Norlin ID / 1976 Gibson serial numbers

keeff

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Trying to make a little more sense of the 1976 Gibson serial numbers seemed to be a worthwhile task to me. Since a few other useful threads on the Norlin numbering schemes have already been posted here, this seemed a good place to drop this. The data summarized below, based on over 1,000 collected 1976 Gibson serial numbers, was a ‘byproduct’ of research I did on the 1976 Explorers (for a more complete list of the 1976 Explorers,

GENERAL - DECALS
What we already knew: the great majority of 1976 serial numbers were preceded by ‘00’ (as opposed to a 99 prefix, indicating 1975, and 06 indicating 1977). These numbers were printed on oval-shaped clear waterslide decals with gold lettering, which also state the instrument type and ‘Made in the USA’. If the instrument was part of a limited edition, then the words ‘limited edition’ were also printed on the decal (see further down for some exceptions). The decals had been printed (apparently by the Meyercord Co of Carol Stream, IL) prior to the start of the actual instrument manufacturing process, and applied over the color coat, prior to applying the clear coats.

Since the decals were printed in advance, serial number ranges had been pre-assigned by Gibson staff to each instrument type, likely based on forecasted/projected production figures.
For example, the 100,000-110,000 number range was assigned to certain archtops and ES 3X5 models, the 110,000-140,000 range to Les Pauls (except Standards and Artisans, which were introduced/made later on in 1976), 140,000-high 220,000s: L6s, SGs, S1s, Marauders, Rippers, Grabbers, EBs, acoustics, banjos, 229,000s-234,000s: LE Explorers LE Firebirds, LE LP Artisans, LE LP Specials (apparently Gibson expected in advance to make around 5,000 limited edition models in 1976), 235,000s-237,000s: LP Standards, 239,000s-241,000s: non-LE Explorers, 240,000s-248,000s: non-LE Firebirds, and Thunderbirds. See below for a more detailed list.

This means obviously that a 1976 instrument with a high serial number is not necessarily made at a later date than an instrument with much lower 1976 serial number. Just one example:

00236470 LP Standard ‘Sept 16, 1976’ factory stamped in cavity
00123976 LP Custom 1377653 pots (dating to week 53, 1976)

It also appears that within these pre-assigned serial number ranges the available numbers were often not applied in strict chronological order. This seems to be evidenced e.g. by pot codes and by production dates stamped in the electronics cavity of some guitars. Some examples:

00127468 LP Custom 1377646 pots (dating to week 46, 1976)
00128379 LP Custom 1377627 pots (dating to week 27, 1976)
00128881 LP Custom 1377542 pots (dating to week 42, 1975)

(I am aware that these pot dates alone are not decisive. For all we know they could have had a huge bin of pots somewhere in the factory, with pot dates all over the map, out of which workers grabbed stuff at random. And remember the monster batch of 1966 pots at Fender that ran into the early 70s? There is more though that brings me to the aforementioned conclusion, which I would be happy to explain when forced)

So what could have caused this lack of consistent chronology within these pre-assigned number ranges? Possibly there were boxes located on the factory floor containing the pre-printed serial number decals for each separate instrument group/type, out of which numbers were taken and applied by the workers, not always strictly in chronological order. Sounds not unlike Gibson, right?

Here is the elaborate list of serial number ranges derived from existing 1976 Gibsons, based on a little over 1,000 instruments. It is necessarily a work in progress, which will need to be updated from time to time:

