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Model labels on early 70s Matsumoku Epiphones

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I wonder if someone can help me research a question on these Matsumoku Epiphones post 1969. I am looking at a potential purchase and need to do my homework first. If anyone owns one of these and can post a picture of the paper label inside I will be grateful. Casinos, Sheratons and Rivieras are of interest. Its a long shot maybe but thanks in advance.

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Hi

 

Can't help you with the label but to be honest if you're looking to buy an Epiphone semi you'd be better off to buy a new model rather than one of the 70's models. The 70's Epiphones were pretty poor examples, with bolt on necks and very average pickups. I know some people love them but I think the general concensus is that they really aren't up to the Korean or Chinese made models.

 

JG

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No lable indications, but:

 

Matsumoku

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Matsumoku Industrial was established around 1900 as a woodworking manufacturer of various items but is best known as a manufacturer of high quality guitars and bass guitars.

 

 

1983 Aria Pro II, PE-R100Contents [hide]

1 History

2 Production

3 Aria

4 Epiphone

5 Distinguishing characteristics

6 End of Production

7 External links

 

 

[edit] History

Matsumoku began in Matsumoto, Japan, as a family owned woodworking business that specialized in building tansu and butsudan. Shortly after WWII, the Singer Corporation established the Singer Sewing Machine Company, Japan, and set up production facilities in Nagoya. Matsumoku Industrial was contracted to build its sewing machine cabinets, and in 1951, became a partially owned subsidiary of Singer, Japan. Matsumoku also built amplifier cabinets, speaker boxes and wooden cabinets for audio and television makers.

 

[edit] Production

 

Cutler Headstock

Label in Westone soundholeBy the mid 1950s, Matsumoku began to look into other woodworking markets and, as it had on its staff several skilled luthiers, ventured into guitar and violin production. Modest classical guitars, small steel stringed acoustic guitars, and violins were built and marketed. However, as other Japanese companies were producing similar instruments, Matsumoku set out to distinguished itself by producing high quality acoustic and electric archtop guitars. Several of Matsumoku's early archtop guitars survive, most owing their basic designs to Hofner, Framus, and Gibson. By the early 1960s, Matsumoku had acquired new mills, lathes and specialized presses and began to increase musical instrument production. Combined with its staff of skilled craftsmen, Matsumoku was able to mass produce guitars of high quality.

 

However, because it mainly manufactured guitars under contract, the role of Matsumoku was largely unknown outside of Japan's guitar making circles until its name began appearing on neck bolt plates, headstocks, and sound hole labels in the late 70s.

 

 

Matsumoku produced guitars, or parts of guitars, for Vox, Guyatone, FujiGen Gakki, Kanda Shokai (Greco), Hoshino Gakki, Nippon Gakki (Yamaha,) Aria, and Norlin (parent company of Gibson.) American owned Unicord contracted Matsumoku to build most of its Univox and Westbury guitars. St. Louis Music Company imported Matsumoku built Electra guitars. J. C. Penney sold Matsumoku built Skylark guitars through its catalog division. Matsumoku built many early Greco guitars as well as Vantage, Westminster, Cutler, Lyle, Fell, and no-name copies of Gibson and Fender guitars and basses. Washburn Guitars contracted Matusmoku to build most of its electric guitars from 1979 through 1985.

 

In 1979, Matsumoku began to market its own guitars under the Westone name.

 

By the early 1970s, Matsumoku had begun using CNC mills, routers, and lathes, one of the first guitar makers to do so. Even so, 60% of the guitar making process was still done by hand including planing, fretting, joining, and assembly. This machine cut, yet hand worked process yielded high quality instruments with unique character.

 

[edit] Aria

 

Aria Pro II, TS-600 with elaborate pickup switching

Back of TS-600 showing 5 piece neck through bodyShiro Arai founded Arai and Company in 1953 as an importer of classical guitars. In 1960, Arai contracted Guyatone to manufacture guitars. At the time, Guyatone was one of Japan's leading musical instrument manufacturers. However, Guyatone could not meet Arai's production requirements, and in 1964, Arai and Company contracted musical instrument manufacturing with Matsumoku.

 

Shiro Arai's early Guyatone produced guitars displayed problems when exported mainly caused by the dryer climates in America: bindings became unglued, backs split, and necks broke just below the headstock. These issues were addressed early on with Matsumoku. The solution was to use wood that had been dried for at least two years, stronger glues with longer clamp times, and one feature that remained throughout Matsumoku's production: the 3 piece maple neck.

