Glitch in the Gretschrix: Modern Serial Numbers
Holy Crap! So there's been a pretty firm understanding of the modern (Post-FMIC) Gretsch serial number scheme for a good while now, but I've just noticed, we were wrong. I've come across conclusive evidence that the last four digits of a Gretsch's serial number refers to it's position within a single month's production for all models produced in a particular factory, not the total year's run
Baxter, can we fix this in the Serial Numbers Page? Here's the breakdown.
Here's how we (incorrectly) perceive the SN of a modern Korean Electromatic, my 5123-B Bass for example:
Korea | SPG factory | 2010 | October |4,466th Gretsch (Total of All Models) from SPG in 2010.
HOWEVER, I've found conclusive evidence that the last four digits actually show the guitars location within the total number of Gretsches made in that factory for that month only.
Here's how I had the epiphany:
Jolly Jakester just purchased a 2010 5123-B Electromatic bass, same as mine. Only his Serial number is as follows:
KS10113929 (2010, November, Guitar 3,929)
Mine again, was:
KS10104466 (2010, October, Guitar 4,466) ¡!
If the last four digits of our serials indicated the location of a guitar within an entire year's production of Gretsches, my bass (4,466) would have to have been made 537 guitars AFTER Jake's (3,929), but still have been made in October of 20110, ONE MONTH BEFORE JAKE'S!
That means the last four digits must represent that guitar's position within the number of total Gretsches produced for that factory's one month's run only.
The same thing can be seen in the database when perusing from month to-month with other models. Almost every time you see the range go from one month to the next, (that is, digits 3 and 4 of the serial go up numerically, from 06 to 07, for example, the last four digits of the first guitar for the new month of the same year are invariably LESSER than the last four digits of the previous month's last guitar, proving that the serial numbers must resume at: XX XX XX 0001 for each month!
Damn I feel smart!
Now somebody please prove me wrong so we don't all have to feel silly for not noticing this forever ago!
Other than a mis-sequencing of numbers, or the possibility that one was stamped before the other, I don't see how this is probable, or even possible.
Your logic would dictate that Gretsch makes over 36,000 guitars per year at the SPG plant alone, and that's just not possible, considering that SPG makes guitars for several brands.
Also, being that I have access to the behind the scenes database info (I can see things that you can't in the database) I have the ability to sort database entries by serial number sequence. The last 4 digits do not always have a sequential series from month to chronological month. Invariably though, most guitars made in the first quarter of the year have lower sequence numbers than those made during the following quarters.
This leads me to believe that, for FMIC-era instruments the 5th digit in the serial number (after the YYMM digits) is some sort of check number or batch number for the run, perhaps a week number for that particular month, as I have NEVER seen this digit run outside of the range of 0 to 5 ("0" being used for special runs and prototypes). If this were the case, then the last 3 digits after this number would more logically indicate a build sequence number for that month.
Just a hypothesis based on the information I have at hand, and the serial number sequences exhibited in the database.
So, using my hypothesis, your serial number would break down as follows-- KS (Korea SPG plant) 10 (2010) 10 (October) 4 (4th week of Oct) 466 (total build sequence number for that month). However, that still doesn't explain why (if this theory were true) there would be 466 guitars built by the 4th week of October, and 929 guitars built by the 3rd week of November (in the case of your friends guitar). Possibilities here include ramped-up production in the last 2 months of the year for the upcoming model year-- since guitars made in December are considered (and warrantied by Gretsch) as models for the upcoming year-- e.g., a guitar made in Dec. 2011 is warrantied as a 2012 model.
I'm not saying that my hypothesis is hardcore fact, but I've long struggled to make sense of the digits past the month and year codes, and in editing the database info, I've noticed the mis-sequence phenomenon that you speak of-- just haven't found a 100% foolproof explanation yet; and since FMIC has a policy of NOT releasing production numbers, there is a lot of conjecture on the subject.
That's how it worked on the vintage date-coded numbers... month, year, and number of units produced that month. You won't find a vintage Gretsch guitar serial number (post '65) with the last 4 digits being much higher than 1500 because that was about the factory's capacity for production in a month. I guess I just assumed the modern system work the same way, but I don't focus much on the modern stuff these days.
Hey Tartan... what are the possibilities that the serial numbering, at least the volume indicator portion, isn't exclusive to Gretsch guitars coming out of a particular factory? Could the factory have a running count of units output, regardless of brand?
If they use these numbers as a tracking device for quality issues etc., it might make sense to have a running tally across all brands, then when there's an issue (regardless of brand), they can track it back to when it occurred within the month, who was working, etc., etc.
I dont know... just a thought.
Actually, Ed, that theory makes quite a bit of sense. But I know that this question has been run by Mike Lewis on more than one occasion, and I'm not sure if even he knows the real answer. I think the only ones who could settle the matter once and for all would be the bean counters at FMIC who created this numbering scheme-- the same scheme is used throughout most of the FMIC guitar lines.
I has that though too, that maybe the high batch numbers include multiple brands, but I think the truth is closer to what Tartan has described - That we just don't really know exactly how it works these days. I thought I was on to something here, and maybe there is some sort of truth to the ideas listed so far, if you were to mix them correctly! I called Gretsch in AZ the other day, and the customer service fellow that I spoke to basically confirmed the role of the first 6 digits, (including alpha characters), but when I ran my month vs. year theory at him, he said, "you caould be right, but honestly, nobody here in Arizona knows for sure, they don't tell us much about anything that's made overseas..."
The world may never know...
So what was the question again?
"How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?"
For whatever it's worth, I like the check number/batch number theory.
As Rob points out, we know 0 is reserved for prototypes and special cases, and it never appears to be higher than 5.
Of course, I have nothing to back me up on this.