What is the Serial Number?
In the early 1970s, Epiphone began to manufacture instruments in Japan. From the 1980s, Epiphones were manufactured mainly in Korea but also in Japan by contractors licensed by Gibson. One of these contractors was Samick, which also built instruments under license for other brands and in its own name. The brand was primarily used to issue less expensive versions of classic Gibson models.
These guitars were constructed using different woods (usually Nyatoh, for example, instead of Mahogany), were fastened with epoxies rather than wood-glues, and were finished in hard, quick-to-apply polyester resin rather than the traditional nitro-cellulose lacquer used by Gibson. These particular budget considerations, along with others such as plastic nuts and cheaper hardware and pickups, allow for a more affordable instrument.
Samick has stopped[when?] manufacturing guitars in Korea. In 2002, Gibson opened a factory in Qingdao, China, which manufactures Epiphone guitars. With few exceptions, Epiphones are now built only in the Qingdao factory.
Unique Epiphone models, including the Emperor, Zephyr, Riviera and Sheraton, are built to higher quality standards than the company's "Gibson copy" line. Epiphone also produces a range of higher quality instruments under the "Elitist Series" moniker, which are built in Japan. In 2004 Epiphone introduced a series of acoustic guitars named Masterbilt after a line of guitars of the 1930s. Today's Masterbilt guitars are manufactured in Qingdao, China.
Current Epiphone serial numbers give the following information:
I = Saein
U = Unsung
S = Samick
P or R = Peerless
K = Korea
MR = Korea
DW = DaeWon
EA = Gibson/QingDao
EE = Gibson/QingDao
MC = Muse
SJ = SaeJung
Z = Zaozhuang Saehan
BW = China
No letter or F = FujiGen
J or T = Terada
B = Bohêmia Musico-Delicia
SI = Samick Indonesia
Example: SI09034853 SI = Samick Indonesia, 09 = 2009, 03 = March, 4853 = manufacturing number.
Several Epiphone guitars have been produced in the United States since 1971. The Epiphone Spirit and Special were produced in the early 1980s in Kalamazoo. In 1993, three historic Epiphone acoustic guitars, the Texan, Frontier, and Excellente, were produced by Gibson Acoustic in Montana. The Paul McCartney Texan was produced in 2005, and in 2009, the Epiphone Historic Collection was created, beginning with the 1962 Wilshire, built by Gibson Custom. Several other models, such as the Sheraton and John Lennon Casinos, were built in Japan and assembled and finished by Gibson USA.
FACTORY NUMBER CODES—for some models starting in 2008, if serial # begins w/numbers
[NOTE: The factories identified by these codes are based on patterns that forum members have observed. The numbers appear as the 5th and sixth digits in the serial number.]
11 = MIC sticker on a '08 Masterbuilt
12 = DeaWon or Unsung (China—uncertainty remains as to which factory)
15 = Qingdao (China) -- electric
16 = Qingdao (China) -- acoustic
17 = China - factory unknown MIC sticker on a J160E
18 = China - factory unknown found on one 2009 model bass
20 = DaeWon or Unsung (China—uncertainty remains as to which factory)
21 = Unsung, Korea
22 = ??? Korea (factory still unknown)
23 = ??? Indonesia (factory still unknown, probably Samick,)
I = Indonesia (this letter has appeared as the 5th digit on two authentic new models made in Indonesia