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.

Where to find the serial number
The serial number is generally located on the jackplate but can also be punched on the neck plate or on the bridge plate.

If you want to know the production year of your Rickenbacker guitar, yyou can decipher it with the serial number decoder, or find it in explanation about the dating system below.

Rickenbacker serial number date decoder

Rickenbacker history in short
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.
twelve string tuners - string converter
Because of their many years of experience with innovative sound techniques combined with beautiful designs, will ensure that Rickenbacker guitars remain popular for many years by collectors and guitarists.

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.
Example: 65C5281
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.
De first letter is the year.
[A = 1961, B = 1962, C = 1963, ..... Z = 1986]
An important exception is the letter J, which can mean 1970 or 1960.
De second letter is the month.
[A = January, B = February, ..... L = December]
Serial number BB177 is built in February 1962 with the production number 177.

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.

The first 2 numbers (top jack output) represent the year of manufacture.
The first 2 numbers (bottom jack output) represent the week of that year.

1718017 is produced in May (week 18), 2017 with production number 017.

Patent information related to Rickenbacker instrument
 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