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Research: Epiphone serial numbers and production estimates (19311956)

Author: Felix Wiedler (Version: October 2017, with updates)

Below a summary of my research findings regarding Epiphone's serial number (SN) systems and estimated production figures – based on the data analysis of approximately 4400 Epiphone instruments and amplifiers (SN/model pairs, documented in c. 50'000 photos). 1

Jump to chapter:

1. Epiphone SN systems 1931–1956 – an overview

2. Dating of serial numbers – revised SN/year charts

3. Understanding Epiphone's SN systems – number ranges assigned to model batches

4. Reconstructing model production data – filling SN gaps through interpolation + extrapolation

5. Examples of model production estimates

6. SNs of Epiphone amplifiers



1. Epiphone SN systems 1931–1956 – an overview

Epiphone's stringed instruments of the 1931–1956 period typically show a visible serial number – high-end models the same way as lower-priced instruments. Several different SN systems were used depending on instrument type and time period – generally employing consecutive, ascending numbers following the timeline of production (see detailed analysis in chapter 3):

A. Acoustic instruments 1931–1943: SNs starting at 5000 and ending around 20307. (SN on label or stamped inside body.)
Estimated total production: 15308 units.

B. Acoustic instruments 1943–1956, including electric hollowbody instruments 1950–1956: SNs starting at 50000 and ending around 69637. (SN on label inside body.)
Estimated total production: 19638 units.

C. Electric instruments 1935–1942: The earliest electric instruments from 1935 don't bear a SN; SNs starting by 1936 around 25 and ending around 7219. (SN stamped on headstock.)
During WW2 electric instrument production was halted.
Estimated total production (with SN): 7195 units.

D. Electric instruments 1946–1949: SNs with model-specific prefix and serial suffix on most models. (SN stamped on headstock.)
Estimated total production: 2769 units. 2

E. "Special SN" electric guitars 1949, electric Hawaiian guitars 1950–1956: Some electric models from 1949 and all Hawaiian guitars from 1950 onwards use "special" SN systems. (SN stamped on headstock or bridge unit.) Estimated total production: 563 units. 3

Taking into account the assumed lowest and documented highest number of these SN systems, we can calculate a total production estimate of Epiphone instruments: 45473 units. 4

2. Dating of serial numbers – revised SN/year charts

My research has led to a slightly revised dating approach for Epiphone SNs. See Fig. 1 + Fig. 2 "W revised" (referring to Wiedler) vs. "F traditional" (referring to the charts published by Fisch/Fred). 5

Fig. 1: SN dating: acoustic and 1950s electric hollowbody instruments (SN systems A + B). See documented instruments in registry database.

W revised – Wiedler
(approx. first SN)
F traditional – Fisch/Fred
(approx. first SN)
1931 5000      
1932 5500   5000  
1933 6240   6000  
1934 7200   7200  
1935 8400   8000  
1936 9900   10000  
1937 11400   11000  
1938 12900   12000  
1939 14400   13000  
1940 16000   14500  
1941 17350   16000  
1942 18450   17500  
1943 19400 50000 18200  
1944   50600 19000 50000
1945   52200   52000
1946   54150   54000
1947   55850   56000
1948   57100   57000
1949   58450   58000
1950   60000   59000
1951   62100   60000
1952   64100   64000
1953   65000   65000
1954   67000   67000
1955   69000   69000
1956   69500   69500

Fig. 2: SN dating: electric Hawaiian guitars and pre-1950 electric hollowbody instruments (SN systems C, D, E). See documented instruments in registry database.

Year W revised – Wiedler
(approx. first SN)
F traditional
– Fisch/Fred
1935 no SN        1
1936 25                           
1937 700 750
1938 1700 1500
1939 2500 2500
1940 3300 3500
1941 5000 5000
1942 6600
1943 (production halted) 7500
1944 (production halted) 8300
1945 (production halted) 
1946–1949 7300    Zephyr Hawaiian
15000  Century Hawaiian
25000  Zephyr Spanish
60000  Century Spanish
75000  Zephyr DeLuxe
85000  Zephyr DeLuxe Cutaway
100000 Console

1949 3000, 4000  Kent Spanish
75      Kent Hawaiian, Century Hawaiian
100    Alkire Eharp

1950–1956 9000  Electric Hawaiian

3. Understanding Epiphone's SN systems – number ranges assigned to model batches

Epiphone's SN systems generally appear to follow this pattern: a range of consecutive, ascending SNs are found on instruments of one single model; a subsequent range of SNs appears on instruments of another single model; and so on (see example Fig. 3).

