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We use cookies to understand how you use our site, give you an awesome experience, and deliver our services. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Gibson Acoustic. I Accept. Please note that most of this information relates to serial numbers used from to present. Corrections and additions to this section will be made as necessary. Prior to when the Kalamazoo, MI factory was closed, the numbers indicated Kalamazoo production.

Nylon, a thermoplastic material, was invented in by Wallace Carothers at DuPont. Bridge, flat top models. Retangular bridge, most models: WW2.

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Martin-type belly bridge, some banner-logo examples: WW2. Upper belly bridge above bridge pins : early 's Plastic bridge, most models below SJ: Indian Rosewood used instead of Brazilian: Lower belly bridge below bridge pins : Upper belly bridge above bridge pins : present.

Adjustable bridge saddle: Je from introduction : Option on J, J, SJ: Standard on most models: Init changed to a "compensated" style unit with "stairsteps" for each string. Right: tunematic bridge "no wire" and stop tailpiece on a goldtop Les Paul note the partial shown white covered P "soapbar" pickup at the bottom of the picture.

Tunematic bridges started showing up on many Gibson models in Used on some models ES and ES until This tailpiece was used until the 's on some models including the SG Junior.

This was an important change on wrap around tailpieces, because it stopped the wrap-around from leaning forward and cracking the body wood often seen on Les Paul Juniors and Specials. Many electric archtop models also converted to the tunematic bridge.

The wire goes over the six saddle screw heads to prevent the saddles from popping out during string changes. Stop tailpiece now chrome plated too, and replaced on many models like the ES with a trapeze tailpiece.

Two early "P. Left: Top to bottom: P pickup, Alino pickup, Humbucking pickup, "double white" humbucking pickup with metal cover removed. Right: P pickup top and a P.

Two variations, one almost 6" long extending diagonally from the bridge to almost the neck, the other shorter and more conventional looking and mounted at less of an angle. Both seen on ES model: Finger rest pickup system: First cataloged as a "conversion" pickup.

Volume and tone controls and pickup integrated into the pickguard. Available with 1 or 2 pickups. Also known as the "McCarty" pickup system. Available for acoustic archtops such as the L-7, L-5 and Super Fixed pole P pickup. Non-adjustable pole P pickup, single coil, 6 magnet slugs down center, black "dog ear" pickup cover: P pickup.

Same as fixed pole P, except now has adjustable slot-head poles: present "Soapbar" P pickup, same as above, but pickup cover has no "ears": present Alnico V pickup. Looks like a P soapbar pickup, except has "staple" poles with adjusting screws next to the poles. Used on upper line models: Top: A late "P.

Bottom: A mid's "Patent No. Humbucking pickup. One row of 6 adjustable slot-head poles off-center: present. Cover was gold, nickel or after chrome plated. Prior to about mid, have small decal on bottom stating "Patent Applied For".

These are known as "P. Starting in about mid to earlya "Patent No. Most humbucking pickups first year have no decal, and a more squarish stainless steel cover.

Also to early P. The internal plastic coil bobbins are usually black plastic, but sometimes they are white this happened mostly in or early You can see the color of the wire bobbins by removing the small underside mounting screw instead of removing the pickup cover. More information and pictures of PAF pickups can be seen here. The pointed pickguard used on most Gibson flattops from to the 's. Note this Southern Jumbo's "double parallelagram" fingerboard inlays and the "belly up" style bridge opposed to Martin's bridges which had a belly down towards the endpin.

Most Gibson pickguards prior to the mid's were made from celluloid. This material can deteriote with time the tortoise colored pickguards especially exhibit this trait. Flattop pickguards: from the 's toGibson flattop pickguards were usually "teardrop" in shaped. But in earlymost models changed to a "pointed" pickguard that followed the shape of the guitar except for the point.

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The J was an exception to this rule; it's pickguard stayed the same shape, but the material and the designed changed. Prior tothe J has an engraved celluloid pickguard. Starting inthis changed to an injection molded styrene pickguard that was cheaper to make. The edges were cut beveled to make them look like they had binding.

