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Can someone school me on Epiphones made (in the USA) by the Gibson Custom Shop?

AlienVintage

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Sep 10, 2015
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325
Hi - I think this would be the most appropriate section to post this question (since it is the Gibson Custom section after all).

I’m hoping someone could school me on the subject of Epiphone models that have ever been (truly) made in the USA by the Gibson Custom Shop.

My limited understanding is that, in 2009, the Gibson Custom Shop (in Nashville) made a quantity of exactly 200 reissue Epiphone Wilshires - first 100 in cherry, and then 100 in white. These 200 Wilshires were genuinely made by the actual Gibson Custom Shop in Nashville, not simply made overseas and branded as “custom shop.” So, literally made by the same people and facilities that make Historic Les Paul reissues. These Wilshire reissues cost about $2,900 retail price when they were released in 2009.

Aside from these 200 Wilshires in 2009, has the Gibson Custom Shop (again, in the USA) made any other Epiphone reissues, over the years? And if so, can someone tell me more about this history? Thanks!
 

AlienVintage

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Here is a copy/paste of the backstory I found regarding the making of the Wilshire reissue by the Gibson Custom Shop in 2009. I hope it is okay to post it here - although I can’t see why it wouldn’t be (this is from 13 years ago now, so not exactly breaking news).

Super interesting. I feel that this model truly confused a lot of people back in 2009, who likely didn’t fully appreciate this was something different than any other Epiphone offerings. I read back to a lot of the feedback in 2009 when the model was announced, and in summary, the main consensus was: a lot of complaining about an Epiphone that cost $2,900 street price…. when most were used to import Epiphones costing in the hundreds of dollars.

I’m also wondering whether the apparent negative public response (to the $2,900 street price) basically caused Epiphone to drop the idea of any further Epiphone reissues by the Gibson Custom Shop (?). Maybe Epiphone figured: why go through such trouble only to sell 100 guitars of each type. I could be wrong - maybe Epiphone continued the effort and additional Epiphone models were also made by the Gibson Custom Shop - I’m hoping some of you might be able to fill me in on that.

Here is that backstory:

After acquiring Epiphone in 1957, the engineers and designers at Gibson set out to create a collection of instruments that would distinguish their new brand from the Gibson instruments of the era and at the same time provide strong competition for other popular brands. The result was the creation of some of the best sounding and constructed instruments of the era. Though these instruments logically shared some features with their Gibson cousins, they offered unique body shapes and features not found elsewhere within the company. Built on the same production lines, by the same craftsmen, and with the same quality of materials, the Epiphone guitars produced in Kalamazoo in the late 50s and throughout the 60's were of superb quality and tonal character.

Compared with production numbers of instruments with the Gibson logo on the headstock, Epiphone models of this era were produced in very limited quantities. For example, in 1962 only 220 total Wilshires, with and without tremolo, were shipped. Due to the low production numbers and the superb quality of these guitars, values have seen a steady increase over the years. Depending on condition, many of these Kalamazoo made Epiphones now sell for $5000 to $10,000 or more. As their value as collectibles and reputation as tone monsters continues to grow, this upward trend in value will continue.



With increasing interest from the vintage community and a desire to provide a great guitar that is second to none, we partnered with the prestigious Gibson Custom Shop to produce an accurate reproduction of one of the greatest solid body Epiphone guitars of all time. Initiated by Epiphone President Jim Rosenberg and spearheaded by myself, Richard Akers, Director of Engineering, the Epiphone Custom Historic program was launched in January of 2008. What followed was a long and meticulous process to produce the Wilshire with the highest quality of materials and degree of accuracy possible.

In the beginning , much thought was given to which model we would use as the first in the Custom Historic series. There were a number of great guitars produced during the era that offered many choices in features. Batwing or three on a side headstock, asymmetrical or symmetrical body, mini humbuckers or P90 pickups. These were a few of the features which required consideration. From discussions with the Custom Shop's vintage expert, Edwin Wilson, a number of highly respected vintage dealers, and several vintage guitar collectors at the Dallas Guitar Show in April of 2008, it was decided that the 1962 Wilshire would be the perfect instrument to begin this ambitious project.

