Dating Rickenbacker by Serial Number

Dating Rickenbacker guitars was more difficult in the periods before 1998. For the first Rickenbacker guitars, determining the exact year of construction using the serial number is virtually impossible. However, nowadays, the Rickenbacker dating method is much more common.

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How to Find Rickenbacker Serial Number?

Typically, the Rickenbacker serial number can be found on the jack plate, although you can check the neck plate or the bridge plate.

Rickenbacker Serial Number

Rickenbacker Dating by Patent Number

Before 1954 the serial number did not serve as a direct indicator for the production date of the guitar. Serial numbers from this era are therefore unreliable.

Some instruments have patent numbers on different parts. These patent numbers offer some indications for a production date since the instrument will be made after the date of the patent grant.

Patent information related to the Rickenbacker instruments

 Patent numberPartPatent DatePatentee
 1.839.395Hand vibrato tailpiece5 January 1932
C.O. Kauffman
1.881.229Molded musical instruments and necks4 October 1932A.P. Young
2.089.171Frying Pan and horseshoe pickup10 August 1937George D. Beauchamp
2.130.174Headless electric violin instruments13 September 1938George D. Beauchamp
2.152.783Roller vibrato tailpiece4 April 1939Paul M. Barth
2.241.911Vibrola Spanish guitar13 May 1941C.O Kauffman
2.310.199Tubular body for electric violin9 February 1943George D. Beauchamp
2.310.606Detachable horseshoe pickup9 February 1943Paul M. Barth
 3.091.150The Sceusa neck23 May 1963Peter P. Sceusa
DES. 208.329Bantar5 January 1932F.C Hall

Rickenbacker Serial Number 1954-1959 (Solidbody Guitars)

The serial number from 1954 to September 1959 was stamped on the jackplate or bridge.

Example: 65C5281
The first digit(s) indicates the model number.
[4 = 400 or 425, 6 = 600, 65 = 650, 8 = 800]
The letter indicates the type of instrument.
[C = combo (guitar), B = bass, M = mandolin, V = 3/4 size guitar]
The first digit after the letter is the last digit of the year of the 50’s.
The last 3 digits is the production number.

Serial number 65C5281 is a combo (guitar) 650 model, manufactured in 1955 with the production number 281.

Rickenbacker Serial Number 1959-1960 (Solidbody)

From September 1959 to October 1960 were the first digit(s) for the model number. The letter A stands for this period and the first digit after the letter is a 9 (from September 1959) or a 0 (up to and including October 1960).

Rickenbacker Serial Number 1961-1986

On the jack plate, the letters are above the jack output, and the digits are below the jack output.

Example: BB177
The first letter is the year.
[A = 1961, B = 1962, C = 1963, ….. Z = 1986].
An important exception is the letter J, meaning 1970 or 1960.
The second letter is the month.
[A = January, B = February, ….. L = December].

Serial number BB177 was built in February 1962 with the production number 177.

Rickenbacker Serial Number 1987-1996

Here on the jack plate is a letter and a number above the jack output, and numbers below the jack output.

Example: F21254
The letter stands for the month.
[A = January, B = February, ….. L = December].
The digit after the letter is the year of construction.
[0 = 1987, 1 = 1988, 2 = 1989, 3 = 1990, ….. 9 = 1996].

Serial number F21254 was built in June 1989 with production number 1254.

Rickenbacker Serial Number 1997-1998

After 1996 there was a small hitch in the numbering system, here the ‘0‘ was reused for 1997 and ‘1‘ for 1998.
The month format also jumped a few letters forward in the alphabet, from ‘M‘ to ‘Y.’ This means that ‘M‘ now stands for January and ‘N‘ for February.
The letter ‘O‘ was skipped, probably to avoid confusion with the ‘0‘ (zero) of the year 1997.
[M = January, N = February, P = March, Q = April, ….. Y = December].

Rickenbacker Serial Number Since 1998

From 1998 it will be a lot easier. They did not apply codes anymore but just used the last 2 digits of the year with the week number.

Example: 1718017
The first 2 numbers (top jack output) represent the year of manufacture.
The first 2 numbers (bottom jack output) represent the week of that year.

Serial number 1718017 is produced in May (week 18), 2017 with production number 017.

Rickenbacker History

Rickenbacker company was founded by Adolf Rickenbacher, who was born in Switzerland in 1886 and emigrated to the United States in 1891.

In 1931, he established the company “ElectRo-Patent-Instruments” together with the American inventor George Beauchamp.

They specialized in the construction of electric steel guitars until the 1950s. Later, the company was renamed the “Rickenbacker Manufacturing Company,” and Adolf also changed his last name to “Rickenbacker” as a German name was not very popular at the time.

Beauchamp obtained an American patent on an electric guitar in 1934, and the first model was called the “Frying Pan” because of its resemblance to this kitchen utensil.

In the mid-1950s, the company switched to producing acoustic and electric standard guitars. Rickenbacker was the first company to successfully market electric guitars.

Rickenbacker introduced the “neck through body” construction in 1956, which became a standard feature of all following Rickenbacker models. The first guitars in which this feature was applied were the Combo 400 and 4000 Bass.

In 1958, Rickenbacker introduced the “Capri series,” later known as the 300 Series.

In 1964, Rickenbacker developed an electric twelve-string guitar with a unique construction. The tuner system had extra tuning mechanisms at the back of the headstock for the six additional strings.

The string converter from Rickenbacker was also unique and was introduced in 1966. Six strings were pulled down by a lever and pressed against the frets.

With their years of experience in innovative sound techniques combined with beautiful designs, Rickenbacker guitars continue to be popular among collectors and guitarists.