Inthe bevel changed from being very wide and flat, to a narrow and steeper cut. Top row: on the left is the first Gibson electric knob as used on ES model guitars from to early no numbers. Next to it is the ugliest pre Gibson knob, known as the "amp" knob, used from late to the mid's but not on all models.

Middle row, left to right: Tall numbered gold knob, used from to"speed" knob as used from to"bonnet" knob as used from to"metal top bonnet" knob or "reflector" knob as used from mid to mids on many, but not all models. Bottom row, left to right: switch tips used. The left switch tip was used on multiple pickup models from after WW2 to about This knob is bakelite and very amber in color. Next to it is the version where the switch tip changed to a plastic material that stayed white, and had a visible seam.

Bottom row black knobs, left to right: depending on the color of the guitar, some models starting in the early 's used black versions of the above gold knobs. These correspond to the same years as the above gold versions. Smooth rounded top, bumps around top edge, some with arrow across top, 1 black and 1 brown: Smooth top, 8 sided, arrow across top, 1 black and 1 brown: Radio knob.

Looks like a hat box, flared base, back painted gold or black, clear with numbers 1 to 10 visible thru knob: to mid Bonnet knob with metal cap "reflector" knobs : Used from mid to mids. Similar to bonnet knob but now has metal cap with "Volume" or "Tone" printed in black on the metal cap. There are two styles of this knob.

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First was used from mid to the end ofand have a shallow post hole as viewed from the side. The and later relector knob has a deeper post hole the bottom of the post hole comes much closer to the metal cap. Also the reflector on these knobs can be silver or gold. Guitars with nickel or chrome hardware should have silver caps.

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Guitars with gold hardware should have gold caps though often the gold does wear off. Barrel knob. Back painted gold or black, clear with numbers 1 to 10 visible thru knob: to present.

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Note this knob was used primarily on Les Paul Custom models till the mid 's, when most other models got these knobs. Amp knobs. Black knobs with white numbers 1 to Looks like "blackface" Fender amp knobs: late - mid 's.

Some models never got these knobs such as the and later Les Pauls. Used mostly on the hollowbody and semi-hollow models, such as the ES series.

Switch Tips: on guitars with two pickups and a 3-way selector switch, Gibson used an amber-colored bakelite switch tip during the 's. Starting in mid, they switched to a much whiter and slightly rounder tip plastic switch tip. Left: to bonnet knob.

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Middle: mid to "reflector" knob. Right: to mids "reflector" knob. Metal Hardware. Phillips head screws started to be used at Gibson in the phillips head screw was original patented in Prior toall screws should be slot style.

Prior toall metal hardware is either nickel or gold plated.

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Starting inall hardware is either chrome or gold plated. Left: "3 on a plate" style Kluson tuners, as used on the lower-line Gibson models.

Right: Kluson Deluxe "tulip" tuners on a Les Paul. Note this is the "single ring, single line" variety used from to The "single ring" refers to the single ring around the plastic button.

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The "single line" refers to the single line of vertical text saying "Kluson Deluxe". Note the "inked on" serial number. During the 's and 's, Gibson used Kluson tuners almost exclusively. There were some exceptions; starting in you could special order Grover tuners instead of Klusons on many mid to upper line models including the Les Paul Custom and J models.

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ByGibson starting using tuners with the "Gibson Deluxe" name on them, but these were actually made by Kluson. More info on Kluson tuners can be found here. Again Phillips head screws started to be used at Gibson in the phillips head screw was original patented in Kluson Deluxe Tuner specs models including 3-on-a-plate and "tulip" designs : to early "Kluson Deluxe" in a single vertical line on the ribbed metal tuner cover aka "Single Line".

NO outside hole on the metal cover for the tuner worm shaft. On the bottom side of the tuners stamped into the metal it says " PAT. Tulip plastic tuners knobs have a single ring around them.

