Dating vintage gibson guitars serial number

  2. What You Need to Know About Gibson Serial Numbers
  3. Gibson Serial Numbers - Guitars Collector

Prior to WW2, many models have a distinctive "V" shape. Known as "baseball bats" due to the large back size. The era necks are often considered the best of this era; large and comfortable without being huge. Thin neck back shape, even compared to today's standards these necks don't have much wood behind the fingerboard and feel very thin. Larger neck shape, but still smaller than the 's "baseball bat" style.

Most models have nut width dramatically reduced making the neck feel very small. Back shape is about the same as the era, but the narrow nut width makes these necks feel like "pencil necks". Volute added to back of neck behind the nut. Nylon, a thermoplastic material, was invented in by Wallace Carothers at DuPont. Bridge, flat top models. Retangular bridge, most models: Martin-type belly bridge, some banner-logo examples: Upper belly bridge above bridge pins: Plastic bridge, most models below SJ: Indian Rosewood used instead of Brazilian: Lower belly bridge below bridge pins: Option on J, J, SJ: Standard on most models: In , it changed to a "compensated" style unit with "stairsteps" for each string.

Tunematic bridges started showing up on many Gibson models in Used on some models ES and ES until This tailpiece was used until the 's on some models including the SG Junior. This was an important change on wrap around tailpieces, because it stopped the wrap-around from leaning forward and cracking the body wood often seen on Les Paul Juniors and Specials.

Tunematic bridge "no wire", stamped underneath "ABR-1", metal saddles and stop tailpiece. Many electric archtop models also converted to the tunematic bridge. Stud wraparound tailpiece unit as used only on the lower-end models like the SG Junior at this point now have compensated "stair steps" cast into the unit. Tunematic bridge "with wire" still stamped "ABR-1" on bottom. The wire goes over the six saddle screw heads to prevent the saddles from popping out during string changes.

Tunematic bridge uses white nylon saddles instead of nickel plated brass saddles. Tunematic bridge now chrome plated, no longer stamped "ABR-1" on bottom replaced by casted patent number. Stop tailpiece now chrome plated too, and replaced on many models like the ES with a trapeze tailpiece. Metal saddles replace the nylon saddles on the tunematic bridge. P pickup, Alino pickup, Humbucking pickup, "double white" humbucking pickup with metal cover removed. P pickup top and a P.

Two variations, one almost 6" long extending diagonally from the bridge to almost the neck, the other shorter and more conventional looking and mounted at less of an angle. Both seen on ES model: First cataloged as a "conversion" pickup. Volume and tone controls and pickup integrated into the pickguard. Available with 1 or 2 pickups. Also known as the "McCarty" pickup system. Available for acoustic archtops such as the L-7, L-5 and Super Non-adjustable pole P pickup, single coil, 6 magnet slugs down center, black "dog ear" pickup cover: Same as fixed pole P, except now has adjustable slot-head poles: Looks like a P soapbar pickup, except has "staple" poles with adjusting screws next to the poles.

Used on upper line models: A late "P. A mid's "Patent No. One row of 6 adjustable slot-head poles off-center: Cover was gold, nickel or after chrome plated. Prior to about mid, have small decal on bottom stating "Patent Applied For". These are known as "P.

Starting in about mid to early , a "Patent No. Most humbucking pickups first year have no decal, and a more squarish stainless steel cover. Also to early P. The internal plastic coil bobbins are usually black plastic, but sometimes they are white this happened mostly in or early You can see the color of the wire bobbins by removing the small underside mounting screw instead of removing the pickup cover. More information and pictures of PAF pickups can be seen here. The pointed pickguard used on most Gibson flattops from to the 's.

Note this Southern Jumbo's "double parallelagram" fingerboard inlays and the "belly up" style bridge opposed to Martin's bridges which had a belly down towards the endpin. Most Gibson pickguards prior to the mid's were made from celluloid. This material can deteriote with time the tortoise colored pickguards especially exhibit this trait.

