What a serial number can and can’t tell about your Gibson

Last July we posted an article entitled “When Was Your Gibson Made?”, taken from the excellent Backstage Pass area of the Gibson site. But that related only to Gibson guitars made from 1975 to Present. But, with more than 75 years of shipping records in the Gibson books, and dozens of variations on numerical schemes used over the years, serial numbers sometimes do little to shed light on the origin of a mysterious Gibson. Here’s some more about Gibson Serial Numbers…

 

[Originally from Gibson Backstage Pass, Ellen Mallernee, July 17, 2007]“Serial numbers can be extremely tricky,” says Gibson Customer Service Manager Jason Davidson, whose team fields calls and emails regarding every Gibson division. “Some can tell you a lot about a guitar, and some don’t really tell you anything. Gibson has had so many different schemes over the years, and now we’re using reissue serial numbers that look like the old serial numbers.”

In line with Gibson’s adherence to tradition, the guitars that come through Gibson’s USA plant are impressed with a serial number from the original stamp used at Gibson’s early Kalamazoo, Michigan plant. That’s not the only bit of history transplanted from Kalamazoo to Gibson’s Nashville, Tennessee headquarters.

Inside a locked closet just outside Davidson’s office are some of Gibson’s most enduring written materials—shipping records dating from 1936 to 1970. With vintage Gibsons selling at auction for as much as half a million dollars, Davidson will sometimes roll up his sleeves and poke around in the ledgers, but only as time allows. The earliest volumes contain hundreds of yellowed pages covered front and back with rows of handwritten numbers. It can take Davidson several hours to locate a specific serial number, if he can find it at all. Even then, there may be four other guitars—of all different models—with the same number sequence.

When faced with a question about a guitar’s date, Davidson most always refers to his beyond-dogeared copy of Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars.  

“At least a quarter of the calls that Gibson’s Customer Service team gets are related to the dating and IDing of guitars,” Davidson says. “We make sure all the guys have a copy of Gruhn’s Guide.”

Davidson also recommends the Blue Book of Electric Guitars.

Another resource for IDing and dating guitars is Gibson’s computer database, which catalogues scores of serial numbers from 1987 on through the present.

“It doesn’t always date the guitar,” says Davidson. “A lot of people think you can just dump these formats into a database where you can pull up the date, but there’s so much more to it. Serial numbers can pull up multiple guitars from multiple years.”



To illustrate his point, Davidson types in a serial number from memory and it quickly pulls up three different guitars—an SG, a Steinberger, and a Les Paul.

“Sometimes I’ll literally pull up 10 guitars, and five of them will be so similar you’re not going to know what the customer has. The ship date can help us, but if it’s a weird serial number, we’ll ask for photos.”

Today, Gibson USA takes great pains not to recycle serial numbers. To combat the problem, the company upped its serial number sequence last year from eight digits to nine.

“We added another digit to reflect the batch of the day,” says Gibson USA Support Coordinator Eric Marlow. “We were getting close to having so many guitars come through the factory that the serial number would probably lapse in a day and then start repeating itself so we added that extra digit.”

 

 

With consumers and collectors as attentive as Gibson’s, even miniscule changes in design and manufacturing can translate into a chorus of ringing phones in Gibson’s Customer Service department. That’s exactly what happened following a recent modification in the font size of the serial numbers used on the new Les Paul Classics.

“We’re always trying to get things more accurate,” explains Marlow, “so we changed the Les Paul Classic font because we found a stamp as close to the ’60s version as we could.”

Davidson is quick to point out that consumers have good reason to be alarmed by real or perceived discrepancies on Gibson models.

“We get calls from pawn shops and used music stores every day, and a lot of the guitars that people ask us about end up being fake Gibsons,” he says. “A lot of the counterfeiters are using the standard eight-digit series. For the most part, it looks real. But there are some obvious indicators—if it starts with a five, for instance. We don’t start any eight-digit serial numbers with a five. Or it might be an eight-digit serial number that indicates it was built on the 700th day of the year. In a case like that, we’re clearly dealing with a fake guitar.”

Davidson is referring to Gibson’s system—in effect since 1977—of including a guitar’s build date within the serial number sequence.

On today’s new models from Gibson USA, Memphis, and Acoustic, the first and fifth number in the sequence signify the year a guitar was built, and the second, third, and forth number identify the day of the year.

 

 

 

 

“You get the hang of it, where you can see the date immediately,” says Davidson. “It may be confusing at first, but the reason we do our serial numbers this way is tradition. Our customers want serial numbers to be formatted a certain way—like they used to be.”

 

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~ by dolphinblog on August 1, 2007.

54 Responses to “What a serial number can and can’t tell about your Gibson”

  1. Wow. Excellent article. I figured it was an incremental number scheme the whole time. Very cool. I’m surprised they don’t have a digit for the model, etc.