The exterior "PAT. Still no outside hole in the metal tuner cover for the tuner worm shaft. The exterior lubrication holes can be either small or large. There is still now an outside hole in the metal tuner cover for the tuner worm shaft. These tuners are often called "No Line, Single Ring". Mid to late Single line "Kluson Deluxe" in a single vertical line on the ribbed metal tuner cover.

Late to mid Single line "Kluson Deluxe" in a single vertical line on the ribbed metal tuner cover. The exterior lubrication holes can be either small or large though most are large hole. Mid to Two plastic rings on the plastic "tulip" tuner knob. These tuners are often called "Single Line, Double Ring". On keystone tuners, the buttons become have a slight green tint to them. These tuners are often called "Double Line, Double Ring".

The base plate for the tuners also has a more rounded look to it with the edges less defined. This happened because the dies that stamped out this part were wearing out. The original Kluson tuners company went out of business in so this style of tuner was not made again until the s when WD Guitar Products bought the Kluson name and reissued these tuners.

PegHead Markings other than Serial Numbers "seconds" Gibson often marked inferior quality guitars as "seconds", and sold them at a discount to dealers or employees. These markings were stamped into the wood on the back of the peghead. A "2" stamp is sometimes seen, designating a "second", which had some cosmetic flaw. If there is a serial number on the back of the peghead, the "2" is usually seen centered above or below it.

Also sometimes stamped was "CULL", which is another designation of a second. Again, this stamp is seen on the back of the peghead.

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The worse Gibson reject is the "BGN" stamp, designating that instrument as a "bargin" guitar. These were only sold to employees at substantial discounts. This stamp is also seen on the back of the peghead. BGN instruments weren't acceptable to Gibson as sellable to the public.

All second instruments are usually worth less than the same guitar that is not a second given condition as the same. BGN instruments are worth less than a second instrument because these tend to have some fairly serious cosmetic flaw. A war-time Southern Jumbo that was exported to Canada.

This is sometimes stamped on the back of the peghead where a serial number would be on and later Gibsons. Also it's sometimes seen on the top edge of the peghead.

An EStc from the 's, as seen through the bass side "f" hole. Model Body Markings non-Artist models. After WW2, lower-line Gibson vintage instruments did not have a label to designate the model. Instead, Gibson just ink stamped the model number inside on hollow body instruments. If the instrument had "f" holes, this number was ink stamped in the bass side "f" hole on the inside back of the instrument. If the instrument was a flat top guitar, this number was ink stamped inside the round soundhole on the inside back of the guitar.

Gibson Cases Mid to high-end model guitars during the 's and early 's used a black case with a red line around the top edge of the case. The inside is a deep maroon color. Lower models used black rigid cardboard cases. Aboutmid to high end model started to use a tweed case with a 3 inch wide red "racing stripe" on the tweed. The inside of these cases are also usually a deep maroon.

These tweed cases were used up to WW2. Post-WW2Gibson offered 3 different cases. The "low grade" case was an "alligator" softshell case, essentially made of rigid cardboard with a sparse brown lining. This case also often had a hard thin brown plastic handle that cracked very easily.

The "medium grade" case was a wooden case with a smooth brown outside and usually a sparse green lining though different color interiors are seen. The "best grade" known as the "faultless" case was the "California Girl" case, as it is known.

This wooden case has a rich brown outside like a tanned California girland a very plush and rich pink inside. The handle on the medium and high grade cases was leather covered metal. Note some models such as the Les Paul did not have a medium grade case available either got the 'gator case or the Cal Girl case.

Though any s era of these three LP models could also have a four latch case. Most 's Gibson cases had a small 1. This was located on the side of the case by the handle. Note during this period there where three different manufacturers making cases for Gibson, all with the same basic specs, but slightly different shapes Lifton, Geib, Stone.

Geib cases are seen mostly in the early 's, and Lifton cases in the mid to late 's. Stone cases are seen throughout the 's, but not to the extent of the other two manufacturers.

