Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Hondo Deluxe Series H935 (Revival H935, Fame H935, Harmony H935, Antoria EG1935)

What we know:
The H935 model was released in several variations. They are all based on the Gibson ES-335 shape. It could even be said that the intention was to copy the very earliest Gibson designs with particular attention paid to the detail of the "Mickey Mouse" ears on the body.

It has been stated that Hondo made guitars in Japan from 1974. In 1983, all production is supposed to have returned to Korea, though some Korean production appears to have started before this date. All Hondo H935s have a copyright sticker that says 1981 on it. This has no bearing on the precise date of manufacture, though is obviously very likely to be after 1981, perhaps as late as the early 1990s.

Model code: Unknown
Country: Japan
Factory: Matsumoku
Years of manufacture: Suspected approximately 1979-1981
Pickups: Unknown
Body Material: Unknown
Neck: Suspected mahogany
Bridge: ABR-1 style tune-o-matic
Tuners: Likely generic
Hardware: Gold

Hondo Professional Series
Pickguard and knobs likely replaced
What a way to start an article on Hondo 935 guitars than with a model called the H-1030?! But in the interests of chronology...

The Hondo Professional Series were made in Japan at the end of the 70s and into the very early 80s. The Gibson-y copies were handled by the Matsumoku factory while the more Fender-like guitars were made by Tokai.

The H-1030 was likely a high-end 335-style copy. It shares similar traits with the Matsumoku-made Epiphone Rivieras of the time such as the witch-hat knobs and skinny tune-o-matic bridge.

No binding inside f-holes
Hondo II logo and Professional emblem
No binding on neck or headstock
Nut appears to be brass
Nice grain to the rear
Maiden Voyage ad from 1981
Guitar is a vintage sunburst professional model
Lady is unclothed
Professional in Cherry
Pickups replaced

HONDO H935 DELUXE SERIES (non-bound model)
Model code: H935WA(walnut), vintage sunburst unknown, H935CS (cherry sunburst)
Country: Korea
Factory: Likely Samick
Years of manufacture: Suspected approximately 1981 onwards
Pickups: Unknown (but confirmed NOT DiMarzio) uncovered humbuckers
Body material: Unkown, possibly laminated maple
Neck: Mahogany
Bridge: ABR-1 style tune-o-matic
Tuners: Unknown, suspected generic Korean
Hardware: Gold

Deluxe H935 with mis-stamped headstock
Note lack of binding on f-holes and neck
The Hondo Deluxe Series H935s featured a walnut finish with a symmetrical tiger flame in the wood grain or a plain top with vintage sunburst or lightburst finish, open coil pickups and "gold" hardware. It's neck and headstock were unbound. It also sported an ABR-1 style tune-o-matic bridge and a stamp on the truss rod cover stating the model details and Deluxe Series status. The "Circle H" logo was used to denote the brand.

The headstock is the modified Hondo II shape - essentially a Gibson shape with chunks cut out. This slightly unusual shape is no doubt a result of pre-manufactured parts with a more traditional Gibson "open-book" shape that had to be modified (rather than thrown away at great financial loss) in order to avoid legal action from Gibson who, in the late 1970s, threatened Japanese manufacturer Ibanez with a lawsuit pertaining to the copying of Gibson headstock shapes and original guitar designs (Fender also threatened similar action).

The pickups are PAF style humbuckers. On my own H935, they have no evidence of the DiMarzio logo (photos to be added next time I take the guitar apart) and I have no evidence to suggest Hondo were still using DiMarzio pickups at this point.

The label inside the guitar states, as with all H935s after this period, that the guitar is "©1981 International Music Corp". There is evidence that H935s were manufactured into the 1990s so the label cannot be used as an accurate indicator of the year of manufacture. The improvements made to the bound variant of the H935 leads me to believe that this is the earlier of the two Hondo-branded models.

This model has also been seen with the brand name "Seville" on the headstock.

