Gibson Guitar Serial Numbers: What Can They Tell You? (2023)

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Gibson Guitar Serial Numbers: What Can They Tell You? (1)

Gibson guitar serial numbers are, like a lot of serial number systems from guitar manufacturers, a complicated beast.

But with a little bit of research, you should be able to find out when your Gibson was built and, in some cases, where.

There are a number of distinct time periods for Gibson’s serial numbers, where the systems differed. There are also other ways of determining the age of your instrument, including FONs and things such as logo designs.

Contents hide

1 FONs

2 Other Identifiers

2.1 Logo

2.2 Made in USA

2.3 Other Features

3 Serial Numbers

3.1 1902-1947

3.2 1947 to 1961

3.3 1961 to 1970

3.4 1970 to 1975

3.5 1975 to 1977

3.6 1977 to Present

3.6.1 Factories

4 Exceptions

4.1 Thanks for Reading

4.1.1 Photo Credit

FONs

In addition to serial numbers, older Gibson guitars also had Factory Order Numbers (FONs) imprinted. In some cases, in fact, only FONs were used and there was no serial number (this was mainly for early low-end models).

FONs (and serial numbers) on Gibson guitars are usually found either on the inside of the back of the guitar (inside the sound hole) or on the back of the headstock.

FONs were used from 1902 to 1961.

Other Identifiers

But, there are some other ways you can get a glance of an Gibson acoustic guitar history, as well as the age of your Gibson:

Logo

Gibson’s logo has been largely unchanged since 1947. But, before that time, the logo changed a bit, so you can use that to help identify the era your guitar was built.

Made in USA

From 1970. onwards, a “Made in U.S.A” was engraved below the serial number. This can help determine if your guitar was from the 1960s or 1970s (some guitars during those 2 decades had the same serial number).

Other Features

You can also use other features to help identify the time period of your instrument. Some of these include:

  • Volutes: Extra bits of wood carved into the headstock where it meets the neck. These were starting to be added in 1969. so if your instrument didn’t have them, then it’s likely to be pre-1969.
  • Things such as Gibson’s automatic tuning system, capstans and plates can also give you clues. Though, remember that an older instrument could have had these items replaced, so it’s not a definite clue.

Serial Numbers

OK. So, why discuss all these other aspects when this post is supposed to be about Gibson serial numbers?

Good question! And the answer is simple – serial number system, used up until 1977., wasn’t the easiest or most reliable system. So, you may not be able to accurately determine anything about your guitar using the serial number alone.

Let’s take a look at the different time periods of serial numbers from Gibson Guitars.

1902-1947

The following serial numbers apply just to Gibson acoustic guitars.

During this period, the system was actually relatively simple. Guitars were just given the next available number.

The chart below shows the year that relates to the serial number. The serial numbers shown represent the approximate last serial number for that year. The first serial number for acoustic guitars was 100.

YearLast Approx. Serial #
19031150
19041850
19052550
19063350
19074250
19085450
19096950
19108750
191110850
191213350
191316100
191420150
191525150
191632000
191739500
191847900
191953800
192062200
192169300
192271400
192374900
192480300
192582700
192683600
192785400
192887300
192989750
193090200
193190450
193290700
193391400
193492300
193592800
193694100
193795200
193895750
193996050
194096600
194197400
194297700
194397850
194498250
194598650
194699300
194799999

1947 to 1961

Once the serial numbers hit 99999, Gibson decided to change to a new system, rather than go into 6 digits.

The new system used a letter to prefix the numbers. The first guitar in this new system was A 100 which was in April of 1947.

YearLast Approx. Serial #
1947A 1305
1948A 2665
1949A 4410
1950A 6596
1951A 9420
1952A 12460
1953A 17435
1954A 18665
1955A 21910
1956A 24755
1957A 26820
1958A 28880
1959A 32285
1960A 34645
1961A 36147

1961 to 1970

A new system, introduced in 1961., was made to cover all of the instruments in Gibson’s line (not just acoustic guitars). This was pretty poorly done though (IMO) and meant that some serial numbers were reused so a certain serial number could be from a guitar from different years.

