Serial no: Examination - Please type in youre number. Heidelberg Cylinder K-Serie: 1956-1980: 0-357589- =.
As one of the oldest and most widely recognized brands in music, Gibson has crafted some of the most cherished and valuable instruments of all time. Determining exactly when your Gibson specimen was made can have high stakes attached to it. A difference of only one year - sometimes even several months - can mean a four-figure difference in value.
Our hope is to make the dating process and, in turn, the valuation as easy, accurate and transparent as possible. You should be able to use this guide to determine the year of your instrument and then consult the Reverb Price Guide to find its value, all for free.
For many vintage instruments, determining the date of manufacture involves little more than running the serial number through a reference guide.
Whereas Martin guitars have been using a single, consistent numbering system since the 19th century, Gibson has used several different serial number formats since its inception in 1902, meaning that some formats and numbers overlap across decades. This makes it especially important to first identify the general era during which your instrument was made before pinning down the exact date of manufacture with a serial number.
Heidelberg Serial Number Age Checker
If you know the backstory around when the instrument was purchased, this can provide some rough clues about its era. The most general physical piece of evidence on the instrument, however, is going to be the logo on the headstock.
1902 to Late-1920s
The original logo featured the words 'The Gibson' inlaid in pearl at a slant, with an almost hand-written cursive font. This is sometimes referred to as the slanted script logo.
Some earlier specimens from 1903 to 1907 did not slant the logo, or went without a logo entirely. Specimens built before 1902 had a star inlay or crescent in place of a logo.
Late-1920s to 1933
The script logo continues without the slant. Some flattop guitars of this era started to omit the word 'The' from the inlay.
1933 to 1947
By 1933 Gibson had dropped the 'The' from all of their logos while retaining the script 'Gibson.' The original thin script was replaced with a thicker font on higher-end models in the mid-’30s, and across the entire lineup by the end of the decade.
From 1943 to 1947, the logo was a thick golden script, known as the banner logo. Some models (LG-2, J-45, SJ, select L-50s) included an actual banner reading 'Only a Gibson Is Good Enough' in the middle of the headstock.
1947 to Present
The block logo debuted after WWII and remains the face of the company. There were minute changes to which letters were connected in the font between 1961 to 1981, but the main logo had the same look.
1968 to 1972
Gibson stopped dotting the i in their logo on some of their instruments. Most models get a dotted i again in 1972, with the rest following suit from 1981 onward.
Aside from the logos, each era of manufacturing included certain identifying traits such as the hardware (tuners, knobs, plates, etc.), the pickups, the type of finish, and the electronics inside that can give clues as to when an instrument was made. But not a final verdict.
Many older instruments may have reproduction or other non-original parts, including a non-original finish. This makes relying entirely on the physical features of a guitar potentially misleading.
The thickness of the headstock, however, is not as vulnerable to modification or replacement. Before mid-1950, most Gibson headstocks were thinner at the top when looked at from a side profile. After 1950, headstocks had uniform thickness.
Dating a Gibson by Factory Order Number (FON)
Gibson has historically used two different alpha-numerical formats to catalog its instruments: serial numbers and FONs (Factory Order Numbers). Instruments will generally have one or both of these numbers stamped or written either inside the body (generally the case on earlier models) or on the back of the headstock.
FONs were Gibson’s way of internally tracking batches of instruments throughout production. These will generally date an instrument earlier than the serial number, as they were typically applied in the early stages of assembly.
Some earlier lower-end models had no serial number at all, making the FON the sole numerical identifier in those cases. A FON usually consisted of a 3-, 4-, or 5-digit batch number followed by one or two other numbers in most cases.
1902 to 1945 FON Overview
|Year||FON Batch # Range|
|1902 - 1916||1 to 3650|
|1917 - 1923||11000 to 12000|
|1924 - 1925||11000A to 11250A (suffix included)|
|1925 - 1931||8000 to 9999|
|1931 - 1933||1 to 890|
|1934||1 to 1500|
|1935||1A to 1520A|
|1936||1B to 1100B|
|1937||1C to 1400C|
|1938||1D to 1000D|
|1939||1E to 980E|
|1940 - 1945||1 to 7900 (some with letter, some without)|
From 1935 to 1942, the FON included a letter suffix. The consistency around this stopped during WWII and resumed in the early 1950s.
