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Like a fingerprint or a social security number, the series of digits inked or impressed on the back of a Gibson headstock can go a long way toward identifying a guitar. But, with more than 75 years of shipping records in the Gibson books, and dozens of variations on numerical schemes used over the years, serial numbers sometimes do little to shed light on the origin of a mysterious Gibson. With vintage Gibsons selling at auction for as much as half a million dollars, Davidson will sometimes roll up his sleeves and poke around in the ledgers, but only as time allows. The earliest volumes contain hundreds of yellowed pages covered front and back with rows of handwritten numbers.
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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. There have been 6 different serial number styles. The first serialization started in and ran until The serial numbers started with number and. All numbers are approximates. In most cases, only the upper end instruments were assigned. White oval labels were used on instruments from to , at which time the oval label was changed to.
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.