But in early , most models changed to a "pointed" pickguard that followed the shape of the guitar except for the point. The J was an exception to this rule; it's pickguard stayed the same shape, but the material and the designed changed. Prior to , the J has an engraved celluloid pickguard. Starting in , this changed to an injection molded styrene pickguard that was cheaper to make.

The edges were cut beveled to make them look like they had binding. In , the bevel changed from being very wide and flat, to a narrow and steeper cut. Next to it is the ugliest pre Gibson knob, known as the "amp" knob, used from late to the mid's but not on all models.

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Middle row, left to right: Tall numbered gold knob, used from to , "speed" knob as used from to , "bonnet" knob as used from to , "metal top bonnet" knob or "reflector" knob as used from mid to mids on many, but not all models. Bottom row, left to right: The left switch tip was used on multiple pickup models from after WW2 to about This knob is bakelite and very amber in color. Next to it is the version where the switch tip changed to a plastic material that stayed white, and had a visible seam.

Bottom row black knobs, left to right: These correspond to the same years as the above gold versions. Smooth rounded top, bumps around top edge, some with arrow across top, 1 black and 1 brown: Looks like a hat box, flared base, back painted gold or black, clear with numbers 1 to 10 visible thru knob: Used from mid to mids.

Similar to bonnet knob but now has metal cap with "Volume" or "Tone" printed in black on the metal cap. There are two styles of this knob. First was used from mid to the end of , and have a shallow post hole as viewed from the side. The and later relector knob has a deeper post hole the bottom of the post hole comes much closer to the metal cap.

Also the reflector on these knobs can be silver or gold. Guitars with nickel or chrome hardware should have silver caps. Guitars with gold hardware should have gold caps though often the gold does wear off. Back painted gold or black, clear with numbers 1 to 10 visible thru knob: Note this knob was used primarily on Les Paul Custom models till the mid 's, when most other models got these knobs.

Black knobs with white numbers 1 to Looks like "blackface" Fender amp knobs: Some models never got these knobs such as the and later Les Pauls. Used mostly on the hollowbody and semi-hollow models, such as the ES series. Starting in mid, they switched to a much whiter and slightly rounder tip plastic switch tip. Phillips head screws started to be used at Gibson in the phillips head screw was original patented in Prior to , all screws should be slot style.

Prior to , all metal hardware is either nickel or gold plated. Starting in , all hardware is either chrome or gold plated. Kluson Deluxe "tulip" tuners on a Les Paul. Note this is the "single ring, single line" variety used from to The "single ring" refers to the single ring around the plastic button. The "single line" refers to the single line of vertical text saying "Kluson Deluxe". Note the "inked on" serial number. During the 's and 's, Gibson used Kluson tuners almost exclusively. There were some exceptions; starting in you could special order Grover tuners instead of Klusons on many mid to upper line models including the Les Paul Custom and J models.

By , Gibson starting using tuners with the "Gibson Deluxe" name on them, but these were actually made by Kluson. More info on Kluson tuners can be found here. Again Phillips head screws started to be used at Gibson in the phillips head screw was original patented in Kluson Deluxe Tuner specs models including 3-on-a-plate and "tulip" designs: NO outside hole on the metal cover for the tuner worm shaft. On the bottom side of the tuners stamped into the metal it says " PAT.

Tulip plastic tuners knobs have a single ring around them. Still no outside hole in the metal tuner cover for the tuner worm shaft. The exterior lubrication holes can be either small or large. There is still now an outside hole in the metal tuner cover for the tuner worm shaft. These tuners are often called "No Line, Single Ring".

Single line "Kluson Deluxe" in a single vertical line on the ribbed metal tuner cover. The exterior lubrication holes can be either small or large though most are large hole. Two plastic rings on the plastic "tulip" tuner knob.

