The purpose of this article is to solve the mystery of the early Yamaha FG serial numbers, internal markings, and labels. And to be able to fairly accurately determine when they were made.
Yamaha doesn’t know exactly when the earliest FG’s were made. Everyone has been guessing for years. I’ve been collecting data and in most cases can tell when a guitar with a 6 or 7 digit serial number was made.
The facts presented are based on personal observations, data collected, and data donated. They don’t always agree with Yamaha’s Guitar Archive data. And there are still a few assumptions. This article will be updated when I find further information.
What got me started was a curiosity of what the early (1966-71) Japan built FG 6 & 7 digit serial numbers meant.
- I’ve read the first digit in the serial number is the year, then a 2 digit month, 2 digits for the day, and the rest is a unit number.
- That didn’t work for a few guitars I found.
- So the 6 & 7 digit serial numbers must not be related to date the guitars were built.
While the serial number is visible, although not always usable to determine the date of manufacture, there is a Date Code ink stamped on the inside of all early FG’s. This date code will be very close to when the guitar was built.
- The date code is located on either side of the lower bout.
- The format is YY.MM.DD.
- The year isn’t the normal year we are used to. It’s the Japanese year based on the reign of the current Emperor. In this case it’s the SHOWA period, the reign of Emperor Hirohito, which started in 1926. Year 1 is 1926, therefore year 41 is 1966. 41.6.18 would be June 18, 1966.
- This date code was probably stamped when they made the sides, not when the guitar was assembled. I’ve seen a couple of guitars where the date code is partially under the kerfing.
- Some guitars did not get a serial number or it has faded over the years, so the only way to know about when the guitar was made is by this date code.
- It seems not many people in the US know about the date codes, although they must be better known in Japan.
- The date code isn’t always visible thru the sound hole.
- The best way to find it is to put a flashlight inside the guitar and use the camera on your cell phone to look around inside. Another option is a USB endoscope that is plugged into your cell phone. The visual quality isn’t as good as the cell phone camera but the length and flexibility allows you to get closer.
- I believe the date codes are in all vintage Yamaha guitars. I’ve found them in all that I have (up to 1980) except for 2 rosewood models because the dark wood obscured the date code.
- There is typically a single larger number ink stamped on each of the sides. I’m assuming those are detail numbers so they use the right side pieces for that model guitar.
Once I discovered the internal date codes I knew I could compare known 6 & 7 digit serial number/date code sets with other serial numbers and make a good guess as to when other guitars were made. So I started searching and asking for serial numbers and date codes and putting them in a spread sheet. I also recorded the link of where I found the data, just in case I had to go back.
Finding serial numbers isn’t too hard. Search & ask. But the date codes are needed as reference points. Those are hard to find. I found a Japanese guy on Youtube who made videos of himself playing many early FG, and he mentioned the serial number and date code most of the time. He also has a website (in Japanese) dedicated to the FG-150. A few curious people I’ve asked have found date codes inside their guitars, but I can’t expect many people to go that far. When I find vintage FG’s locally on CraigsList I will ask if I can see the guitar and take pictures. But they’re very rare.
After recording serial numbers for a couple of weeks, I realized I could probably figure out when the various labels changed, based on the pictures on the pages I saved the links for.
The first FG’s were built in 1966 (Green label):
- In 1966 Yamaha opened the Tenryu factory in Hamamatsu to produce the new FG series. Previously, all guitars had been made by other companies.
- The first models were the FG-150 & FG-180.
- They have Green labels and were made for Japan only.
- The serial numbers for the FG’s continued with the existing consecutive number system used by the Dynamic series.
- The earliest Green label serial number I have found is an FG-180 with 525808 & 41.9.5.
- The latest Green label serial number I have is an FG-180 with 599088 (no date code).
- I’ve only found 6 Green label serial numbers with date codes; 525808 & 41.9.5, 559XXX & 41.11.8, 564378 & 41.11.4, 569XXX & 41.11.8, 569XXX & 41.11.30, 574010 & 41.12.21, and 593XXX & 42.1.5.
The FG’s were first exported in 1967 (Red label):
- The Red label is identical to the green label, except for the color and the small piano changed to the familiar 3 tuning fork symbol.
- The earliest Red Label serial number & date code set I’ve found is an FG-150 with 599XXX & 41.12.2.
- The latest Red Label 7 digit serial number I’ve found is an FG-180 with 20315XX (no date code).
- The latest date code is an FG-180 with 47.2.7 (no s/n), built in 1972.
- I’ve found Nippon Gakki Red Labels with 8 digit serial numbers ranging from an FG-140 with 10521800 & 45.6.4, and the latest an FG-75 with 20829541 (no date code) (mid-1972). I’m assuming these were models made for Japan.
- I have found a few Red label Nippon Gakki FG’s without a visible serial number.
Nippon Gakki FG’s after mid-1972 (Tan label):
- With the new factory in Kaohsiung Taiwan, Guitars made in Japan after mid-1972 were probably made for Japan only.
- The labels are tan and rectangular, and are marked with the model number and “Nippon Gakki”.
- They seemed to continue the 8 digit serial numbers up to mid-1973, then they changed to 5 digit numbers (YMMDD), basically the same as the export 8 digit (YMMDDUUU) numbers except there’s no unit number.