YearApprox. Serial # Range
1961100-42440
196242441-61180
196361450-64220
196464240-70500
196271180-96600
196396601-99999
1967000001-008010
1967010000-042900
1967044000-044100
1967050000-054400
1967055000-063999
1967064000-066010
19670670000-070910
1967090000-099999
1963, 1967100000-106099
1963106100-108900
1963, 19671090000-109999
1963110000-111549
1963, 1967111550-115799
1963115800-118299
1963, 1967118300-120999
1963121000-139999
1963, 1967140000-140100
1963140101-144304
1964144305-144380
1963144381-145000
1963147009-149864
1964149865-149891
1963149892-152989
1964152990-174222
1964, 1965174223-176643
1964176644-199999
1964200000-250335
1965250336-291000
1965301755-302100
1965302754-305983
1965, 1967306000-306100
1965, 1967307000-307985
1965, 1967309848-310999
1965311000-320149
1967320150-320699
1965320700-321100
1965322000-326600
1965328000-328500
1965328700-329179
1965, 1967329180-330199
1965, 1967-68330200-332240
1965332241-327090
1965348000-348092
1966348093-349100
1965349121-368638
1966368640-369890
1967370000-370999
1966380000-385309
1967390000-390998
1965-68400001-400999
1966401000-407985
1966408000-408690
1966408800-409250
1966420000-426090
1966427000-429180
1966430005-438530
1966438800-438925
1965-66, 1968-69500000-500999
1965501010-501600
1968501601-501702
1965, 1968501703-502706
1968503010-503110
1965, 1968503405-520955
1968520956-530056
1966, 1968-69530061-530850
1968-69530851-530993
1969530994-539999
1966, 1969540000-540795
1969540796-545009
1966550000-556910
1969558012-567400
1966570099-570755
1969580000-580999
1966-69600000-600999
1969601000-601090
1969605901-606090
1966-67700000-700799
1968-69750000-750999
1966-69800000-800999
1966, 1969801000-812838
1969812900-814999
1969817000-819999
1966, 1969820000-820087
1966820088-823830
1969824000-824999
1966, 1969828002-847488
1966847499-858999
1967859001-880089
1967893401-895038
1968895039-896999
1967897000-898999
1968899000-899999
1968900000-902250
1968903000-920899
1968940000-941009
1968942001-943000
1968945000-945450
1968947415-956000
1968959000-960909
1968970000-972864

1970 to 1975

It didn’t get any less confusing during this time, either. The biggest telling factors for guitars from this period, as opposed to the guitars from 1961 to 1969 is the “Made in U.S.A” that can be found on guitars from 1970 onwards.

6 Digit Serial numbers were still used so a lot of the same numbers were also used on 1960s models. To make matters even more confusing, there wasn’t really an order for these serial numbers, so you could have something from 1975. that started with a 1 and something from 1972. that started with a 9.

NumberYear
0XXXXX1973
1XXXXX1970-1975
2XXXXX1973-1975
3XXXXX1974-1975
4XXXXX1974-1975
5XXXXX1974-1975
6XXXXX1970, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975
7XXXXX1970, 1971, 1972
8XXXXX1973, 1974, 1975
9XXXXX1970, 1971, 1972

Some serial numbers also used a letter (just because?)

NUMBER YEAR
XXXXXX + A1970
A + XXXXXX1973, 1974, 1975
B + XXXXXX1974, 1975
C + XXXXXX1974, 1975
D + XXXXXX1974, 1975
E + XXXXXX1974, 1975
F + XXXXXX1974, 1975

1975 to 1977

The thing gets a little simpler. These serial numbers started with either 96, 00 or 06 with the 96 representing 1975., the 00 representing 1976. and 06 representing 1977. Not sure why these numbers were used, but at least it was uniform! Here’s Gibson serial number lookup from 1975.:

Serial #Year
99XXXXXX1975
00XXXXXX1976
06XXXXXX1977

1977 to Present

Finally, in 1977 a much more logical serial number system was introduced.

This is an 8 digit system and follows the format YDDDYPPP.

