DATING GRETSCH GUITARS BY REFERENCE OF SERIAL NUMBERS
Over the years, Gretsch Company has been owned by various companies that also use their own method
of serial numbers and dating.
If you want to know the production year of your Gretsch guitar, you can decipher it with the serial number decoder, or find it in the tables below.
Friedrich Gretsch, a German immigrant from Mannheim, started in 1883 with building from drum kits and banjos.|
After WWI the company has been taken over by his son Fred.Under his leadership, the company flourished and gained the reputation for high quality and precision.
Around 1930 with the rise of big bands, the banjo was gradually replaced
by the guitar. In 1939 the first electric guitar from Gretsch was released,
the "Electromatic Line" followed by the archtop model "Synchromatic Line".
In 1942 he handed over the company to his sons Fred Jr. and William.
Led by Fred Gretsch jr. Mainly in the middle of the 1950s many innovative guitars were built, such as the Model 6120 and the "White Falcon".
In 1967 the company was sold to Baldwin Piano Company and the production was moved to Arkansas. The entire production was stopped in 1981 due to a fire in the factory.
In the 1980s, interest in Gretsch guitars revived. Thanks to, among other, the Stray Cats and Chris Isaak and the production was resumed. The Gretsch White Falcon 1 has been a popular model again since the early 1980s.
Since 1985, when Fred got the company back into the family, the Gretsches were made in Japan.|
In 2002, Fred approached the Fender company for distribution in Europe. Fender offered to distribute it worldwide and also build the guitars for Gretsch.
Gretsch and Fender signed an agreement in 2003 allowing Fender to gain control over production and distribution of guitars and gained a foothold in the Gibson dominated market for semi-acoustic guitars.
New and improved old models soon appeared.
Friedrich Gretsch (1885)
In the early years (1939-1945) Gretsch started with handwritten sequential serial numbers (001-999), written directly
on the inside of the guitar.
Often these serials are vague or almost illegible or completely erased.
If you see at least three hard-to-read numbers, you can be pretty sure that it is a pre-war instrument.
In the period from 1945 to 1954 there is the transition from handwritten serial numbers to the official labels in 1949, although the numbering remained the same.
The following serials are approximate. In general, a higher number means that the guitar was produced later in the year or transferred to the next year's range.
(*) In 1957, about a thousand serial number labels were lost for unknown reasons. Part of this is recovered in 1965 and used for that year's production.
With the imminent acquisition by Baldwin and annual production of approximately 150,000 guitars, Gretsch switched
to a date-linked coding system in August 1966.|
Strangely enough, some guitars have serial numbers stamped into the narrow top of the headstock, while others have it stamped on the back. From June of 1967, the text 'Made in the USA' is stamped next to the
The date-code distribution used from 1966 to 1972:
(without a hyphen in the serial number)
The first digit(s) represent the month of manufacture (1-12 for January-December).
The next digit is the last digit of the year (6, 7, 8, 9, 0, 1, 2 for 1966-1972).
The last three digits is the production number of that month.
Month: December Year: 1969 Production number: 800
The guitars manufactured from 1972-1981 are easier to identify because they are the only Gretsch specimens with a hyphen (or a space) after the first one or two digits.
The meaning of the numbers is the same as that without a hyphen.
The digits for the hyphen are for the month (1-12).
The first position after the hyphen (or space) represents the last digit of the year (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0, 1 for 1972-1981).
The last three digits represent the production number for that month.
Month: June Year: 1972 Production number: 752
Before the acquisition by Fender (in 2003), a more logical sequential application for the period 1989-2002 is the production made in Japan with a xxxxxx-xxx serial number.
The first two digits are the year, the next digit or two digits is the month (1-9/10-12). The subsequent three digits is the model number, eg. 120 = G6120.
The digits after the hyphen show the production number during the execution of the model. (not for that month or year)
Month: June, Year: 1997, Model: 120, Production number: 123
In 2003 Gretsch is acquired by Fender. Fender decided to introduce a single serial number system for all guitars after 2002.
The Gretsch serial numbers now have a two letter prefix indicating the location of the production, followed by a two-digit year a two-digit month and a four-digit production number related to that specific plant.
Year of manufacture: 2014. Month: May. Manufacture: Korea.
Factory: SPG. Production number: 3456.