With excitement building, the real work of reproducing this guitar began in earnest. I was able to acquire an all original '62 Wilshire in very good condition from a collector in Austin, Texas. Exact measurements were then taken using our Brown and Sharpe CMM (Coordinate Measuring Machine). The Brown and Sharpe uses a touch probe that gives a single point each time it touches the guitars surface. This machine is accurate to .0007", which is less than the diameter of an average human hair. I acquired hundreds of individual points to create a "point cloud" of digital information which would later be used with a CAD (computer aided design) system to produce the drawings necessary to accurately reproduce the guitar.

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After acquiring the raw data it was then necessary to refine the information into a format that could be utilized by a CNC (computer numerical control) machine. For this I used a combination of AutoCAD and Solidworks, a 3D CAD design software. The process is very time consuming and requires careful work to ensure the model's integrity is maintained. From this information I created a 3D model in Solidworks that was used by master luthier and engineer Mathew Klein at the Custom Shop to reproduce the '62 Wilshire with exacting accuracy.

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Much work was also devoted to correctly reproducing the pickups and hardware used on this reissue. The unit base used on vintage P90s differs from current Gibson production, therefore new tooling was created to fabricate the unit base to historic specifications. To further ensure accuracy, we sent an original unit base to a metallurgical testing laboratory to determine the exact alloy of brass used by Gibson in 1962. I used the original unit base to create drawings for reproducing the unit base to exact specifications. The method of wiring used for the early 60's P90 also differs from current production and was duplicated for this reissue.

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It goes without saying that the quality of craftsmanship and materials used at the Gibson Custom Shop are of the highest standards. The '62 Wilshire reissue features a one piece Peruvian mahogany body and neck with a Madagascar rosewood fingerboard. Finding one piece body blanks of sufficient size and quality for producing guitars is getting to be very difficult. The body blanks used for these guitars were pulled from a special reserve of high quality Peruvian mahogany at the Custom Shop. Special cutters were developed to exactly shape the edge profiles and CNCs were utilized to consistently machine the bodies. In addition, all of the guitars were plek'd (www.plek.com/en_US/home) once completed to provide the best playing guitars attainable. Not only are these guitars very accurate reproductions of the originals, they are made to be played.

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Though we took the liberty to improve upon the original case that shipped in 1962, efforts were made to ensure that the outside tolex and inside velvet were the original colors of gray and blue and that the case had a vibe and quality suitable for such a fine instrument. In addition, I was able to locate and acquire a number of original hang tags. Kent Allen, the art director here at Epiphone, painstakingly reproduced the hang tag complete with factory typos to add a nice finishing touch to the overall package.

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There are a number of people that deserve special mention for their support and assistance throughout this project. Sam and Ben Taylor from Southside Guitars in Brooklyn, NY. provided several guitars for my use and a lot of helpful information. Walter Carter from Gruhn Guitars in Nashville, TN. provided a wealth of information and access to many cool historic guitars and cases. A long time Epiphone friend, Scott Freilich from Top Shelf Music in Buffalo, NY. provided original Epiphone hang tags, expertise, and the contact that lead us to Chuck Riley, the collector who supplied the original '62 Wilshire that was ultimately used as the model for our first Custom Historic reissue.

A very special thank you is also in order to General Manager Rick Gembar, Edwin Wilson, Mathew Klein, Lynn Mathews and the entire staff of skilled craftsmen at the Gibson Custom Shop. Without their expertise, attention to detail, and skilled hands these guitars would not have been possible.

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After spending the last year researching these great old Epiphones and developing the '62 Wilshire I am really excited about what's to come. I am currently working on designs for other great Epiphone guitars from this era. Stay tuned. Good things are on the way.
 

jb_abides

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I think that they did some Casinos in the last couple of years.

Yes...

The 1999 John Lennon USA E230TD '1965' (burst finish) and 'Revolution' (stripped finish, other Lennon mods like gold Grovers replacing kidneys) Limited Edition Casinos [not the follow-up run of 'Inspired By' John Lennons].

