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trapdoorspider

Serial number begins with "A" - Why?

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My friend has an older ES335 that he's trying to research. The serial number stamped into the back of the headstock begins with "A" and is then followed by five numbers. The Guitar Dater Project turns up nothing when I enter the complete serial number, and nothing when I leave off the "A" either.

 

The top portion of the orange paper label inside the guitar (the part that would list the model/serial number) has been torn away, so that's no help. That's frustrating — and maybe just a little bit fishy.

 

What does the "A" mean? Is there any other way to date this guitar?

 

Many thanks, Michael

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In early 1947 Gibson reached 99,999 in their serial numbers. At that time it was decided to add the letter prefix "A" and start back at A-100. The "A" series was used until sometime in 1961, and is FULLY DOCUMENTED, and in fact is the easiest and most accurate serial number system for dating Gibson instruments. You must work a little harder at your research and look for legitimate Gibson historical info sites. The Guitar Dater Project site is NOT one of them.

 

But, as is the way of Gibson serial numbers, they couldn't leave well enough alone, and reintroduced the "A" series (and a "B" series) for "Historic" reissues. So an "A" series 335 is either from the 59-61 era, or a recent "Historic" reissue. It should be easy tell determine if it is a 50 year old instrument or a 10 year old instrument.

 

Give us some more info and we'll be glad to help. The serial number would be a good start, and detailed photos are always good. Plus we just like to look at pretty guitars.

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I didn't just go to the Guitar Dater Project and stop there.

 

I also checked the 11th edition of "The Blue Book of Electric Guitars," which seems to indicate that the "A" prefix that was used in the 1950s was only printed or written on the orange paper labels inside these guitars, or was stamped somewhere inside the body:

"Serial numbers are on the label and FON [factory order numbers] numbers are ink-stamped inside the guitar."

 

There is no mention of any ID marking on the headstock. And most of the 1950s ES models I've seen for sale don't have a serial number pressed into the headstock.

 

Then you have this sentence:

"In 1961, Gibson started a new serial number system that covered all instrument lines. It consisted of numbers that were pressed into the wood." This is the first suggestion in the "Blue Book" of Gibson's typical headstock numbering system.

 

So I don't know what to make of this guitar. Again, it's frustrating that the paper label is missing.

 

It's not my guitar. I'll see if I can get some pictures.

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Weird, look at hole on the body...bigsby? Nah, hole is to small...or is that a ding? Also the sticker inside was ripped, looks like someone meant to do that.

I like it...might wanna raise that bridge pup a bit though.

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Weird, look at hole on the body...bigsby? Nah, hole is to small...or is that a ding? Also the sticker inside was ripped, looks like someone meant to do that.

I like it...might wanna raise that bridge pup a bit though.

Yeah, I'm kind of suspicious about the way the decal is torn. But you still have the serial number on the headstock.

 

It's not a ding; it's a filled hole. The current owner said the previous owner told him it originally had a Bigsby. At the same time, just lying in the case was one of those black metal "CUSTOM" plates, that are apparently screwed to the body right below the tailpiece, so that might explain the hole, too. For some reason, he forgot to send me a good closeup shot of the entire body.

 

But the main question is: HOW OLD IS IT?

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But the main question is: HOW OLD IS IT?

 

For another piece to the puzzle, check the potentiometer codes. Get yourself a "dental" type inspection mirror (and a flashlight) and see if you can read the mfg/date code off the back of one of the pots. The date code on original pots is an industry accepted way to date many "mystery" guitars when combined and confirmed with other physical aspects of the instrument.

 

In the case of this guitar, the other important features are dot neck, stop tail, Kalamazoo label, no volute, no "Made In USA", etc.

 

With the dental mirror I would also see if your can get a view of the bottom of the pickups, and see if there is a sticker or engraved number.

 

Keep us posted.

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Yeah, I'm kind of suspicious about the way the decal is torn. But you still have the serial number on the headstock.

 

It's not a ding; it's a filled hole. The current owner said the previous owner told him it originally had a Bigsby. At the same time, just lying in the case was one of those black metal "CUSTOM" plates, that are apparently screwed to the body right below the tailpiece, so that might explain the hole, too. For some reason, he forgot to send me a good closeup shot of the entire body.

 

But the main question is: HOW OLD IS IT?

Oh yeah, its for the custom plate. Silly me...

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