How to Date a Vintage Gibson Guitar
Gibson used several different methods of serialization to date their instruments. While serial numbers & factory order numbers are not the most foolproof way to date a Gibson guitar, they can often be fairly accurate, especially on later model instruments.
Factory Order Numbers
While not every vintage Gibson guitar has a serial number, nearly every Gibson has “factory order number”. Factory order numbers are typically written or stamped inside the body of the instrument.
From 1902-1945, Gibson used a sequential factory order number which consisted of a 3, 4, or 5-digit number sometimes followed by one or two other numbers. Only the first 3, 4, or 5 digit number is used in dating the instrument.
FONs were reused for certain years, so they are not 100% accurate by themselves, but when combining them with an instrument’s features, it is possible to ascertain the production year. If not, it can at least be used as a guide to approximate the era in which the instrument was built. A suffix was sometimes included when reusing serial numbers during these years, but this is not always the case.
Below is an example of a Gibson ink stamp factory order number. Stamp locations vary inside of the body of the guitar. If you have any trouble finding the FON, feel free to contact me!