1966 Epiphone Olympic

CRAVE Guitars says…

Thumbs up: Great independent design, light weight, vibrato, Gibson production standards

Thumbs down: Single Melody Maker pickup, position of controls, non‑original hard shell case

Decree: A great little ‘affordable’ vintage Epiphone with bags of style and tone. Undeservedly overlooked

Model Description:

Long before the Epiphone company became a subsidiary of Gibson, it had a long history of independent instrument making dating back to 1873, owned by the Stathopoulos family. The Olympic name was used for a budget acoustic archtop Epiphone Olympic from 1931 to 1950. Arch rival, Gibson bought Epiphone in 1957, reinvigorating the brand. From 1958 until 1970, Epiphone produced a range of slab bodied, asymmetrical double cutaway electrics, all of which used the same basic body/neck design, including the distinctive ‘batwing’ headstocks. The American-built Epiphone range included the Olympic, Coronet, Crestwood and Wilshire models. Introduced in 1960, the low cost Olympic was the bottom of the range using 1 (Olympic) or 2 (Olympic Double) Gibson Melody Maker-style single coil pickups. Vibratos were standard and available finishes were limited to sunburst or optional cherry. The Epiphone Olympic, along with its sister Epiphone models, was discontinued in 1970 when Gibson moved the majority of its Epiphone manufacturing capability to Japan. From around 1962, Epiphone also released the Olympic Special which was almost identical to the equivalent Gibson Melody Makers of the time, which also stayed in production until 1970. The Epiphone and Gibson designs were different but co-existed, both using the Olympic name, which can be confusing. Although the more prestigious Epiphone designs have been reissued on-and-off over the years, the humble Olympic is still awaiting for its turn for vintage recognition.

Guitar Description:

Wow! What a lovely little vintage guitar this is – one of the original Epiphone designs and not a Gibson hand‑me‑down. It is an all-original 1966 Epiphone Olympic with a single pickup and presented in a deep unfaded cherry finish with a lovely aged patina. That single‑sided ‘batwing’ headstock shape looks just so right on this model. After Gibson acquired their main competitor in 1957, they manufactured both brands to the same high standards at their factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan, U.S.A. Some Epiphone guitars were effectively just rebadged versions of existing Gibson models while others, like this one, remained true to their roots, making them much rarer and way cooler than the Gibson ‘copies’. This lovely guitar is all‑Epiphone and shares its main characteristics with other Epiphone designs like the Coronet, Crestwood and Wilshire. The common factor here is that, unlike its siblings, it uses the Gibson Melody Maker pickup in the bridge position. These pickups are hugely underrated and are actually great little single coils with a unique funky voice all of their own. OK, so it’s not a killer pickup like Coronet’s single P90 or mini‑humbuckers like the Wilshire and Crestwood but it has different characteristics of its own. The thin slab mahogany body is comfortably lightweight and, like a Gibson SG, upper neck access is a doddle because of where the neck joins the body. The Olympic is seen (mistakenly in my view) as less desirable and therefore less valuable by collectors. The Epiphone Olympic represents an overlooked and (relatively) economically viable vintage closet classic from the Gibson stable.


  • Made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, U.S.A. in 1966
  • Single piece mahogany double cutaway solid body
  • Unfaded cherry nitrocellulose finish
  • Mahogany set neck
  • Single‑sided ‘batwing’ headstock
  • Original Kluson tuners
  • Unbound rosewood fingerboard with 22 frets and pearloid dot markers
  • Scale length 24¾” (629mm)
  • Original single-ply white scratchplate
  • Original Gibson Melody Maker single coil pickup
  • Original knobs, strap buttons and jack socket
  • Original ‘lightning bolt’ compensated bar bridge
  • Original Maestro vibrato/tailpiece
  • Weight: 4lb (1.81kg)
  • Newer, non-original hard shell case


  • Pete Doherty (Libertines)
  • Carl Barât (Libertines)


The Epiphone‑only range including the Olympic, Coronet, Crestwood and Wilshire originally featured a symmetric 3‑a‑side headstock, rather than the now famous single‑sided ‘batwing’ design. The changeover occurred gradually between c.1963 and c.1965.

Detail Gallery:

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