Serial numbers are not the only thing that will give you a year for your Gibson. See our Dating a USA Gibson page for more info.
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:
Earlier models had an ink stamped serial number or no serial number at all, these are much more difficult to date.
Around 1977, Gibson introduced the serialization method that they 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:
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. The Memphis factory closed around 2017, was vacated in 2019 and is now FedEx. 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 they 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.
The 2014 Model Year introduces a new numbering system, the model year indicated by the first 2 digits. NOTE – Not all 2014 models have the new system. Nashville use it, Memphis may do later.
There are always exceptions to these rules, the two listed below are worth noting:
Les Paul Classic: This model features an ink stamped serial number with no “MADE IN USA” (just as 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 have been used since 2000.
9 xxx = 1989 (4 digit number beginning with “9” used only in 1989)
0 xxxx = 1990
9 xxxx = 1999
00xxxx = 2000
05xxxx = 2005
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.
Custom Shop regular production models
CS YRRRR or CS YXRRRR
CS stands for “Custom Shop”
Y indicates the production year
X – When present indicates the factory (5 = Memphis 0 = Nashville)
RRRR indicates the guitar’s place in the sequence of production
Example: CS10845 is the 845th reg. production CS model produced in 2001.
Example in the photo above: CS 204247 indicates a Nashville CS guitar
Reissue custom shop models and Vintage Old Specification (VOS) follow the normal serial rules but come with a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) and sometimes a special stamp on the back of the neck. The COA is sometimes in a small black book.