Gibson Mandolin Serial Number Guide

Posted By admin On 21/08/21
  1. Gibson Flatiron Mandolin Serial Numbers
  2. Value Of Gibson Mandolins
Copyright © 1995 Dan Beimborn

Although many fans of electric-guitar god Jimmy Page only know the mandolin as the high-pitched, plucky sounding background instrument in Led Zeppelin’s “The Battle of Evermore,” the mandolin was largely responsible for the spread of the guitar in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and was itself a major musical phenomenon.

This guide is inteneded as a starting point in a search for a Gibson A-model mandolin from the years 1907-1935. All of the information within is as accurate as I can personally verify (ie don't bet the farm). Most of this stuff will help you on the

GIBSON SERIALIZATION Identifying Gibson instruments by serial number is tricky at best and downright impossible in some cases. The best methods of identifying them is by using a combination of the serial number, the factory order number and any features that are particular to a specific time that changes may have occurred in instrument. Gibson Epiphone Banjo Serial Numbers Archtop model changes: Soloist Emperor + DeLuxe: one single batch with cutaway body (documented examples: SN 16501, 16503, 16504, 16505) Spartan: primavera back + sides on new blonde finish version (first SN 16941) Ritz: new 15¼' model, blond finish only (first SN 17071) Flattop model changes.

business side of the equation only- sort of a 'Consumer Reports' for old mandolins. Hopefully, this will help you to determine to what extent the dealer is trying to sell the instrument at a level above what it may merit, and then you must use the market to help determine a price.

For the HTML literate, this page uses background color tags etc that currently are part of the proposed HTML 3.0 spec (configured to work with the Netscape navigator 1.b1 or later). Additionally, this page will stand on its own for the time being- all links but the 'return to Misc. page' are internal reference links. This means that you can download it and have it work at home without having to be connected to the net to have it work. Just don't make a profit from it without giving me 87%!!

Index to this Document

  • What to look for in a Mint Condition Instrument
  • Additional Features that any of the models may have
  • Final note and a plea for help

Very Brief Historical Notes

The Gibson Company went through several stages of model design for their mandolins in the last 100 years. The early prototype models were hand-built by Orville Gibson himself, and are very thick and chunky looking. The basic 'A' and 'F' model shapes were developed around the turn of the century, and have become the basis for most serious imitators since. Regular production began in the early years of the 1900's, and continued unbroken until the WWII years, and again afterwards up to the modern times. The most generally trustworthy vintage Gibsons fall into the 1900-1930 years, when the instrument was popular and many were produced.

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First Impressions

The first good thing to check (before even the price!) is the sound. Strum it, hit chords, open notes, etc. Tune it up, or get the owner to tune it for you. If it doesn't sing, forget it- there are enough of them out there that you will eventually find one that you like. Get a general impression from the instrument how 'played in' it is.. a nearly unplayed instrument will sound somewhat quiet and muffled (not 'Broken in'), where one that has had a lot of service may ring loudly with little effort at all. If it has the 'unplayed' sound, it is harder to judge what it will eventually sound like. Instruments can take anywhere from 1-10 years to really break in, depending on how often you play. Sometimes instruments that haven't been played in a while are 'sleeping', it can take a month or so to 're-break' them. Mine sat in the shop for 2 years after the first owner died, and it took about 2 weeks of solid playing to get it to have a 'wide open' sound again. The best thing you can possibly do is try several different instruments. You will build a strong knowledge of the variations through experience. Remember, you are looking for an instrument that will have a very strong influence on your enjoyment of playing music!

If you've discovered a well broken-in instrument that you like the sound of, you can move onto the next step- model verification. If the sound is 'muffled' or unplayed, check out the following section.

J'aimesite de dj brab. Back to the Index/menu of this guide

What to Look For in a 'Mint Condition' Instrument

A vintage mandolin that hasn't really been played much or broken in should be approached like a brand new instrument. The sound will probably mellow over the years (if it isn't abused or mistreated) into a sound that is similar to a broken-in model of the same vintage. The important breakdowns are:
  • 1900-1907 'Pan Back' style.. somewhat 'clunky' sound
  • 1908-1920 Fixed bridge models
  • 1921-1935 Adjustible bridge, other Loar-Hart innovations

Compare a 'Broken in' Gibson from the same period (1900-1907; 1908-1920) for a fairly accurate estimate of how the instrument will eventually sound. For the period of 1921 onward, try to get a near exact analogue becuase there are so many differences.

