Seville 4 Special 407

Close-up #21: 1930 Seville Special S-4
SN 407

This is obviously a special instrument – literally, since it says so on the headstock! From the collection of the one and only Dutch Archtop Guitar Museum, curated by Ruurd Feitsma. These great photos originate from the museum and and from the website of Folkway Music, the shop that previously had offered the instrument for sale (you will find more photos and info following the links.)

The guitar features a 15 1/2" wide body and a "snakehead" shape headstock similar to some 1920s' Gibson models – with "Epiphone" in a scroll, "Special" framed by vines, and a number "4".

Seville 4 Special 407

The tuners are actually reproductions – "Golden Age" brand machines which nicely emulate vintage Waverly engraved "bell-end" tuners.

Seville 4 Special 407

There is no label inside the body, only the SN "407" stamped into the back visible through the soundhole. Similar serial numbers in the range up to the 600s are also present on Epiphone's "Recording" series guitars which seem to share some features with this instrument, although showing different body shapes and headstock designs. Those striking fretboard inlays with paired diamonds arranged in a zigzag pattern are also seen on Recording Model C guitars, and the earliest version of the Masterbilt Triumph.

Seville 4 Special 407

The guitar is described to be a hybrid, press-arched flattop with an X-braced spruce top. Note the pronounced arch in the upper bouts, and rather flat lower body.

Seville 4 Special 407

The neck, sides and laminated back are maple. The whole guitar appears to be refinished. The bridge with staggered pins has a vintage correct look but is likely a replacement.

Seville 4 Special 407

A small number of guitars looking similar to this example have kept surfacing over the years – some with this 15 1/2" body, others with a smaller 13 1/2" body. They all sport a "snakehead" headstock with "Epiphone" banner and a number between 0 and 4 – the higher the number, the fancier the appointments. They were discussed in books such as "Gruhn's Guide to Vintage Guitars" and in Fisch/Fred 1996, p156 – referred to as "Models 0–4" or "numbered series": Their official model name was unknown since these instruments hadn't appeared in any known catalog ...

1930 Seville flyer

.... until Rod McDonald sent me the scan of a previously unknown flyer from his collection – see picture above! This c. 1930 Epiphone flyer finally solved the mystery regarding the official model name of the obscure "numbered" series: "Epiphone Seville Model Guitars".

Our featured guitar appears to be an high-end, Auditorium-size Seville Model S-4 (or "No. S-4-A"), listed with a price of $125. The triangular-shape pickguard is gone on this example.

However: What feature the designation "Special" on the headstock of this Seville 4 Auditorium – not present on any other documented example – is referring to still remains a mystery.

(Nov 15, 2016)