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)


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 en DA 1938
Ex (x = any letter) 1939
F en 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, early to mid seventies.
From 1970 to 1975 the 6 digit serial numbers were randomly created.
Numbers were stamped on the back of the headstock in a random order. For some instruments preceded by a letter.

New labels from 1970 onwards
In 1970 the orange labels in the sound box of acoustic guitars were replaced by white with orange rectangular labels. 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.
The same confusing six-digit serial system of the 1960s was maintained until 1975. This means that instruments with the same serial number can come from the 60s or 70s.

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 series between 1970 and 1975 can overlap the production from 1964 and 1965.

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




Serials 1977-2013.
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.

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.

The system was updated in 2005 when 1 digit was inserted at the end of the batch number. The sequence numbers ranged from 500 to 699, after which the batch number was increased by 1, and the sequence number went back to 500.


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





Serial numbers 2014 to present.
Gibson's most simplest system was introduced in 2014. A nine-digit serial number stamped. The first two digits indicate the year, the rest is the serial number for all guitars produced that year.
Every year starts with serial 0000001.


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 - 42440 1961
42441 - 61180 1962
61450 - 64222 1963
64240 - 71040 1964
71041 - 96600 1962 (some 1963 en 1964)
96601 - 99999 1963
000001 - 099999 1967 (all 6-digit numbers starting with 0. are 1967)
100000 - 106099 1963 or 1967
106100 - 106899 1963
109000 - 109999 1963 or 1967
110000 - 111549 1963
111550 - 115799 1963 or 1967
115800 - 118299 1963
118300 - 120999 1963 or 1967
121000 - 139999 1963
140000 - 140100 1963 or 1967
140101 - 144304 1963
144305 - 144380 1964
144381 - 149864 1963
149865 - 149891 1964
149892 - 152989 1963
152990 - 174222 1964
174223 - 176643 1964 or 1965
176644 - 250335 1964
250336 - 305983 1965
306000 - 310999 1965 or 1967
311000 - 320149 1965
320150 - 320699 1967
320700 - 329179 1965
329180 - 330199 1965 or 1967
330200 - 332240 1965, 1967 or 1968
332241 - 348092 1965
348093 - 349100 1966
349121 - 368638 1965
368640 - 369890 1966
370000 - 370999 1967
380000 - 385309 1966
390000 - 390998 1967
400001 - 406666 1966
406667 - 409670 1966 - 1968
409671 - 410900 1966
410901 - 419999 (unknown)
420000 - 429193 1966
500000 - 500999 1965, 1966, 1968 or 1969
501009 - 501600 1965
501601 - 501702 1968
501703 - 502706 1965 or 1968
503010 - 503109 1968
503405 - 520955 1965 or 1968
520956 - 530056 1968
530061 - 530850 1966, 1968 or 1969
530851 - 530993 1968 or 1969
530994 - 539999 1969
540000 - 540795 1966 or 1969
540796 - 545009 1969
555000 - 557999 1966
558000 - 567400 1969
570087 - 570643 1966
570645 - 570755 1966 or 1967
570857 - 570964 1966
580000 - 580080 1969
580086 - 580999 1966, 1967 or 1969
600000 - 600998 1966, 1967, or 1968 (low end model)
600000 - 606090 1969 (high end model)
700000 - 700799 1966, 1967 or 1969
750000 - 750999 1966, 1967 or 1969
800000 - 800999 1966, 1967, 1968 or 1969
801000 - 812838 1966 or 1969
812900 - 819999 1969
820000 - 820087 1966 or 1969
820088 - 823830 1966
824000 - 824999 1969
828002 - 847488 1966 or 1969
847499 - 858999 1966 or 1969
859001 - 891999 1967
892000 - 896999 1968
897000 - 898999 1967 or 1969
899000 - 899999 1968
900000 - 909999 1970
910000 - 999999 1968



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.