Vintage Gibson Factory Order Numbers or How to date my vintage Gibson guitar
Posted on January 23 2015
Unlike C. F. Martin & Co, Gibson only applied actual serial numbers to the higher end of their product line until 1962. In lieu of a serial number, Gibson used the Factory Order Number system to keep record of their production numbers and shipping. Much to a historian's dismay, Gibson was not preoccupied with strict record keeping so it's difficult to use the FON system to date your vintage Gibson acoustic guitar, vintage Gibson electric guitar, or other instrument.
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Here's an example of where to find the Factory Order Number stamp if your guitar was made before 1962. Look inside the soundhole towards the vertical block called the neck block.
The neck block of this 1935 Gibson L-00 acoustic guitar gives us a good example of the FON system. Gibson used instrument holding racks that had 40 slots according to pictures of the racks from the time period. Guitars were usually produced in batches of at least 5 for higher end, low production models to 120 in later years for standard models. The ink stamp number is the factory order number and the red pencil number is the rack number. It indicates the spot in the rack that this guitar occupied.
Joe Spann, author of Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941, cataloged much of the surviving records of Gibson's day books and production logs. The Factory Order Numbers are listed along with the model and the year. This is the book I use to verify what model and year correspond to which Gibson factory order number.
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