The dating of vintage Gibson banjos has long been a subject of debate and contention. In contrast to other makers such as C.F. Martin and Company, Gibson’s prewar and wartime numbering system is extremely convoluted and often counterintuitive. Rather than true serial numbers, most prewar Gibson banjos were marked with factory order numbers which were solely intended for in-house use during production and assembly; attempts to date Gibson banjos based on these numbers represent a significant challenge (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers).
Since the debut of this site in 1998 I had listed the banjos in numerical order by factory order number or serial number, which I now understand does not reflect the instruments’ true chronology. After consultation with Joe Spann, whose ongoing research into original Gibson records has shed new light on true production dates, I have now changed to a listing of banjos by year. This listing will be subject to revision as we continue to gain more insight into Gibson’s factory order numbers, serial numbers, and production practices in the prewar and wartime periods.
As always, if you have a vintage Gibson you are seeking information about, I want to hear from you!