  • The YY represents the year the guitar was made
  • The DDD is the day of the year that the guitar was made
  • The PPP represents the factory the guitar was made in and the number of production

So, for example, let’s take the serial number 80351045.

  • This guitar was built in 1981. 80351045 – remember in the format that the year is the 1st and 5th
  • This guitar was built on the 35th day of the year, so this would have been February 4th – 80351045
  • This guitar was built in the Kalamazoo factory and it was the 45th instrument stamped that day.

So this serial number represents the 45th guitar built on February 4, 1981. in the Kalamazoo factory.

Factories

The Kalamazoo factory operated until 1984. and guitars made in that factory from 1977 to 1984 had the last 3 digits (the production number) that were between 001 and 499.

Guitars built in the Nashville factory from 1977. to 1989. used the production numbers 500-999.

For example, the serial number 81457556would be May 25th, 1987. and the 56th guitar built in the Nashville factory. The first guitar built that day would have the production number 500.

Guitars built in the Nashville Factory from 1990. onwards have production numbers 300-999, so the first guitar produced that day would have the production number 300.

The Montana factory uses production numbers 001-299 and this was from 1989., when that factory was opened.

Exceptions

There are guitars that will be exceptions within all of these time periods.

If your guitar doesn’t seem to fit within any of these systems, check out the resources below to see if you can decipher your serial number.

>>How To Verify Authentic Gibson Serial Numbers

>>How to Date a Gibson Using Serial Numbers and FONs

>>The Guitar Dater Project

Thanks for Reading

I hope this helped you to decipher your (often complicated) Gibson serial number.

Photo Credit

By Henry Zbyszynski from Cambridge, USA (P1060339) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

FAQs Gibson Guitar Serial Numbers

How do I check a Gibson serial number?

The easiest way to check a Gibson serial number is to do so against the already established data that Gibson has so kindly included on their website. Once you have found the serial number on the back of the headstock, then you can use this to find out the history of your particular guitar, where it was produced, and in what year. The serial number themselves are preceded by two digits which attempt to delineate the individual year that the guitar was produced. For example, a guitar produced in 1975 would be preceded by the number 99, a guitar produced in 1976 would be preceded by the number 00, and a guitar produced in 1977 would be preceded by the number 06. If you are lucky enough to own an older Gibson, your guitar might not even have a serial number. It might have been constructed before this was even a common practice!

How do I identify my Gibson guitar?

If you have one of the main Gibson body shapes like an SG or a Les Paul, then they should not be too difficult to identify. The main difficulty comes when trying to identify one of the many, many ES-335 type guitars that Gibson has manufactured. That being said, though, there are so many permutations of the SG and the Les Paul (the latter especially), so many artist editions and custom shop copies, that it is hard to know for sure which specific version of a guitar you have. In these instances, it can be particularly useful to do some investigating into the serial number of a particular instrument. This is typically found on the back of the headstock, the preceding digits of which can be useful in finding out the specific year that the guitar was produced.

How do you read a Gibson model number?

Gibson has gone through a series of different ways of categorizing and serializing their manufacture of guitars. Between 1975 and 1977, for example, the serial numbers would have been preceded by two digits which were indicative of the year in which they were produced. Thus, the number 99 preceded the serial number of a guitar manufactured in 1975, just as the number 00 did for a guitar made in 1976, and the number 06 for a guitar made in 1977. In 1977, however, things changed and Gibson launched their so-called most sustainable numbering system. This was an eight-digit number whose first and fifth digits represent the year in which the instrument was manufactured. All of this will have to be taken with a pinch of salt, for they have since changed their serial system several times, using a five-digit system from 1989 to 1999, and then a six-digit system since 2000.

Do all Gibsons have serial numbers?

Gibson has always been using serial numbers to catalog the production of their guitars via a serial system, though this has been done by them far from consistently. Thus, there are plenty of guitars constructed between 1902 and 1976 that do not have either a serial number or a Factory Order Number with which to search for their specific history. It was in the 1960s that Gibson started to take this aspect of manufacture at least a little more seriously, establishing a new serial number system in 1961 that embossed a serial number into all of the instruments that they manufactured.

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