Headstock with Deluxe 935 stamp
H935WA sticker
Pickups are PAF replicas, not DiMarzio
Note the smaller ABR-1 style bridge
Original knobs with "turret" tops
Note lack of binding on f-hole
Inner label with (c)1981 International Music Corp text
The f-hole "binding" is actually white paint
Photo is of my personal H935
Deluxe Series stamp in the wrong place
Tuners have been replaced
Headstock missing Deluxe stamp altogether
The gold hardware suggests it was simply forgotten
H935 in vintage subnburst
Deluxe stamp missing again from headstock
Pickup is chrome, not gold, so is likely a replacement
Smaller ABR-1 style bridge still present
Top is not flamed on vintage sunburst model
Neck construction appears to be mahogany
Generic Hondo tuners can be seen
Gold hardware in keeping with Deluxe Series
Deluxe H935 in lightburst
2 knobs replaced
Has unusual bridge and potentially replaced guard

Model codes: Unknown
Country: Korea
Factory: Likely Samick
Years of manufacture: Unknown
Pickups: Unknown uncovered humbuckers
Body material: Likely laminated Maple
Neck: Likely mahogany
Bridge: ABR-1 style tune-o-matic
Tuners: Unknown, suspected generic Korean
Hardware: Gold

Seville S335
Many features shared with Hondo H935s
I only discovered the Seville S335 after I had looked into all the Hondo and Antoria/Harmony models. It may have made my research a lot simpler as it seems to dispel the myth that the Professional and Deluxe series were made in Japan as I had previously thought due to their differences from the later models.
The Seville S335 appears to be identical to the earlier H935s, down to the lack of binding and pickups. Seville copies are generally assumed to be exactly the same as Hondos, albeit with a different name on the headstock. This goes as far back as the early 1970s when Hondo also made cheap Les Paul copies. The Seville model was exactly the same.

It is through this website that I can all but confirm the origin of the earlier H935s as Korean as the user states their Seville S335 has a label stating Made in Korea. The only images I have been able to find are grabbed from a relatively low quality video on YouTube of someone playing their Seville so have not yet seen photographic evidence of this Korean label but can state with a good degree of certainty that the S335 and all other H935s were made in Korea.

F-holes and neck unbound
Pickup uncovered
Seville logo
Gold hardware evident
Headstock shape same as Hondo
Video on YouTube shows this better

HONDO H935 DELUXE SERIES (bound model)
Model codes: H935WA (walnut), H935CH (cherry), H935CS (cherry sunburst), lightburst unknown
Country: Korea
Factory: Unknown
Years of manufacture: Suspected 1982 onwards
Pickups: Unknown covered humbuckers
Body material: Unknown
Neck: Maple
Bridge: Nashville style tune-o-matic
Tuners: Unknown, suspected generic Japanese or Korean
Hardware: Chrome

Deluxe H935 in Cherry finish
Note f-hole, neck and headstock binding
The H935 model seemed to undergo an evolution at some point in its life. The first H935 definitely had a mahogany neck as I own one.

Seemingly after this, the H935 became much heavier thanks to the inclusion of a maple neck, making the guitar more akin to a Gibson ES-340 or Epiphone Riviera in its construction.
It seems the earliest maple-necked H935s missed out binding from their necks but later on had binding on everything including the headstock and f-holes.

The top generally has a more plain grain compared to the unbound model, though there are a few examples with the same tiger flame as the non-bound model. The bridge is no longer a vintage-style ABR-1 tune-o-matic but a variant of the less rattly Nashville style, being thicker than the Gibson equivalent. The pickguard is longer and extends to the bridge, a specific detail that mirrors the first 2 years of Gibson ES models.

The refinements to the bound model would generally be considered improvements. This and the presence of the "Circle H"logo leads me to believe that the bound variants are the later of the two.
The first guitar pictured below had a Made in Korea sticker on the back of the headstock and although the picture was too low res to see it, this was only confirmed when the seller informed me that all Hondos:

"..were made exclusively in Japan until 1988 but from the early-mid 1980's were branded as "Made In Korea" almost as a marketing ploy. My main guess is that the Japanese builds coming out at the time from Fender/Gibson that were made in Japan were supposedly of poor quality (seems strange given quality of builds today) and Hondo looked to pass off Japanese builds as Korean to get away from that stigma."

