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Thread: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

  1. #1

    Default Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    Hi,

    I just recently bought a 1914 Gibson K-1 Mandocello. The serial number is 19808. I have the matching A-1 mandolin which based on what I see on mandolinarchive is also from 1914. Its serial number is 17146. I'm curious how there can be such a large gap in serial numbers for the same year. Did Gibson skip blocks of numbers or did they really make that many instruments?

    Attached are pictures of the two instruments.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  3. #2
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    They made a ton of instruments in those years as it was the land of Mandolin Orchestras, every town/major town had one.

  4. #3
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    According to this site, originally created by Vintage Guitars, these are Gibson serial number ranges for the 'teens and early twenties (last number for each year indicated):
    1912 13350
    1913 16100
    1914 20150
    1915 25150
    1916 32000
    1917 39500
    1918 47900
    1919 53800
    1920 63650
    1921 69300

    You can see that the range for a single year could be as high as ten thousand numbers (1919-20). Remember, not just mandolins, but guitars and other instruments included.
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    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    I love that kind of information being shared like that! It’s amazing to see the numbers laid out that way, that’s a LOT of production for some of those years!
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    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    Yes, Gibson was making a minimum of 4,000 instruments a year between 1912 and 1924, using Spann's serial number list as a reference. Did they skip numbers? I don't think so-- just look at how many of these instruments survive even though 100 years have passed.

    The mandolin was America's most popular fretted instrument in the 1910's.

  8. #6

    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    Wow cool, thanks for all of your knowledge on this topic.

  9. #7

    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    It is hard to fathom the popularity of mandolins in the early twentieth century. But picture a pre tv, pre radio world where people had to amuse themselves, throw in the affordability factor, and the chance to meet respectable young ladies, or gentlemen, and it's not hard to see why this was a popular activity.

    The Benson sisters are all in the mandolin orchestra? Sign me up.
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  10. #8

    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    Some musical trends are hard for the modern listener to imagine. The idea that the Gibson alone sold some 50,000 mandolins (just a wild guess) in the first half of the 20th c. Or the craze for 'Hawaiian' music.
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    The serial numbers were also used for guitars, banjos, and whatever else Gibson was building at the time. If we say Gibson built 4,000 instruments in Year X, we're not saying they built 4,000 mandolins.
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    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    The serial numbers were also used for guitars, banjos, and whatever else Gibson was building at the time. If we say Gibson built 4,000 instruments in Year X, we're not saying they built 4,000 mandolins.
    As I pointed out in Post #3, when I posted the Vintage Guitars serial number chart. Mostly mandolins and guitars; earliest mention of a banjo in the Gibson product line was 1918.
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    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    As I pointed out in Post #3, when I posted the Vintage Guitars serial number chart. Mostly mandolins and guitars; earliest mention of a banjo in the Gibson product line was 1918.
    The number chart was NOT created by any website. I believe the information originated with Julius Bellson. It may have been published by Roger Siminoff in Pickin' magazine in the 1980s. It was published A.R. (Andre) Duchossoir in his book, Guitar Identification. I copied it from Andre's book in putting together Gruhn's Guide to Vintage Guitars (with George Gruhn) in 1991. All of that was before any websites. I believe the list on the Vintage Guitar HQ site was copied from the first edition of Gruhn's Guide, which has since been updated. Joe Spann further tweaked the number list in his book, Spann's Guide to Gibson, and that's currently the most widely accepted Gibson serial number list for that period.

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    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    Quote Originally Posted by walter carter View Post
    The number chart was NOT created by any website...
    Agreed; all I said was that the website where it's posted, was originally created by Vintage Guitar magazine, and is now maintained by guitarhq.com. I never contended that they originated the listing, just that they put it up on-line.

    Which is where I found it.
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    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Agreed; all I said was that the website where it's posted, was originally created by Vintage Guitar magazine, and is now maintained by guitarhq.com. I never contended that they originated the listing, just that they put it up on-line.

    Which is where I found it.
    the website guitarHQ.com was created by Clay Harrell in 1995. Clay is probably best known in guitar circles for his detailed research into custom paint colors. He's also an authority on vintage pinball machines. The page title of the guitarHQ.com home page is "Vintage Guitars Info -" but Vintage Guitar magazine has never had any connection to Clay's website.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    I stand corrected. However, I still maintain that I didn't say that the website created the serial number listing, only that it was posted there.
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    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    I am not going to argue the origin or validity of any serial number list. BUT, one thing us old timers now have to realize is that the sequence was not linear. The numbers between say 1912 and 1920 were reasonably linear as Gibson made instruments by the thousands that had not sold yet

    This all changed during and after 1923. Walters great book points out management changes and inherent business model methodologies that essentially prevented bankruptcy


    With this in mind, not some of us old timers are forced to realize that things changed. When Loar left the building in late '24, instruments did change overnight to lacquer finishes with gold part and white binding, and Loar did not break the molds resulting in different shapes to F5 mandolin tops.


