Orpheum Guitar

706 views
Skip to first unread message

Cap'n Ron

unread,
Oct 14, 2007, 5:12:25 PM10/14/07
to
I just got an Orpheum Guitar off of Craigslist, and I was wondering if
anyone knew anything about these. The model is F608, and it has a "made in
Japan" sticker inside. It also has an adjustable bridge which I have never
seen before.

The following article summarizes everything I have found so far, but if
someone has more specific info about this model, I would appreciate the
help:

The subject of
Orpheum guitars is one of those obscure corners of
guitardom awaiting more research, and what has been
published is vague and at times contradictory. The Orpheum
brand dates back to the late 19th century and is
primarily associated with William L. Lange of New York.
<br><br>In the late 1800s, James H. Buckbee was one of the
top New York banjo makers. He supplied instruments to
other companies, which marketed them under their own
house brands. Buckbee sold his business to Lange and
William P. Rettberg in 1897, and they introduced the
well-respected Orpheum-brand banjos. <br><br>In around 1921
Lange apparently took over the business and sold both
Orpheum and Paramount banjos. When the guitar overtook
the banjo in the 1930s, Lange added Paramount guitars
to his line. He is reported to have marketed some
Orpheum-brand guitars, but this is not certain and nothing is
known of them.<br><br>Lange weathered the Great
Depression but went out of business in 1941 or '42. In 1944
the Orpheum brand name was picked up by New York
distributor Maurice Lipsky, who applied it to both guitars
and banjos. Most Orpheum guitars I've encountered
date from the Lipsky era. <br><br>In the 1950s, Lipsky
marketed Orpheum electric archtops and little Les
Paul-sized electric hollow-bodies, which look very much like
those made by United (formerly Oscar Schmidt) in Jersey
City, the source of many similar Premier guitars sold
by Sorkin, Lipsky's competitor at the time.
<br><br>In the early 1960s, Lipsky began to use the Orpheum
name on guitars imported from Japan, but the name
doesn't seem to have survived beyond the big crash of
1968. In any case, be cautious when purchasing an
instrument with the Orpheum brand name

Thanks everyone,

Cap'n Ron


Geezer

unread,
Oct 14, 2007, 5:16:25 PM10/14/07
to

"Cap'n Ron" <Cap'nR...@NOSPAM88.com> wrote in message
news:BCvQi.3756$m8....@bignews8.bellsouth.net...


Have heard of them.
Have seen them in the past.
But, I'm afraid that that's all I can say about them.
I searched around a bit and found nothing.

Good luck!

Geezer


JimLo...@aol.com

unread,
Oct 14, 2007, 8:49:48 PM10/14/07
to

I know that these old brand names get bartered around from time to
time. I have no idea who held the rights to the brand during the era
when cheaper guitars were made in Japan (which would suggest a guitar
from the 70s or 80s). Just recently, before it was absorbed by
Fender, Tacoma was marketing a Chinese produced Orpheum. I think that
lasted about a year or so. I saw the Paramount name on guitars being
produced and sold in China.

Adjustale bridges haven't been seen as an asset on an acoustic
guitar. They tend to do a poor job of transmitting acoustic energy
from the strings to the top. Gibson made use of adjustable bridges on
some flaptops (in the 60s?), but many of these get replaced with a
more traditional bridge.

So what other details can you tell us? Is it a flaptop or archtop?
Dreadnought size? Does the top look to be solid wood or laminate ply?

Best wishes,

Dr. Jim Lowther

Don

unread,
Oct 16, 2007, 9:23:29 AM10/16/07
to

I've seen several Orpheum guitars made in the 30s or 40s. Two of my
friends have examples. Nice guitars, archtops, were not too expensive
and good sound and playability. I've never seen one from the 60s or
70s, or at least don't remember,

Cap'n Ron

unread,
Oct 16, 2007, 9:32:53 AM10/16/07
to

This guitar doesn't look to be 40 years old, but the original owner bought
it used in 1993, so it predates the ones produced by Tacoma in 2001-.

The action is a little high, but I can't take it down any further without a
different style bridge. The new strings i put on Sunday have settled down,
and now this guitar sounds great. I set it next to my Seagull S6, and the
body shapes are almost identical. I guess that makes it a little smaller
than the dreadnaught size.