    Thanks for posting this!!!!

    J

  2. Hello,
    I have a Gibson EB 2 Bass and the Serial Nr.
    is: 842910 an over the Number is a 2
    Made in Kalamazoo an the inside paper in the
    Bass ist yellow/Orange.
    Can you tell me, from which year an month the bass is? And what ist the 2 over the Number?
    Thank you for your answer.

  3. hey,
    I have the l6-s deluxe and the serial nr. is: 907232 made in usa.
    Can you tell me, from which year this guitar is and how many l6-s deluxe were made?
    thank you for you’r help.

  4. The best instruments for me are Gibson Les Paul Customs, the feel of the short scales neck is just right for me, its fast and easy to get around the neck unlike some larger scaled fenders, Pure Gibson Class ! I love em.

  5. Hey Sun,

    I can tell you that your guitar was made in July, 2nd 1993 judging from the serial #.

  6. […] Re: Slash serial numbers Mine is 005280417. so that would be Feb 21st #417. I’ve been thinking about this since the previous discussion on the serial numbers… I’m wondering why yours on the 12th would be 332, and mine would be 417 on the 21st. And then on top of that the whole 1600 in stores by April 1. My point is I think its weird for there to be so many days between 85 guitars… I thought the plant knocked out a few hundred a day… but anyway I’ve found this article on the change from 8 to 9 digits, and according to the article its not specific to the slash model. What a serial number can and cant tell about your Gibson Guitar Player Gear Guide […]

  7. hey im looking to buy an SG from a pawn shop and i want to make sure its real..so i called and got the SN , 9043934 how can i tell if it s real with that # or age

  8. Hello, I have Gibson with serial 94012658 and I want to know some details about this gibson LP Custom. Thanks

  9. Hi!

    My Gibson Melody Maker have the serie number 924599, and i wonder wich year it have been made…

    Thanks!

  10. Hello,

    I was looking at a Les Paul Special at Sam Ash store with the # 9321397. But no one was real clear on the age of it. Can you help?

  11. HOLA QUISIERA SABER EL AÑO DE FABICACION DE LA GUITARRA LP STUDIO Nr 029660484 .desde Spain Saludos

  12. hi from spain, i have a sg standard special limited edition like new, but the serial number is low impressed in the last numbers, i have very difficult to see. the number is 02160631.
    i need investigate if is a original gibson sg standard, thanx!!

  13. I have a black Gibson standard and I want to know if it is original. thanks n92059780

  14. hola soy de mexico.acabo de comprar una gibson les paul studio y quesiera saber que año fu hecha su numero de serie es 92340303, y finalmente si originalmente lleva clavijas doradas metalicas tipo kluson por su respuesta mil gracias.

  15. Buenos dias:
    tengo una guitarra gibson goldtop con el numero de serie

    7 0006 y me gustari saber de que año es y si es original tambien decilrles si lleva puesto o no debajo del numero de serie
    MADE IN USA

    Gracia s

  16. hola, me compre un gibson sg, de segunda mano, y queria saber si es original, les dejo el numero de serie: 011660546. gracias

  17. It(He,She) does little buy a gibson sg, and queria to know if it(he,she) is original, by means of the number of series. Here I leave the number them: 011660546

  18. My number of this series evil marked, one sees small…I can`t see, but I think is 87, or 88…..

  19. >Desde España,quisiea sabe año de fabriacion y lugar de una gibson lp custom negra el numero: cs91961

  20. hola de que ano es mi sg, numero de serie 00134576
    muchas gracias

  21. hola de que año y donde se fabricó una Gibson Lucille serial num
    91393607

  22. I HAVE A GIBSON LES PAUL CUSTOM WITH SERIAL #: 01433270 Can you tell me DODE HAS BEEN MADE AND THAT YEAR

  23. Hola he tratado de identificar el mes y dia de construcción de mi gibson ES-335 pero no me doy cuenta según los tutoriales que vi.(Si es que se puede). Creo que es del año 80 y de kalamazoo. Su serial es 81420008. Cuantas se hicieron de ella? Gracias

  24. Hello, it wanted to know of that year and where my guitar was made! Here I leave the number of series them! Thank you very much

    ifrom argentina

  25. I would like to know the history of my Giibson Les Pual Custom giutar serial no 06209403. Thanks

  26. Hola, tengo una gibson j-45 con la numeracion 678547. Me gustaria saber de que año es y el significado de cada numero, ya que en el ejemplo que dais hay mas numeros de los que figuran en mi j-45. Gracias, Thanks

  27. Hola.
    compre una reedicion de la ES-335 el numero de serie es 02829725 GIBSON ES-335 DOT REISSUE TBK
    El numero de serie es 02829725
    de que año es, que tal son estas guitarras,?
    Un saludo y gracias.

