The evolution of the Gibson SJ-200: from 1937 custom order to its coronation as the undisputed “king of flat-tops”

Gibson SJ-200
(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

Gibson’s SJ-200 acoustic guitar first appeared in the 1930s. Around this time, Gibson and Epiphone were going head to head in a size war – each trying to outdo the other under the premise ‘bigger is better’ while equating instrument dimensions with power, projection and, ultimately, status.

This spirit of competition led to several developments, notably Gibson’s 18-inch-wide Super 400 and Epiphone’s 18½-inch-wide Emperor. These supersize archtops were deemed flagship models, and both sat at the top of their respective price lists with a $400 tag. 

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Rod Brakes

Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar WorldGuitar Player and MusicRadar in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.