The above is utter tosh, in my opinion, just for the record!

The pickups in my own H935CS are really powerful and warm. They really drive a valve amp nicely - great with a Fender Deluxe or DeVille. The Grover tuners are a welcome addition although one of mine appears to have been replaced as it has a shorter post than the others.

One problem which seems to be common among these guitars is the truss road becoming stuck. When I was first looking for a H935, I found one of the fully-bound variants online and brought it straight away from a small guitar shop up North somewhere. After a few phonecalls with the owner of said shop, it turned out the guitar was suffering from some fret buzz so he'd need to do a bit of a set up before he'd be happy sending it out to me.

Another phone call and it appeared the truss-rod was stuck so the adjustment couldn't be made, and another call a week or so later confirming that his truss-rod expert had been unable to free it so the guitar would unfortunately be going to that guitar-heap in the sky. If I'd known now what I knew then, I'd definitely have offered him a few quid for the pickups! Unfortunately the same fate has befallen my own H935CS. It plays fine for now but one day will be unadjustable. Still, it cost just £60 on Gumtree and I've had more than £60 worth of fun out of it.

Also worth noting is that the larger Nashville-style bridges are unique to these guitars. If you lose it, only another Hondo replacement will fit thanks to the size of the posts.

Comparing the early H935WA I own and this, it is clear they are very different guitars. The WA is much lighter and has a lower output, more retro sound. The CS is definitely the better guitar and the pickups are wonderful but it's heavy even compared to my Les Paul and the colour is pretty rotten (Tomato Soup Burst!).
Bound Deluxe H935 with non-original knobs
Note larger bridge, pickup covers and lack of flame
Pickguard has been removed
Bound Deluxe H935 headstock
Binding also extends to the headstock perimeter
Tuners may be original as several shapes were used
H935WA sticker
Flame is missing from rear as well as front
Deluxe H935 with aftermarket "Bigsby" trem
Note the flame top, though facing in the opposite direction to the Deluxe
Tuners appear to be Grovers as per Revival model, unsure if original
Deluxe 935 in less common lightburst
Tuners appear to be Grovers, unsure if original
Larger pickguard extends to the bridge

Model codes: H935RS (cherry sunburst), H935CH (cherry), H935CHTT (cherry flame), vintage sunburst unknown, lightburst flame unknown
Country: Korea
Factory: Likely Samick
Years of manufacture: Serial numbers evidenced from 1980 - 1990
Pickups: Unknown covered humbuckers
Body material: Unknown, suspected maple laminate
Neck: Suspected maple on all models except cherry flame (mahogany)
Bridge: Nashville style
Tuners: Grover Rotomatic kidney bean shape
Hardware: Chrome