To complicate matters further, there was sometimes a second letter from 1938 to 1941 indicating the brand (G for Gibson, K for Kalamazoo, W for Recording King) and sometimes even a third letter indicating 'Electric' (the letter E). The year is indicated by the first letter in any series of letters for these years.
1935 to 1942 FON Letter Suffixes
|Year||FON Letter Suffix|
|1939||Ex (x being any other letter)|
|1941||E (with no other letters)|
Throughout the war and even for some time after, each year had its own quirks around FON batch numbers and letters
1942 to 1951 FON Info
|Year||FON or Letter Code|
|1942||907, 910, 923, 2004, 2005, 7000s (all with banner logo)|
|1943||9xx to 22xx|
|1944||22xx to 29xx (some without FONs)|
|1945||1xx to 10xx (many without FONS)|
|1947||700s to 1000s|
|1948||1100s to 3700s (move from script to block logo)|
|1950||3000s to 5000s|
|1951||6000s to 9000s|
From 1952 to 1961, a consistent letter code resumed, with the letter appearing before the batch number.
1952 to 1961 FON Letter Prefixes
|Year||FON Letter Prefix|
Acoustics and Electric Archtops 1902-1961
Gibson’s earliest serialization system was more or less sequential, where each new instrument was assigned the next highest available number. Below is a table of the the highest known number for each production year.
When the original serial system reached 999,999 in 1947, Gibson started over with an ‘A’ prefix
Solid Body Electrics 1952-1961
Early Gibson solidbody electrics received a serial stamp on the back of the headstock, with the first number indicating the year of production. The serial number on this Les Paul Junior indicates that it was made in 1956.
Starting in 1961, Gibson implemented a new serialization system designed to cover its entire lineup. However, while the intent was to maintain a more organized catalog, this system in practice achieved the exact opposite.
Numbers from this era were flipped, reused, and in many cases can date an instrument to several non-sequential years. The general system was as follows, though with instruments from this era it’s important to consult key features to get a more accurate age approximation.
Fortunately, Gibson was making more changes to its instruments during the ‘60s and ‘70s than any other period, so dating these instruments by features alone is relatively clear-cut in most cases.
|Year||Approx Serial Range|
|Year||Approx Serial Range|
|Year||Approximate Serial Range|
|Year||Approximate Serial Range|
Despite being purchased by the Norlin corporation in 1970, Gibson maintained the same confusing 6-digit serial system through 1975, meaning instruments with the same serial number could be from either the ‘60s or the ‘70s.
Fortunately, there were two notable changes to the entire lineup that occurred during the transition that make differentiating ‘60s and ‘70s Gibsons straightforward.
The Volute: c. 1969-c.1981
In 1969 Gibson began carving volutes-- small bumps of additional wood where the neck transitions to the headstock-- to cut down on warranty repair work.
'Made in USA' Stamp: 1970-current
Starting in 1970, ‘Made in USA’ was stamped on the headstock below the serial number.
The serial numbers from this period are generally as follows:
|600000S||1970, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975|
|700000S||1970, 1971, 1972|
|800000S||1973, 1974, 1975|
|900000S||1970, 1971, 1972|
Starting in 1977, Gibson adopted the current date-based serial system which codes for the year and day of production. The first number of the sequence indicates the decade of production, followed by the three digit day of the year, and finally the year.
For example, the serial number 90237XXX corresponds to a production date of 1/23/97. The last three (or four as of 2005) digits signify the location of production and batch number, respectively, but this information isn’t necessary to accurately dating your instrument.
Working with a potentially very valuable old Gibson can be intimidating, particularly for someone who doesn’t have experience with vintage instruments.
If at any point you feel confused or just want a second set of eyes on your instrument, you can always chat live with a Reverb employee during normal business hours.
So you need to figure out the year of production for your Fender guitar or bass. You're not alone. Fenders rank as the most frequently bought and sold instruments on Reverb, and finding a precise date of manufacture can be key to determining the value and specifics of an instrument.
The most important thing to keep in mind when dating a Fender is the highly modular nature of the designs. Like Henry Ford, part of Leo Fender's genius was in optimizing the company's production efficiency. His guitars were built en masse by an entire factory, not a single luthier toiling over one instrument at a time. Features like bolt-on necks and pickups wired into the pickguard all helped the Fender factory churn out guitar after guitar, day after day. This also means that various parts used on a particular guitar may have come from different points in time, so no single number can absolutely define when the instrument was built.