These tuners are often called "Single Line, Double Ring". On keystone tuners, the buttons become have a slight green tint to them. These tuners are often called "Double Line, Double Ring". Now a double lined "Gibson Deluxe" replaces the double line "Kluson Deluxe". The base plate for the tuners also has a more rounded look to it with the edges less defined. This happened because the dies that stamped out this part were wearing out. The original Kluson tuners company went out of business in so this style of tuner was not made again until the s when WD Guitar Products bought the Kluson name and reissued these tuners.

PegHead Markings other than Serial Numbers "seconds" Gibson often marked inferior quality guitars as "seconds", and sold them at a discount to dealers or employees. These markings were stamped into the wood on the back of the peghead. A "2" stamp is sometimes seen, designating a "second", which had some cosmetic flaw.

If there is a serial number on the back of the peghead, the "2" is usually seen centered above or below it. Also sometimes stamped was "CULL", which is another designation of a second. Again, this stamp is seen on the back of the peghead. The worse Gibson reject is the "BGN" stamp, designating that instrument as a "bargin" guitar. These were only sold to employees at substantial discounts. This stamp is also seen on the back of the peghead. BGN instruments weren't acceptable to Gibson as sellable to the public.

All second instruments are usually worth less than the same guitar that is not a second given condition as the same. BGN instruments are worth less than a second instrument because these tend to have some fairly serious cosmetic flaw. A war-time Southern Jumbo that was exported to Canada. This is sometimes stamped on the back of the peghead where a serial number would be on and later Gibsons. Also it's sometimes seen on the top edge of the peghead.

An EStc from the 's, as seen through the bass side "f" hole. Model Body Markings non-Artist models. After WW2, lower-line Gibson vintage instruments did not have a label to designate the model. Instead, Gibson just ink stamped the model number inside on hollow body instruments. If the instrument had "f" holes, this number was ink stamped in the bass side "f" hole on the inside back of the instrument. If the instrument was a flat top guitar, this number was ink stamped inside the round soundhole on the inside back of the guitar. Gibson Cases Mid to high-end model guitars during the 's and early 's used a black case with a red line around the top edge of the case.

The inside is a deep maroon color. Lower models used black rigid cardboard cases. About , mid to high end model started to use a tweed case with a 3 inch wide red "racing stripe" on the tweed. The inside of these cases are also usually a deep maroon. These tweed cases were used up to WW2. Post-WW2 , Gibson offered 3 different cases. The "low grade" case was an "alligator" softshell case, essentially made of rigid cardboard with a sparse brown lining. This case also often had a hard thin brown plastic handle that cracked very easily.

The "medium grade" case was a wooden case with a smooth brown outside and usually a sparse green lining though different color interiors are seen. The "best grade" known as the "faultless" case was the "California Girl" case, as it is known. This wooden case has a rich brown outside like a tanned California girl , and a very plush and rich pink inside. The handle on the medium and high grade cases was leather covered metal. Note some models such as the Les Paul did not have a medium grade case available either got the 'gator case or the Cal Girl case.

Though any s era of these three LP models could also have a four latch case. Most 's Gibson cases had a small 1.


This was located on the side of the case by the handle. Note during this period there where three different manufacturers making cases for Gibson, all with the same basic specs, but slightly different shapes Lifton, Geib, Stone. Geib cases are seen mostly in the early 's, and Lifton cases in the mid to late 's. Stone cases are seen throughout the 's, but not to the extent of the other two manufacturers.

The new low-end case was a black softshell with a plush deep red lining. The medium grade case was dropped entirely and the new high grade case was black on the outside, and yellow on the inside. The black outside changed from smooth to rough during different periods of the 's. Also the handle changed from a leather covered metal to a hard molded plastic type about The small brass Gibson plaque was still used until the later 's.

In the 's, the new high-end case was still a wooden case with a black outside, but a deep red inside. Most 's cases had "Gibson" silkscreened on the outside of the case in white. Also made during the 's is the "protector" case; a huge thing made completely out of molded plastic.