    Gibson apparently spent several years using up pre-carved stuff to reduce overhead and survive. They used up things to save money and made hardly anything from scratch. So, most anything we attribute to 1925 and 1926 is likely later, especially if it looks different than 1924

    Additionally, Joe Spanns work bring much into focus. He and I agree on 98% of things except for this short period about 1925-1927. Joe maintains that serial number were assigned during the shipping phase and that FON's are the key to when it was made. I agree on this, but only with respect to instrument made after this odd period in time

    I maintain that serial numbers were already pre-assigned to closed up bodies, just like Martin did. With that in mind, it took Gibson years to need to make another F5 or many other low volume instruments from scratch.


    So, in closing, it's an enigma, but it took several years for the radical changes we see from what we thought was 1925-1927 to take place
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    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    Quote Originally Posted by Darryl Wolfe View Post
    Gibson apparently spent several years using up pre-carved stuff to reduce overhead and survive. They used up things to save money and made hardly anything from scratch. So, most anything we attribute to 1925 and 1926 is likely later, especially if it looks different than 1924

    Additionally, Joe Spanns work bring much into focus. He and I agree on 98% of things except for this short period about 1925-1927. Joe maintains that serial number were assigned during the shipping phase and that FON's are the key to when it was made. I agree on this, but only with respect to instrument made after this odd period in time

    I maintain that serial numbers were already pre-assigned to closed up bodies, just like Martin did. With that in mind, it took Gibson years to need to make another F5 or many other low volume instruments from scratch.


    So, in closing, it's an enigma, but it took several years for the radical changes we see from what we thought was 1925-1927 to take place
    Would that mean that the "unsigned Loars", those few F5s with the same FON and construction features as the last Loar-signed F5s, were not shipped in 1925? I believe we agree that the Red Fern Loar (#76787) and quite likely a few other Loar-signed F5s were equipped with hard ware and shipped well after Loar was gone. But does that necessarily mean that all post-Loar F5s were shipped even later, that is after all Loar-signed F5s were shipped and sold? I beg to differ.
    And the question as to when the box was glued together is not even touched at this point.
    What evidence is there to support that Spann's concept of FONs and serial numbers is not valid for 1925-27?

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    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    Quote Originally Posted by Henry Eagle View Post
    Would that mean that the "unsigned Loars", those few F5s with the same FON and construction features as the last Loar-signed F5s, were not shipped in 1925? I believe we agree that the Red Fern Loar (#76787) and quite likely a few other Loar-signed F5s were equipped with hard ware and shipped well after Loar was gone. But does that necessarily mean that all post-Loar F5s were shipped even later, that is after all Loar-signed F5s were shipped and sold? I beg to differ.
    And the question as to when the box was glued together is not even touched at this point.
    What evidence is there to support that Spann's concept of FONs and serial numbers is not valid for 1925-27?
    Henry,

    I would prefer to address your questions with some statements of generalities.

    Up until some point, which was post-Loar, all Gibson mandolin, mandola, guitar instruments had serial numbers written inside the box in the location that the label would eventually reside. These were pretty apparently assigned in numeric order and in 95% of the cases the serial numbers all had the same FON number. This ONE FACT flies in the face of Joe's assertion that the serial number was assigned when the instrument was shipped.

    I really don't care when the instruments were shipped. I care when they were made and/or completed to the most part.

    Now, as I mentioned, I fully agree with Joe that they assigned numbers when they we shipped, but I disagree that this was the case during Loar and during the period right after. I say this was a change in methodology that took place later.

    As mentioned, F5's were apparently slow sellers and Loars appear to be shipped well into 1926

    I am just not prepared to call a signed and dated 1924 Dec 1 Loar mandolin a 1926, nor am I prepared to call an unsigned Loar with a FON and finish color matching the 1924 signed Loar batch a 1929 because there is a shipping record of it.

    Carter Vintage right now has the first known un-signed Loar mandolin for sale. Serial number 80782 FON 11987 The last Loar signed instrument was 80570 signed on the very first day of December 1924. According to Joe, these are late 1926 instruments bearing a 1923 FON.

    Therein lay my problem. I will absolutely guarantee anybody, that the serial number is under those labels and was assigned in late 23 or sometime in 1924

    Now, if we want to call an nice Fern F5 with a 85202 serial number and a 9411 FON a 1929, after referring to them as 1926 models for nearly 50 years, I can now reluctantly buy into that since Joe has the paperwork that seems to back it up. And, I tend to agree because the serial numbers are in disarray from the FON's by that time. Additionally, they look different from a Loar. By this point in time, it appears that Gibson was building to order instead of speculative building. Smaller batches, spread out serial numbers all point to that
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    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    Quote Originally Posted by Darryl Wolfe View Post
    Carter Vintage right now has the first known un-signed Loar mandolin for sale. Serial number 80782 FON 11987 The last Loar signed instrument was 80570 signed on the very first day of December 1924. According to Joe, these are late 1926 instruments bearing a 1923 FON. Therein lay my problem. I will absolutely guarantee anybody, that the serial number is under those labels and was assigned in late 23 or sometime in 1924
    So, if I am reading you correctly, I should buy that mandolin?