Fig. 3: Sample excerpt from Registry database.

SN Model
54919 Emperor
54920 Emperor
54923 Emperor
54926 Emperor
54927 Emperor
54928 Emperor
54931 Emperor
54935 Emperor
54937 Emperor
5494x Emperor
54957 Emperor
54958 Emperor
54959 Emperor
54964 Emperor
54967 Emperor
54969 Emperor
54985 Zenith
55010 Zenith
55016 Zenith
55037 Zenith
55043 Zenith
55048 Zenith
55079 Spartan
55087 Spartan
55092 Spartan
55116 Spartan
55124 Spartan
55127 Spartan
55148 Triumph
55162 Triumph
55167 Triumph
55168 Triumph
55178 Triumph
55190 Triumph
55198 Triumph
55201 Triumph
55204 Triumph
55209 Triumph
55210 Triumph
55229 Triumph
55230 Triumph
55235 Triumph
55242 Blackstone
55244 Blackstone
55245 Blackstone
55247 Blackstone
55250 Blackstone
55262 Blackstone
55267 Blackstone
55293 Blackstone
55297 Blackstone
55301 Blackstone
55314 Blackstone
55323 Blackstone

My understanding of this pattern is that these model-specific SN ranges correspond to production runs – i.e. a run or batch of a model was assigned SNs of a consecutive number range. The subsequent SN range was then assigned to the next following production run of a different model, and so on. This means: Epiphone's ascending SNs reflect a chronology of production. 6

Note that batch sizes varied considerably – from possibly a single special order instrument up to a hundred or more instruments of the same model in a consecutive SN range. 7

4. Reconstructing model production data filling SN gaps through interpolation + extrapolation

Based on these findings that ranges of consecutive SNs were assigned to batches of the same model, we can extend our research: To reconstructing missing model production data – by using interpolation and extrapolation algorithms on our SN data.

Interpolation methods enable us to "fill in" undocumented SN/model pairs within assumed batches – i.e. ranges of SNs exclusively assigned to one model (see example in Fig. 4).

Fig. 4: Interpolation of missing SN/model pairs within an assumed batch/SN range of the same model (example). Note that in many cases the very first and last SNs of a batch cannot be determined as long as there are SN gaps to the adjacent batch of a different model. However all missing numbers between the lowest and highest documented SNs of an assumed model batch can be "interpolated" i.e. tentatively identified (with high probability) to also be examples of that same model.

SN Model Data source
54957 Emperor Registry
54958 Emperor Registry
54959 Emperor Registry
54960 Emperor interpolated
54961 Emperor interpolated
54962 Emperor interpolated
54963 Emperor interpolated
54964 Emperor Registry
54965 Emperor interpolated
54966 Emperor interpolated
54967 Emperor Registry
54968 Emperor interpolated
54969 Emperor Registry

Applying this interpolation method to my registry data leads to some remarkable results: While my documented SN/model pairs currently represent about 9% of the estimated total instrument production, the addition of interpolated SN/model pairs boosts this ratio to 57% (see Fig. 6 for an excerpt).

According to our theory, the figures presented in column "Registry+interpolated" can be seen as "minimum" production estimates for the respective models, i.e. how many were "at least" produced. I consider these "minimum" estimates as pretty reliable, although they are not to be mistaken as total production estimates.

However, the data also allows for calculating rough estimates of total production numbers for each model and period – by employing approximation (extrapolation) methods. Extrapolation algorithms tentatively attribute undocumented SN/model pairs in gaps between two (assumed) adjacent model batches – see example in Fig. 5.

Fig. 5: Extrapolation of SN/model pairs between two assumed model batches (example): The 6 undocumented SNs 55236–55241 are likely to include models of the previous batch (=Triumph) and/or subsequent batch (=Blackstone), although their relative distribution is not known. Our applied extrapolation algorithm equally assigns 50% of the missing SNs to the previous model and 50% to the subsequent model – in this example 3 Triumphs and 3 Blackstones. Note: Theoretically, such SN gaps may include a small batch of a third model.