--

jdst...@gmail.com

unread,
Nov 4, 2007, 11:15:04 PM11/4/07
to

I just bought an archtop acoustic with Orpheum Style A5 inlaid in
mother of pearl on the headstock in block letters. Inside it says
Orpheum Imperator in kind of a German looking font with a very poorly
hand lettered A5 for style and a serial number 793 also poorly hand
written. The top is spruce I can't really tell if its solid. The
back is well flamed maple, again I can't tell if its solid but the
flames are definitely not painted on. There is a black pinstripe
inlay up the center of the back and it continues up the back of the
neck. The neck was reset by a shop and the frets and tuning pegs have
been replaced. The varnish is probably alcohol based, lots of white
scratches on top, and crackled pretty good on the back.
I don't really know anything about the brand and this is one of the
few places I found anything. I just thought I'd add what I do know to
Orpheum on the internet.
Jason


JimLo...@aol.com

unread,
Nov 4, 2007, 11:54:04 PM11/4/07
to
> > 70s, or at least don't remember,- Hide quoted text -
>
> - Show quoted text -

If it was purchased in 1993 I doubt it is a Japanese guitar, but maybe
Korean. Did you ever say what it looks like (flat or archtop,
dreadnought sized, etc.)?

JimLo...@aol.com

unread,
Nov 4, 2007, 11:55:24 PM11/4/07
to
> Dr. Jim Lowther- Hide quoted text -

>
> - Show quoted text -

Oops! Just re-read your OP and see it had the Made in Japan sticker.

Cap'n Ron

unread,
Nov 5, 2007, 8:18:03 PM11/5/07
to
Hey Jim,
I posted some bad pictures at one point. The previous owner bought it
second hand in 1993. I haven't found much more info yet. How do you tell
what wood the guitar is made of? I looked at the sound hole, and it doesn't
look to be laminated, but I couldn't tell you what wood it is.

--
Cap'n Ron
Our new moderated Newsgroup is up! Check it out at:
http://groups.google.com/group/realsoloacts?msg=subscribe


<JimLo...@aol.com> wrote in message
news:1194238524....@57g2000hsv.googlegroups.com...

Cap'n Ron

unread,
Nov 5, 2007, 8:22:06 PM11/5/07
to
Hello fellow Orpheum owner! We seem to be a rare group. Mine has a "made
in Japan" sticker in it, but I haven't seen any mention of Orpheums being
made in Germany. Did you see the article I posted about the known history
of Orpheum?


--
Cap'n Ron
Our new moderated Newsgroup is up! Check it out at:
http://groups.google.com/group/realsoloacts?msg=subscribe


<jdst...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1194236104....@y27g2000pre.googlegroups.com...

JimLo...@aol.com

unread,
Nov 5, 2007, 9:25:39 PM11/5/07
to
On Nov 5, 7:18?pm, "Cap'n Ron" <Cap'n...@NOSPAM88.com> wrote:
> Hey Jim,
> I posted some bad pictures at one point. The previous owner bought it
> second hand in 1993. I haven't found much more info yet. How do you tell
> what wood the guitar is made of? I looked at the sound hole, and it doesn't
> look to be laminated, but I couldn't tell you what wood it is.
>
> --
> Cap'n Ron
> Our new moderated Newsgroup is up! Check it out at:http://groups.google.com/group/realsoloacts?msg=subscribe
>
> <JimLowt...@aol.com> wrote in message

Well, usually you can tell the type of wood by appreance of gran,
color, etc. There are a couple of "standards" for acoustic guitar,
with most tops being Spruce, and back and sides being Rosewood,
Mahogany, or Maple. Budget guitars until the advent of Japanese
imports used a lot of Birch. Most Japanese manufacture were
laminates, with laminate Spruce tops and laminate hardwood back and
sides (most generally Mohagany). Sometimes the finish is so heavy it
is hard to tell just what you've got. Oh--some more expensive
Japanese guitars had solid Spruce tops. Some cheaper had all hardwood
laminate--top, back, sides.