The new low-end case was a black softshell with a plush deep red lining. The medium grade case was dropped entirely and the new high grade case was black on the outside, and yellow on the inside.

The black outside changed from smooth to rough during different periods of the 's.

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Also the handle changed from a leather covered metal to a hard molded plastic type about The small brass Gibson plaque was still used until the later 's. In the 's, the new high-end case was still a wooden case with a black outside, but a deep red inside. Most 's cases had "Gibson" silkscreened on the outside of the case in white.

Also made during the 's is the "protector" case; a huge thing made completely out of molded plastic. This case was very popular for Les Pauls. A picture of a mid's Les Paul brown case is here. This is not the most desirable of the Les Paul brown cases, as it has a flat top and four latches typically this style of brown case was sold with Les Paul Specials and Juniors. Starting about mid to latethe brown Les Paul case changed to a five latch model.

This is considered the "Sunburst" case even though most models still use the older four latch case. These newer cases have a tag on the inside pick pocket that says "Made in Canada".

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Also, these cases have a pink interior satin cover that goes over the top of the guitar before closing the case. And they also have a combination lock on the main exterior latch and a leather handle. There were also some early 's brown reissue cases mostly for Les Pauls and Korina reissues that are starker versions of the Canadian reissue case. Most recently Gibson has copied the original 's Cal Girl case more exactly on their "historic" series reissues.

The easiest way to find the year of a particular Gibson instrument is usually by referencing the instrument's serial number of factory order number. This following information applies to all Gibson instruments including guitars, mandolins, lapsteels, basses and others. This information was compiled from these sources: A. Duchossior, W.

The Gibson Serial Number Decoder currently supports 6 formats from 4 Factories. For guitars made prior to use the extended search function. This new function will try to match the serial number against older formats, details required for an exact match are listed in yellow. As always with Gibson, there a probably many vintage guitars that don't conform to the catalogue descriptions, which are often incomplete and may even contain errors. Gibson pots are NOT all the same. Most 60ss Gibson potentiometers were made by CTS (Chicago Telephone Company), although other manufacturers did also supply pots to Gibsom. Due to a fragile construction of the CGE potmeters (show rapid wear over time), Gibson has therefore switched to pots from CTS and later on CentraLab. Hofner Hofner guitars from before often do not have a serial number. You can read on the bottom of the pots of these guitars .

Carter, G. Gruhn, E. Whitford, D. Vinopal, D. To make things even more interesting, they sometimes wrote the serial number or factory order number with a near-invisible pencil, sometimes ink-stamped it in disappearing ink it seemsand sometimes pressed it into the wood. And the placement of these serial numbers and FON's factory order numbers can be different, depending on the era.

Gibson serial number consistency was never given much thought, as Gibson changed serial number system many times.

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Hence, some serial numbers may be duplicated in different years. This is especially noticable during the 's. Many people ask, "How can I tell the difference between a serial number and a factory order number? Sometimes this is difficult, but you have to look at the format of the number, and the general era of the instrument.

Does it have a pre-WW2 script "Gibson" logo? If so, then just look at the pre-WW2 serial number and factory order number info.

This would be the single biggest question to ask, as pre-WW2 and post-WW2 instruments are numbered quite differently. Also, examine the placement and style of the numbers and make sure it follows the schemes described.

Another question asked is, "The FON number says the instrument isyet the serial number says ; why are they different? There is a very logical reason for this. The FON number is stamped on the instrument very early in the manufacturing process. Most times, the serial number is applied as one of the last steps especially on pre hollow body instruments when the instrument is nearly finished. Depending on the demand for the instrument, it could take Gibson up to 6 months to finish the instrument.

Hence the FON number could be one year, and the serial number the next year. It wasn't till that Gibson came up with a good serial number system that will last them indefinately. This new serial number system allows determination of the exact date the instrument was stamped with the serial number, and the factory of manufacturer. Or serial number and model name on white paper label, number range from tohand inked or penciled toink stamped serial number to Some models with an ink stamped 3 digit number on neck block.

