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82 Epiphone Riviera


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Greetings All.


I've recently purchased what i've been told is an 82 epi riviera. However i have no idea how to date this guitar. There is no serial number at all and no country of manufacture stamped on the guitar anywhere!


Looks like a riviera though it has full sized humbuckers! Either way, wherever the guitar was made it sounds and feels great, to be honest if I close my eyes and play there is no difference to the feel and sound to the 68 gibson 335 i used to own. So i'm just curious more than anything to see if anyone can help me find out where and when the guitar was made.


The sticker inside says model: Epiphone Riviera WR (wine red i'm assuming as the guitar is a nice deep dark red). Where it says serial number it is left blank and on the bottom it says Epiphone, a division of gibson inc. Kalamazoo, Michigan.


The guitar has a slight volute at the back of the headstock and the hardware is gold, including the frequensator tailpiece. It came with a non-original scratch plate that i've replaced with a generic black 335 scratch plate. It's in great condition but you can tell it is an older guitar by the yellowing of the white binding and the aging of the gold hardware.


If anyone can shed some light on the origins of this guitar i'd be grateful.













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Sounds like an early 80's Matsumoku (Japan) built one. These guitars often lacked serial numbers, so dating it to a specific year would be difficult, but the volute and sticker are consistent with that period. You're also correct that WR stands for Wine Red.


Many owners of these guitars rave about them and find them comparable to the Elitist series. I've only ever played two --- and those two certainly did merit comparison to the Elitists. Sounds like you've got a sweet player there --- let's see some pics!

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Thanks for that, much appreciated! I've added some pics. I did hear on the grapevine that a few Riviera's were made in the US during the early eighties from a colleague, maybe as prototypes for the Japanese made ones. You heard anything on those lines at all?

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Thanks for that' date=' much appreciated! I've added some pics. I did hear on the grapevine that a few Riviera's were made in the US during the early eighties from a colleague, maybe as prototypes for the Japanese made ones. You heard anything on those lines at all?[/quote']


The higher-end Matsumoku line started in 1975 so there would have been no "early 80's USA prototypes" and Matsumoku would have done any of the prototyping in Japan. The only connection these guitars had to Epiphone was the name on the headstock. Matsumoku had been the original contract manufacturer for the first Epiphone imports in 1971 which were at first simply re-labeled Aria models with some cosmetic changes and then a few years later in 1975 it was decided to market a higher-end line of guitars in Japan since Gibson was locked out of that market by tariff and import restrictions and this Japanese-made line provided them a market presence there. Matsumoku did all of the manufacturing and distribution of the new line with it essentially being a licensing of the Epiphone brand name. The models offered, Sheratons, Emperors, Rivieras, Casinos and Coronets (rarely seen outside of Japan-not to be confused with the "ET" series) resembled the previous Kalamazoo-made models but were different in that they used full-sized humbuckers and initially were only offered with stop tail pieces (Frequensators came along a bit later and then both versions were offered) as well as having different finishes and finish options.


These were pretty high quality instruments and considering that Gibson was at a low ebb in quality and product at this point it can be argued that the Matsumoku models approached what Gibson was producing at the time on some levels. The weak spot of the Matsumoku models were the pickups and electronics and they really are their own animal as opposed to being a Japanese-made clone of the previous Epiphone models. By the early 80's the distribution became world-wide though they were never extraordinarily commercially popular. Production continued by Matsumoku until about 1986 when the remaining Japanese production (much of the Japanese Epiphone production was moved to Korea in 1983) was moved to Korea and continued by Samick. Over the years a lot of well-known Asian brands have been manufactured by Matsumoku such as Aria. Westone, Electra, Univox, Greco, Lyle, Vantage and some Yamaha and Washburn models. This particular line as it's been stated, was pretty high quality and they are now sought after though in most instances they've remained reasonable in price.


There are a few forum members here who own them and seem to be very pleased with them and I'm certain they'll weigh in and add more personal insight into them. While yours doesn't have a serial number it's probably safe to call it an '82. It seems most of the ones I've come across date to the early 80's. You are correct in that "WR" does indicate a wine red finish. There was also "AS" for antique sunburst, "AN" for antique natural and I believe there was also "EB" for ebony black and "CH" for cherry but I've never personally seen any cherry red versions and only one black Emperor on E Bay. The Sheratons, Riviera and Casinos all seem to go in the $500-$750 range and the Emperors go for slightly more so they're a good bargain. Enjoy your new guitar and good luck.


One other thing. The gold hardware isn't original but the Schaller machine heads are very much an improvement and it might be interesting to learn just what pickups are now in it. I believe the original Riviera pickups were double white bobbin humbuckers. It could be they just put covers on the stock pickups and even the Frequensator could be non-original (though they were offered with a Frequensator) but Rivieras came with chrome hardware. I wouldn't let the originality issue be of any concern because this is very much a situation where improving the instrument's function will be much more value-adding than worrying about the non-originality thing. While being very viable instruments with considerable build quality,they're never going to be highly sought after collector's items so it makes more sense to make it the best guitar possible from a functional stand point.


...and Al's your uncle.

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Wow!! I definately came to the right place for some info!! Thanks for that, very much appreciate it! I'm much more into having a great guitar to play and record with than one to collect so i am very happy with it, but i am also very happy to have this info...well done!


I'm going to rename you the "epiphone oracle"!! Cheers mate! I'll take the pickups apart next time i restring and i'll let you know what's inside.


On the frequensator, it can quite easily be twisted and therefore alter the tuning of the guitar. I was thinking about replacing it with a gibson trapeze tailpiece for more stability in tuning. Will this change the tone of the guitar in anyway do you think?

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Totally agree with all that Uncle Al says about these guitars(i currently own three Matsumoku Casino`s,and used to have a Sheraton as well!).I find them to be very good guitars,and a viable option to the Elite/Elitist`s.Your Riviera is from 80-85,as the label, pre 80 was Blue,and the label post 85 was Orange(and still is,on the Korean and Chinese models).It has obviously been modded,but you can tell if the pickups are original or not,just take one out,and on the bottom it should say MMK61.If they are,then they are not too bad,quite similar to a PAF,unlike the MMK75`s used on the dearer Sheratons,which in my opinion were not so good(muddy!).Hope this helps,and have fun.PS,i`d leave the Frequensor tailpiece(it`s basically a compensated Trapeze anyway,plus it`s what the original`s carried!.

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