Gretsch model numbers: Decoding the code

Proteus

Just what do Gretsch’s model numbers mean? A lot, but not very logically.

Someone suggested a chart to decode the numbers and letters would be helpful. Accordingly, I undertook to generate one. I learned a lot. None of it will do me any good in later life, should I ever decide what to be when I grow up.

Understanding the Gretsch model numbers goes a long way toward understanding what features a modern-era Gretsch possesses, once you can decode the code.

A first step of “disambiguation.”

Though it looks like Grestch makes a hundred models, the pro line really consists of about 5 - 7 basic guitars depending on how you count. There are:

• 16” single-cutaway hollowbodies (6118, 6119, 6120) - in various body depths, with various pickups, and differing in detail
• 17” single-cutaway hollowbodies (6122, 6136, 6192-93-96) - again with variations in pickups and detail
• 17” thinline double-cutaway hollowbodies (other 6122s and a 6136)
• 13.25” thinline chambered “solidbodies” (6121, 6128, 6129, 6131, 6134) - with pickup and detail variation

In addition, there are, or have been, several unique designs don’t fit into the overall scheme (or sell in great numbers):

• 14” thinline hollowbody “Juniors” • a 16” double-cut thinline hollowbody (6120DC)
• the TV Jones-designed Spectra Sonic chambered thinline guitar & baritone
• rectangular Bo Diddley chambered solidbody • Billy Bo Jupiter Thunderbird chambered solidbody (Gumby as designed by Salvador Dali.)
• Jet six- and twelve-string doubleneck (6128T-6/12)
• Nashville doubleneck (6120-6/12)

Gretsch by the numbers.

Let’s dig in. All the model numbers begin with “G.” I’ve figured out that that means guitar. Unless it means Gretsch.

We know that the 4-digit code which follow the “G” generally associates with guitar families. Shall we run those down?

  • 6118: Anniversary
  • 6119: Chet Atkins Tennessee Rose (Tennessean)
  • 6120: Chet Atkins Hollow Body (Nashville)
  • 6121: Chet Atkins Solid Body
  • 6122: Chet Atkins Country Gentleman (Country Classic)
  • 6128, 6129, 6131: Jets of various sorts
  • 6134: Penguin
  • 6136, 7593: Falcon
  • 6138: Bo Diddley
  • 6143 & 6144: Spectra Sonic
  • 6192, 6193, 6196: Country Club
  • 6199: Billy Bo Jupiter Thunderbird

  • For more model numbers, see the Guitars section and Gretsch-GEAR database.

On modern Gretsches, letters (and occasionally numbers) follow the model designation, and that’s where it gets wacky.

The numbers are easy - four digits always represent vintage model years a modern guitar emulates, the lone “-12” designates Gretsch’s only 12-string, and “6/12” goes for the two doublenecks.

It’s important to understand that some model numbers are derived from the vintage numbering scheme, in which each model variation was given a unique model number. That’s why Country Clubs are 6192, 6193 and 6196, or there is a 7593 White Falcon (that was the model number for the ‘70s era Falcon that model is based on).

In the modern era, Gretsch has gradually moved to denoting model variations with a letters following a common model number. The problem is, the letters are on drugs. Sometimes they represent colors. But the same letters don’t always mean the same color, some colors have multiple codes, and only some model numbers include color codes. Sometimes a different color gets its own model number instead of an alpha code.

Sometimes the letters represent an endorser. Sometimes they refer to features such as pickups, tremolo, or finish type. (And in the case of “F” in two Malcolm Young models, they seem to mean nothing at all.)

Suffice it to say that there is “faulty parallelism” in Gretsch’s name-and-number scheme. I had intended a simple chart of what each alpha-numeric model name suffix represents, but it turns out there’s enough variation that it almost has to be broken down on a model-by-model basis.