The FONs were issued sequentially and provide a good way to date a Gibson guitar. It was like in the FONs were pre-printed, and someone dropped the pile on the floor.

Now FONs contain a letter A to G, ink stamped on the inside back or on the neck block flattopsor on the label. Pretty much sequentially ordered.

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Gibson Factory Order Numbers, to - Overview. The Factory Order Number FON consists of a 3, 4 or 5 digit batch number followed by a 1 or 2 digit sequence number usually from 1 to 40, but there were some double or triple batches where the numbers were higher. Years Batch Number Range 1 thru thru A thru A "A" suffix used thru 1 thru with some isolated higher numbers 1 thru with some isolated higher numbers 1A thru A most with "A" suffix and some isolated higher numbers 1B thru B most with "B" suffix and some isolated higher numbers 1C thru C most with "C" suffix and some isolated higher numbers 1d thru d most with "D" suffix and some isolated higher numbers 1E thru E most with "E" suffix and some isolated higher numbers 1 thru some with letter suffix or prefix, some with neither Gibson Factory Order Numbers with a Letter, to The FON consists of a batch number, usually 4 digits.

Then there is a letter and sometimes a spacefollowed by a 1 or 2 digit sequence ranking number. Code is ink stamped on the inside back. Code is either ink stamped onto the label or impressed into the back of the peghead for lap steels, impressed into the back of the body. First letterindicates the year. Third letterif there is one, is "E" for Electric. Exceptions: Some high-end models and lapsteels from to have the letter A added to the prefixes D, E, or F. Examples include L-5's and Super 's which have an EA prefix suggestiongin addition to a separate paper label indicating or In this case the later serial number is the one to believe, as the instrument was probably started and completed in different years.

The format consists of a three or four digit number, a hyphen, then a one or two digit batch number. Only the first number before the hyphen determines the year. Note the red pencil mark after the FON is missing or has faded. Gibson Factory Order Numbers, to Serial numbers are seldon found on instruments made during WW2.

These contain a four digit batch number stamped in ink, followed by a two digit sequence number written in red pencil during WW2 only. After the war, the red pencil wasn't used and on instruments made during the war, sometimes it's really hard to see the red penciled sequence number. Usually there is no more than 46 instruments sequence numbers per batch.

Also no batch number with a "1" as the first digit was used during WW2. The FON is usually located on the neck block. The war-time list that follows is not definative but includes FONs that I have seen. Unfortunately I don't have every range of FON's during this period.

Range 5xxxH to 8xxxH Range generally 9xx to 22xx, depending on the model. The "S" prefix denotes Factory Order Numbers with a Letter, to Remember, the batch number is the first 4 digits of the FON, followed by a 1 or 2 digit sequence number within the batch.

This letter should be before the FON batch number. This was used on archtop models ink stamped inside treble F-hole and on flat top models ink stamped on the neck blockfrom to Year Letter Z Y X W V U T S R Q Gibson Serial Numbers Serial Number Configuration and Placement: to Rectangular label, no serial number or model name on label, photo of Orville Gibson and lyre-mandolin on label, date sometimes penciled under top.

Gibson Hollowbody instruments to "Artist" serial numbers used on mid to upper line guitars. No serial number used on lower line instruments date by Factory Order Number. Instruments with an "Artist" serial number should also have a Factory Order Number by which a date can be cross-referenced. Gibson Solidbody instruments to No number: to early ink stamped numbers in back top of peghead. First number denotes last digit of year, followed by a space and 4 digits, or no space and 5 digits.

No space and 5 digits following the year only occured in, and In Gibson forgot to reset their serial number back to 5 Instead they continued the series, just changing the first digit to a "5" for For this reason the serial numbers exceeded "5 ", hence 5 digits and no space following the year had to be used.

Apparently production was high enough in to exceed "6 ". All models, NO "made in U. All models, "made in U. Stamped on the back of the peghead. That said, it's not uncommon for pot manufacturers to post date pots anywhere from a few weeks to as much as 18 months.

