Tudor 7453 full

Close-up #4: 1934 Tudor SN 7453

A pretty special guitar that is part of Epiphone's Vintage Collection – acquired as part of the Jim Fisch Collection. I took most of the pictures below when I inspected and documented those instruments at the Epiphone HQ in Nashville TN in 2014.

Tudor 7453 label

As the label says this is an Epiphone Tudor model with serial number 7453. The Tudor first appeared in the 1934 catalog as the second highest model below the DeLuxe. The Tudor's price of $225 was $50 less than the DeLuxe, and $50 more than the Broadway.

1934 catalog Tudor

The Tudor had a carved maple back like the (higher) DeLuxe ...

Tudor 7453 back

... and similar style fancy inlays – except no marker at the first fret. 

Tudor 7453 fretboard

The headstock sported a vine inlay identical to the (lower) Broadway model, with the Epiphone name in block letters – a short-lived feature.

Tudor 7453 head

Note the gold-plated Grover G-98 tuners with scalloped buttons. This variety with clipped-end plate and riveted cog (no screw) was only used until 1935. These tuners had a gear ratio of 6:1.

7453 Tudor tuners

The Epiphone Tudor is one of Epiphone's rarest archtop models – only a handful examples are known to exist, and only 3 other examples have been documented with their serial number: SN 7449 and SN  7452 (from the same 1934 batch as 7453), plus SN 9082 from 1935. Of all known examples, 7453 appears to have survived in the finest, all-original condition.

Talking about rarity: In the world of collectors, rarity is often presented as a desirable feature. However from the perspective of  musical instrument history the Epiphone Tudor is rare because it didn't sell when introduced in 1934 – the model must have been what we call a total flop! We can only speculate about the reasons: Perhaps there was just no real market for a model between the $275 DeLuxe and the $175 Broadway.

In 1930s market for professional quality archtop guitars, the main competitors Gibson and Epiphone delivered a head-to-head race, carefully pitching model features and pricing against each other – see table below (based on 1934–1936 catalogs).

Super 400 Emperor $400 (incl case)
L-5 DeLuxe $275
Tudor $225
L-12 Broadway $175
L-10 $150
L-7 Triumph $125
L-4 Spartan $100
L-75 Blackstone $75
L-50 Zenith $50
L-37 / L-30 Olympic $37.50/$30 / $35

Interestingly, Gibson did not offer an equivalent model at the Tudor's price point.

(Oct 2, 2016 – with later additions)