That turns the codebreaker chart into another version of the catalog. So each model family comes under its own heading, with a short statement of the most inclusive characterization of the family’s shared attributes. (IE, a 6120 is a 16” deep hollowbody). Then follow the individual model designations, with the letters highlighted in the descriptive words from which I deduce they are taken…

Many codes are used only once, but of those used twice or more, a few seem to hold true across the board:

CS - Custom Shop (though little used)
DS - DynaSonic
FT - FilterTron
HT - HiloTron
L - Lacquer
MY - Malcolm Young
SS - Setzer Signature (or maybe “Special”)
T - Tremolo
TV - TV Jones
V - Vintage
W - Western

Relish minute details? Here we go!

6120s are usually Chet Atkins Hollow Bodies (previously Nashvilles). They’re all deep 16” single-cuts - except for the DC, which is double-cut and thinline. 6120: plain ol’ orange Filtertron CA/Nashville
AM/BK/BS/TM: color codes as follows:AM - Amber Maple; BK - BlacK; BS - Blue Stain; TM - Tiger Maple
DSV: Dyna Sonic Vintage
DSW: Dyna Sonic Western (trim)
W-1957: Western (trim), year emulated (based on a ‘56 modified by Eddie Cochran in 1957 with a neck P90…)
-1959: year emulated
-1959LTV: year emulated, Lacquer TV (Jones pickups)
DC: Double Cutaway

Some 6120s are Brian Setzer models. These 16” single-cutaway hollowbodies are based on the Chet Atkins 6120.

  • SSU: Setzer Sig Urethane
  • SSUGR: Setzer Sig Urethane GReen
  • SSL: Setzer Sig Lacquer
  • SSLVO: Setzer Sig Lacquer Vintage Orange
  • SH: Setzer Sig Hotrod, in the following colors: BK - flat BLack; A - candy Apple red; B - regal Blue; T - Tangerine; P - Purple; L - Limegold
  • SHxxTV: Setzer Hotrod TV (Jones pickups), xx is color code, as above

6121s are Chet Atkins Solid Bodies, otherwise and occasionally known as Nashville Solid Bodies, Roundups (and orange Jets). All are “thinline” and chambered.

  • -1955: year emulated (Dynas, fixed Bigsby, western kitsch)
  • -1959: year emulated (Filters, no western)

6122s are Chet Atkins Country Gentleman models (previously Country Classics). They are 17” hollowbodies, some single-cutaway deepbody and some double-cutaway thinline.

  • -1958: year emulated
  • -1959: ”
  • -1962: ”
  • II: Carryover from the 90s, when there was actually a single-pickup Country Classic I
  • -12: 12-string

6119s are Chet Atkins Tennesseeans (or, at times, Tennessee Roses). All are 16” single-cut more-or-less thinline hollowbodies.

  • 6119: plain ol’ maroogundy Deep Cherry Stain TR
  • -1962FT: year emulated, FilterTron
  • -1962HT: year emulated, HiloTron

6136s are Falcons, usually White. Unless it’s a DSBK (black w/Dynas), TBK (black w/trem), TSL (black w/silver trim and trem), or SLBP (Setzer Black Phoenix). They are 17” single-cut deep hollowbodies (except the DC, which is double-cut and thinline).

  • DS: DynaSonic
  • DC: Double Cutaway
  • DSBK: DynaSonic, BlacK
  • T: Tremolo
  • TBK: Tremolo, BlacK
  • TSL: Tremolo, SiLver (actually a black guitar w/silver trim…)
  • SLBP: Setzer Lacquer Black Phoenix (also black w/silver trim)
  • 7593: A sort of re-issue of the Baldwin-era 7593 White Falcon that carried over the model number

6192, 6193, 6196 are Country Clubs… (So why give each color its own number, when in the rest of the line, colors are often letter-designated? Why not 6192SB, 6192AN, 6192CG?) Clubs are always 17” single-cut deep hollowbodies. 6192: sunburst
6193: blonde
6196: Cadillac green
6193T: Tremolo
6196T: Tremolo*

