Gibson Serial Number Identifier for
Guitars, Banjos, Basses, Mandolins etc...
|JUMP DOWN TO YEARS|
|1978 to date: use the first and the fifth number in the serial number.|
Identifying Gibson instruments by serial number is tricky and at sometimes impossible. The best methods of identifying them is by using a combination of the serial number, the factory order number and any features that are particular to a specific time that changes may have occurred in instrument design (i.e. logo design change, headstock volutes, etc). So far there have been 6 different serial number styles used on Gibson instruments.
The first serial numbers started in 1902 and ran until 1947. The serial numbers started with 100 and went to 99999. All numbers are approximates. In most cases, only the high end instruments were assigned identification numbers.
1903 to 1947 CHART
|Year Made||First serial number of that year||Last serial number of that year|
White oval labels were used on instruments from 1902 to 1954, at which time the oval label was changed to an orange color. On instruments with round sound holes, this label is visible directly below it. On f-hole instruments, it is visible through the upper f-hole. The second type of serial numbers used started with an A prefix and ran from 1947 to 1961. The first number is A 100.
1947 to 1961 CHART
in this chart all serial numbers start with - A -
|Year Made||First serial number of that year||Last serial number of that year|
Please read this:
Here is where the " SOMETIMES " rule applies.
When production of solid body guitars began, an entirely new serial number system was developed. Though not used on the earliest instruments produced (those done in 1952), a few of these instruments have 3 digits stamped on the headstock top. Some time in 1953, instruments were ink stamped on the headstock back with 5 or 6 digit numbers, the first indicating the year, the following numbers are production numbers. The production numbers run in a consecutive order and, aside from a few oddities in the change over years (1961-1962), it is fairly accurate to use them when identifying solid body instruments produced between 1953 and 1961. Examples of this system: 4 2205 = 1954 614562 = 1956 In 1961 Gibson started a new serial number system that covered all instrument lines. It consisted of numbers that are impressed into the wood. It is also generally known to be the most frustrating and hard to understand system that Gibson has employed. The numbers were used between the years 1961-1969. There are several instances where batches of numbers are switched in order, duplicated, not just once, but up to four times, and seem to be randomly assigned, throughout the decade. In general though, the numbers are approximately as follows:
APPROXIMATE YEAR SERIAL RANGE
1961 to 1969
1970 to 1975 and more identifier information.
From 1970-1975 the method of serializing instruments at Gibson became even more random. All numbers were impressed into the wood and a six digit number assigned, though no particular order was given and some instruments had a letter prefix. The orange labels inside hollow bodied instruments was discontinued in 1970 and were replaced by white and orange rectangle labels on the acoustics, and small black, purple and white rectangle labels were placed on electric models.
In 1970, the words "MADE IN USA" was impressed into the back of instrument headstocks (though a few instruments from the 1950s also had MADE IN USA impressed into their headstocks as well). Year (s) Approximate Series Manufacture
1970, 1971, and 1972 100000s, 600000s, 700000s, 900000s
1973 000001s, 100000s, 200000s, 800000s and a few “A” + 6 digit numbers
1974 and 1975 100000s, 200000s, 300000s, 400000s,500000s, 600000s, 800000s
and a few A-B-C-D-E-F + 6 digit numbers
During the period from 1975-1977 Gibson used a transfer that had eight digit numbers, the first two indicate the year, 99=1975, 00=1976 and 06=1977, the following six digits are in the 100000 to 200000 range. MADE IN USA were also included on the transfer and some models had LIMITED EDITION also applied. A few bolt on neck instruments had a date ink stamped on the heel area.
In 1977, Gibson first introduced the serialization method that is in practice today. This updated system utilizes an impressed eight digit numbering scheme that covers both serializing and dating functions. The pattern is as follows:
YY is the production year DDD is the day of the year PPP is the plant designation and/or instrument rank. The numbers 001-499 show Kalamazoo production, 500-999 show Nashville production. The Kalamazoo numbers were discontinued in 1984.
When acoustic production began at the plant built in Bozeman, Montana (in 1989), the series' numbers were reorganized. Bozeman instruments began using 001-299 designations and, in 1990, Nashville instruments began using 300-999 designations. It should also be noted that the Nashville plant has not reached the 900s since 1977, so these numbers have been reserved for prototypes. Examples:
70108276 means the instrument was produced on Jan.10, 1978, in Kalamazoo and was the 276th instrument stamped that day.
82765501 means the instrument was produced on Oct. 3, 1985, in Nashville and was the 1st instrument stamped that day.
However, it has come to light recently that the Kalamazoo plant did not directly switch over to the “new” 8digit serialization method in 1977. When the Nashville Gibson plant was opened in 1974, it was decided that the bulk of the production of products would be run in the South; the Kalamazoo plant would produce the higher end (fancier) models in the North. Of course, many of the older guitar builders and craftsmen were still in Kalamazoo; and if they weren't ready to change how they built guitars, then they may not have been ready to change how they numbered them! Certain guitar models built in the late 1970s can be used to demonstrate the old-style 6 digit serial numbers. It is estimated that Gibson's Kalamazoo plant continued to use the 6 digit serial numbers through 1978 and 1979. So double check the serial numbers on those 1970s L-5s, Super 400s, and Super 5 BJBs!
Gibson's F O N System
In addition to the above serial number information, Gibson also used Factory Order Numbers (F O N) to track batches of instruments being produced at the time. In the earlier years at Gibson, guitars were normally built in batches of 40 instruments. Gibson's Factory Order Numbers were an internal coding that followed the group of instruments through the factory. Thus, the older Gibson guitars may have a serial number and a F O N. The F O N may indicate the year, batch number, and the ranking (order of production within the batch of 40).