Hondo Revival H935
The Hondo Revival has been seen in 3 finishes - cherryburst, brown sunburst (similar to a 2-colour Fender sunburst as opposed to the darker Epiphone vintage sunburst) and cherry. The majority of Revivals had plain tops but there are rarer examples with tight flamed tops and double-bound bodies.
The Revival differs from the early Hondo Deluxe in that it has covered pickups and an extra thick Nashville style tune-o-matic bridge. All revivals were fitted with Grover Rotomatic tuners. The neck is lighter in colour than the Deluxe Series and is likely maple, which goes some way to explaining anecdotal evidence that these guitars are particularly heavy.
Due to the open-book Gibson style headstock, many sellers believe these guitars to be made in the pre-lawsuit era, ie. pre-1979. This can not be the case, particularly as the label says copyright 1981. The oft mentioned lawsuit also never actually happened, it was only threatened, and as far as I can tell only applied to guitars sold in America. The Revival series appears to have been intended for the European market and may explain why this particular model managed to sport such a headstock shape in the face of threatened legal action from manufacturers in America.
Engineers from Tokai were allegedly drafted in by Hondo to help establish factories in Korea. However, having referenced all Hondo Revival H935 serial numbers I can find with the information at the Tokai Registry, every number matches. Tokai did not build guitars in Korea until around 2000 but there is almost solid proof below that the Revival H935 was made in Korea in the Fame H935 section.
If Tokai engineers' involvement in helping Hondo set up Korean operations is true, then it may be that the factory used by Hondo and no doubt other importers of instruments (see below for 2 further examples) in Korea was later used by Tokai when they started marketing and selling Korean made instruments in the early 2000s. There may have been greater input from Tokai to the Hondo project than I am aware, given that they appear to have the same serial numbering system. More information is needed to be 100% certain but much evidence points to this being the beginning of Tokai-lead Korean operations for manufacturing instruments.
Unlike their 70s range of guitars, many 80s Hondos were made outside of Japan and were generally of decent entry-level quality. However, it would appear through similar serial number checking that Tokai also produced copies of Fender guitars for Hondo's Professional series in Japan (Strats, Teles and the less common Lead II) which were clearly marked Made in Japan on the headstock. These were marketed to pro players and are widely regarded as far superior quality to "regular" Hondos and perhaps obviously, comparable in quality to Tokais of the time.
Flametop Revival H935 in lightburst
Unusually fitted with ABR-1 style bridge
Cherry Revival H935 with flame finish
Sticker and model numbers are still the same
Cherryburst Revival H935 sticker
Label is the same as Hondo Deluxe Series
Serial number matches Tokai,1980
Grover tuners appear to be standard
Revival H935 in vintage sunburst
Cherrburst Revival H935 with flame top and double binding
Hardware is gold
Originality of knobs is up for debate
Cherry Revival H935 with flame top and double binding
Hardware is gold but knobs are black
Cherry Revival H935 flame
Pickup covers are clearly gold
Neck made of lighter wood than Deluxe Series
Likely maple neck
Revival logo
Hondo logo is underneath to the right

Hondo Fame H935/MARATHON
Model codes: H935RS (cherry sunburst)
Country: Korea
Factory: Likely Samick
Years of manufacture: Late 80s
Pickups: Unknown covered humbuckers
Body material: Unknown, suspected maple laminate
Neck: Likely maple
Bridge: Nashville style
Tuners: Grover
Hardware: Chrome

Hondo Fame H935
Seemingly identical to it's Revival cousin
From around 1985 onwards, Hondo marketed some of their instruments under the Fame sub-brand, likely as a ploy to once again distance themselves from their earlier reputation for poor quality plywood instruments. Contrary to Hondo's penchant for creating pointy, angular, extreme heavy-metal style guitars in the early 1980s, the Fame brand seemed to concentrate on copies of classic Fender and Gibson guitars.
Once again, the neck and f-holes are bound, there is the larger Nashville style bridge and the pickguard is elongated. Grover tuners are again present and the serial number sticker is printed in exactly the same style as the Revival model.
Below is the only picture of an H935 with a "Made In" sticker that I have been able to find. I can state with 100% certaintly that The Fame H935 was definitely made in Korea. The only anomaly and slight annoyance is that it's serial number does not match with the Tokai database unlike the others I have found. However, as I can see no discernible differences between the two I can be 99.9% sure that this is simply a re-badged Hondo Revival H935. I come to the logical conclusion that the Revival is almost certainly made in Korea, too.
The same guitar has been seen branded as the Marathon Replay.

Fame H935 with Made in Korea sticker
Serial number different from Tokai due to second digit
Neck appears to be maple
Grover tuners remian
Fame logo replaces Revival logo
Hondo name is underneath to the left
Marathon version
Marathon Replay

Model codes: EG1935WA (walnut), lightburst uknown, cherry sunburst unknown,
Country: Korea
Factory: Unknown
Years of manufacture: Suspected mid 1980s - early 1990s
Pickups: Unknown uncovered double slug humbuckers (no adjustment screws)
Body material: Unknown "solid top"
Neck: Mahogany (EG1935WA) or maple (others)
Bridge: Nashville style tune-o-matic
Tuners: Generic Schaller style
Hardware: Chrome