What You Need to Know About Gibson Serial Numbers

This case was very popular for Les Pauls. A picture of a mid's Les Paul brown case is here. This is not the most desirable of the Les Paul brown cases, as it has a flat top and four latches typically this style of brown case was sold with Les Paul Specials and Juniors. Starting about mid to late , the brown Les Paul case changed to a five latch model. This is considered the "Sunburst" case even though most models still use the older four latch case. These newer cases have a tag on the inside pick pocket that says "Made in Canada". Also, these cases have a pink interior satin cover that goes over the top of the guitar before closing the case.

And they also have a combination lock on the main exterior latch and a leather handle. There were also some early 's brown reissue cases mostly for Les Pauls and Korina reissues that are starker versions of the Canadian reissue case. Most recently Gibson has copied the original 's Cal Girl case more exactly on their "historic" series reissues. The easiest way to find the year of a particular Gibson instrument is usually by referencing the instrument's serial number of factory order number.

This following information applies to all Gibson instruments including guitars, mandolins, lapsteels, basses and others. This information was compiled from these sources: To make things even more interesting, they sometimes wrote the serial number or factory order number with a near-invisible pencil, sometimes ink-stamped it in disappearing ink it seems , and sometimes pressed it into the wood. And the placement of these serial numbers and FON's factory order numbers can be different, depending on the era. Gibson serial number consistency was never given much thought, as Gibson changed serial number system many times.

Hence, some serial numbers may be duplicated in different years. This is especially noticable during the 's. Many people ask, "How can I tell the difference between a serial number and a factory order number? Sometimes this is difficult, but you have to look at the format of the number, and the general era of the instrument.

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  4. Does it have a pre-WW2 script "Gibson" logo? If so, then just look at the pre-WW2 serial number and factory order number info. This would be the single biggest question to ask, as pre-WW2 and post-WW2 instruments are numbered quite differently. Also, examine the placement and style of the numbers and make sure it follows the schemes described.

    Another question asked is, "The FON number says the instrument is , yet the serial number says ; why are they different? There is a very logical reason for this. The FON number is stamped on the instrument very early in the manufacturing process. Most times, the serial number is applied as one of the last steps especially on pre hollow body instruments when the instrument is nearly finished. Depending on the demand for the instrument, it could take Gibson up to 6 months to finish the instrument. Hence the FON number could be one year, and the serial number the next year.

    It wasn't till that Gibson came up with a good serial number system that will last them indefinately. This new serial number system allows determination of the exact date the instrument was stamped with the serial number, and the factory of manufacturer. Often no serial number or model name on label, picture of Orville Gibson and lyre mandolin, date sometimes penciled under the top must be seen with a mirror.

    Or serial number and model name on white paper label, number range from to , hand inked or penciled to , ink stamped serial number to Factory Order Numbers stamped on neck block inside body. Some low end models with no numbers. Some models with an ink stamped 3 digit number on neck block. The FONs were issued sequentially and provide a good way to date a Gibson guitar. FON 4 digit numbers start.

    Gibson Serial Numbers - Guitars Collector

    FON numbers "roll over" from , reusing old numbers. It was like in the FONs were pre-printed, and someone dropped the pile on the floor. Factory Order Numbers and Letter Codes. Now FONs contain a letter A to G, ink stamped on the inside back or on the neck block flattops , or on the label. Factory Order Numbers beginning with the letter D to H pressed into the back of the peghead. Factory Order Numbers with 3 or 4 digits, followed by a hyphen, followed by 1 or 2 more digits, ink stamped on neck block flattops or on the inside back, Factory Order Numbers of 3 or 4 digits, followed by a hyphen, followed by by 1 or 2 more digits, ink stamped on the inside back.