The standard today is no more than 18 months, but back in the s and s, who knows? Some large parts distributors would even return parts if the date code was "expired" and want "fresh" parts in return. This seems silly, as we're talking about electronic parts not eggs.

But if you think about it, parts like electrolytic cacpacitors, this could be an issue. Then the parts maker like CTS would have to eat the returned inventory, or sell it off to someone that didn't care about date codes, and probably at a discounted amount. What I'm saying is that pot and capacitory date codes are not a reliable indicator of guitar build dates. Though they are one piece of the puzzle and something to consider, don't put too much faith into a pot date.

The source-date codes are under the framework of the "Electronic Industries Association", which is a non-profit organization representing the manufacturers of electronic parts. It can be stamped or marked on any product to identify the production source vendor and date of manufacturer. Source-date codes have been published by the EIA since But I have seen them used on Stackpole pots on electric National guitars as early as The first time date-source codes were published wasso I guess you could see them as early as the late 's.

Most Fenders from to have dated CTS pots.

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On popular Fender models, the pot date can be very close to the actual date of the instrument. On less popular Fender instruments, such as LapSteels, pots can be as much as two years earlier than the actual date of the instrument. Gibson didn't start using pots with source-date codes till or Of course this all assumes the pot or speaker is original. You have to make that call. I would suggest checking the solder joints - are they clean? Are the wires of the right era cloth insulation for older stuff?

If so, you can check the pot or speaker for the source-date code, and determine an approximate age from that. How the Source-Date Code Works. The source-date code on a pot is a 6 or 7 digit code impressed into the casing of the potentiometer. For speakers this code can be 5, 6, 7 or 8 digits long, and it's ink-stamped or paint-stamped on the "bell housing" of the speaker. In either case, the code works the same. The first 3 digits on a pot, or the first 2, 3 or 4 digits on a speaker are the source or manufacturer code.

When dating an instrument by the 'pot code,' keep two things in mind: The potentiometers must be original to the piece (new solder, or a date code that is off by ten or more years is a good giveaway to spot replacement pots); and the pot code only indicates when the potentiometer was manufactured! This is a brief outline of the various pots and caps and wiring used by Gibson. This is not a complete summary but is a good start for the beginner. The basic companies Gibson used were IRC,CTS, Central Lab. IRC used code to begin the sequence of numbers on the pot case. Central Lab used and CTS used codes. Gibson Serial Numbers Present This section is designed to assist in dating and/or identifying instruments manufactured or distributed by Gibson Guitar Corp. Please note that most of this information relates to serial numbers used from to present.

The remaining 3 or 4 digits are the date code. In 3 digit dates code, the 1st digit is the last digit of the year. On 4 digits date codes, the 1st and 2nd digits are the last two digits of the year. In either case, the remaining 2 digits are the week of manufacture 01 to With this in mind, remember if the last two digits of the source-date code are greater than 52, you're not looking at the source-date code!

Stackpole for example converted from three to four digit date codes in late On 3 digit date codes, you have to "guess" the decade of the pot or speaker.

Usually this isn't too difficult. Pots used by Fender. The pots on the left and right are Stackpole pots manufacture Note the different position of the markings, even on pots from the same maker.

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Left: The source-date code on a speaker. In this case, the speaker is made by Rola in the 9th week of The decade, though not directly shown by the source-date code, was easily determined because this particular amp was only made during the s.

Note the font style of the source-date code number always seems to be the same, for all speaker manufacturers. Right: Same thing here. Jensen speaker made in the 41st week of Pot Source Codes. During the 's, Fender used mostly Stackpole pots.

Then in roughly earlythey changed to CTS pots. This supply lasted for over five years. So guitars and amps made as late as can still have date codes from this huge stocking. Till aboutJensen was the only Fender speaker supplier. Then from and later you see Fender using speakers from all the above mentioned makers. National, Valco, Supro Amplifier Products. Note the use of "" as a source code on these products.

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