How Old Is My Guitar? Use the Serial Number!
Ever wonder exactly when your favorite guitar was made? You sort of remember when you got it, but you want to really know its history, especially if you're not the first owner. Well, good news it's very easy to figure out the age of Fender and Gibson instruments from the last 30 years. Here's a brief rundown of how to do it, plus resources for more information.
Fender Serial Dating
- First, narrow it down by the country of origin. Serial dating is easiest for instruments made in the USA or Mexico, but is also possible for those made in Japan, Korea, China, and Indonesia.
- For US instruments, the serial number will start with a letter. That letter indicates the decade.
- S for 1970s
- E for 1980s
- N for 1990s
- Z for 2000s
- NEW - US for 2010 and beyond
- The second character will usually be a number. That number indicates the specific year.
- S9 means 1979
- E4 means 1984
- N8 means 1998
- Z5 means 2005
- US11 means 2011
- The remaining digits are important for product identification, but the first few characters are all you need to determine the instruments age.
- Serial number coding for Mexican-made instruments is largely the same, except they will start with an M.
- MN2 for 1992 in Mexico
- MZ8 for 2008 in Mexico
Gibson Serial Dating
- Gibson serial numbers are even more interesting, because you can find out the specific date that your instrument was completed! Here's how:
- Gibsons have this pattern stamped onto the back of their headstocks: YDDDYRRR
- 8xxx6xxx for 1986
- 0xxx7xxx for 2007
- 82176xxx for the 217th day of the year of 1986 (August 5, 1986)
- 00027xxx for the 2nd day of the year of 2007 (January 2, 2007)
- The remaining characters (RRR) can indicate the order of instruments created that day, as well as which factory the instrument was made in. There are some exceptions.
- A serial number ending in 501 could be the first instrument made at factory #5 that day, or it could be the 501st instrument of the day.
There you have it! There are many exceptions, and of course many other brands out there, but now you can tell how old most Fenders or Gibsons are within seconds. Test it out next time you are checking out a friend's guitar and collection share the knowledge!