 

The relationship between the two companies was both amicable and symbiotic. Aria focused on sales in both domestic and export markets and provided design development. Matsumoku devoted its energies on engineering and building guitars and other stringed instruments. Throughout its 22 year business relationship, Aria remained Matsumoku’s principal client. Matsumoku often preferred using Aria as its business agent, and many of Matsumoku's contracts were written by Aria with Matsumoku stated or implied as sub-contracted manufacturer.

 

Design engineer Nobuaki Hayashi (currently with Atlansia) became part of Matsumoku's engineering team in the mid 1970s. Hayashi's pseudonym, "H. Noble," appeared on many of the Aria Pro II instruments he designed. Aria's guitars that followed showed remarkable design innovation and a definitive move away from Gibson and Fender forms. Hayashi is best known as the designer of the Aria Pro II, SB-1000 bass and the Aria Pro II, PE series guitars.

 

Arai and Company guitars were briefly labeled Arai, and then switched to the familiar Aria around 1966. Aria Diamond was a name chosen for its early hollow bodied electric guitars. From 1975 onward, after the arrival of Hayashi, all guitars were labeled Aria Pro II. Aria had two factories that produced guitars besides Matsumoku, one which made classical guitars, and another that made medium grade and specialty guitars.

 

[edit] Epiphone

 

1983 Epiphone Casino, made by MatsumokuGibson decided to move Epiphone production to Japan in the early 70s, and chose Aria as its contractor. As a subcontractor to Aria, Matsumoku manufactured most electric Epiphones made in Japan from 1970 through 1986 (a few solid body electrics were made by other Japanese manufacturers and at least one model was made in Taiwan.) Models include the solid body ET series (Crestwood) the SC series (Scroll) and the Model 1140 (Flying V) as well as Epiphone's archtop electric guitars: 5102T/EA-250, Sheraton, Riviera, Casino, and Emperor.

 

Early Matsumoku made Epiphone archtops had bolt on necks. While production costs of bolt on neck guitars were less, guitarists regarded them as inferior instruments. Set neck archtop guitars followed in late 1975. Specifications on Epiphone archtops changed throughout the Matsumoku era.

 

Interestingly, Gibson changed the look and sound of Epiphone's best selling archtop, the Casino, when production shifted to Japan. Upon its introduction in 1964, the Casino was a strong seller with rock guitarists, but sales stalled in the late 60s. Gibson decided to remarket it toward jazz players and changed the tailpiece to one from a Riviera, and the pickups to mini-humbuckers. The result was a Casino that looked more like a short scale Riviera. The Casino was restored to its 1965 specifications around 1975, about the same time Matsumoku began production of set neck archtops.

[edit] Distinguishing characteristics

 

Back of Aria Pro II, CSB-400 showing 3 piece maple neck.Many Matsumoku built guitars, including Epiphone archtops, utilized a 3 piece maple neck with the center section's grain oriented 90 degrees from the side wood. This created a very strong neck not prone to splitting or warping. An often used variation of this is the 5 piece neck with two thin trim strips of walnut or ebony separating the 3 sections. Matsumoku made many neck-through-body solid body electric guitars and basses, most with 5 piece necks.

 

Matsumoku often utilized the Nisshin Onpa company who own the Maxon brand as a subcontractor for its pickups. Some Maxon pickups have Maxon's "M" logo stamped on the back.

 

The name Matsumoku appeared on the neck bolt plate of some guitars they built. Early Grecos and some 80s Aria Pro IIs have Matsumoku on the neck bolt plate. Other neck plates were blank or simply had the word "Japan" stamped on them.

 

Many Matsumoku set neck guitars and basses have the inspector's hon (name stamp) stamped inside the neck pick-up cavity.

 

[edit] End of Production

 

1983 Epiphone Casino, Hon (Name Stamp) "Kuro" - likely the name of the inspector. "78" is production number and not year.Gibson restructured after being sold by Norlin, and began to move its Epiphone production to other Japanese manufacturers and to Korea. By 1986, the home sewing machine market was in heavy decline and Singer was nearly bankrupt. Matsumoku could not afford to buy itself out of Singer and in 1987, closed down.

 

After Matsumoku ceased operations, Aria continued production of Aria Pro II guitars and basses through its own factories and other manufactures. Some top line and special edition guitars are still manufactured in Japan, however, most Aria guitars are now produced in Korea and China.

 

Information about Matsumoku's contribution to guitar making is better known now due in large part to the Internet. Matsumoku's products enjoy a strong following among devoted enthusiasts.