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    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    So, if I am reading you correctly, I should buy that mandolin?

    https://cartervintage.com/collection...ibson-f-5-1925
    It's a very nice mando at a respectable price
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    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    Now, let's approach the situation from a different angle

    We already know that signed Loars with December 1, 1924 dates and batch FON 11987 have serial numbers like 79835

    1923 and 1926 according to what I posted below

    Now, I have an A2z with 11919 FON and 78975 serial. These numbers are somewhat before the Loar above and have serial numbers and FON numbers that are perfectly aligned timewise, as we call almost every A2z a 1924

    If there is nothing wrong with Joes Loar era data, then virtually every A2z took almost two years to go from start to ship on a brand new, affordable model that replaced both the A2 and the A3. And somehow they dated a whole mess of Loar instrument on December 1, 1924, well after the FON and serial on my A2z

    The data essentially implies that Gibson did not start, finish and ship anything in1924. AND, every signed 1924 Loar of any kind (over 175 instruments) are hanging on a wall at the factory during the entirety of Feb 18, 1924 until 1925 or 1926.

    ???????????
    Last edited by Darryl Wolfe; Mar-21-2019 at 10:31am.
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    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    Quote Originally Posted by Darryl Wolfe View Post
    Now, I have an A2z with 11919 FON and 78975 serial. These numbers are somewhat before the Loar above and have serial numbers and FON numbers that are perfectly aligned timewise, as we call almost every A2z a 1924
    Regarding A2z models: I once created a chart of known examples with serial number and FON - from the Mandolin Archive and other sources - see attached screenshot. The list is ordered by ascending serial numbers, the years are according to Spann.
    Note that the serial numbers and FONs DON'T align perfectly timewise.
    The FONs align with constructional features such as type of soundhole ring.
    And the serial numbers align with the type of tuners (which were likely attached just before shipping).

    Felix

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    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    Quote Originally Posted by Masterbilt View Post
    Regarding A2z models: I once created a chart of known examples with serial number and FON - from the Mandolin Archive and other sources - see attached screenshot. The list is ordered by ascending serial numbers, the years are according to Spann.
    Do any have black tops? I’ve seen some that seem to be from A2-z FONs — like 79224 from 11999 — and have other A2-z features (like binding and rosette) but never with an A2-z on the label.
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  36. #23

    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    Fascinating topic, guys! Please pardon my ignorance on the subject, FON numbers, etc., and obviously almost 100 years later, nobody is still alive who was working at Gibson in that capacity, but surely when the "vintage guitar" thing started with Gruhn and others in the late 60's there must have been people in the know who could have been interviewed to explain how it all worked? Maybe not? Any thoughts? I know the first Gruhn's Guide didn't come out until much later, late 80's, early 90's? Tom Wheeler's first book came out in the late 70's, I believe.

    I would have to agree with Darryl, if a mandolin is signed and dated 1924, why on earth would I want to call it a 1926 -- regardless of FON?!!!


    Slightly off topic, but there were some of Gibson's "futuristic" electric guitars such as the Flying V that were made or started in 1958 but due to slow sales, not completed and sold until 1964 or 65 and some even had 60's hardware on them and 60's serial numbers, IIRC. Most notably one was purchased by Dave Davies of the Kinks on their first US tour......
    Last edited by Jeff Mando; Mar-21-2019 at 9:46pm.

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    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    Quote Originally Posted by Darryl Wolfe View Post
    The data essentially implies that Gibson did not start, finish and ship anything in1924. AND, every signed 1924 Loar of any kind (over 175 instruments) are hanging on a wall at the factory during the entirety of Feb 18, 1924 until 1925 or 1926.

    ???????????
    The data imply that F5s were sold between 1924 and 26, but were generally made in 23, except, I’m sure, for the Fern Loars. Spann quotes a Gibson visitor, who witnessed hundreds of instruments on the shelves in various stages of completion. Mr. Ferris, the new plant manager, who came in late 23, put a halt to overproduction and turned the company around 180 degrees within a year from the reds to the blacks. I maintain the only F5s made in 1924 were the Fern Loars, which are very different from all others. And indeed, the two Fern Loars (H5s 76071 and 76458 with all the markings of the Fern Loar F5s) with known FONs are from 1924. I believe we have to let go of the idea that the signature date has a lot to do with the time the mando was made; come on, 50 F5s made on or veery close to Feb. 18th 1924? Does any of us believe that? F5 # 75325 from early 24 (Feb. 18) has an FON (11965) pretty close to the 1925 „unsigned“ and December 24 (79835) F5s Darryl mentioned, which is 11985 (not 11987 BTW). I find it quite likely that both FONs are from 1923. I can’t see why not. And I further believe that Spann is right about the reserved serial numbers for style 5 MMs. In those instruments the serial numbers did not have to be relevant any more for warranty purposes, as there was the signature date.
    Last edited by Hendrik Ahrend; Mar-22-2019 at 4:30am.

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    Default Re: Gibson Teens Serial Numbers

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    Do any have black tops? I’ve seen some that seem to be from A2-z FONs — like 79224 from 11999 — and have other A2-z features (like binding and rosette) but never with an A2-z on the label.
    I've never seen a black top A2z or A2- label
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