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Gibson has been in business for over a hundred years, and has used several serial number systems in that time, many of which had inconsistencies which make accurate date identification tricky. Often other considerations must be taken into account. We’ll cover those as we come to them. In this article, we’re going to cover the current serial number format, in use since 1977. This system is in place across the board in all production facilities. This borrows heavily from the serial number guides on the Gibson site, from the Blue Book, and other web sources.
For instruments built before 2005, The serial number is an 8 digit number impressed into the back of the headstock with “MADE IN USA” below. The Serial number is stamped before the finish is applied and is pressed into the wood. Often, a thick coating of paint and lacquer will make the serial number difficult to read. If you see plain wood through the serial number, it was stamped after finishing, and likely a counterfeit.
The pattern is:
“YDDDYRRR” YY is the production year, DDD is the day of the year counted 1-365 (or 366 for leap 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.
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.
After July 2005, Gibson USA went to a 9 digit serial number. The sixth number is now a batch number, so the format turns to YDDDYBRRR. Batch 0 starts at the beginning of the day, and once they 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 was 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 or 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 has been used 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
1994 was 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.