Instead, the best approach to dating a Fender is to combine indicators from the design of the instrument, the dates found on the neck and body, along with the serial number. Once you have the information you need, if you're interested in selling your Fender, you can use Reverb to get it in front of the largest audience of musicians in the world by clicking on this link.
Design Changes and Features
Perhaps the best place to start when dating your Fender is to get an approximate idea of the era based on the instrument's design and components. This can be a tall order for someone less versed in guitar history, but we do have some resources here on Reverb to help you out.
For starters, there's the
We also have some other blog posts related to Fender that can hopefully be of some help. There's A Brief History of the Stratocaster Part I and Part II that follows the evolution of the most popular Fender guitar of all. Similarly, take a look at Behold the Jazzmaster for general timeline of the history of everyone's favorite offset guitar. For Fender during the turning point era of the mid-'60s, check out Fender and the CBS Takeover.
Body and Neck Dates
Through much of Fender's production history, Fender workers would print or write a production date on both bodies and necks where the two pieces meet. These dates will tell when the original part was manufactured, but are not exact indicators of when the guitar was actually put together and finished.
Here is what the neck date and body date look like from a 1952 Telecaster:
If you're not comfortable removing the neck of a guitar to peek at the date marker, I encourage you to take it to a local tech or luthier.
I will also mention briefly pot-codes as a resource (numbers on the internal potentiometers of the guitar). These can definitely be useful in cases where no other numbers exist, but just tell when the pot itself was made. Who knows how long it was waiting in the Fender factory before finding its way into a Tele?
Like the body and neck dates, using serial numbers to date a Fender is not a sure bet. At many points in Fender's history, serial number usage overlapped again owing to the modular manner of production. Below we'll go into detail about the various serial number schemes employed by Fender as far back as 1950. There are certainly plenty of exceptions, so again, using serial numbers in conjunction with other dating methods is always the best bet.
Click on the links here to jump directly to the serial number style that matches your instrument:
The Early Years: 1950 - 1954
In the early years, Fender serial numbers schemes were specific to the model. Esquires, Broadcasters and Telecasters shared a serial number sequence, while the landmark Precision Bass had its own system. In this early period, the serial number can be found on the bridge of the instrument (see image).
Here are the rough serial number ranges for the early Esquires and Telecasters:
|0001 to 0999||1950 - 1952|
|000 to 5300||1952 - 1954|
And here are the ranges for the original Precision Basses:
|161 to 357||1951|
|299 to 619||1952|
|0001 to 0160||1952|
|0161 to 0470||1951 - 1952|
|0475 to 0840||1952 - 1953|
|0848 to 1897||1953 - 1954|
Also, for the first half or so of 1954, the inaugural run of Stratocasters had a distinct number sequence all under number 6000.
Classic Serial Numbers - 1954 - 1963
By mid-1954, Fender began using a universal serial number sequence for all its instruments. At this time, the location of the serial number also shifted from the bridge to the neckplate (the metal plate located on back of where the neck meets the body).
Here's how the serial numbers break down from 1954 to the beginning of 1963, though there are some areas of inconsistency in this era:
|0001 to 7000||1954|
|7000 to 9000||1955|
|9000 to 17000||1956|
|17000 to 25000||1957|
|25000 to 34000||1958|
|34000 to 44000||1959|
|44000 to 59000||1960|
|59000 to 71000||1961|
|71000 to 93000||1962|
|93000 to 99999||1963|
Serial Number Idm
L Series - The Transition Period of 1963 to 1965
At the very end of 1962 and into 1963, Fender changed to a system where serial numbers began with an 'L.' According to some accounts, the L was supposed to just be a 1 to mark the cross over into the 100,000 range from the previous scheme, but an L was used by mistake.
Here the range of the L-series serial used each year. Some of the earliest ones actually popped up in late 1962 as well:
|0L00001 to L20000||1963|
|L20000 to L59000||1964|
|L59000 to L99999||1965|
F Series - CBS Era 1965 - 1976
After the CBS purchase of Fender in 1965, the factory switched to a new serial sequence with numbers that continued the same general format used prior to the takeover. These are generally referred to as F series due the large Fender branded F on the neckplates of the era. This period also saw a switch from the orginal four-bolt neckplate of the '60s to a three-bolt neckplate in just one example of cost-saving costs introduced under CBS.
|100000 to 110000||late 1965|
|110000 to 200000||1966|
|200000 to 210000||1967|
|210000 to 250000||1968|
|250000 to 280000||1969|
|280000 to 300000||1970|
|300000 to 340000||1971|
|340000 to 370000||1972|
|370000 to 520000||1973|
|500000 to 580000||1974|
|580000 to 690000||1975|
|690000 to 750000||1976|
Starting in 1976, Fender transitioned to a new serial number scheme and moved the placement of most serial numbers to the headstock of the instrument. Depending on the era and model, the number can be found on either the front or back of the headstock.
