Over the years, Gretsch Company has been owned by various companies that also use their own method of serial numbers and dating.

Where to find the serial number
On most modern (after 1989) Gretsch guitars you will find it on the back of the headstock. Some models from 1962 - late 1960s also had serial numbers on the top of the headstock or on the pickguard. With most vintage specimens you can find a label, visible through the F-hole on hollow body or in one control cavity for solid body. Before 1949 there were no labels and the serial numbers were written in pencil inside the guitar.

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.

Gretsch serial number date decoder
(if hyphen or space in serial number, do not forget them)
Other decoders
   Gretsch history in short
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.
(xx runs from 00 to 99)
Down 1000 Pre-World War II
1000 to 20xx 1945-1947
20xx to 30xx 1948-1949
30xx to 40xx 1950
40xx to 50xx 1951
50xx to 70xx 1952
70xx to 90xx 1953
90xx to 130xx 1954

In the period of 1954-1965 the consecutive numbering scheme remained the same. The only difference is that the number of guitars produced (and therefore serial numbers) is higher.

(*) 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.
130xx to 180xx 1955
180xx to 210xx 1956
210xx to 260xx 1957 (*)
260xx to 300xx 1958
300xx to 340xx 1959
340xx to 390xx 1960
390xx to 450xx 1961
451xx to 530xx 1962
530xx to 630xx 1963
630xx to 770xx 1964
770xx to 840xx 1965 (*)
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
serial number.

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.
Example 129800:
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.
Example 6-2752:
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)
Example 976120-123:
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.
Production locations:
CS United StatesCustom Shop
CY ChinaYako
KP KoreaPeerless
JD JapanDyna Gakki
JF JapanFujiGen Gakki
JT JapanTerada
IS IndonesiaSamick

Example: KS14053456
Year of manufacture: 2014. Month: May. Manufacture: Korea.
Factory: SPG. Production number: 3456.