 

Players of Matsumoku guitars: Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, Univox Hi-Flyer guitars, John Taylor of Duran Duran, Aria Pro II SB-1000 bass, Cliff Burton of Metallica, Aria Pro II SB-1000 bass, Elvin Bishop, Electra Model 2281, Neal Schon, Aria Pro II PE series guitars (several models.)

 

Note: There is often confusion between Matsumoku and Matsumoto. Matsumoto is a town in Japan's Nagano Prefecture where FujiGen Gakki, Gotoh, and other musical instrument companies have manufacturing plants. Matsumoto Musical Instrument Manufacturers Association is also the name of musical instrument manufacturing cooperative headed by Gotoh.

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Thanks

I have this information and most everything else on the web about these, the guitar I found seems to be something of an anomaly. As to the earlier comment, I would probably disagree - I already own a 1974 Matsumoku 'Casino'' and it is a brilliant player, thus my continued interest. It is worth noting that at this time 60% of the building process at Matsumoku was still done by hand, something the Japanese were much better at than the Americans at that time, although American craftsmanship has improved dramatically. It is true that sometimes the electronics on these are inferior, but mine and others I have heard sound just fine.

 

Here is a video link to a Matsumoku model - probably the date is wrong though as the Rivieras were not in production by Matsumoku from 1971-1975.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmEw4BXGFTM&feature=related -

this might in fact be a Casino, as they looked identical to the Matsumoku Rivieras with the exception of the absence of a center block inside, and they were built in 1974.

 

What I cannot find in my searching is pix of the labels of that era - the one on my Casino has fallen off, and most folks don't show them in their pride photos.

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The one I was looking at has exceeded a reasonable price - there are some very curious things happening with the bidding. That zero bidder seems really keen.....

http://cgi.ebay.com/RARE-VINTAGE-1970-EPIPHONE-RIVIERA-E-250-GUITAR-NO-RES_W0QQitemZ280432690857QQcmdZViewItemQQptZGuitar?hash=item414b1746a9#ht_934wt_975

 

As soon as I see a zero bidder being that agressive on a high ticket item, I walk away. The seller has set a reserve but doesn't want to pay ebay the required fee. You'll never get the item at a decent price from that seller.

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Matsumoku was the manufacturer of many high quality guitars under various names.  Since this post was started, much more information has surfaced.

http://www.vantage-guitars.com/m-history-02/

In the late 60s/early 70s,  new Matsumoku guitars were priced the same as Gibson.  Not only did they produce Epiphone guitars, but also supplied parts for Gibson.  

Because they were a subcontractor, Matsumoku's are not well known and their price on the vintage market is artificially low. 

The best example would be the 5202T which is a hollow body version of the Gibson semi-hollow Trini Lopez.  This guitar was only available from Matsumoku.

 

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I would disagree that the prices of matsu guitars are artificially low. That would imply that the prices are being kept low on purpose to spur sales, which doesn't really work on the used market because there is no one entity deciding the value. Prices of 60s and 70s matsu guitars are generally low because much of the quality from that era of Japanese export guitars was low. But nowadays, those same guitars are creeping up in price, probably due to nostalgia. The 5102t had problematic necks and neck joints that were well known and the resale prices have generally reflected that until recently. The 5202t may have been a better guitar, I don't know for sure, but if the prices were oddly low, it was because of quality perception thanks to guitars like the 5102t and other low end Epiphones of the time.  And I envoke Epiphone because those are the matsumoku that most if us in the states were exposed to until the online used market cane into existence. That and stuff like Teisco and other low end brands sold for export to the US. Thats my take on it.

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Like most guitar companies, Matsumoku had its high and low end guitars.   Granada guitars were made by Matsumoku for sale in Canada, and they are not well known in the U.S.

The high end Granada 5202T was priced $150 new in 1969; this would  equate to $1,060 today ( https://www.dollartimes.com/inflation/inflation.php?amount=150&year=1969 ).


Yet the 5202T in the video above was sold recently by L.A. Music (https://www.lamusic.com/products/vintage5202t-used ) for $350 + $69 shipping ( https://reverb.com/item/1299659-vintage-granada-arch-top-electric-guitar-model-5202t-used ).  Realistically, this guitar should be worth about $2,000.  The person in the video got the 5202T at bargain price.

 

With its binding around the diamond holes, the 5202T is better looking than the 2014 Gibson Trini Lopez reissue, which is currently priced at $3,000 (https://reverb.com/p/gibson-trini-lopez-memphis-model-cherry-2014 ).  Let's hope the 2019 Trini Lopez has binding around the diamond holes.

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