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DATING OF IBANEZ GUITARS
An Ibanez serial number can tell you two things, year of manufacture and factory (or country) of manufacture. There is no master list to correlate to a model number, these are consecutive serialized numbers only. If you’re trying to figure out what model something is from the serial number, figure out what year it is then go to the <a href=”http://ibanez.com/catalogs/”>catalog library</a> for the corresponding year (or year before or after) to find the model. Some models will never be found in the catalogs, that’s just the way it is.
On typical Ibanez serial numbers the first 2 digits will indicate year, or the first digit will indicate the last digit of the year, but there are also some that indicate no year at all.
This page is for dating Ibanez guitars built in Japan only. See the Factories heading a few paragraphs down for little info on guitars produced elsewhere.
Before 1975 Ibanez did not put serial numbers on their guitars. Most just bore a neck plate simply marked Japan. The only way to date these guitars is to find out what years they were available and then comparing all the minute details like scripts, contours, and inlay variances that only the hardcore vintage gurus know.
1975 – Present
This old style serial number will either be on the neck plate or impressed into the back of the headstock. It consists of a letter, A – L, followed by a 6 digit number. The letter stands for the month, A for January etc., the first 2 digits will be the year, 76 is 1976, 96 is 1996, the last 4 digits will be the consecutive production number for that months production, 1356 would be the 1356th guitar produced that month. This form of serial numbering is still used today on guitars where the number is impressed into the back of the headstock. A761356 – The 1356th guitar produced in January ’76.
1987 – Present
These serial numbers will either be on the neck plate or on a serial sticker affixed to the back of the headstock, with some models still following the impressed old school serial numbers shown above. There are many variables of numbering through these years and between different models and are broken down into 3 categories, stickers, plates, and the impressed numbers that follow the old school style detailed above.
HEADSTOCK SERIAL STICKERS
1987 – 1996
Guitars built in Japan between these years will have a serial number beginning with F followed by 6 numbers. F is the production factory which stands for Fujigen. The first digit will be the last digit of the year, ie. F8***** is a guitars made in Fujigen in 1988. The last 5 numbers will be the consecutive number denoting production count for the year. 25899 would be the 25899th guitar built that year.
1997 – Present
Under the old numbering scheme 1997 would show duplicate numbers to 1987 so the serial number was changed to the F and 7 digits, now the first 2 denoting year of production. F98***** is a guitar built by Fujigen in 1998. The last 5 digits continue as a consecutive production count for the year.
Factories – Shown as F for Fujigen in the examples above, other factories used that mainly produced the budget models were C for Cort (Korea), S for Samick (Korea), W for World (Korea), and guitars are also built in Indonesia, China, and who knows where else. These serial numbers are usually quite different from the MIJ numbers, have many extra digits because of the enormous volume of guitars produced, and I am not familiar enough with any of them to tell you how to figure out the dating.
Cort Serial Numbers – Cort serial numbers are denoted with a C prefix followed by either 7 or 8 digits. I’m not sure what year the changeover occurred but using the formula it will be easy for you to tell. A 7 digit number example – C5030567 – translates, 5 = 1995, 03 = 3rd month (March), 0567 = 567th guitar built in March 1995. An 8 digit number example – C03114373 – translates, 03 = 2003, 11 = 11th month (November), 4373 = 4373rd guitar built in November 2003.
Plate serial numbers have nothing to do with headstock serial numbers. In a case where a guitar has both the true serial number will always be the headstock number. Plate numbers usually follow the pattern of the first 2 digits denoting year of production followed by a 4 digit number that denotes consecutive production for that model for that year, or consecutive production number for that particular model from the models inception. In cases where generic non model specific plates are used the 4 digit number is just the consecutive number of that plate which could have made it on possibly 10 different models.
JEM – UV – JEM plates are 6 digit and the first 2 digits is the production year while the last 4 is the consecutive number JEM built from inception. 870060 is an 87′ and the 60th JEM built. Except for the very first batch of 90′ UV plates that began 00, UV plates are also dated by the first 2 numbers. 00 is a 90′, 90 is a 90′, 91 is a 91′. A Universe plate 912787 would denote a production year of 91 and the 2787th Universe built. Where things go astray is when the Jem line went to AANJ in ‘93. This is where you start seeing consecutive numbered plates on the remaining regular joint models that no longer indicate year. 160225 was a very odd plate number I came across on a Jem. Most that I’m aware of are what I call 250k plates (25****) and current 2003′ FP15th’s have 260K plates (26****) meaning there have been over 10,000 Jem’s made since they deviated from the serial plate numbering. No matter as most can be dated by the headstock serial # but there will be guitars without them and the plate number will be the only number available. Late BFP’s with direct mount pickups for example which bear these 160k/250k plates and no headstock sticker. The UV plate numbers also changed to these consecutive plates and will be found on late UV7BK’s in both green dot and silver. Universe plate 912787 would denote a production year of 91 and the 2787th Universe built. Universe number 250435 could be a 96′ UV7 green dot and the 435 indicates the 435th plate. Pinning these guitars down to closer than a 2 year window would be tough. This actually makes a lot of sense from a manufacturing stance as they no longer had to order plates that denoted year of production and could just order consecutive numbered plates without care to year. They would no longer be restricted to using a specific plate in a specific year and any batch of plates would be good forever.