Antoria Rock-Star
Made in Korea
The "935" in the Antoria EG-1935 is no coincidence. Walnut models also share the WA suffix with walnut coloured Hondos. There were cherryburst and lightburst models available. Given the range of finishes, it is likely that the Antoria Rock-Star was made at the same factory as the Hondo Revival H935. While the headstock shapes are different, the trapezoid truss-rod cover is also the same, as is the thick Nashville style tune-o-matic bridge. The Antoria, however, does not have a bound neck and headstock like the Revival.
The pickups are also differ from those on the Revival, seemingly being cheap humbuckers with no adjustment screws (unlike the Hondo DiMarzios, these poles are uniformly flat). The tuners are Schaller style.
The headstock logo is the Antoria brand with Rock-Star written underneath in a simple, modern, all-capital font. Some Antoria models exist without the Rock-Star name but appear to have the same specifications.
Antoria guitars made in the 70s were made in the same Japanese factory as the much coveted Ibanez guitars from the same period, many simply being give a different brand name to suit the UK market they were imported for. The owner of the Antoria brand, James T. Coppock Ltd, ceased trading in the early 1980s.
John Lawson acquired the brand thereafter and it appears that guitars branded Antoria were imported from Korea after that point instead of Japan. Certainly, according to Tony Bacon's Ultimate Guitar Sourcebook the Rock-Star was made in Korea and was also sold as the Harmony H935 in the USA.
The label of this Rock-Star states that it has a Solidtop construction (as well as being made for JL Music - John Lawson), which is unusual for 335 style guitars as even high-end Gibson models have a laminated top. Bacon also says that this guitar is claimed to have "double sustain blocks" inside the body, though what affect this is supposed to have on overall tone and sound is not detailed.

Double-slug, non-adjustable pickups
Nashville style bridge and oversized pickguard present
Antoria Solidtop - possibly a mistake?
JL Music text evident
The Rock-Star logo
Schaller style tuners
The EG1935WA label
Antoria Rock-Star in lightburst
Antoria label with no reference to solidtop
Antoria Rock-Star in cherrburst
Antoria EG1935 without Rock-Star text
Pickguard and pickup surrounds likely changed
Serial numbering same as Revival H935
Serial number suggests 1986
Schaller style tuners evident


  1. I have a really nice neck-through solid body that I believe dates to around 1983. It resembles a Gibson MM2 melody maker with no guard. Does anyone have any info on this-I have not seen another like it or any other info on the net.

  2. You've got your info mostly right, but the Professional Series really were all made in Japan. Every other model in that series had "made in japan" somewhere on them and why else would they make them if they were spec'd exactly the same as the Deluxe Series 935? Also, the silkscreened logo is different from anything ever used on Korean models. In fact, the Professional Series were the ONLY Hondos ever made in Japan, contrary to popular belief. Hondo was created as a joint venture between IMC and Samick, who exclusively built in Korea. They basically copied Japanese building techniques at the time, so the confusion is understandable, but they were still learning, that's why the early Hondos were considered so bad, whereas Japanese guitars in the '70s were already pretty solid quality.

    Hope that helps, I have a Samick SAN-450 (the descendant of the H935) and I love it.

  3. This is really useful. I'm aware of the other models in the professional series but the deluxe and professional 935 seem to have too many similarities to be ignored.

    Next time I change the strings, I'm hoping to take the bridge off of my Deluxe and see if it says Japan. Might clear a few things up! I've also just got hold of a later Hondo H935, like the Revival model in the orange-y sunburst but with the non-Gibson Hondo headstock. It's built COMPLETLEY differently to the walnut Deluxe. Hope to update the post when I have time/photos.

    Thanks for again for posting.

  4. This is really useful. I'm aware of the other models in the professional series but the deluxe and professional 935 seem to have too many similarities to be ignored.

    Next time I change the strings, I'm hoping to take the bridge off of my Deluxe and see if it says Japan. Might clear a few things up! I've also just got hold of a later Hondo H935, like the Revival model in the orange-y sunburst but with the non-Gibson Hondo headstock. It's built COMPLETLEY differently to the walnut Deluxe. Hope to update the post when I have time/photos.

    Thanks for again for posting.

