1953 Epiphone Emperor Sized Deluxe

In mid 1950 Epiphone made a minuscule batch of guitars carrying the Deluxe model identification on their label but with the 18.5" body specs of their top of the line Emperor Guitar. Until this point in 1950, the Deluxe had been an approximately 16" and then 17" guitar, which was placed in direct competition with Gibson’s L5. The Epiphone Emperor competed with Gibson’s 18” Super 400. 

According to The Unofficial New York Epiphone Registry, there are five currently known and documented Emperor-sized De Luxes in that batch from 1950 with these increased size specifications. Only three have associated pictures. Between that batch and mine (which is from early 1953), I see only one other example of this increased Emperor body size from the very end of 1951. There are no known examples after mine. 

Surely there are other examples out there that remain undocumented. But to describe this guitar as anything but an extreme rarity would be a gross understatement. Jazz guitar store archtop.com, with a very long track record of past sales of fine archtops, has never had one in stock that I see. This example was sold through Gruhn at one point years ago. Through some deep searching I found two transactions on Reverb, both of which are documented on the Epiphone registry mentioned above. I haven’t been able to find any other examples online. 

Although the body size on these De Luxe guitars is the same as the Emperors made at that time, there are some differences between the models. First and foremost, rather than having the triangular / block inlays typically found on Emperors, these guitars feature the cloud inlays of the Deluxes from earlier on. It should also be noted that although Epiphone started transitioning the truss rod adjustment to the headstock in 1952, this guitar still retains the more aesthetically pleasing truss rod adjustment at the body, so their trademark "Tree of Life" headstock inlay is unobstructed. You’ll note the F holes do not have binding, unlike the Emperors. Also, the body binding is simpler than it is on the Emperors, looking to be only 9-ply rather than 13-ply. The neck is made of five pieces, as opposed to the seven of the Emperor.

It’s almost as if this is Epiphone’s equivalent to Gibson’s Super 300, a simpler Super 400 variant made for a few years. This is strange due to the fact that Epiphone lacked a premium 17" answer to Gibson’s L5 during this era. Why Epiphone chose to do this is a mystery. We’re all left to speculate. Regardless, this example is RARE, fascinating, and beautiful. And most important, it sounds powerful and amazing!

Body size at lower bout: 18 1/2" Body depth: 3 1/4" Scale length: 25 1/2" Nut: 1 11/16"

Overall, the guitar is in excellent condition. Like most Epiphone binding from this era, there is some shrinking and slight separation from the body at the waist, and small gaps at the heel and end block. There appears to have been some work done to correct that issue, along with possible light overspray on the bass side of its back. I was told the neck finish was professionally removed from the back of the neck by the vintage guitar experts at Gruhn in Nashville, and it is clean work, which helps aid playability. The tuners, tailpiece, and are original. The bridge appears to be an expertly fitted and intonated vintage replacement. And the pickguard is a lovely, vintage-correct reproduction from 1929 Archtop Pickguards. The original case is included and is also in great condition!

The sound is warm, thunderous, and clear. It works great for lead, chord melody, and is a rhythm monster. These Emperor sized Deluxes are very rare and lovely. Only one... Inquire now! OHSC Included. 

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