100,200-100,300s Johnny Smith
101,000-101,300s Byrdland
101,600s-101,800s Howard Roberts
102,500s-103,500s 175D
104,100s Super 400
104,600s-104,900s 355
105,000s-105,500s 345
106,000s-109,000s 335
110,300s-110,400s 325
111,300s-111,900s LP Recording
112,300s-128,900s LP Custom (with some exceptions)*
129,300s-137,300s LP Deluxe
139,300s-139,500s LP Triumph
140,300s-140,900s L5S
141,300s-143,900s L6S
144,400s-145,300s SG Custom
148,800s-153,200s SG Standard
155,300s-158,800s Ripper
158,900s-159,100s EB3
159,800s-159,900s J200
160,400s-160,700s Dove
164,300s-165,100s Hummingbird
165,800s-167,700s L6S Deluxe
168,500s-168,600s J55
170,100s-171,700s J45/50
173,400s- J160E (178,400s?)
173,800s-176,500s S1
179,300s-180,000s Marauder Custom
181,700s-184,700s Grabber
185,400s-189,200s Marauder
195,400s-196,500s Grabber 3
200,300s-201,800s RB250
202,800s-202,900s RB100
204,500s-204,700s L5CES
207,300s-209,300s MK35
211,600s-214,400s MK53
219,300s-220,000s MK72
222,100s-222,300s MK81
229,600s-231,500s batches of Explorer Limited Edition, LP Artisan Limited Edition,
Firebird Limited Edition, LP Special double cutaway TV Limited Edition
232,200s-234,000s batches of Explorer Limited Edition, Firebird Limited Edition
and a few LP Standards (233,800s-233,900s)
234,000s-237,900s LP Standard
237,900s-238,900s 175T
239,700s-241,500s Explorer (non-LE)
243,000s-245,500s Thunderbird
247,000s-248,200s Firebird (non-LE)

309,400s RB350

It is clear that not all instrument types that according to the Meiners book were shipped by Gibson in 1976 are listed above. I have been googling those obscure models like the Midnight Special, the SG I-III, the J-40 and so on, but could not find anything.

DECALS - EXCEPTIONS
Since the serial numbers had been pre-printed, Gibson sometimes needed to improvise. When the right decal was not around or available, they just took another decal and snipped off the model designation, and then applied the remaining part of the decal (containing only the serial number and ‘Made in USA’) to the instrument. As a consequence, the serial numbers on these instruments did not ‘fit’ into the ranges that had originally been pre-assigned to them.

Some examples (though these are relatively rare):

00118947 LP Deluxe no model designation on decal (number in LP Custom range)
00118950 LP Deluxe no model designation on decal (number in LP Custom range)
00187450 LP Deluxe no model designation on decal (number in Marauder range)
00120453 LP Pro* no model designation on decal (number in LP Custom range)

* There does not seem to be consensus on whether the LP Pro models were already being made and/or shipped in 1976. This specific decal could also have been applied sometime after 1976. We’re talking Gibson, after all.

I also have seen two or three guitars bearing decals with a different font than the standard type used. I did not copy any pictures, but recall there was nothing to doubt the originality of these instruments.

STAMPED SERIAL NUMBERS
At least two types of stamped serial numbers can be found on Gibsons made in (or around) 1976 (again, 1976 instruments with stamped numbers are fairly rare):

1. Six digit numbers with a 00 prefix, within the pre-assigned 1976 number ranges;
2. Six digit numbers without a 00 prefix, outside the pre-assigned 1976 number ranges.

Category one:
Let’s take 00117532, a LP Custom. This looked pretty original to me. Gibson type of font stamp, apparent original finish. A factory refinish cannot be ruled out I guess, but I would be more tempted to think the decal was not readily available (could these instruments have been made in Kalamazoo, when the decals were in Nashville?). There are more of these examples, practically all original-looking instruments.

Category two:
It seems to make sense (but what always does so at Gibson?) that these were originally made at the Kalamazoo factory (and maybe completed/assembled/shipped much later), since it was still making mostly smaller runs of guitars in 1976. Some examples:

• batches of white explorers in the 627,000s and 967,000s ranges, with 1975 and 1976 pot dates;
• 412456 Flying V with 31 December 1976 stamp in pickup cavity;
• 967381 F5 master model, Kalamazoo 5/24/76 date written on paper label inside;
• 251071 SG Standard, 763X and 764X pots;
• C925279 LP Custom, 7647 pots.