After a short period of overlap with the old system, the post-76 numbers will start with a letter that indicates the decade, followed by a number that indicates the year of that decade. The decade letter codes break down like this: S = 1970s, E = 1980s, N = 1990s, Z = 2000s. In the 2000s, you'll also see serials starting with a DZ which indicates the Deluxe series, but the format is otherwise the same.
For example, a serial number with N4 would be from 1994. One starting with Z5 would be from 2005.
This scheme is not 100% consistent due to a number of production factors, such as Fender producing more serialized decals than needed in a given year. This is particularly pronounced in the transitional period of the mid-'80s, though the system has been pretty much on point since about 1990.
After 2009, the letter changed to a format starting with US then two digits that tell the year of the current decade.
Here's the breakdown of Post-1976 American-made Fender serials:
|76 + 5 digits||1976|
|S6 + 5 digits||1976|
|S7 + 5 digits||1977 - 1978|
|S8 + 5 digits||1978|
|S9 + 5 digits||1978 - 1979|
|E0 + 5 digits||1979 - 1981|
|E1 + 5 digits||1980 - 1982|
|E2 + 5 digits||1982 - 1983|
|E3 + 5 digits||1982 - 1985|
|E4 + 5 digits||1984 - 1988|
|E8 + 5 digits||1988 - 1989|
|E9 + 5 digits||1989 - 1990|
|N9 + 5 digits||1990|
|N0 + 5 digits||1990 - 1991|
|N1 + 5 or 6 digits||1991 - 1992|
|N2 + 5 or 6 digits||1992 - 1993|
|N3 + 5 or 6 digits||1993 - 1994|
|N4 + 5 or 6 digits||1994 - 1995|
|N5 + 5 or 6 digits||1995 - 1996|
|N6 + 5 or 6 digits||1996 - 1997|
|N7 + 5 or 6 digits||1997 - 1998|
|N8 + 5 or 6 digits||1998 - 1999|
|N9 + 5 or 6 digits||1999 - 2000|
|Z0 + 5 or 6 digits||2000 - 2001|
|Z2 + 5 or 6 digits||2001 - 2002|
|Z3 + 5 or 6 digits||2003 - 2004|
|Z4 + 5 or 6 digits||2004 - 2005|
|Z5 + 5 or 6 digits||2005 - 2006|
|Z6 + 5 or 6 digits||2006 - 2007|
|Z7 + 5 or 6 digits||2007 - 2008|
|Z8 + 5 or 6 digits||2008 - 2009|
|Z9 + 5 or 6 digits||2009 - 2010|
|US10 + 6 digits||2010|
|US11 + 6 digits||2011|
|US12 + 6 digits||2012|
|US13 + 6 digits||2013|
|US14 + 6 digits||2014|
American-made signature series instruments follow a very similar scheme to the above, but use a prefix S before the decade letter. For example, a Signature Series guitar from 1998 would have a serial starting with SN8 followed by five digits.
American Vintage Reissue models
Iphone Serial Number Checker
The major exception to all of this is the American Vintage Reissue (AVRI) series. These have serial numbers starting with V and do not strictly correlate to years. The neck dates on these guitars, however, are usually reliable.
Made in Japan Fender Serials
Fender Japan serial numbers can usually be found on the back of the neck near the neck joint. Though examples also exist with the number on the headstock or the neck-plate in the case of certain early reissue models. Up until 1997, the serial was paired with the words 'Made in Japan.'
In 1982, Fender expanded operations with a series of instruments produced in Japan by the Fuji Gen Gakki company. Like the US serial numbers, MIJ (made in Japan) serials start with a letter or pair of letters that indicate the rough year of production. This system, however, is notoriously inconsistent and incomplete, which makes dating by serial number even less reliable for MIJ Fenders.
