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. About , mid 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-WW2 , Gibson 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 girl , and 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.
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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. 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 late , the 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".
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: 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 seems , and 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. 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 is , yet 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. Often no serial number or model name on label, picture of Orville Gibson and lyre mandolin, date sometimes penciled under the top must be seen with a mirror. Or serial number and model name on white paper label, number range from to , hand inked or penciled to , ink stamped serial number to Factory Order Numbers stamped on neck block inside body.
Some low end models with no numbers. 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. FON 4 digit numbers start. FON numbers "roll over" from , reusing old numbers. It was like in the FONs were pre-printed, and someone dropped the pile on the floor. Factory Order Numbers and Letter Codes.
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Now FONs contain a letter A to G, ink stamped on the inside back or on the neck block flattops , or on the label. Factory Order Numbers beginning with the letter D to H pressed into the back of the peghead. Factory Order Numbers with 3 or 4 digits, followed by a hyphen, followed by 1 or 2 more digits, ink stamped on neck block flattops or on the inside back, Factory Order Numbers of 3 or 4 digits, followed by a hyphen, followed by by 1 or 2 more digits, ink stamped on the inside back.
Factory Order Numbers beginning with the letter Q to Z, ink stamped on inside back, all hollowbody models. Unique solidbody electric guitar "inked" serial numbers. Reissue and custom shop serial numbers in various formats. Pretty much sequentially ordered. Gibson Factory Order Numbers, to - Overview.
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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.
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Then there is a letter and sometimes a space , followed by a 1 or 2 digit sequence ranking number. Letter is between the batch number and the sequence 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 letter , indicates the year. Second letter , if there is one, indicates the brand of the instrument: Third letter , if there is one, is "E" for Electric.
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 suggestiong , in 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 block , from 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.
Number and model name on white paper label, number range to Ink stamped, not penciled. Low end models with no serial number. Gibson Hollowbody instruments to 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.
Number preceded by an "A-" on white oval label: Number preceded by an "A" on orange oval label: Gibson Solidbody instruments to 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.
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All models, "made in U. Stamped on the back of the peghead. All stamps in the same size type. Used from to present: Letter followed by 3 digits, custom shop or limited edition models only: White label as used from to This label is from a L-4 model. Gibson Non-Hyphen Serial Numbers, to Series starts with Year Last Number April 28, "A" style serial numbers as used from to Gibson Serial Numbers for Hollow bodies, to This "Artist" series serial numbers were only used on mid to upper end instruments. The "inked on" serial number on a Les Paul standard solidbody guitar.
This style serial number was used on all to solidbody Gibson guitars. The "inked on" serial number on this Les Paul Junior has no space between the "9" digit year and the rest of the numbers. This happened only in , , and when production required a number above "", thus occupying the space. Gibson Serial Numbers, to , solid body models. Ink stamped number on back top of peghead.
The first year of Gibson solidbodies was , and Gibson didn't use any serial number in Starting in , the first number is the last number of the year. If the ink stamped number consists of 5 digits, there will be a space between the first and second numbers separating the last digit of the year from the actual serial number. If there is a 6 digit ink stamped number, there is no embedded space as the serial number has exceeded and now occupies the place where the space existed in numbers and lower. No space and 5 digits following the year only occured in , , and , and the second digit will ONLY be a "1" in and Production in and was also very high, exceeding "9 " and going to "" or higher so a "1" or "2" or "3" could be the second digit in The Ink Stamped serial number stopped at the end of , though a few instruments were made with a "1" ink stamped prefix.
This is very rare, but seen on a few lap steels pressed in serial numbers started in for all Gibson instruments and a few Les Paul models. One other exception to the above rules is in late where some Les Paul juniors and specials had a FOUR digit serial no leading year digit.
Note this style of "Made in the U. This style stamp was used on instruments exported to Canada during the ss this is a LP Junior. Stamped in serial numbers, used from to The number on the left is still a "pressed in" number, though gibson has inked the impression to make it more readable they started doing this about or , when serial numbers went to six digits.
Note the lack of "Made in USA", thus denoting these are pre guitars. Gibson Serial Numbers, Feb to All models, stamped in back top of peghead. Note many serial numbers are duplicated from In these cases, to figure out which is the exact year for a guitar, see the General Specs section for more details. It is easy to confuse 5 digit and 6 digit serial numbers from this era, and hence get the wrong year for a guitar. That is, is not the same number as but when reading the number off the back of a Gibson peghead, these two numbers do look very similar!
Gibson Serial Numbers, early to mid 's. All models, stamped in back top of headstock. Gibson Serial Numbers, All models, decal, 2 digit prefix followed by 6 digits. Prefix Year 99 00 06 Gibson serial number with "00" prefix.
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Gibson Serial Numbers, to present. Switch from "The Gibson" to "Gibson" script logo: Switch from script logo to modern "block" logo: I believe the modern "block" logo has also evolved just a bit. Note that these changes did not necessarily occur on a fixed date, so you may find some "outliers" that have FON or serial numbers indicating one year, but characteristics such as headstock logo or bridge design that suggest a year earlier or later.
It's not like on January 1 of every year they sat down and said "from now on, this will be the headstock logo and bridge design". We've all seen Gibsons with inconsistent combinations of features. What year did the headstocks logos go from "the Gibson" in script, to "Gibson" in script, to the modern Gibson logo that we so love today???? Found this using Google and seems to match generalizations stated in "Gibson's Fabulous Flat-Top Guitars", except that it doesn't note Banner used on flattops from Pre-war Script Gibson logo, Pearl or White.
Pearl inlaid, high-end models: Thicker "Gibson" on Super and other high-end models: Thicker "Gibson" all models: Dot on "i" connected to "G": The block logo debuted after WWII and remains the face of the company to this day. There were some minor changes to which letters were connected in the font between to , but the main logo had the same look as we know and love today.
Most models get a dotted i again in , with the rest following suit from onward. Check out our price database of Gibson guitars dating from - , and soon too!