JS – JS series guitars built in Japan have a neck plate that is stamped with a consecutive number since production first began with no indication of date. They are termed J plates because of a J prefix in the number but somewhere around J 002700 they dropped the J leaving just the 6 digit number. Plate number J 000001 is on a ‘93 Donnie that I will always consider Jim Donahue’s guitar, now residing in the Hoshino USA collection. (Jim had control of plate numbers 1-15 and used the #1 plate when he assembled what is considered his Donnie late in the ‘93 run) A 2003 JS2000 I did this week had the plate number 010044 finally cracking 10,000 JS models built in Japan (and probably 3 times as many built in Korea). The only way to date a JS that only has a neck plate number is by spec. Sometime around 1995 they started using the typical F based serial stickers on the headstock and in all cases this should be considered the serial number of the guitars that bear them.
STW – 7/6 Double neck – Oddly these used JS plates in the 006000 range (from memory). Some have actually had two numbered plates and some have had one numbered and one unnumbered plate.
Bensalem, Pa. Address Plates – The cast black and chrome neck plates like the JS, these bear a 6 digit serial number. The first 2 digits indicate year and the last 4 indicate a consecutive production number for USAC’s. 880675 would be a USAC built in 1988 and the 675th USAC produced. ‘88-’90 plates will have a Bensalem, Pa. address as H&S guitars was based in Bensalem. Note that these do not indicate the guitar was “built” in the US but typically means it was assembled and finished in the US using Japanese parts.
North Hollywood Address Plates – H&S moved to LA in late ‘90/‘91 and USAC’s built or assembled there will bear the North Hollywood plate serialized in the same manner as the Bensalem plate.
Stamped Serial Number – 5 digit number found on the back of the headstocks on AANJ USAC models. 92398 is probably the 398th USAC built in ‘92 but could also represent the 398th stamped on the head in this manner.
RG750/60/60 – RADIUS – SABER – POWER
These guitars will either have Bensalem or North Hollywood plates depending on year, pre ‘91 will be Bensalem, post ‘91 will be North Hollywood. These plates will either follow the 6 digit plate scheme where the first 2 digits denote year, or they will be blank and have a Japan serial sticker on the headstock.
BLANK NECK PLATES
Guitars with the blank numbered cast plate will bear a headstock serial sticker denoting the Fujigen production of the parts.
The American Custom Shop has 2 ways of serializing their guitars.
LA91JS01 – Indicates Los Angeles manufacture in 1991, JS model, 1st JS model built in 1991.
LA060493 – Indicates Los Angeles manufacture on June 6, 1993 (Steve’s Triple Neck)
Endorsee guitars built in Bensalem were pre AANJ and would typically get a specific model plate, ie. JEM plate or JS plate, or a consecutive numbered 6 digit cast black and chrome plate on guitars without specific model plates.
NO SERIAL NUMBER
There are some models that have no serial number at all. Many American Masters will either have a paper serial sticker or nothing. Guitars with no serial can only be dated by spec to when that guitar is shown to be available.
Your serial number might indicate a year the guitar was not available. Typically you’ll find serial numbers that indicate production the year or years before the guitar became officially available. In preparation for a model release the factory will produce as many as they believe they can immediately distribute so there are guitars available when the model is announced. Other times you’ll find that the guitar was available even years earlier in other markets or even as spot production specials for Summer NAMM (or other country) Many times you’ll see a model that you will not find in any literature, and if it is factory and not a custom it probably indicates a run of guitars ordered as a special. These might be in a different color, have different inlays, or whatever other spec made it different. Generally these are identified by spec consensus, ie. almost all specs indicate it’s a 550 except the inlays. For verification the neck should be pulled and the factory model designation stamps used in addition to the specs.
Your serial number could be for a year long after your guitar was available. Or was it? Was it still available somewhere else in the world where it still had a strong market and was still being sold. Just because a P1 is not available in the US in ‘97 doesn’t mean it wasn’t still available in France. Just because no PGM’s were shown in the US catalog until 1994 doesn’t mean that 100’s and 300’s hadn’t been sold in the US and abroad since 1991. Also there are many guitars whose necks have been replaced due to breaks or just bad necks. Replacement necks can have serial numbers years after the model “should” be dated by spec and in all instances if the spec changed by the date shown on the neck the spec must be used to determine year of production, ie. a Lo Pro equipped guitar with an ‘03 serial number (except for K7’s which were the only guitar produced in 03′ with a Lo Pro) most certainly has had a replaced neck and the Lo Pro points the production to a year before ‘03.