So - did Gibson make at least 148,000 stringed instruments in 1976 (highest number, 248,000 minus lowest number, 100,000)? I would not think so. Since the decals were printed in advance, Gibson likely built in a safe margin for each instrument model serial number range, in order to ensure that they would not run out of decals along the way. This also would mean that a many printed decals were never used. Some of these ended up being offered for sale on Ebay and at other places, but likely most of them were destroyed by Gibson.

If we add up all shipping totals for stringed instruments in 1976 as listed in the Meiners book, then the totals are as follows:

1976: 42,371
1975: 43,179
1977: 39,758

The Meiners totals may not be carved in stone – but they are based on Gibson’s own records, and are all we’ve got. Maybe others have different information, but I have been told that the 1976 Gibson production/shipping ledgers are no longer present. Even if they were, Gibson would not publish that information.

Those 42,000 instruments are rather sobering in comparison to the 1965 totals, which – according to Gibson – exceeded 100,000 instruments. But that was during Beatlemania, and the ‘folk boom’ years.

Oh – and those famous 24 Gibson Les Paul Standards shipped in 1976? On my list I have 74 of these with a 1976 ‘00’ serial number, and my total list of all Gibsons is as said a tad over 1,000 instruments. You do the math. Also looking at the serial number range used for these instruments (see above), I’d say that around a few thousand of these were made (or started) in 1976.

Nonetheless, the 24 shipped total could actually be true. Based on control cavity date stamps, it is fairly certain to say that the LP Std run was not started, or completed, until August and September 1976. Gibson could have decided to start shipping these mostly in 1977, maybe supported by an ad or dealer campaign – since after all, this was the re-introduction of the famous Les Paul Standard.

And I hope we can agree on this: a Gibson with a 1976 serial number does NOT automatically mean that the instrument was shipped, completed or even MADE in 1976. That makes a lot of sense if you think about it, but this simple truth is often overlooked.
 

horand

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That´s a great post! Should be a sticky.

Thanks, Keeff - for the brilliant research!
 

HardCore Troubadour

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I really like and appreciate the compilation of serial number spans by model......the post is very informative.

If you are going to post this, however:
DECALS - EXCEPTIONS
Since the serial numbers had been pre-printed, Gibson sometimes needed to improvise. When the right decal was not around or available, they just took another decal and snipped off the model designation, and then applied the remaining part of the decal (containing only the serial number and ‘Made in USA’) to the instrument. As a consequence, the serial numbers on these instruments did not ‘fit’ into the ranges that had originally been pre-assigned to them.

Category one:
Let’s take 00117532, a LP Custom. This looked pretty original to me. Gibson type of font stamp, apparent original finish. A factory refinish cannot be ruled out I guess, but I would be more tempted to think the decal was not readily available (could these instruments have been made in Kalamazoo, when the decals were in Nashville?). There are more of these examples, practically all original-looking instruments.
I think you HAVE to provide pictures, or it is just merely speculation.....

I know you said that you
also have seen two or three guitars bearing decals with a different font than the standard type used. I did not copy any pictures, but recall there was nothing to doubt the originality of these instruments.
but this is a raging debate here, and while I absolutely believe that this possibility is out there (see my posts), no one has yet to come up with proof......

til then, well......just is what it is.

Please do not think I am down-playing your info ere Bro....I appreciate it and the time you spent.

when I get back, I am interested to see if my 76 Custom falls in the serial range posted above....meanwhile...this one of the "24" falls in perfectly with your research.

HCT

 

keeff

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If you are going to post this, however:
I think you HAVE to provide pictures, or it is just merely speculation.....
Fair enough. Here is one of the five 'snapped off' decal guitars that I have listed (in my post I mentioned four of these, with their serial numbers - is that 'merely speculation'...?):

1976 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe Tobacco Burst Amazing Vintage RARE | eBay



An example of a 'category one' stamped serial number with 00 prefix (I have six of those on my list) - a 1976 non limited edition Explorer, with a stamped serial number under the clearcoat finish:



You got a point on the alternative decal guitars - I guess no definite proof of their originality can be given with any certainty.
 

Rogie77-LPC

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What data do you have available for 1977 LP Customs with sticker SN ?