Unplayed Mandolins Should Have All of the Following:

  • Nice, easy to use tuning pegs
  • No significant fret wear
  • No finger depressions on the finger board
  • Clean finish where it would have been scratched by the pick if played
  • A case with little or no visible wear
  • Parts that correspond to the model year (see below - 'Model Verification')
  • A new-looking label inside (white paper, not yellowed; legible model numbers and serial number)
All of the above are signs of use and wear- they are not really bad in and of themselves, but they do indicate how much an instrument has been played. If your eyes tell you a story that is not compatible with the 'mint condition' or 'as new' description, be wary.

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The Gibson Label

The first thing to look at is the label. It should tell you the year, model number, and serial number of the instrument. Some were written in pen, some in pencil. Mine (1921) is nearly illegible, but with a bright light and a lot of patience, I was able to read all of the information from the inside. The serial number (when compared to the ones in Gibson records) will tell you within a few weeks when your instrument was made. Also, with a dental mirror and flashlight, you should be able to see a different factory number up on the block where the neck meets the body inside the instrument.
The label will probably have yellowed somewhat with age, but a nice new-looking piece of whitish-grey speckled paper with crisp, clear writing does not neccessarily indicate a forgery.

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Model Verification

You will want to make sure that the instrument you are looking at is the model that it is advertized as, becuase those little model numbers do a lot to the price of the instrument. The higher numbers have more fancy decorative features in general, but do not necessarily sound any better than 'lower end' models. I personally would be hard pressed to trade my A0 for an A4. So anyway, don't pay A4 prices for an A0!!

The information following is not official as there are so many instruments that break the rules. However, there are a few key identifiers:

A or F model

This one is easy. If it has a curlycue (bluegrass style) on the bass side of the neck next to the fingerboard, it is an F model mandolin. An A model mandolin is symmetrical, and teardrop shaped.

Bridge

Prior to 1921, the only bridges made for Gibson mandolins (A or F) were made from a single piece of wood, with no adjusting screws. If the instrument has an adjustible bridge and a date prior to 1921, it is most likely a replacement bridge. While the bridge may even come from the Gibson factory, it still is not original to the instrument.

Binding

The term 'binding' refers to the white band that surrounds the face, back, neck, or headstock of the mandolin. More binding = high model number. The only completely unbound Gibson was the Ajr model, a stripped-down (in decoration) version of the classic A model. Prices should range relative to each other in this fashion:

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Models and Descriptions

Ajr

Plain model, with no decoration at all, brown finish. Plain tailpiece cover. Shaped hardshell or canvas case.

A or A0

Brown or black finish, binding only on face and in soundhole. One ring of purfling around the soundhole. Pickguard that is pinned into the fingerboard and bridge, clamped to the side of the instrument. Pearl dots on fingerboard. Dark stained maple (not the best 'wavy' or 'curly' cut) back and sides. 'The Gibson' stamped on tailpiece cover. Shaped hardshell case.

A1

Similar to A0, but can be blonde or reddish color, has some features (double purfling on soundhole) of an A2. 'The Gibson' stamped on tailpiece cover. Shaped hardshell case.

A2

Brown, black, blonde, or red finish all possible. Binding on front, back, soundhole, fingerboard; 'The Gibson' inlaid into the headstock, closer grained (most of the time!) spruce top then a model A0; pickguard that is pinned into the fingerboard, bridge, and clamps to the sides of the instrument. Double ring of purfling around the soundhole. Pearl dots on the fingerboard. Dark stained maple back sides (still not usually a 'Wavy' or 'curly' cut). 'The Gibson' stamped on tailpiece cover. Headpiece veneered in black on the front. Black inlay along the 'keel' in the back of the neck. Shaped hardshell case.

A3

Nearly identical to an A2, but usually a refrigerator-White top (sometimes blonde); and a fleur-de-lis in the headstock under 'The Gibson'. Bound on top, back, sides, around the fingerboard. These are somewhat rare. Wood quality improving (tighter grain, more 'nice looking' features). Mahogany sides and back. Shaped and bound fingerboard extension (the little teeny frets that extend over the soundhole). 'The Gibson' hand- etched into the tailpiece cover (though sometimes stamped). Headstock veneered in black front back. Black inlay along the 'keel' in the back of the neck. Shaped hardshell case with quilted felt cover for laying over the face of the instrument.

