DATING GIBSON GUITARS AND MANDOLINS
BY REFERENCE OF SERIAL NUMBERS

Regarding duplications of serial numbers, Gibson does take the lead. Gibson has used various numbering methods since 1900, making it difficult to determine the production year based on the serial number.

From 1902 to 1976, Gibson instruments have a serial number or a FON (Factory Order Number) or both. However, in the beginning this was not done consistently, so that there are also be instruments without identification.

Where to find the serial number
The serial number can be found stamped or punched on the back of the headstock or acoustic in the sound hole. The acoustic models have been manufactured in Bozeman, Montana since the end of 1989.

If you want to know the production year of your Gibson guitar or mandolin, you can decipher it with the serial number decoder, or find it in the tables below.

Gibson serial number date decoder (v2.4)
Other decoders
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Factory Order Numbers (FON) with a letter from 1935 to 1941

The FON consists a batch number of usually four digits, followed by a one letter (sometimes prefixed by a space) followed by one or two digits (ranking).
• 1935-1937: Letter between the batch number and the order number.
   e.g. 0123 A5
• 1938-1941: Two or three letters before batch number. The first letter
   is the year. If there is a second character follows it is the code for
   the type of the instrument. (G = Gibson, K = Kalamazoo,
   W = Recording King (Montgomery Wards).
   If follows there is a third letter E, it stands for Electric.
• Exceptions: Some high-end models and lap steels from 1939-1940
   have been added the letter A, to the prefixes D, E or F.

1st Letter PRODUCTION YEAR
A 1935
B 1936
C 1937
D and DA 1938
Ex (x = any letter) 1939
F and FA 1940
E (no sequel letter) 1941
G 1941
H 1942
Factory Order numbers with a letter from 1952 to 1961

The letter preceding the batch number in the FON, and indicates the year of production.
The batch number, the first four digits of the FON, followed by a one or two-digit number. This letter must be before the FON batch number.
e.g. Y1234 23

This was used from 1952 to 1961 on archtop models and is stamped on the inside of the F-hole.
On flat tops it was stamped on the neck block.



FON PRODUCTION YEAR
Z 1952
Y 1953
X 1954
W 1955
V 1956
U 1957
T 1958
S 1959
R 1960
Q 1961




Gibson serial numbers 1952 to 1961, solidbody model


A number stamped with ink on the back of the headstock.


Gibson's solid bodys were released in 1952. Gibson did not use serial numbers at that time but started in 1953.

The first digit of the series number is the last digit of the year. If the stamped number consists of 5 digits, there is a space between the first and second digit (a separation between the last digit of the year and the actual serial number).

If it concerns a 6-digit serial number, there is no space, because the highest 4-digit number (9999) has been exceeded and the space therefore fills up. This was the case in the years 1955, 1956, 1959 and 1960.

In 1955, Gibson forgot to reset the series of serial numbers to 0001.
So they had only set the year from 4 to 5. For this reason the series of 4 digit serial numbers was exceeded after 9999.
Hence 5 digits and no space between the year (5) and the serial number. (after 5 9999 came 510 000)

Apparently the production was high in 1956 because 6 9999 is exceeded. Also in 1959 and 1960 there was a high production, 9 9999 is exceeded to 932 000 or higher.
Thus, from the production in 1959, a 1, 2 or 3 may be the second digit.

Gibson stopped the stamped serial numbers at the end of 1960, although a few instruments were made in 1961 with a 1 as a prefix. Some lap steels and Les Paul's from 1961 have such a serial number.

Another exception to the above rules is in the fall of 1958, where some Les Paul Juniors and Specials had a four-digit serial number.


1st digit PRODUCTION YEAR
None 1952
3 1953
4 1954
5 1955
6 1956
7 1957
8 At the end of 1958, a number of LP Juniors/Specials had a four-digit serial number without a prior annual digit 1958
9 1959
0 1960
1 (rare) 1961



Gibson serial numbers, from February 1961 until 1970
Gibson started in 1961 with a new series numbering system.
They wanted to apply a more structured series of sequences, but in practice the opposite happened. Numbers were reused during this period, and in many cases the numbers were not strictly applied for successive years.
For all models, the serial number is stamped on the back of the headstock. A number of serial numbers were duplicated from 1963
to 1969.
From this period the 5-digit and 6-digit numbers are easy to confuse and give an incorrect year.