SN Model Data source
55230 Triumph Registry
55231 Triumph interpolated
55232 Triumph interpolated
55233 Triumph interpolated
55234 Triumph interpolated
55235 Triumph Registry
55236 Triumph extrapolated
55237 Triumph extrapolated
55238 Triumph extrapolated
55239 Blackstone extrapolated
55240 Blackstone extrapolated
55241 Blackstone extrapolated
55242 Blackstone Registry
55243 Blackstone interpolated
55244 Blackstone Registry

Note: These extrapolated totals in the right column of Fig. 6 are ballpark figures and do not claim to be exact. But they give a rough idea – e.g. if total production of a model was likely in the dozens, in the hundreds, or in the thousands.

5. Examples of model production estimates

Below some examples of estimates for certain models/production periods.

Fig. 6: Example of estimated totals: acoustic archtop guitars per model 1931–1956, plus totals of other instrument types. Model totals include 4-string versions (data as of 22 May 2019).

Epiphone models

Registry+ interpolated 
Estim. total
220 1727 3080
Broadway 221 1120 2099
Broadway Cutaway/Regent 19 47 150
Byron 31 273 473
DeLuxe 191 655 1390
DeLuxe Cutaway/Regent 26 48 152
Devon 71 352 789
Emperor 201 622 909
Emperor Cutaway/Regent 44 77 257
Olympic 250 2387 4017
Ritz 32 265 600
Royal 24 117 234
Spartan 74 326 1026
Triumph 484 2949 4529
Triumph Cutaway/Regent 113 505 849
Tudor 4 6 53*
Zenith 364 3101 5335
Sorrentino/Howard/Ideal 23 68 276
Early Tenor/Plectrum 49 102 573
Total Acoustic Archtops 2441 14747 26785
Total Mandolins 83 313 1039
Total Flattops 157 669 2238
Total El Hollowb '50s 557 3145 4885
Total Ac + El Hollowb '50s 3238
18874 34946
Percent Ac + El Hollowb '50s 9.3%
Total El Hollowb 1936–42 144 1039 2189**
Total El Hawaiian 1936–42 328 2777 5006**
Total El Hollowb 1946–49 209 1899 1899
Total El Hawaiian 1946–56 147 1316 1436
Total El pre-'50 + Haw all 828 7031 10527**
Total all 1931–56
Percent all 1931–56
8.9% 57.0% 100%

The chart in Fig. 6 provides a summary of Epiphone's stringed instrument production totals 1931–1956 (without acoustic banjos, basses 8, and amplifiers). The data in a nutshell:

Fig. 7: Example of estimated yearly production figures of a model: pre-war Emperor, including Soloist model (data as of 25 Feb 2019).

Year (approx.)

Registry+ interpolated 
Estim. total extrapolated 


1935 2 3 28 1              
1936 16 46 77 2
1937 10 22 29 1
1938 5 34 49 1
1939 26 88 112 3
1940 11 20 53 2 +Soloist
1941 10 23 33 1



Total pre-war
80 236 379 11
Percent            20.9% 61.6% 100%

The chart in Fig. 7 shows an example of model-related data on a timeline – for the pre-war Emperor:

Fig. 8: Example of all acoustic models in a time period: year 1947 = SN range 55850–57099 (data as of 4 May 2019).

(W year)

Reg+ interp
Est. total extrapol Extrapol
Blackstone  28 437 3 488 51          89.6%
Broadway 18 142 1 150 8             95.0%
DeLuxe 18 104 2 127 23 81.9%
Spartan 13 85 2 108 27 79.1%
Triumph 37 326 2 361 35 90.4%
114 1094 10 1232 138 88.8%

The chart in Fig. 8 shows an example of a comparatively high interpolation ratio due to a low number of large model batches:
These are just examples. Based on our registry data, similar charts and conclusions can be made for any model or time period.

Although these estimates are still somewhat speculative and approximate at best, they are certainly based on a much larger data sample of higher quality than that on which previous research was based. And the estimates will keep getting more precise as the database of documented SN/model pairs is growing.

6. SNs of Epiphone amplifiers

Epiphone used several different SN systems for their amplifiers over the years (see Fig. 9). (SN stamped on logo plate or control plate.)