  5. I'm looking for info on the Hondo H1.
    It's an 80's Metal Guitar.
    Mine is blue with what looks like red underneath.
    It plays like a dream.

  6. Actually, the Professional is considered another model entirely, it's the H-1060. They were sold alongside the Deluxe Series, as there were separate catalogs for each series in 1981. The Korean Factory was exclusively Samick, unmistakable from their trademark "baseball" QC sticker found on every Hondo ever made except the Professional Series (unfortunately most were ripped off). The Professionals were made by Tokai and Matsumoku (Tokai did the Fender copies, Mats did the rest) from '79-80 (sold as '80-81 models). I've collected pictures of hundreds of Hondos over the years and have yet to see any evidence of anything besides the Professional Series being made outside Korea.

  7. Hey, guys, I've had a Hondo electric guitar for a couple of years but i've never tried to find out about its model until now. I've browsed trough Hondo guitars photos for hours but I haven't found one that looks like it. It's a 20-fret one bridge humbucker, one vol, one tone and a weird tremolo system. Any ideas on what model is it?
    (i do have some photos)

  8. I have a h180 Hondo inside way out of reach on inside neck bracing is inscribed 73 b. Owens what would that infer made in 1973

  9. Hi Simon!

    I recently found a 1975 Hondo II Custom LP online for a reasonable price, and was wondering if you knew anything about the quality of the guitar for that year and whether it would be worth checking out?

    I've read that from a certain point on Hondo was using plywood to make the Les Pauls, which doesn't sound great. I'm wondering if the earlier models were any better and what they may have been made with.

    Thanks in advance!


  10. Hi Simon, I own the cherry Professional you picture in the first section--I got it new @ Christmas, '80. It originally hag "Goto" branded humbuckers, black bobbins, gold polepieces, which I still have--it's a great guitar, Paul

  11. Check out my wiki page for more information (constantly updated):

  12. I collect Hondos, and currently own like 9 different models, I have an early H935 and it plays great,I took Dimarzios off of a Hondo LP and put them on my 935 and I also added matched cts pots with orange drop compacators, and it is just a beast, Beutiful Blues and Rock tone through and through better than my 5 Gibsons. And I love Gibson pickups. But if you can find the Hondo Dimarzio pickups, buy them ,they are just great and the semi hollow body of the 935 that is a real nice 335 copy makes the tones that just rock..

  13. I collect Hondos, and currently own like 9 different models, I have an early H935 and it plays great,I took Dimarzios off of a Hondo LP and put them on my 935 and I also added matched cts pots with orange drop compacators, and it is just a beast, Beutiful Blues and Rock tone through and through better than my 5 Gibsons. And I love Gibson pickups. But if you can find the Hondo Dimarzio pickups, buy them ,they are just great and the semi hollow body of the 935 that is a real nice 335 copy makes the tones that just rock..

  14. I own a hondo H-18e and would love any info anyone out there may have to share about it. It has the international music corp 1981 logo in the soundhole. It came with pickupthat had asilver volume and tone controls. the headstock is rosewood and it has grover tuners. I really just want to know about the truss rod and if it has a solid top

  15. I own a guitar named EAGLE E42 GS, which is perfectly identical to the H935 FAME series. It was imported in Italy with that brand in 1988, but has all the features of the FAME: grover tuners, wide tune-o-matic, large pickguard, open-book headstock. The finish is Golden Sunburst (GS), the serial number sticker says 80210316, and another golden sticker by the neck joint says E42GS. It's in good shape and I love its sound, I am only disturbed by the 50mm sting spacing of the bridge: the strings don't match the pickup poles and don't fit the neck width.
    I'm going to replace the bridge, even if I'll have to file the post holes to make it fit.

  16. Hi, I am looking at a Hondo Delux 935, the guy says made in 1980 Japan, Solid Mahogany, True or not? that's my Question,

    1. Hi Gordon,

      It might be solid mahogany but if it's a Deluxe it'll be made in Korea. A good guitar nontheless - likely very light.


  17. Hi. I have a H-1060 in wine, great condition ( How much should I ask for it? Thanks! Great article BTW. Robert