  28. hola quiero saber si es correcto este numero de serie correspondiente a una lesp paul custom black beauty , el numero es 02005557 , quiero saber si es original,ya que me sale unos cuantos billetes.gracias

  29. hola me compré un sg y quiero saber sí es original 110900449. Gracias!

  30. Hello, I´m from Spain and this is may question:
    I want to buy a secong hand guitar, is a GIBSON LES PAUL CUSTOM ALPINE WHITE 2007 AND the serial number is CS70072, i want to know if that Gibson is authentic, Thanks

  31. @victor Its a real Gibson from the looks of your serial number CS = Custom Shop

  32. HOLA, TENGO UNA GIBSON LES PAUL CUSTOM ALPINE WHITE CON NUMERO DE SERIE CS 62069. ¿DE QUE AÑOS ES? ¿ES AUTENTICA?

    GRACIAS

  33. Hi i’m from Spain … A Gibson Les Paul custom with Serial Number
    2 2240. Is original? The year? Thanks

  34. Hi, I´m from Spain.

    I have a Gibson LesPaul Standard with serial number 96135491. It`s authentic? Year? Thanks.

  35. disculpen una pregunta tengo una gibson y quisiera saber que año es y toda la informacion sobre ella es una les paul custom shop numero de serie 02005528 si me pudieran mandar informacion se los agradeceria mucho

  36. hola soy de Ecuador, tengo un bajo Gibson The Grabber, quisiera saber de que año es y toda la información sobre el instrumento, el numero es serie es 70138037, gracias y espero su respuesta

  37. HELLO.
    I WRITE TO THEM FROM SPAIN AND ASK FOR HELP THEM TO CHECK UNA’S GENUINENESS GUITAR THAT I WANT TO BUY. I KNOW THERE TREATS OF A GIBSON THEY PAUL CLASSIC OF BLACK COLOR AND I NUMBER OF SERIES (062164) IN THE BACK OF THE SPADE, FORM DOES NOT TAKE THE PHRASE ” MADE IN U.S.A. ” And THE SELLER SAYS TO ME THAT HE IS A MODEL OF THE YEAR 2006. MY QUESTION IS REALLY IS IT A CERTIFICATION AMERICAN GIBSON?.
    THANK YOU VERY MUCH AND I WAIT COULD HELP ME IN MY DECISION.
    A GREETING.

  38. Tengo dudas sobre el modelo y la fecha de fabricación de una les paul custom wine red Serial number: CS 62768 de que año es y a que modelo pertenece? Gracias

  39. Help me!! I need to know the serial number of the gibson les paul studio ebony acc. crom. i don´t speak so much english…

  40. Hi!! my name is silvano i’m from Argentina I Have a Gibson les paul special junior i need to know the serial number 017170557 thanks!!

  41. Hi,

    I own a Gibson ES-175 with an aluminium plated serial number (7 digits) on the back of the Head Stock with Made in U.S.A. stamped on back of the head stock.

    Can you tell me how old this guitar is?

    many thanks,

    Leo Maubach

  42. MI GIBSON DE LUXE LEE PAUL TIENE LA SERIE 70819503 ¿DE QUE AÑO SERA? HELP¡¡¡¡¡¡

  43. hi my name is Miguel, iam from Mexico tijuana, i have a gibson les paul serie 70819503. i need to know what year is? help? please.

  44. Hi
    I have a Gibson SG With serial # 00601330, i want to nkow the year that it was made. Tankyou

  45. hola… hugo de argentina….: les paul studio 003280684
    o este num…..: 008280684 . Lo que ocurre, es que me mandaron fotografias de la guitarra…. y no logro distinguir bien la foto del num de serie….. me juego a que son estos….. Desde ya, muchas gracias….

  46. hola a todos tengo una gibson les paul de luxe gold top) comprada en alemania en los años 70 la compre nueva en una casa de musica pero no me dieron el estuche original yo de aquellas era un novato en fin me gustaria saber de que año es aunque creo que es de 1961 y como hacerme con una documentacion nueva gracias a todos y un saludo nº de serie

  47. hi… JORGE MEXICO..I have a Gibson Les Paul de luxe Gold and la boughted in Houston,the serial number is 625420 made in usa . Me interesaria saber donde fue hecha y en que año.GRACIAS..

  48. hola que tal , espero me puedan ayudar , mi gibson numero de serie 052680 de que año es? muchas gracias! Pablo.-

  49. TENGO UNA LES PAUL CON SOLO SEIS DIGITOS DE SERIE ES ASI CORRECTO ?

  50. agrego es les paul custom e inicia con 81

  51. de que año es una gibson ES – 325 serial number 744831 – made in usa

  52. je possède une gibson les paul no de serie02005592 Est-ce que elle est autentique merciea ,

  53. hola tengo una les paul estandar plus 2014 quiero saber si es original el numero de serie es 140098531 en el papel dice que fue echa en 8-29-2014

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