    Factory Order Numbers beginning with the letter Q to Z, ink stamped on inside back, all hollowbody models. Unique solidbody electric guitar "inked" serial numbers. Reissue and custom shop serial numbers in various formats. Pretty much sequentially ordered. Gibson Factory Order Numbers, to - Overview.

    The Factory Order Number FON consists of a 3, 4 or 5 digit batch number followed by a 1 or 2 digit sequence number usually from 1 to 40, but there were some double or triple batches where the numbers were higher. Years Batch Number Range 1 thru thru A thru A "A" suffix used thru 1 thru with some isolated higher numbers 1 thru with some isolated higher numbers 1A thru A most with "A" suffix and some isolated higher numbers 1B thru B most with "B" suffix and some isolated higher numbers 1C thru C most with "C" suffix and some isolated higher numbers 1d thru d most with "D" suffix and some isolated higher numbers 1E thru E most with "E" suffix and some isolated higher numbers 1 thru some with letter suffix or prefix, some with neither Gibson Factory Order Numbers with a Letter, to The FON consists of a batch number, usually 4 digits.

    Then there is a letter and sometimes a space , followed by a 1 or 2 digit sequence ranking number. Letter is between the batch number and the sequence number. Code is ink stamped on the inside back. Code is either ink stamped onto the label or impressed into the back of the peghead for lap steels, impressed into the back of the body. First letter , indicates the year. Second letter , if there is one, indicates the brand of the instrument: Third letter , if there is one, is "E" for Electric.

    Some high-end models and lapsteels from to have the letter A added to the prefixes D, E, or F. Examples include L-5's and Super 's which have an EA prefix suggestiong , in addition to a separate paper label indicating or In this case the later serial number is the one to believe, as the instrument was probably started and completed in different years.

    The format consists of a three or four digit number, a hyphen, then a one or two digit batch number. Only the first number before the hyphen determines the year. Note the red pencil mark after the FON is missing or has faded. Gibson Factory Order Numbers, to Serial numbers are seldon found on instruments made during WW2. These contain a four digit batch number stamped in ink, followed by a two digit sequence number written in red pencil during WW2 only.

    After the war, the red pencil wasn't used and on instruments made during the war, sometimes it's really hard to see the red penciled sequence number. Usually there is no more than 46 instruments sequence numbers per batch. Also no batch number with a "1" as the first digit was used during WW2. The FON is usually located on the neck block.

    The war-time list that follows is not definative but includes FONs that I have seen. Unfortunately I don't have every range of FON's during this period. Range 5xxxH to 8xxxH Range generally 9xx to 22xx, depending on the model. The "S" prefix denotes Factory Order Numbers with a Letter, to Remember, the batch number is the first 4 digits of the FON, followed by a 1 or 2 digit sequence number within the batch. This letter should be before the FON batch number. This was used on archtop models ink stamped inside treble F-hole and on flat top models ink stamped on the neck block , from to Rectangular label, no serial number or model name on label, photo of Orville Gibson and lyre-mandolin on label, date sometimes penciled under top.

    Number and model name on white paper label, number range to Ink stamped, not penciled. Low end models with no serial number. Gibson Hollowbody instruments to No serial number used on lower line instruments date by Factory Order Number. Instruments with an "Artist" serial number should also have a Factory Order Number by which a date can be cross-referenced.

    Number preceded by an "A-" on white oval label: Number preceded by an "A" on orange oval label: To combat the problem, the company upped its serial number sequence last year from eight digits to nine. Davidson is quick to point out that consumers have good reason to be alarmed by real or perceived discrepancies on Gibson models. For the most part, it looks real. But there are some obvious indicators—if it starts with a five, for instance. Or it might be an eight-digit serial number that indicates it was built on the th day of the year.

    Our customers want serial numbers to be formatted a certain way—like they used to be. For more information on Gibson's serial numbers, refer to our online guide here. Follow Gibson on Facebook and Twitter for guitar giveaways, new product launches, music news and much more! Battle of the Fans. How To Buy A Guitar.