- The 5 digit serial numbers may have started for special export models, such as the FG-360, and also shared by the domestic models. Although there seem to be a few FG-360’s with 8 digit serial numbers made for export in 1973, breaking the above rule.
- The earliest Tan Label 8 digit serial number & date code set I’ve found is an FG200 with 20502098 & 47.4.6.
- The latest is an FG-360 with 30326504 (no date code).
- The earliest 5 digit Tan Label serial number is an FG-580 with 30426.
- I have very little data on the Nippon Gakki Black labels. I’ve seen a FG-700S with serial number 41023 & date code 49.7.6. I’ve also seen an Orange label Nippon Gakki with serial number 40418 & date code 49.3.7. It seems some of these were made during the time of the Tan label Nippon Gakki’s.
- While my primary focus has been the Export models, I’ll have to watch for these more closely.
- I have the Black label Nippon Gakki’s shown in 1975 in the chart below, but I really don’t know where they belong. As usual, with Yamaha, it seems rules are meant to be broken.
The first FG’s made in Taiwan (Red label):
- Red labels were used at the new Kaohsiung Taiwan factory from late-1971 until late 1972.
- The labels are nearly identical to the Japan FG’s Red labels except without the words “Nippon Gakki” and the tuning fork symbol moved to next to the model number.
- The Taiwan Red Label FG’s were made for export, while the Tan Label Nippon Gakki FG’s where made for Japan.
- They initially only had serial numbers located on the neck block, 7 consecutive numbers (no relation to date), preceded with a “T”.
- The earliest I’ve found is T0013288 but I’d assume they started with T0000001.
- The earliest serial number/date code set I’ve found is T0033576 & 60.8.11 (1971).
- In mid-1972 8 digit serial numbers (YMMDDUUU) were added on the brace under the end of the fretboard.
- The first 8 digit serial numbers I’ve found are 20526334 (5/26/1972) & T0139416.
- The Taiwan made FG’s also have internal date codes, but they are based on the Minguo era, the reign of Kim II-sung, starting at his birth year of 1912, which is year 1. Therefore year 60 would be 1971.
- Some FG models were produced by both locations, with the label, serial numbers, and date codes being the only difference.
- All models have the headstock logo “YAMAHA”.
The Taiwan FG’s after late 1972 (Tan label):
- Taiwan models made from late-1972 to early-1975 have a rectangular tan label, very similar to the Nippon Gakki label of the same period.
- They have 2 sets of serial numbers. An 8 digit serial number (YMMDDUUU) is on the brace under the end of the fretboard, and a sequential 7 digit number beginning with “T” on the neck block.
- For the first 2 months (9/72 to 10/72) the label was shorter than the Nippon Gakki label, with only the model number, no location. I only have 9 serial numbers with this label, ranging from 20830243 to 21030440. Oddly 3 guitars have 8 digit numbers 201XXXXX, but the T number but puts the guitar in the range of 210XXXXX. This error looks to have been fixed by 21014XXX. I’d assume there are some serial numbers outside this range but probably not more than a month. These are very rare.
- Then they changed the labels to the same size as the Tan Nippon Gakki labels except they say “Made in Taiwan”.
- The earliest serial numbers I have are 21104214 (11/4/1972) & T0227357.
- The latest 30822446 (8/22/1973) & 0380965.
- In mid-1973 they dropped the “T” from the 7 digit serial number, somewhere around 30650000 & 0340000.
- Late 1973 they were changed the location to “Made in Taiwan / Republic of China” which lasted until late 1974.
- The earliest serial numbers I have are 30901717 (9/1/1973) & 0388080.
- The latest are 40810324 (8/10/1974) & 00577513.
- Late 1974 the reversed the location to “Republic of China/Made in Taiwan” which lasted until the models changed in 1975.
- The earliest serial numbers I have are 40830473 (8/30/1974) & 0591428.
- The latest are 50723080 (7/23/1975) & 0736975.
- The Yamaha Guitar Archive data says these models ended in 1974 but the last Tan label serial number I’ve found are 50807033 (8/7/1975) & 0743832.
- Initially the headstock logo was the 3 tuning forks inside of a circle, but at the beginning of 1974 “YAMAHA” was added, assumed for brand recognition.
In 1975 the Taiwan FG’s models changed (Black label):
- Added -1 (in small characters) after the model numbers.
- The labels where changed to black.
- The labels are shorter and wider than the Tan labels.
- The serial numbers are 8 digits on the brace under the fretboard (YYMMDDUUU) and a 7 digit number on neck block.
- The earliest serial numbers I have are 50626134 (6/26/1975) & 0729221.
- The latest are 70215483 (1/21/1977) & 1025186).
- The Yamaha Guitar Archive data says these models started in 1974 but so far I’ve found Tan label serial numbers as late as August 1975, and I haven’t found a Black label earlier than June 1975.
- All Black label Taiwan models have the headstock logo with the 3 tuning forks inside a circle with “YAMAHA” underneath.
New models starting in 1977 (Oval label):
- The export (from Taiwan) models have a White oval label.
- The Japan only (Nippon Gakki) models have an Orange oval label.
- The Taiwan serial numbers are 8 digits on the brace under the fretboard and a 7 digit number on neck block.
- The earliest I have are 70130074 (1/30/1977) & 1003893.
- This serial number system continued until 2001.
- The Japan serial numbers continue to use 5 digits on the brace under the fretboard.
- All models have the headstock logo “YAMAHA”.