Understanding Gretsch guitar serial numbers

Gretsch used several different serial number schemes through the years. Each of them
can be used to accurately pinpoint the age of a guitar, if you have the correct
information.

Unfortunately, correct information can be very difficult to come by.
The Gretsch-GEAR database exists to get it right: to document the actual serial
numbers and determine once and for all what was built and when. You can see the
changes in serial numbers and guitars in our serial number charts.

For additional reading on Gretsch serial numbers, we highly recommend Ed Ball's
excellent "Gretsch 6120: The History of a legendary guitar." Ball was one of the key
researchers who have determined the actual dates, years and features Gretsch serial
numbers correspond to.

Note that when attempting to data a guitar by features that the specs may have been
altered. Bridges, tailpieces, pickguards and other pieces have often been changed over
the years.

Sequential numbering: 1930s-1966

From the beginning of guitar production until 1966, Gretsch guitars were sequentially
numbered and can be used to reliably date the guitar. However, it is important to note
several key points:

1/. Gretsch annual changes corresponded to model years, like automakers, not
necessarily calendar year. Just as a '57 Chevy may have been built in late '56 to hit the
showrooms in the fall, a '57 6120 may have been constructed in '56. Nevertheless, if it
has all the typical '57 features, it is not considered a '56 model.

2/. Gretsch guitars were built in batches, typically of 100, but sometimes 50. Guitars
typically did not change much within a batch -- with some exceptions -- but they often
changed from batch to batch. So two examples from the same year could have different
features, depending on which batch they came from. See Charting the Changes.

3/. Numbers restarted after World War II, which can lead to considerable confusion on
very old Gretsches. If it has a "light bulb" headstock, it's probably pre-war.

4/. The numbers here are generally considered the most accurate numbers publicly
available at the time. However, research has indicated that they could be substantially
off. If you have questions, ask on the forum. One of our resident Gretsch-sperts will be
able to help.

1966 to 1972 date-coded serial numbers Gretsch began date-coding serial numbers in August 1966. with original '57-style labels. 1967 (7) and the 136th instrument made that year. The numbers. by model year  Less than 1000: Pre-war  10xx to 20xx: Approximately 1945-1947  20xx-30xx: Approximately 1948-1949  0xx to 40xx: Approximately 1950  40xx to 50xx: Approximately 1951  50xx to 70xx: Approximately 1952  70xx to 90xx: 1953  90xx to 130xx: 1954  130xx to 180xx: 1955  180xx to 210xx: 1956  210xx to 260xx: 1957 Note: 1000 serial numbers from 1957 were misplaced and later turned up. or even disappear. but reliable numbers didn't really appear until the advent of the first labels.8.1. as well as some odd four-digit serial numbers. some guitars had a serial number embossed on the head. Originally. show up in 1965-1966. the number was just written inside the guitar in pencil These pencilled-in numbers often fade and become illegible. probably in 1939 but possibly earlier. around 1949. while solidbody labels are usually inside the control cavity.  260xx to 300xx: 1958  300xx to 340xx: 1959  340xx to 390xx: 1960  390xx to 450xx: 1961  451xx to 530xx: 1962  530xx to 630xx: 1963  630xx to 770xx: 1964  770xx to 840xx: 1965 Note: the misplaced 1957 serial numbers. For example. Date-coded serial numbers are typically found stamped on the back or top of the headstock. during the transition to the date-coded system in mid-'66. 27136 should be February (2).9. probably.2). After World War II. The first digit or first 2 digits = month (1-12). The remaining digits = number of individual instrument. and "Made in USA" is stamped next to the number starting in June 1967. Hollowbody labels should be visible through the f-hole. The next digit = last digit of the year (1966 to 1972: 6. .0.Gretsch began numbering guitars sequentially.7. in 1965.

the serial number is printed. On this one. Brooklyn 11. but the "Gretsch" is usually printed in a plain font. Finding your serial number Beginning in the late 1940's.e.Y. This was superimposed on a gray over white label. However. (i. Co. Beginning in about 1957 a new label was introduced. This label should be on all guitars after number 25000. From about 1949 to 1957 watch for a white rectangular label that reads: Fred Gretsch Mfg. 60 Broadway. Gretsches have labels with a printed serial number and a handwritten model number. it should be inside a control cavity. This would be a good time to note that some models. The label has a fairly ornate border around it. 1978 (8) and the 94th guitar made that month. The label has a fairly ornate border around it.__________ Musical Instrument Makers Since 1883 The serial number will probably be printed in red. and the model number written in blue or black. some have "Gretsch" printed as the familiar logo." was printed in black on an orange shape that vaguely resembles a musical note. For example. 3-8094 would be March (3). Beginning in 1965. 1974 would be 4) Last 3 digits = number of the instrument. the label is usually visible through the f- hole. Co. On the white part. On hollowbodies. and no label was fitted. However. had the serial number embossed on the headstock in lieu of a label. The digits before hyphen = month (1-12). the model number was printed either on top or on the back of the headstock or engraved in the metal model plate on the headstock. particularly 1962 -'65 models. "The Fred Gretsch Mfg. Model ________ Serial No.. and the model number written in blue or black. . and the model number should be handwritten.1972 to 1981 date-coded serial numbers A hyphenated number was embossed into the back of headstock. The serial number will probably be printed in red. some have "Gretsch" printed as the familiar logo. On other models such as solidbodies. which lasted until about 1965. but the "Gretsch" is usually printed in a plain font. N. The first digit after hyphen = last digit of year.

Finally. With "Gretsch Guitars" in a logo-type font across the top. For a brief period rarely found labels were used that look like the second-generation labels. except "That Great Gretsch Sound" is printed across the bottom. These labels list model and serial numbers and along the bottom reads "Made in U.S. sometime around 1972 a plain black and white label was introduced." .A.In the late '60s the labels returned on most models.