Epiphone 230T – how rare? Views welcome…

Having only ever seen one other, and that on the web, I got to thinking how rare this excellent, clean addition to my collection is.  Here’s my reasoning so far…

Epiphones from the early sixties were made by Gibson on the same production line and were part of the same numbering system.  Gibson serial numbers for February-December 1961 run from 100 to 42,440, suggesting than no more than 42,340 instruments could have been made in that period, apart perhaps from the odd custom piece without a serial number (like the 1275 doublenecks, for example).

Reported shipping totals suggest far fewer Gibsons were actually made and shipped – 3978 flattops, 193 archtops, 3454 thinline and 869 full-depth hollowbody electrics and 5768 solidbodies.  That makes only 14,262 Gibsons made between February and Dec ember 1961 – amazing compared to the production number of today.  No wonder the quality of these remains legendary.

Meanwhile, an Epiphone history at http://www.epiphone.com/History.aspx tells us that the company sold 3,798 instruments in 1961.  This feels about right with respect to Gibson’s ~14,000 shipped and means that less than half, 18,060, of the 42,340 available serial numbers were actually used across the two brands.

Casinos, or 230T’s and 230TD’s to give them their numerical designations, were introduced in Epiphone’s April ’61 catalogue.  Metal headstock logo plates were already being phased out in favour of pearl inlays like Gibsons by then, and the catalogue confirms this by showing an instrument with a pearl headstock inlay.

epiphone61p6The shipping numbers give some helpful insight.  Gibson ES330’s were the near-identical analogue of the Casino. Only 481 single-pickup variants were shipped in ’61 (267  sunburst 330T’s, 214 330TC’s in the then-new cherry finish, and no 330TN’s in the discontinued blonde).  This compared to 1187 double-pickup models (542 sunburst 330TD’s, 645 cherry 330TDC’s and again no blondes).

Meanwhile, this site (http://www.vintageguitarandbass.com/epiphone/Casino.php) shows that only 110 Epiphone 230T’s were shipped across ’61.  That’s no more than ten a month on average if you consider that the instrument wasn’t even around in the early months.

Putting all this together, metal plate logo Casinos are therefore very probably an anomalous pocket of guitars made for only a few weeks and certainly for no more than three months.

Gibson production batches of the time numbered 35-40 instruments, so this means metal plate 230T’s could belong to a single batch, making them about as rare as original Explorers!  I consider myself extremely fortunate to have found one, especially in such condition.

I’d really welcome more informed views from experts in this field….

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