A4

The top of the line. Red sunburst finish (red in the middle fading to black or brown at the sides), fleur-de-lis under 'The Gibson'; (sometimes) decorated tuner buttons (a dotted '+' in each button). Thick white ring between the double purfling around the soundhole. Can have 'Snakehead peghead' (see below). Shaped fingerboard extension. Black veneered headstock, front back. Black inlay along the 'keel' in the back of the neck. Lots of polish in the finish. Shaped hardshell case with quilted felt cover for laying over the face of the instrument.

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Some Features That Any Model May Have:

'Snakehead' peghead:

This is a peghead that tapers from small to large from the top, rather than the other way around. Conventional wisdom is that these somehow sound better, and prices go up accordingly. These are most commonly found on an A4, but can exist on model numbers A1-A3 (I have never seen an A0 or Ajr with a snakehead, but they could exist).

Longer neck clear of the body:

The standard Gibson A model has 9 frets entirely clear of the body, but some models (usually snakeheads) have 12 frets clear of the body. A longer neck mandolin is desireable if bass sound is favored, or if you play often in high positions and need easy access to the high frets.

Neck Shape:

The standard Gibson A models had a 'keel' shaped neck, similar to the letter 'v'. The 'keel' is rounded, but the modern 'U' shaped neck is considerably rounder. Anyway, some Gibsons have rounded necks.

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Final Note

I have been trying to get some help on this guide for some time, with little response from the Net community. If you could help edit this info in any way, point out gross errors, or even write up some detail for F model mandolins, please send me mail here. I would also really love to add a serial number chart to this page!

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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 1975 to present.


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:
YDDDYRRR
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 1989-2014: 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.
Examples -
9 xxx = 1989 (4 digit number beginning with '9' used only in 1989)
0 xxxx = 1990
9 xxxx = 1999
00xxxx = 2000
05xxxx = 2005
*Note – For Les Paul Classics made in 2007 and later, “MADE IN USA” was added to the back of the headstock
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.
Gibson USA 2014 to present – These serial numbers cannot be dated to a specific day of the year.
The new model year typically launches in the fall as the current model year winds down. It is not uncommon for a new model year model to be produced during the previous model year (example – a 2015 model may have been built in late 2014).
The pattern is as follows:
YYRRRRRRR
YY is the model year
RRRRRRR is the number in product for the model year (starts at 0000001)
1952-1960 Les Paul, Explorer, Flying V, and Futura reissues (since late 1992):
M YRRR or MYRRRR
M is the model year being reissued
Y is the production year
RRR(R) indicates the guitar's place production for that year. NOTE: This number includes all models for a particular reissue year - so, for example, a 1958 Reissue serial number may include '58 Reissue LP Standard and '58 Explorer production.
Example: 7 5123 is the 123rd 1957 reissue model produced in 2005.
1961-1969 Firebird, Les Paul, and SG reissues (since 1997):
YYRRRM
Y is the production year
RRR(R) indicates the guitar's place in production for that year.
M is the model being reissued
Reissue model codes:
1= SG Custom and Special
2= SG Standard
3= 1963 Firebird 1
4= 1964 Firebird IIIThe gibson mandolin
5= 1965 Firebird V & VII
8= 1968 Les Paul Custom
Examples: 050102 is the 10th SG Standard reissue produced in 2005.
030084 is the 8th 1964 Firebird III reissue produced in 2003.
Historic ES MODELS (since 1995):
(A or B)-MYRRR
M is the model year being reissued
Y is the production year
RRR indicates the guitar's place in the sequence of Historic ES production for that year.
Reissue model codes:
2= ES-295
3= 1963 ES-335 (block inlays)
4= ES-330
5= ES-345
9 with an 'A' prefix = 1959 ES-335 (dot inlays)

Gibson Flatiron Mandolin Serial Numbers

9 with a 'B' prefix= ES-355
Example: A-38005 is the 5th '63 ES-335 Reissue produced in 1998.