It should be easy to see if it is an archtop or not. By archtop we
are talking about a guitar with a pronounced arch top and back (like a
violin) and two f-holes for sound holes. A flat top is just that--the
top is flat and has the one big round sound hole. "Dreadnought" is a
large size flat top with a wide waist. Other flat top guitars may be
smaller or have a narrower waist. You might take the guitar to a
local guitar shop and ask someone what they can make of it.

Sorry to suggest this, but as an owner of two Orpheums, my guess is
that a Japanese manufacture Orpheum would not excite me much. There
would be no relationship between what Lipsky did with the name and the
Lange guitars (Paramount and Orpheum--and I thught there was a third
brand name I can't remember right now), and whatever happened after
Lipsky would be even further removed. These old brand names would be
picked up for a song from whomever was liquidating assests back when
Asian imports came into the market. An old brand name made the off-
shore guitar sound more marketable. I remember seeing Japanese and
Korean manufactured "Vega" guitars and banjos after Martin (who
acquired the name in the 1970s by buying the Vega banjo manufacturer)
gave up the brand. Dometimes I wonder if some Asian builders don't
just "appropriate" a brand without chrecking with anybody (after all,
it was often possible to find guitars in Asian stores with
"appropriated" names such as Gibson, Martin, and Guild). "Paramount"
is currently seen on a line of guitars in China. Tacoma acquired the
Orpheum brand for a line of intermediate range Chinese guitars
introduced in 2001, but I don't think these were retained when Fender
bought Tacoma.

Your guitar is a bit of a puzzle, since it is stickered made in Japan
even though 1993 is decidely past the Lipsky era.

Cap'n Ron

unread,
Nov 6, 2007, 8:12:16 AM11/6/07
to
Thanks for all the info Jim, but let me clear some things up.
The guitar was not made in 1993. It was bought used by the previous owner
that year. There is no date inside that I can see. In an earlier post I
described the body as being almost identical in size/shape as my Seagull S6.
It is a flattop. With your clues about the wood, I looked again and
compared it to the Seagull, which does have a spruce top. I would say that
the Orpheum has a solid top made of spruce. The grain pattern is very
similar. The backs and sides appear to be mahogany, but they feel like
laminate. Also, I looked at inside the soundhole and towards the neck.
There is a stamp that say "Made in Japan" with the number "100573" under
that. That may be the manufacture date of October 5, 1973 if that's at all
possible.

Nice detective work there, Jim. And thanks for the follow-up.

--
Cap'n Ron
Our new moderated Newsgroup is up! Check it out at:
http://groups.google.com/group/realsoloacts?msg=subscribe

<JimLo...@aol.com> wrote in message
news:1194315939.3...@o38g2000hse.googlegroups.com...

JimLo...@aol.com

unread,
Nov 6, 2007, 11:17:28 PM11/6/07
to
On Nov 6, 7:12?am, "Cap'n Ron" <Cap'n...@NOSPAM88.com> wrote:
> Thanks for all the info Jim, but let me clear some things up.
> The guitar was not made in 1993. It was bought used by the previous owner
> that year. There is no date inside that I can see. In an earlier post I
> described the body as being almost identical in size/shape as my Seagull S6.
> It is a flattop. With your clues about the wood, I looked again and
> compared it to the Seagull, which does have a spruce top. I would say that
> the Orpheum has a solid top made of spruce. The grain pattern is very
> similar. The backs and sides appear to be mahogany, but they feel like
> laminate. Also, I looked at inside the soundhole and towards the neck.
> There is a stamp that say "Made in Japan" with the number "100573" under
> that. That may be the manufacture date of October 5, 1973 if that's at all
> possible.
>
> Nice detective work there, Jim. And thanks for the follow-up.
>
> --
> Cap'n Ron
> Our new moderated Newsgroup is up! Check it out at:http://groups.google.com/group/realsoloacts?msg=subscribe
>

The surmise that it is made in 1973 seems competely plausible. The
construction that you describe supports the date. Sorry I missed the
comparison with the Seagull. I tried to look over the pervious posts,
but end of work day fatigue hits hard these days.

I don't know why, but I just like the name Orpheum. Always have. I
would likely have bought Japanese Orpheum just for the name, if the
price was right (and it was not a dreadnought).