6118s are Anniversaries, and always have been. Usually they’re two-tone smoke green. (Except when they’re not, and then the model number doesn’t include a color code. Also, 6117 is an Anniversary of a different color…) All are 16” single-cut deep hollowbodies. 6118: plain ol’ smoke green Filtertron Annie
T: Tremolo
T-120: Tremolo, 120th Anniversary (a yellow guitar with tremolo and TV Jones pickups…)
6117 T-HT: Tremolo, HiloTron (in sunburst)
6118 TJ-R: Tremolo, Junio*R (size)

6128s are Duo Jets with black tops, except the CG, which is green. All Jets are small body, thinline, and chambered. Most are single-cut, some double-cut.

  • 6128: plain ol’ black Jet, late 50s-style w/Filtertrons
  • T: Tremolo
  • T-1957: Tremolo, year emulated (DynaSonics)
  • T-1962: Tremolo, year emulated (a doublecut)
  • TSP: Tremolo, SPecial (same as T-1957, but with aged markers and binding and a rocking bar bridge instead of roller. It’s the Harrison model Jet, but I guess they couldn’t call it a GH…)
  • TCG: Tremolo, Cadillac Green
  • T-DSV: Tremolo, DynaSonic Vintage (same basic DynaSonic Jet as T-1957 and TSP, but with fixed-arm non-V tremolo, SynchroSonic bridge, and block markers. It’s a ‘55-56 instead of a ‘57. Also lacquer, and the most original of the bunch.)
  • TVP: TV Jones PowerTron pickups
  • T-TVP: Tremolo, TV Jones PowerTron pickups

6129s are Sparkle Jets, Duo-Jets in glitter drag.

  • 6129: plain ol’ silver sparkle (with Filtertrons and no Bigsby)
  • T: Tremolo
  • -1957: year emulated (DynaSonics)
  • T-1957: Tremolo, year emulated
  • T-1962: Tremolo, year emulated (a doublecut)
  • TAU: Tremolo, AU (the chemical symbol for gold)
  • TG: Tremolo, Green sparkle
  • TL: Tremolo, Light Blue Pearl

6131s are Jet Firebirds, Gretschian for “red Jets”

  • 6131 T: Tremolo
  • 6131 TDS: Tremolo, DynaSonic
  • 6131 TVP: TV Jones PowerTron pickups
  • 6131 T-TVP: Tremolo, TV Jones PowerTron pickups

6134s? They’re Penguins. That’s Gretschese for “white Jet with Falcon-style appointments.”

  • 6134: yer basic
  • 6134 B: Black

6143 & 6144 Spectra Sonics: Nothing else like them in the line.

  • 6143: 15.75” thinline chambered alder single-cut with laminated spruce top, mahogany neck, and padauk fretboard. 24.75” scale.
  • 6144: same thing, but a baritone at 29.25” scale

And what about those sig models?

Well, some have their own shape and get their very own model numbers (the 6199 Billy-Bo Jupiter Tbird and 6138 rectangular Bo Diddley). But the others are based on regular Gretsch models.

  • 6136 I: Irish Falcon (green, Bono pickguard)
  • 6136-1958: year emulated (Stephen Stills model)
  • 6120 DE: Duane Eddy (officially discontinued, but still in our hearts)
  • 6120 KS: Keith Scott
  • 6120 RHH: Reverend Horton Heat
  • 6131 SMY: Single Filtertron, Malcolm Young (Malcom Young’s personal Jet started out as a 60s double-cut Jet Firebird, hence the 6131 designation)
  • 6131 SMYF: Single Filtertron, Malcolm Young (Flame maple)
  • 6131 SMYR: Single Filtertron, Malcolm Young , Red
  • 6131 MY: Malcolm Young (two Filtertrons)
  • 6131 MYF: Malcolm Young
  • 6131 MYR: Malcolm Young, Red

Fabulous stuff, thanks

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