DATING RICKENBACKER GUITARS BY REFERENCE OF SERIAL NUMBERS
As with many other guitar brands, the dating method of Rickenbacker are much more common nowadays.
In the periods before 1998 it was made a lot more difficult.
With the first instruments it is virtually impossible to find the exact
year of construction by using the serial number.
Rickenbacker is one of the oldest and still active guitar manufacturers and|
is based in Santa Ana, California.
Adolf Rickenbacher was born in Switzerland in 1886 and emigrated to the United States at young age with some family members in 1891.
In 1931 he founded the company 'ElectRo-Patent-Instruments' together
with the American inventor George Beauchamp.
They specialized in the construction of electric steel guitars until the 1950s.
Soon the name of the company was changed to 'Rickenbacker Manufacturing Company'. Adolph also had his last name changed to Rickenbacker, because a German name was not very popular at the time.
Beauchamp obtained an American patent on an electric guitar in 1934.
The first model was called the Frying Pan, because it did reminded of this kitchen attribute. Also see History Rickenbacker Frying Pan.
In the mid-1950s, the company switched to producing acoustic and
electric standard guitars.
Rickenbacker was the first company to successfully market electric guitars.
The 'neck through body' was introduced in 1956. This became a standard feature of all following Rickenbacker models.
The first guitars in which this 'neck through body' construction was applied, were the Combo were 400 and 4000 bass.
In 1958 Rickenbacker introduced the 'Capri series', later known
as the 300 series.
In 1964 Rickenbacker developed an electric twelve-string guitar|
with an exceptional construction. A tuner system was used
with extra tuning mechanisms at the back of the headstock for
the six extra strings.
Also unique was the string converter from Rickenbacker, which was introduced in 1966. Six strings were pulled down by a lever and pressed against the frets.
George Beauchamp and Adolf Rickenbacker
Before 1954 the serial numbers did not serve as a direct indicator for the production date of the guitar.
Serial numbers from this era are therefore unreliable.
Some instruments have patent numbers on different parts. These patent numbers offer some indications for a production date, since the instrument will be made after the date of the patent grant.
See Patent information
1954-September 1959 (Solidbodys)
The number is stamped on the jackplate or bridge.
The first digit(s) indicates the model number.
[4 = 400 or 425, 6 = 600, 65 = 650, 8 = 800]
The letter indicates the type of instrument.
[C = combo (guitar), B = bass, M = mandolin, V = 3/4 size]
The first digit after the letter is the last digit of the year of the fifties.
The last three digits is the production number.
Serial number 65C5281 is a combo 650, Serial number in 1955 with the production number 281.
September 1959-October 1960 (Solidbodys)
Also here are the first digit(s) for the model number. The letter A stands for this period and the first digit after the letter is a 9 (from September 1959) or a 0 (up to and including October 1960).
On the jackplate the letters are above jack output, the numbers are below the jack output.
Here on the jack plate is a letter and a number above the jack output, and numbers below the jack output. Example: F21254
The letter stands for the month.
[A = January, B = February, ..... L = December]
The digit after the letter is the year of construction.
[0 = 1987, 1 = 1988, 2 = 1989, 3 = 1990, ..... 9 = 1996]
Serial number F21254 was built in June 1989 with production number 1254.
After 1996 there was a small hitch in the numbering system, here the '0' is reused for 1997 and '1' for 1998.
The month format also jumped a few letters forward in the alphabet, from 'M' to 'Y.'
This means that 'M' now stands for January and 'N' for February.
The letter 'O' was skipped, probably to avoid confusion with the '0' (zero) of the year 1997.
[M = January, N = February, P = March, Q = April, ..... Y = December]
From 1998 it will be a lot easier. They did not apply codes anymore but just used the last two digits of the year with the week number.
|Patent number||Part||Patent date||Patentee|
|1.839.395||Hand vibrato tailpiece||5 January 1932||C.O. Kauffman|
|1.881.229||Molded musical instruments and necks||4 October 1932||A.P. Young|
|2.089.171||Frying Pan and horseshoe pickup||10 August 1937||George D. Beauchamp|
|2.130.174||Headless electric violin instruments||13 September 1938||George D. Beauchamp|
|2.152.783||Roller vibrato tailpiece||4 April 1939||Paul M. Barth|
|2.241.911||Vibrola Spanish guitar||13 May 1941||C.O Kauffman|
|2.310.199||Tubular body for electric violin||9 February 1943||George D. Beauchamp|
|2.310.606||Detachable horseshoe pickup||9 February 1943||Paul M. Barth|
|3.091.150||The Sceusa neck||23 May 1963||Peter P. Sceusa|
|DES. 208.329||Bantar||5 January 1932||F.C Hall|