Japanese guitars of this era are a bit hard to tell if the top is
solid Spruce or not. Someone figured out you could make a to layer
laminate top that was stronger and thinner than the solid ot ply Birch
or Spruce tops on the student grade American made guitars of the
time. However, with the grain running the same direction (more or
less) makes it hard to see if it is ply or solid. I have heard many
Yamaha FG-180 owners insist they have a solid top, although I have
been assured by sources from Yamaha all FG-180 guitars were laminate
top. I have to admit that my FG-180 looks solid as well. (Of course,
a great test for this is to stomp your foot through the top and see if
you can get it to break along the lamination seam--not recommended!)
The reality is that the FG-180 still managed to revolutionize the
acoustic market at the time, laminate top and all.

Recently there have been soe Orpheums on eBay from different eras. If
you are inclined, you might enjoy peeking at a few stops along the way
of the evolution of the brand.

Cap'n Ron

unread,
Nov 7, 2007, 10:12:28 AM11/7/07
to
All good info, Jim. I will check out the Ebay items for fun.

One more clue might help. As I looked at the top, I noticed that the wood
grain is slightly darker on one half. Looks like there is a seam from the
endpin end right through to the soundhole. I don't know if this indicates
solid or laminate or neither. Currently I have no plans to test your
foot-stomping theory, as I'm fairly sure that would affect the sound. Mind
you, I'm no expert, but I think an extra large soundhole is not what the
Doctor ordered!

Thanks again for your follow-up,

--
Cap'n Ron
Our new moderated Newsgroup is up! Check it out at:
http://groups.google.com/group/realsoloacts?msg=subscribe


<JimLo...@aol.com> wrote in message
news:1194409048.2...@z9g2000hsf.googlegroups.com...

Misifus

unread,
Nov 7, 2007, 10:39:06 AM11/7/07
to
Cap'n Ron wrote:
> All good info, Jim. I will check out the Ebay items for fun.
>
> One more clue might help. As I looked at the top, I noticed that the wood
> grain is slightly darker on one half. Looks like there is a seam from the
> endpin end right through to the soundhole. I don't know if this indicates
> solid or laminate or neither. Currently I have no plans to test your
> foot-stomping theory, as I'm fairly sure that would affect the sound. Mind
> you, I'm no expert, but I think an extra large soundhole is not what the
> Doctor ordered!
>
> Thanks again for your follow-up,
>


That seam sounds like it's an ordinary top. Most solid wood tops are
made in two parts, joined with a seam right up the middle of the top.
That's true of even the most expensive guitars.

-Raf

--
Misifus-
Rafael Seibert
mailto:rafse...@suddenlink.net
blog: http://rafsrincon.blogspot.com/
Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rafiii
home: http://www.rafandsioux.com

Cap'n Ron

unread,
Nov 7, 2007, 6:37:24 PM11/7/07
to
So you are saying that is probably a solid top? The seam I'm referring to
is a tiny line dead centered on the top.

--
Cap'n Ron
Our new moderated Newsgroup is up! Check it out at:
http://groups.google.com/group/realsoloacts?msg=subscribe

"Misifus" <rafse...@suddenlink.net> wrote in message
news:5pe4goF...@mid.individual.net...

hank alrich

unread,
Nov 7, 2007, 6:57:55 PM11/7/07
to
Cap'n Ron <Cap'nR...@NOSPAM88.com> wrote:

> So you are saying that is probably a solid top? The seam I'm referring to
> is a tiny line dead centered on the top.

That's typcial of a solid top. Ain't saying this one is, but that seam
might indicate same.

--
ha
Iraq is Arabic for Vietnam

JimLo...@aol.com

unread,
Nov 7, 2007, 7:08:53 PM11/7/07
to
On Nov 7, 9:39?am, Misifus <rafseib...@suddenlink.net> wrote:
> Cap'n Ron wrote:
> > All good info, Jim. I will check out the Ebay items for fun.
>
> > One more clue might help. As I looked at the top, I noticed that the wood
> > grain is slightly darker on one half. Looks like there is a seam from the
> > endpin end right through to the soundhole. I don't know if this indicates
> > solid or laminate or neither. Currently I have no plans to test your
> > foot-stomping theory, as I'm fairly sure that would affect the sound. Mind
> > you, I'm no expert, but I think an extra large soundhole is not what the
> > Doctor ordered!
>
> > Thanks again for your follow-up,
>
> That seam sounds like it's an ordinary top. Most solid wood tops are
> made in two parts, joined with a seam right up the middle of the top.
> That's true of even the most expensive guitars.
>
> -Raf
>
> --
> Misifus-
> Rafael Seibert
> mailto:rafseib...@suddenlink.net

Yes, that's a different seam. I mean that the two plies separate
along the seem with a good crushing blow.