This system is useful in helping to date and authenticate instruments. There are three separate groupings of numbers that have been identified and are used for their accuracy. The numbers are usually stamped or written on the instrument's back and seen through the lower F hole or round soundhole, or maybe impressed on the back of the headstock.
1908-1923 Approximate #s
YEAR F O N
1910 545, 927
1911 1260, 1295
1912 1408, 1593
1913 1811, 1902
1914 1936, 2152
1915 2209, 3207
1916 2667, 3508
1917 3246, 11010
1918 9839, 11159
1919 11146, 11212
1920 11329, 11367
1921 11375, 11527
1922 11565, 11729
F O Ns for the years 1935-1941 usually consisted of the batch number, a letter for the year and the instrument number. Examples are as follows:
722 A 23
465 D 58
863 E 02.
Code Letter and Year
Code Letter F O Ns were discontinued after 1941, and any instruments made during or right after World War II do not bear an F O N codes. In 1949, a four digit F O N was used, but not in conjunction with any code letter indicating the year.
From 1952-1961, the F O N scheme followed the pattern of a letter, the batch number and an instrument ranking number (when the guitar was built in the run of 40). The F O N is the only identification number on Gibson's lower grade models (like the ES-125, ES-140, J-160E, etc.) which do not feature a paper label. Higher grade models (such as the Super 400, L-5, J-200, etc.) feature both a serial number and a F O N. When both numbers are present on a higher grade model, remember that the F O N was assigned at the beginning of the production run, while the serial number was recorded later (before shipping). The serial number would properly indicate the actual date of the guitar. F O N examples run thus:
Y 2230 21
V 4867 8
R 6785 15
Code Letter and Year
After 1961 the use of FONs was discontinued at Gibson. There are still some variances that Gibson uses on some instruments produced today, but for the most part the above can be used for identifying instruments. For the most accurate identification you would need to contact the Gibson Guitar Corporation itself.
NOTE: Guitar Attic will not be held responsible for errors in dating records or the charts we made to help you find the year your guitar was made.
Here is an page from the Gibson Musical Instruments site.
Search and ye shall find serial numbers and more
Today gibson.com debuts new ways to self-search for serial numbers and identify instruments. First, you may download a definitive resource for your instrument research. That will assist you in getting the exact information you need right away. If you still have questions then contactCustomer Support <http://www.gibson.com/relations/> by email <http://www.gibson.com/relations/mailform.html>. Finally, you may call toll-free 24/7 at 1-800-4GIBSON.
Please Note: The Customer Support representatives don't appraise your instruments over the telephone or quote market value. Other excellent sources with greater market expertise for that kind of information are your authorized Gibson Dealers.Click here <http://www.gibson.com/info/search/dealer_search.html> to find your nearest authorized dealer and then consult them. You can also contact the publishers of the authoritative Blue Book of Guitars <http://www.bluebookinc.com/index.html> for appraisal information.
Our previous serial number and guitar identification search mechanism was automated. That is, you didn't talk to anyone but entered a serial number or answered either/or and yes/no questions based upon your answers to a few questions. Simple but not always satisfying as new information became available or as new questions came to the minds of our users.
Now, you can download various files provided by the comprehensive, authoritativeBlue Book of Guitars <http://www.bluebookinc.com/Guitars_web.htm>. Their new Sixth Editions include a volume for electrics and one for acoustics. These are the very same sources our Customer Support representatives use to help Gibson and Epiphone players worldwide. Now you can read and research your questions in the proverbial sanctity of your own home or office. Our new search site <http://www.gibson.com/info/search/index.html> even provides a link to download Adobe Acrobat Reader <http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep.html> enabling you to download, read, and print the relevant files.
Here's a list of the files you can download and the categories of information available:
Gibson Serial Number Information <http://www.gibson.com/downloads/bluebook/GibsonSERIALNUMBERS.pdf>
Gibson Electric Guitar Descriptions from the Blue Book of Guitars <http://www.gibson.com/downloads/bluebook/GibsonElectrics.pdf>
Gibson Acoustic Guitar Descriptions from the Blue Book of Guitars <http://www.gibson.com/downloads/bluebook/GibsonAcoustics.pdf>
Epiphone Serial Number Information <http://www.gibson.com/downloads/bluebook/EPIPHONESERIALNUMBERS.pdf>
Epiphone Electric Guitar Descriptions from the Blue Book of Guitars <http://www.gibson.com/downloads/bluebook/EpiphoneElectrics.pdf>
Epiphone Acoustic Guitar Descriptions from the Blue Book of Guitars <http://www.gibson.com/downloads/bluebook/EpiphoneAcoustics.pdf>
If you still have questions, we probably can not help you (just being honest) but you are welcome to email us:
Guitar Attic Email.
<http://www.gibson.com/relations/mailform.html>. Customer Support answers most emails within 24 hours. Finally, call us 24/7, anytime at 1-800-4GIBSON to talk to one of our knowledgeable Customer Support representatives.
In the upcoming weeks the search site and files will be updated to include photos of many of the instruments to aid you in identifying your instrument. As new models debut we will add those as well.
The search site also allows you to search for your nearest Gibson Musical Instrumentsdealer <http://www.gibson.com/info/search/dealer_search.html>, contact the nearest international distributor <http://www.gibson.com/relations/international/>, search only the product catalogs < query-prod.htm? search www.gibson.com http:>, or search the entire GMI site <http://www.gibson.com/search/query.htm>.
Please understand this: with serial numbers their is no "always" but their is "always" exceptions to every rule. We can not guarantee that all or any of the information on this page is accurate.
NOTE: The Guitar Attic will not be held responsible for errors in dating records or on the date charts. This free service is provided to help you find the year your guitar was made. Thanks to the many contributors that made this page possible.
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