century", and the low-end "Coronet" – each with their own amplifier model. What we have here is a Century Amplifier which came with an attractive maple cabinet, and the striking art deco style grille also used on other amp models – an "E" slashed by an "electric" lightning bolt! Pictured below the Century Amplifier in the 1939 catalog.

1939 catalog Century Amp

A sticker on the back panel is warning to only use with AC (alternating current). These AC stickers are common on Epiphone's pre-WW2 amp models. Note that certain U.S. areas still had DC (direct current) networks at the time, and Epiphone also listed AC-DC compatible versions of their amps until 1947.

Century Amp SN 1932

The serial number "1932" is neatly stamped on the Electar logo plate screwed onto the amp chassis. This is the lowest documented SN of a Century Amplifier, so possibly one of the first examples produced.

Century Amp SN 1932

The serial number systems Epiphone used for amps are still not fully understood (see research): Interestingly, the earliest Century (and Coronet) amps from 1939 have SNs in the 19xx–22xx range – a range otherwise used by slightly earlier, c. 1938 electric stringed instruments. By c. 1940, Century (and Coronet) amps start to have SNs in the 6xxx range – sharing this range with some slightly later, 1941–42 electric instruments. A complex and rather confusing pattern ...

With the back panel removed we can see the black amp chassis bearing 5 tubes, fuse, power cable, on/off switch, volume control with chicken knob and dial, and two 1/4" input jacks (as only seen on the earliest Century examples, most have 3 inputs). On the far right a non-original RCA jack, added later. The 12" field coil speaker has no label, but it looks very much like a Rola J12 – the model used in most pre-WW2 Century amps. 

Century Amp SN 1932

The visible tubes appear to be Sylvania brand and original/period. On the left are two 6V6G beam power amplifier tubes. The metal-shielded "coke bottle" tube on the right is probably a 6C6 pentode, serving as first-stage preamp. The tube next to it with Sylvania "green leaf" logo bears the code letters "Z9" – indicating a shipment date of May-Aug 1939 (according to an online source).

Century Amp SN 1932

The electronics of Epiphone's 1935–1947 amplifiers were designed and manufactured by a young NYC-based tech wizard: Nathan "Nat" Daniel (1912–1994) – the man who later founded the Danelectro company. Nat Daniel tells his great story in the invaluable Fisch/Fred book, p143ff.

Below a view from the bottom of the cabinet. If you look closely you may spot a stamped mark "TF" which I have also noticed on other very early Century amps – however no idea what the letters stand for.

Century Amp SN 1932

On the side panel inside there is a handwritten name and Philadelphia address, likely by the original owner. And a note "Aug–39", I guess referring to the date when the amp was acquired: August 1939. 

Century Amp SN 1932

This early Century Amplifier has survived in fantastic cosmetic condition, including the original canvas cover. 

Century Amp SN 1932

(Oct 30, 2016)