Value Of Gibson Mandolins


Carved Top models (serial number on orange label)
YDDDYRRR
YY is the production year
DDD is the day of the year
RRR indicate the guitar's place in the sequence of carved tops made that day.
NOTE - as of 2000, 1st digit will be a '2'
Examples:
91418009 is the 9th carved top produced on the 141st day of 1998.
20045002 was the 2nd carved top stamped on the 4th day of 2005.
Custom Shop regular production models
CSYRRRR
CS stands for 'Custom Shop'
Y indicates the production year
RRRR indicates the guitar's place in the sequence of production
Example: CS10845 is the 845th reg. production CS model produced in 2001.
CS Signature Models:
Gibson flatiron mandolin serial numbers The list below is not an exhaustive listing but we have included many of our most popular Signature models. Please contact us at [email protected] should you have any questions.
Ace Frehley Les Paul
- 1997 Limited run, numbered in sequence as 'ACE xxx'
Note: The discontinued Gibson USA Ace Frehley Signature Les Paul has a standard 8 digit serial number.
Andy Summers ES-335
Limited edition of 50. Numbered in sequence as 'AS xxxx'
Dickey Betts '57 goldtop Les Paul
Limited edition of 114. Numbered in sequence as 'DB xxx'
Dickey Betts '57 red top Les Paul
Numbered in sequence as 'DBR xxx'
Gary Rossington Les Paul
Limited edition of 250. Numbered in sequence as 'GR xxx'
Gary Rossington SG
Limited edition of 250. Numbered in sequence as '13xxx'
Jimmy Page Les Paul (3 versions)Serial
-1st 25 aged models were hand numbered 1-25 and signed by Jimmy Page, no other number is on this model.
-Limited run of 150 aged models are numbered in sequence as 'PAGE xxx'
-Unlimited run of Custom Authentic models are numbered in sequence as 'JPP xxx'
Note: The discontinued Gibson USA Jimmy Page Signature Les Paul has a standard 8 digit serial number.
Joe Perry Les Paul (2 models)
- Joe Perry Signature Les Paul from 1996 (trans black finish) - numbered in sequence as 'JPxxx'
- Boneyard LP - Pilot Run models have an inked number and hand written 'Pilot Run'. The production version (no difference in spec) numbered in sequence as 'BONE xxx'
Note: The discontinued Gibson USA Joe Perry Signature Les Paul made has a standard 8 digit serial number.
Johnny A.
Numbered in sequence as 'JA xxx'
Pete Townshend LP Deluxe
Value of gibson mandolins Limited run of 75, numbered in sequence as 'PETE xxx'
Peter Frampton Les Paul (2 models)
- PF LP Custom - numbered in sequence as 'PF xxx'
- PF LP Special - numbered in sequence as 'PFYxxx' Y indicates the year of production.
Slash Les Paul (2 models)
- 1997 limited edition model, cranberry finish: numbered in sequence as 'SL xxx'
- Regular production model introduced in 2004, also numbered in sequence as 'SL xxx'
Note: The discontinued Epiphone Slash Les Paul made has a standard Epiphone serial number.
Tony Iommi SG
Numbered in sequence as 'TI xxx'
Zakk Wylde Les Paul
Bullseye and the rare 'Rough Top' version numbered in sequence as 'ZW xxx'
Camo version numbered in sequence as 'ZPW xxx'
Earl Scruggs Models
Standard:
Sequential production number, starting at 001
'49 Classic:
YY-RR
YY = Year of manufacture
RR = ranking number (starts at 01)
Golden Deluxe:
YY-RR
YY = Year of manufacture
RR = ranking number (starts at 01)
Flint Hill Special:
FH-YY-RR
YY = Year of manufacture
RR = ranking number (starts at 01)
Special:
ES-YY-RR
YY = Year of manufacture
RR = ranking number (starts at 01)
Style 250
250-TT-RR
YY = Year of manufacture
RR = ranking number (starts at 01)
Granada
YY-MM-RR
YY = Year
MM = Month
RR = ranking number (starts at 01)
RB
RB### = sequential production number
All other models
S(S)-YYMM-RR
S(S) = style (excluding style 250 - see above)
YY = Year
MM = Month
RR = ranking number
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.
FYYMMRRRR
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
FYYMRRRR
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
FYSSSS
F= Factory Code (this code will be an 'F' or 'T')
Y= Year of manufacture (2 = 2002, 3 = 2003, etc.)
SSSS= Sequential Serial NumberMandolin
Example - T41234 is a 2004 Elitist model.
1995-1997
A(A) (#)###YY
A(A) = model code
(#) ### = ranking number
YY = last 2 digits of year
Example - BA xxx 95 dates to 1995
1997-Current
YMMDDRRY
Y = last digit of year
MM = Month
DD = day of month
RR = ranking number
Y (last digit) = decade
Product code/production number/quarter and year made
Example - G-03/207/299
Note that the 'G' is often mistaken for a '6'. This amp was made in the second quarter of 1999.