The easiest way to find the year of manufacture of a particular Gibson guitar is to reference the instrument’s serial number of factory order number.
In the 1970s, Gibson standardized the serial number system that is still in use today. The typically eight-digit serial numbers on Gibson guitars are stamped on the backside of the headstock. The first and the fifth number combined show the year that the instrument was made. The second, third, and fourth numbers show on which day of that year the instrument was made. The sixth number represents the location where the instrument was made, and the last two digits show the “production run” number.
From 1975-1977 the number is typically found on a decal on the back of the headstock, this should be an 8 digit number that can be dated by the 1st and 2nd digits as follows:
- 99 = 1975
- 00= 1976
- 06 = 1977
In 1977, Gibson introduced the serialization method that we primarily use to this day at Gibson USA, Gibson Acoustic, and the Gibson Custom facility in Memphis, TN.
The serial number will be an 8 digit number impressed into the back of the headstock with “MADE IN USA” below.
The pattern is as follows:
YY is the production year
DDD is the day of the year
RRR is the factory ranking/plant designation number.
Prior to 1984 when the Kalamazoo, MI factory was closed, the numbers 001-499 indicated Kalamazoo production. Ranking numbers 500-999 continued to indicate Nashville production through 1989.
Since 1989, all Gibson acoustics are built in Bozeman, MT and all Gibson electrics are built in Nashville or Memphis. Ranking numbers for Bozeman start each day at 001 and the electrics may start as low as the 300s.
Examples: 70108276 means the instrument was produced on Jan. 10, 1978, in Kalamazoo and was the 276th instrument stamped that day.
82765501 means the instrument was produced on Oct. 3, 1985, in Nashville and was the 1st instrument stamped that day.
NOTE – Gibson USA goes to a 9 digit serial number in early July 2005..
The sixth number is now a batch number- batch 0 starts at the beginning of the day, and once we stamp 699, the batch number will change to 1. The first 5 numbers remain the same, the last 3 numbers will remain the same. The only difference is the addition of this batch indicator.
There are always exceptions to these rules, the two listed below are worth noting:
Les Paul Classic: This model features an ink stamped serial number with no “MADE IN USA” (just as we used on the original 1952-1960 Les Pauls). Most will be 5 to 6 digits in length, but the earliest examples feature 4 digit serial numbers. There should be a space after the 1st digit with the 4 and 5 digit serial numbers, and no space with the 6 digit numbers.
The 1st digit indicates the year of manufacture for the 4 & 5 digit serial numbers, these were used from 1989-1999. The 1st and 2nd indicate the year of manufacture for the 6 digit serial numbers which we’ve been using since 2000.
9 xxx = 1989 (4 digit number beginning with “9” used only in 1989)
0 xxxx = 1990
9 xxxx = 1999
00xxxx = 2000
05xxxx = 2005
Those beginning with “94”:
In 1994, Gibson’s Centennial year, many instruments have a serial number that begins with “94” for the year, with the remaining 6 digits indicating the ranking number.
EPIPHONE GUITARS SERIAL INFORMATION
Most regular production models since ca. 1993. Many ’80s and early ’90s serial numbers may follow a similar scheme, but may not include a factory ID code.
F= Factory code (this can be 2 letters as well)
YY= year of manufacture (this can also be just 1 digit for ’90s models)
MM= month of manufacture
R= ranking number (may be more or less digits, not necessarily indicative of total units produced)
Example – S02021234 was issued in Feb. 2002.
Another code used on some current Epiphone models
F= Factory code
YY=Year of manufacture
M= This will be a letter code corresponding to the month (A=January, B=February, etc…)
RRRR= ranking number
Example – R03D0263 was issued in April 2003.
Epiphone Elite/Elitist models
F= Factory Code (this code will be an “F” or “T”)
Y= Year of manufacture (2 = 2002, 3 = 2003, etc.)
SSSS= Sequential Serial Number
Example – T41234 is a 2004 Elitist model