They were a limited run of 1,965 (1965!) and a collaboration between USA and Japan. Special label, etc. Yoko Ono allowed them to come examine, measure, take specs, and the proceeds benefited the BMI John Lennon Scholarships.

I have a Lefty 'Revolution' Casino, not a 1965. Should have bough both when they came out. I think @Elliot Easton has both, Lefty of course!

There is probably more info on the forum, if you search.
 

AlienVintage

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Sep 10, 2015
Messages
325
Yes...

The 1999 John Lennon USA E230TD '1965' (burst finish) and 'Revolution' (stripped finish, other Lennon mods like gold Grovers replacing kidneys) Limited Edition Casinos [not the follow-up run of 'Inspired By' John Lennons].

They were a limited run of 1,965 (1965!) and a collaboration between USA and Japan. Special label, etc. Yoko Ono allowed them to come examine, measure, take specs, and the proceeds benefited the BMI John Lennon Scholarships.

I have a Lefty 'Revolution' Casino, not a 1965. Should have bough both when they came out. I think @Elliot Easton has both, Lefty of course!

There is probably more info on the forum, if you search.
Please forgive my ignorance (I am absolutely not a Custom Shop/Historic guy!), but were these models by simply Gibson USA, or was the Gibson Custom Shop involved? Thanks for the info!
 

AlienVintage

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Sep 10, 2015
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Here is where my personal interest comes from: I’m a huge fan of *stoptail equipped* Wilshires from ‘60 through ‘65.

So, I love both versions of the stoptail Wilshire (again, I am excluding vibrola equipped Wilshires, for my own personal interest):

A. ‘60 through late ‘63 (P90s, larger more symmetrical body, three-per-side tuners, wide nut)

B. Late ‘63 through mid ‘65 (mini humbuckers, smaller asymmetrical body, batwing headstock, narrow nut)

Stoptail (not vibrola) Wilshires are much more rare than most people appreciate, even vintage guitar aficionados. Here are the shipping totals by year:

1960 - 59
1961 - 186
1962 - 180
1963 - 92
1964 - 246
1965 - 129

*Again, these numbers ONLY include stoptail Wilshires*

That is only about 900 total guitars. Probably roughly 500 “Version A” and about 400 “Version B” (just an approximate breakdown by type).

I bet, if you polled the guitar community, they would estimate multiple times this 900 shipping total, if they had to guess what they thought the total would be. I bet the average guess might be in the couple thousand guitars shipped range.

Anyway… back to these 2009 Custom Shop Wilshire reissues. Aside from the ‘60s originals, I think these 2009 Custom Shop Wilshires seem to clearly be the best alternative out there - one that is well-made in the USA and historically accurate. I know, for just one example, that Charlie at OK Guitars thinks they are great reissues (shout out to him, reading his posts on the subject is what got me initially interested).
 

AlienVintage

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Sep 10, 2015
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TLDR version of my posts above:

Vintage ‘60s stoptail Wilshires are awesome

Gibson Custom Shop reissued the ‘62 version in 2009 (100 cherry, 100 white)

They cost $2,900 actual retail/store price

People didn’t “get it.” I think that might have been the end of Epiphones made by the Gibson Custom Shop (although I could be wrong on this fact)
 

Jim W

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renderit

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Didn't know aboot them, would have bought one had I known.

Failure in advertising?
 

Flogger

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Please forgive my ignorance (I am absolutely not a Custom Shop/Historic guy!), but were these models by simply Gibson USA, or was the Gibson Custom Shop involved? Thanks for the info!
I was at NAMM the year they came out, Gibson's booth was a semi truck.. I was checking out the Revolution with the John and Yoko sharpie images, and a voice asked me to hold it up, and I was promptly blinded by a camera flash (it was dark in the truck).

As my vision cleared I was chatting with the guy who took the pic, and when the Purple blotches faded I realized that I was in conversation with Tony Levin ( bass on Double Fantasy).

"You don't need me to show this to you, you've seen the real one."
 
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