For the record,here is the info on my 77 LP Custom 3 pickup Cherry Sunburst,....it has Natural stamped in one of the cavities,and has tarbuckers split-able coils although it was never wired for it as the pots are standard pots. nickel hardware ,Schaeller tuners,Nashville bridge

S.N. # - 06210044 ( pots - 1377707 )
 

keeff

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What data do you have available for 1977 LP Customs with sticker SN ?
Very little, sorry. In 1977 Gibson initially used the same system as in 1976, with pre-printed decals with number ranges assigned to each model. Somewhere during the summer they switched to the current numbering system. The earliest 'new' number that I found (but I did not search actively for these at all) indicated an August 15 manufacturing date.
 

HardCore Troubadour

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does anyone know what the difference between a 1976 LP-Deluxe with factory humbuckers and a 1976 LP Standard is?
 

HardCore Troubadour

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now....the decals you speak of with a different font???

you are correct, there is no proof.
 

Meathead872

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Do you have this kind of information on 1975?

Great post!
 

keeff

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Here is your Custom Bro.....best example of what we are talking about.
Maybe not the best example - see how Elderly writes that it is all original, except redone soldering on the pots? I guess I overlooked that.

That screams 'factory refin' to me like nothing else...

But there are others like these - the search continues.
 

Frampton129

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Thanks for all of the information, Keeff. The serial numbers on my '76 Custom fall into the range you listed, so I'm happy to know mine isn't one of the oddballs out there. Why, oh why did they have to make things so confusing?
 

HardCore Troubadour

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The serial number. :cool:
correct.....so my question would be, why would they "snap off" that part of the Decal??

lot's of humbucker deluxe LP's out there, that say deluxe.....is that the only picture you have of these "incomplete" decals?


as far as the Custom, it is absolutely the best example font wise that there were "stamped" versions of the decal numbers.

why would you think that re-done soldiering on the pots equates to a factory refinish?
 

keeff

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correct.....so my question would be, why would they "snap off" that part of the Decal??
What do YOU think?

lot's of humbucker deluxe LP's out there, that say deluxe.....is that the only picture you have of these "incomplete" decals?
No - why are you asking?

as far as the Custom, it is absolutely the best example font wise that there were "stamped" versions of the decal numbers.
Why are you sure? Please show all those other examples.

why would you think that re-done soldiering on the pots equates to a factory refinish?
Why resolder the original pots on an otherwise original and stock guitar?

Would you refinish a guitar with the electronics and pots connected?
 

HardCore Troubadour

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I DON'T think there is a reason bro, because I have never EVER seen one til you posted this....I have never even seen anyone talk about a snapped/cut off decal from this era.

I have posted the ONLY examples that I have ever seen, that look remotely close, and there are several threads on the subject....if I had them, I would post them.....ask GT69 because we have debated this several times (I see you BD, cat got your tongue?).

if you didn't bother to read, I DO believe there are factory examples of STAMPED serial numbers in the format of the decal system....I have ALWAYS said that.

there are a thousand reasons to un/re-soldier those pots that do NOT have anything to do with a refinish.....that guitar shows absolutely NO signs of a refinish....

you are the one that actually used it as your example...you also said you think it is an APPARENT ORIGINAL FINISH.....now all of a sudden, you think it is a refinish, because I posted the photo and link?

Category one:
Let’s take 00117532, a LP Custom. This looked pretty original to me. Gibson type of font stamp, apparent original finish. A factory refinish cannot be ruled out I guess, but I would be more tempted to think the decal was not readily available (could these instruments have been made in Kalamazoo, when the decals were in Nashville?). There are more of these examples, practically all original-looking instruments.
I really don't get it dude, you started this thread....

I believe in what you are saying for the most part but I also know that you have provided very little proof to back it up....

I provide the ONLY proof that I think is legitimate, WHICH by the way is THE VERY SAME example you gave in your OP (but did not have the pic to go along with it) and you act like you have a problem with it?



don't get your drawers in a knot dude, I just want to see what you claim you have found......because I have been looking for the exact same thing.
 


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