Serial PRODUCTION YEAR

0100 - 424401961
42441 - 611801962
61450 - 642221963
64240 - 710401964
71041 - 96600 1962 (some 1963 and 1964)
96601 - 999991963
000001 - 0999991967 (all 6-digit numbers starting with 0. are 1967)
100000 - 1060991963 or 1967
106100 - 1068991963
109000 - 1099991963 or 1967
110000 - 111549 1963
111550 - 115799 1963 or 1967
115800 - 1182991963
118300 - 1209991963 or 1967
121000 - 1399991963
140000 - 1401001963 or 1967
140101 - 1443041963
144305 - 1443801964
144381 - 1498641963
149865 - 1498911964
149892 - 1529891963
152990 - 1742221964
174223 - 1766431964 or 1965
176644 - 2503351964
250336 - 3059831965
306000 - 3109991965 or 1967
311000 - 3201491965
320150 - 3206991967
320700 - 3291791965
329180 - 3301991965 or 1967
330200 - 3322401965, 1967 or 1968
332241 - 3480921965
348093 - 3491001966
349121 - 3686381965
368640 - 3698901966
370000 - 3709991967
380000 - 3853091966
390000 - 3909981967
400001 - 4066661966
406667 - 4096701966 - 1968
409671 - 4109001966
410901 - 419999(niet bekend)
420000 - 4291931966
500000 - 5009991965, 1966, 1968 or 1969
501009 - 5016001965
501601 - 5017021968
501703 - 5027061965 or 1968
503010 - 5031091968
503405 - 5209551965 or 1968
520956 - 5300561968
530061 - 5308501966, 1968 or 1969
530851 - 5309931968 or 1969
530994 - 5399991969
540000 - 5407951966 or 1969
540796 - 5450091969
555000 - 5579991966
558000 - 5674001969
570087 - 5706431966
570645 - 5707551966 or 1967
570857 - 5709641966
580000 - 5800801969
580086 - 5809991966, 1967 or 1969
600000 - 6009981966, 1967, or 1968 (low end models)
600000 - 6060901969 (high end models)
700000 - 7007991966, 1967 or 1969
750000 - 7509991966, 1967 or 1969
800000 - 8009991966, 1967, 1968 or 1969
801000 - 8128381966 or 1969
812900 - 8199991969
820000 - 8200871966 or 1969
820088 - 8238301966
824000 - 8249991969
828002 - 8474881966 or 1969
847499 - 8589991966 or 1969
859001 - 8919991967
892000 - 8969991968
897000 - 8989991967 or 1969
899000 - 8999991968
900000 - 9099991970
910000 - 9999991968

Gibson serial numbers, early to mid seventies
From 1970 to 1975 the 6 digit serial numbers were randomly created.

In a random order, numbers were stamped on the back of the headstock. With some instruments preceded by a letter.

In 1970 the orange labels inside the body of acoustic guitars were replaced by white with orange rectangular labels.

New labels from 1970 onwards

The electric models were provided with a rectangular with black and purple triangle.
From 1970 "MADE IN USA" was also stamped on the back of the headstock. Some instruments from the fifties also had such a stamp.




Gibson serial numbers, 1970-1975
After production continued by Gibson's new company Norlin (1969-1986), the same confusing six-digit serial system from the 1960s continued until 1975. (see: Norlin)
This means that instruments with the same serial number were produced either in the 1960s or 1970s.

Guitars got six digits in random order, and in some cases they were preceded by a letter that did not seem to have meaning.

Note that the serial numbers between 1970 and 1975 may be a repeat of the serial numbers from 1964 and 1965. In 1970 some 6 digit serial numbers had the letter A as a suffix.

The table below shows the years to which the numbers can relate.


Seral number range PRODUCTION YEAR
000000 - 099999 1973
100000 - 199999 1970 - 1975
200000 - 299999 1973 - 1975
300000 - 399999 1974 - 1975
400000 - 499999 1974 - 1975
500000 - 599999 1974 - 1975
600000 - 699999 1970 - 1972 and 1974 - 1975

Limited Editions
The limited editions from 1975 to 1977 have a gold colored serial number and imprint "Made in USA". These serial numbers are preceded by 2 digits. 99 = 1975, 00 = 1976 and 06 = 1977.



Serials 1977 - June 2005
Gibson's most sustainable numbering system was launched in 1977, an eight-digit number. The first and fifth digits represented the year of manufacture. The three intervening digits, the day of that year.
The digits six to eight indicated the sequence number.
Example: 80923015
80923015 is: 1983, day 092 (day 92 of 1983 is 2 April), production number 015.

After the opening of the new factory in Nashville, production was also included in the serial numbers. 001 to 499 appeared on instruments built in Kalamazoo, 500 to 999 built in Nashville.

Even after the Kalamazoo plant closed in 1984, this process continued until 1989 in Nashville.

In July 2005 this 8 digit system was updated by adding 1 digit. The 6th digit is now the batch number, and the last 3 digits are the sequence number of the batch. The sequence number runs from 500 to 699.
Example:
113142030 is the 30th instrument from batch 4 of May 11, 2014.
When 699 is reached the batch number is incremented by 1, and the sequence number is reset to 500.
This coding system was used until 2014.

This system was changed again at the beginning of 2014.
The day and batch number were no longer included in the serial number. The serial number now consists of 9 digits, the first 2 of which indicate the year and the next 7 digits the sequence number.

160001234 is production year 2016 with sequence number 0001234.

Serial number punch stamping machine, Gibson factory


Gibson closed the Memphis plant in April 2019.
The production of "USA made" solid body guitars is now only produced in Nashville.




If you can not find a serial number, you can approximate the age of a semi/electric guitar on the basis of the potentiometers.
The code on potentiometers gives information about the manufacturer and the year and week when it is made. See: Dating potentiometers

The Gibson logo can also give an indication of the year of construction. (approximately)

1902-1920

1920-1933

1933-1947

1943-1947

1947-present
The first logo (1902-1920) on Gibson's guitars was in italic typeface, inlaid with pearl. Some specimens from 1903 to 1907 were not oblique, or had no logo at all.

During the period from the end of the 1920s to 1933 the logo was no longer placed obliquely. From some flattop guitars from this era the word "The" was omitted from the logo. From the end of 1933 to 143, Gibson had omitted the "The" of all their logos. The original thin letters were replaced after 1933 by a thicker font.

From 1943 to 1947 the logo was printed in thick gold, also called the banner logo. Some models, such as the LG-2 and the L-50s, have a real banner in the middle of the headstock with the text "Only a Gibson Is Good Enough".

The block logo made its appearance after World War II and is till the face of Gibson to this day.
Between 1968 and 1981 the dot on the "i" was omitted on some guitars. Most models get a dot on the "i" again in 1972, the rest follows from 1981.