The amps' SN systems appear to be less straightforward than those used for the stringed instruments. We observe that in some periods certain SN ranges appear to have been reserved for certain models – with ascending numbers, however not always applied in strictly chronological order. Therefore, our dating of amps is mainly based on features (e.g. EIA date codes of electronic components). 9

Furthermore, it is questionable whether all numbers in the respective SN ranges were indeed assigned to manufactured units – making it unfeasible to calculate production figures by interpolation or extrapolation methods (as done with stringed instruments). 10

For these reasons I don't present total production estimates for Epiphone amplifiers at this stage of my research. 11

Fig. 9: SN dating: amplifiers. Note model-specific SN ranges in some years. See documented amps in registry database.

SN amplifier models (approx first SN)
1935 no SN Electar
1936 1        Electar, Model C, Model M
1937 700    Model C, Model M
1938 1700  Model C, Model M,  
3000  Model M, Model EL
4000  Model M
1939 1900  Century, Coronet 5000  Zephyr
1940 6000  Century, Coronet 5500  Zephyr
1941 9000  Century, Coronet 7000  Zephyr
1942 10000 Century, Coronet 8200  Zephyr
1943–1945 (production halted)
1946 10000 Century 8500  Zephyr, Dreadn
1947 12000 Century 10000 Zephyr
1948–1952 40000 Century
10000 Century (no reverb)
2000   Asta
30000 Dreadnaught
35000 Zephyr
1952–1953 40000 Century, Zephyr 30000 Dreadn, Zephyr
1955–1956 1000   Dreadnaught, Zephyr, Century

General note: My estimated SN dating and production figures are approximations that are subject to correction as new evidence material surfaces.


1) Our research includes acoustic and electric instruments of the guitar and mandolin families. Epiphone banjos and bass viols (which had their own SN systems each) are out of the scope of my research. Recommended links: Epiphone Upright Bass Research project (see note 7) and Banjo Hangout – Dating an Epiphone Banjo from the 1925-1930s era.

2) When electric model production was relaunched in 1946, new ranges of SNs were applied to most models – with numbers consisting of a model-specific prefix (2–3 digits) and a serial suffix (3 digits, ascending consecutive numbers starting with 000): Unlike with the other SN systems, these new SN ranges were used concurrently, i.e. reflecting the timeline of production only within each model. This system allows for pretty precise estimates of production figures per model in this period: the highest (known) SN suffix of a model indicating the total number produced – summing up to an estimated total of 2160 units.
An exception (and not included in this figure) is the Zephyr Hawaiian model which carried on with the pre-war SN system (see C), starting around SN 7300 in 1946 and ending around SN 7908 in 1949 (=approx. 609 units in total).

3) The year 1949 brought significant changes to Epiphone's model lineup and likewise to their SN systems. Early examples of the newly introduced Kent Spanish model have "special" SNs in the 3000s and 4000s (stamped on headstock), before switching to SN system B by 1950. Documented examples of the new Kent Hawaiian show "special" SNs in the 75 to 171 range (stamped on headstock). In the early 1950s all electric Hawaiian guitars switched to SNs in the 9000s (stamped on bridge unit). Due to the yet unclear logic behind the applied "special" SN systems, production totals for these models are difficult to estimate and therefore very approximate.
Also included in this group is the Alkire Eharp, an electric Hawaiian model custom built for and exclusively sold by musician Eddie Alkire in the late 1940s; the model had its own SN system starting around 100.

4) Generally, our production estimates are based on the assumption that every number in the respective SN ranges was assigned to a manufactured instrument. Theoretically there is a possibility that certain numbers may have been omitted and not used for whatever reason. Certainty in this matter will grow as the gaps of undocumented SNs in our Registry continue to be filled with data.

5) Fisch, J. and L.B. Fred (1992), Epiphone: The House of Stathopoulo, p.291ff.
Fisch/Fred's "traditional" Epiphone SN dating charts presented slightly revised data originally published in Tom Wheeler's important book: Wheeler, T. (1982), American Guitars: An Illustrated History, p.40. Wheeler had based his Epiphone SN dating on inventory records of a music store – Pettey Music Co in Pittsburgh PA. This fact suggests that Wheeler's SN/year chart related to the date when an Epiphone instrument was present at that store – which typically must have been at least a few months after it had entered production at the factory.
In contrast, our "W” date always refers to the estimated date when the respective Epiphone instrument/SN entered production – i.e. NOT the date it was finished, left the factory, or was sold by a store. It can be assumed that shipping/sale dates of individual instruments from the same production period (or even the same batch) could vary considerably – i.e. some selling quickly, while others remained unsold for months or longer (see note 6).
This (partly) explains the differences to the "traditional" dating, which ultimately relied on Tom Wheeler’s research based on inventory lists of one single retail store.