Here's a breakdown of serials for the 'Made in Japan' era:
|JV + 5 digits||1982 - 1984|
|SQ + 5 digits||1983 - 1984|
|E + 6 digits||1984 - 1987|
|A + 6 digits||1985 - 1986|
|B + 6 digits||1985 - 1986|
|C + 6 digits||1985 - 1986|
|F + 6 digits||1986 - 1987|
|G + 6 digits||1987 - 1988|
|H + 6 digits||1988 - 1989|
|I + 6 digits||1989 - 1990|
|J + 6 digits||1989 - 1990|
|K + 6 digits||1990 - 1991|
|J + 6 digits||1990 - 1991|
|K + 6 digits||1990 - 1991|
|L + 6 digits||1991 - 1992|
|M + 6 digits||1992 - 1993|
|N + 6 digits||1993 - 1994|
|O + 6 digits||1993 - 1994|
|P + 6 digits||1993 - 1994|
|Q + 6 digits||1993 - 1994|
|S + 6 digits||1994 - 1995|
|T + 6 digits||1994 - 1995|
|U + 6 digits||1995 - 1996|
|N + 5 digits||1995 - 1996|
|V + 6 digits||1996 - 1997|
Crafted in Japan Serial Numbers
In 1997, Fender changed the 'Made in Japan' decal to say 'Crafted in Japan.' There is some overlap with the earlier 'MIJ' serials, so it's important to note if your instrument carries the 'Made in Japan' or 'Crafted in Japan' decal.
Here are the serial numbers for the 'Crafted in Japan' or 'CIJ' era:
|A + 6 digits||1997 - 1998|
|O + 6 digits||1997 - 2000|
|P + 6 digits||1999 - 2002|
|Q + 6 digits||2002 - 2004|
|R + 6 digits||2004 - 2005|
|S + 6 digits||2006 - 2008|
|T + 6 digits||2007 - 2008|
After 2007, Fender Japan switched back to marking Fenders as 'Made in Japan' though for a few years instruments with both decals were made. Serial numbers since this transition have continued the same sequence as the 'CIJ' era.
Made in Mexico Fender Serials
Fender opened a factory in Ensenada, Mexico in the late '80s and instruments started coming off the line in 1990. Mexican-made (MIM) Fenders carry a serial number on the headstock starting with an M. Some exceptions include a handful of special editions and signature models as well as the split US/Mexican-made California series which all have a 'AMXN' at the beginning of their serials.
The MIM serial number scheme is actually very straight-forward. For Mexican Fenders made in the 1990s, the serial will start with an MN followed by a number that indicates the year of the decade. Instruments made in the 2000s follow the same form but start with MZ. For the 2010s, the prefix is MX1. For example, a serial number starting with MN2 would be 1992.
Here's the serial number breakdown for a majority of MIM Fenders:
|MN0 + 5 or 6 digits||1990|
|MN1 + 5 or 6 digits||1991|
|MN2 + 5 or 6 digits||1992|
|MN3 + 5 or 6 digits||1993|
|MN4 + 5 or 6 digits||1994|
|MN5 + 5 or 6 digits||1995|
|MN6 + 5 or 6 digits||1996|
|MN7 + 5 or 6 digits||1997|
|MN8 + 5 or 6 digits||1998|
|MN9 + 5 or 6 digits||1999|
|MZ0 + 5 or 6 digits||2000|
|MZ1 + 5 or 6 digits||2001|
|MZ2 + 5 or 6 digits||2002|
|MZ3 + 5 or 6 digits||2003|
|MZ4 + 5 or 6 digits||2004|
|MZ5 + 5 or 6 digits||2005|
|MZ6 + 5 or 6 digits||2006|
|MZ7 + 5 or 6 digits||2007|
|MZ8 + 5 or 6 digits||2008|
|MZ9 + 5 or 6 digits||2009|
|MX10 + 6 digits||2010|
|MX11 + 6 digits||2011|
|MX12 + 6 digits||2012|
|MX13 + 6 digits||2013|
|MX14 + 6 digits||2014|
There are a number of exceptions to all these serial number schemes. As mentioned above, many reissue models use serial numbers that don't really correlate to their age. Additionally, there have been plenty of artist models, limited editions and other rare models that use a unique serial number. Examples include the 35th anniversary series, many of the uniquely finished Strats from the early '80s, as well as various export-specific models which carry a serial number starting with FN.
Again, the serial number alone in any of these cases is not definitive and the best approach is to combine that with other methods like the neck and body dates, as well as just the features of the specific instrument. If you have any questions as to what Fender you're dealing with, I encourage you to seek out a local guitar shop or luthier to help figure it out.