Best wisjes,

Dr. Jim Lowther

JimLo...@aol.com

unread,
Nov 7, 2007, 7:13:02 PM11/7/07
to
On Nov 7, 5:57?pm, walki...@nv.net (hank alrich) wrote:

But also true of two ply Japanese tops I have seen. Yes, they have
two book matched halves with an obvious seam in the center. Just
looking at my old FG-180 now (yes, it was my first guitar an I still
have it), I still can't dedect the seem between the plies like you can
when three plies are present.

Does it really make much difference? I mean, an old Japanese guitar
is an old Japanese guitar is a. . . . I would guess at this point it
is more a matter of do you like the sound and does it play well.

Misifus

unread,
Nov 7, 2007, 9:56:38 PM11/7/07
to
Cap'n Ron wrote:
> So you are saying that is probably a solid top? The seam I'm referring to
> is a tiny line dead centered on the top.
>


Capt'n Ron, that seam does prove that the top is, or isn't, solid wood.
Both kinds of tops have that seam which runs from the base of the neck
to just above the tailpin. That is, the length of the top, in the same
direction as the grain. Usually it's one piece of spruce (or cedar, or
redwood, or koa, etc) which is split and opened like opening a book, so
that the two sides of the top are mirror images of each other. This is
called (book-matching), however, often there is a slight difference in
the apparent tone of the two sides because the light is hitting the
grain in opposite directions. Of course, they use the same technique in
preparing the top laminates on laminated top guitars. In other words,
they make the laminated tops to look the same as the solid wood ones.
How clever!

Cap'n Ron

unread,
Nov 8, 2007, 7:50:45 AM11/8/07
to
Very interesting, Raf. As I was looking at the top to try to give some
insight to whether it was solid or not, I happened to notice that there is
no way to adjust the neck relief. Not that we gather any more evidence by
knowing that, because I remember seeing that older Martins didn't have
adjustable necks either. Just one more piece to the puzzle.

If I find out any more historical info on Orpheum guitars or specific info
on this one, I will let everyone here know. Thanks to all for helping me
with this mystery guitar.


--
Cap'n Ron
Our new moderated Newsgroup is up! Check it out at:
http://groups.google.com/group/realsoloacts?msg=subscribe


"Misifus" <rafse...@suddenlink.net> wrote in message

news:5pfc77F...@mid.individual.net...

ferdinandi...@gmail.com

unread,
Jun 7, 2015, 1:52:18 AM6/7/15
to
I have an orpheum guitar that is made in japan model f 603..how much do you think it cost? Thank you..

Steve Daniels

unread,
Jun 7, 2015, 3:40:05 AM6/7/15
to
On Sat, 6 Jun 2015 22:52:16 -0700 (PDT), against all advice, something
compelled ferdinandi...@gmail.com, to say:

>I have an orpheum guitar that is made in japan model f 603..how much do you think it cost? Thank you..


Four hundred ninety seven dollars and twenty three cents.




Plus shipping.





and tax



ferdinandi...@gmail.com

unread,
Jun 7, 2015, 5:20:52 PM6/7/15
to
Thanks a lot mr steve daniels..

ghb...@embarqmail.com

unread,
Feb 9, 2016, 2:07:50 AM2/9/16
to
I have a 1953 Orpheum Archtop electric, which looks and sounds nearly identical to a Gibson ES-125. It's a really nice guitar though it was a bargain model back then. I play it thru a 1953 Gibson GA-20 and the combo is really warm and full.

josh.n...@gmail.com

unread,
Aug 3, 2020, 6:02:25 PM8/3/20
to
My grandmother just gave me her 1941 archtop Orpheum A1to try and repair. It plays but went through a flooded basement 20 years ago and is warped and separating. She used it for slide guitar so string hight wasn't an issue for her. She bought it new.
Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages