Orville Gibson is considered the inventor of the Archtop guitar.Gibson crafted a violin shaped guitar that was intended to produce more volume and tone. Vintage Acoustic archtops From 1902 to the mid 1920’s such as the early Gibson’s O and L models archtop guitars are collected more for their historic value than their sound quality.
Gibsons Vintage Acoustic & Electric Archtop Guitars
Gibson’s from the mid 1920’s and into the 30’s are better regarded, especially the vintage guitars with the f-holes. The earliest acoustic arch tops made by Gibson are the pre-war models, the Super 400’s and the L-5’s with cutaway bodies and natural finishes.
Pre war electric vintage arch tops like the ES-150 with the sunburst finish and the ES-250 a bit bigger introduced in 1939. It was offered in sunburst and natural finish. Post war electric arch tops that have high value are L-5CES and the Super 400 CES both introduced in 1951.
Martin Acoustic & Electric Archtop Vintage Guitars
Martin made a few acoustic arch tops in the 30’s. Acoustic models include styles C 1931 the style F 1935 the style GT in 1965. Archtops were not Martins best guitar. The result is they are less value and less in demand.
In 1939 Gretsch came out with the acoustic competitor from the Gibson 1935 Super 400 the art deco style Syncrhromatic. The Synchromatic had cat’s eyes sound holes instead of the f-holes, stair step bridge and harp-shaped tailpiece. The guitar were no completion for Gibson. These arch tops are not very valuable despite their age.
Gretsch & Guild Vintage Acoustic & Electric Archtop Guitars
Gretsch were better known for their electric arch tops. Particularly the White Falcon, a single cutaway and the Chet Atkins Country Gentlemen the hollowed body, double cutaway guitar that gained fame when George Harrison played it on the Ed Sullivan Show.
During the 1950’s Guild guitar made some of the most collectable arch tops. A prime example is the A- 50 Granada from 1956. It had a laminated maple body with a sunburst finish, rosewood fingerboard and three piece mahogany and maple neck. Guilds electric X-550 a blonde vintage arch top and the Aristocrat M-75 are prizes from the 50’s and the DE-500(DE stands for Duane Eddy a popular guitarist in the 50’s and the George Barnes (the famous Jazz guitarist) are Guilds most collectable arch tops.
Epiphone Acoustic & Electric Vintage Archtop Guitars
In the 1920’s Epiphone introduced a complete line of “recording acoustic archtops guitars.” The guitars had models from A to E and came in spruce and maple. Today these arch tops are played by Blues musicians or treasured by collectors. Models to look for are the Broadway (1931-58), the De lux (1931-57) also the Emperor (1935-mid 50’s). The electric arch tops that are sought out are the Electric Emperor Archtop (only 66 guitars were made) and the Blonde version of the Sheraton from 1958 which is a very rare guitar.
Interest in vintage Archtops have been revived by luthiers such as Mark Campellone. The renewed interest in Rockabilly music has led Guild to introduce a Rockabilly model electric archtop with humbucking pickups. The interest in collecting and playing vintage archtops has become even more popular today as musicians and collectors find the playability and the craftsmanship of some of these vintage guitars almost impossible to replicate.
- Collectors weekly – Archtop Guitars- http://www.collectorsweekly.com/guitars/archtop
- Acoustic – Guitar and String Instrument Information/Research and History