When Alfred Dronge, a former professional guitarist, founded the Guild Company in 1952 to produce fine jazz instruments he employed several luthiers from Epiphone. After two years of testing prototypes it is not surprising that the earliest Guild instruments released for sale in 1954 bare similarities to Epiphones of the period with their large single cutaway bodies. The top of the Guild range was the Artist Award model (the equivalent of the Epiphone Emperor) and it has remained Guild's flagship model.
The Artist Award had a 17 inch wide body with a solid spruce archtop and flamed solid maple back and sides. The fingerboard was ebony with pearl block and abalone triangle inlays (like the Epiphone Emperor). The D'Angelico style headstock of the Artist Award also had a fancy pearl and abalone inlaid "Artist Award" motif and the body any f-holes had multi-ply binding. All hardware was gold plated including the engraved harp tail-piece. The Artist Award has a single floating pickup - the actual pickup has varied over the years - some may have a humbucker. Guild's first artist endorsement deal resulted in the Johnny Smith Award model, which was made from 1956-1960.
In 2013 the Guild Custom Shop issued the American Patriarch Artist Award model to commemorate Guild's 60th Anniversary
Source: The History and Development of the American Guitar. Ken Achard. The Bold Strummer Ltd. 1996.