6) Epiphone's SN systems appear to be similar in concept to the SNs of C.F. Martin & Co: instruments within a (typically model-specific) production batch were assigned a consecutive SN range – i.e. the ascending SNs reflect the chronology of instruments entering production as part of model batches. Which means: SNs are not inherently related to the date of shipping to a customer/dealer (see note 5).
In contrast, Gibson's SNs (pre-WW2) generally appear to relate to the completion/shipping date of an individual instrument: i.e. Gibson instruments of the same production batch may bear SNs which are sometimes wider apart – indicating some examples shipped quickly (receiving a lower SN), while other examples remained uncompleted for some time and shipped significantly later (receiving a higher SN); for marking/identifying instruments of the same production batch Gibson used a second numbering system – the Factory Order Number (FON); see Joe Spann's invaluable research published in: Spann, J. E. (2011), Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941.

7) Note that in our text the term "batch" is used for a series of Epiphone instruments within a SN range exclusively assigned to one single model, although technically speaking a larger SN series of one model may actually consist of several consecutive production batches of the same model.

8) The Epiphone Upright Bass Research Project by Wendy Staley is documenting Epiphone basses and their SN systems. According to the research, an estimated total of approximately 3087 basses was produced during the 1940–1956 period, with SNs assigned to the following production years:
9) The somewhat irregular and partly confusing SN scheme for amps started around 1938, with the higher amplifier models (Model M/EL, Zephyr, Dreadnaught) switching to SNs stamped on their control plates, while the lower models (Model C, Century, Coronet) continued to receive SNs on (pre-)stamped Electar logo plates as before.
Subsequently until WW2, it appears that specific SN ranges were reserved for each group – distinguished by the initial digit(s) of the 4–5 digit numbers: After WW2, the Zephyr/Dreadnaught group soon reached SN ranges (9xxx, 10xxx) which previously had been reserved for the Century/Coronet group. By 1948 new SN ranges with model-code prefix were introduced (however applied with exceptions to the rule):
In the 1950s, the amp models went through further changes, and so did the SN systems.

10) Example: there is only one amplifier documented with a SN in the entire 4000s range (SN 4042: Model M AC-DC).

11) In an earlier stage of our research we assumed that the earliest electric stringed instruments and amps used one shared SN system (as opposed to two separate systems covering the same number range): This theory was based on the fact that there weren't any examples of identical SNs on units of each type documented – until at least 3 exceptions surfaced:
Therefore we currently base our production estimates on the assumption that electric stringed instruments and amps used separate SN systems – although this theory may again be revised as new evidence surfaces. Note that a (partly) shared SN system would significantly reduce our production estimates for some 1930–40s electric models.



Carter, Walter, and Jimi Stratton. Epiphone: The Complete History. Hal Leonard Corporation, 1995.

Carter, Walter. The Epiphone Guitar Book: A Complete History. Hal Leonard Corporation, 2012.

Fisch, Jim, and L. B. Fred. Epiphone: The House of Stathopoulo. Amsco Publications, 1996.

General or other makers:

Gruhn, George, and Walter Carter. Acoustic guitars and other fretted instruments: a photographic history. GPI Books, 1993.

Gruhn, George, and Walter Carter. Gruhn's guide to vintage guitars: an identification guide for American fretted instruments. GPI Books, 1991.

Gruhn, George, and Walter Carter. Gruhn's guide to vintage guitars: an identification guide for American fretted instruments. Updated and revised 3rd edition. Hal Leonard Corporation, 2010.

Johnston, Richard, and Dick Boak. Martin guitars: A history. Vol. 1. Hal Leonard Corporation, 2008.

Johnston, Richard, and Dick Boak. Martin Guitars: A Technical Reference. Vol. 2. Hal Leonard Corporation, 2009.

Spann, Joseph E. Spann's Guide to Gibson 1902-1941. Centerstream Publications, 2011.

Wheeler, Tom. American guitars: an illustrated history. Harper & Row, 1982.

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