* About serial
numbers on Shiro Arai Co./Matsumoku Guitars *
Serial numbers for these
guitars is not a perfect science, but in nearly all cases after Matsumoku's
involvement they can be trusted to indicate what year the guitar was produced.
Shiro Arai Co.
Most guitars produced by Arai
such as the Aria Diamonds (not to be confused with the Aria Pro II Diamonds),
Lyle, Conrad, Maxi-Tone, Japanese Epiphone, Univox, and the other pre-1976
guitars often had serial numbers usually on the neck plate (I imagine so
dealers could track warranty, etc.). Unfortunately the number was arbitrary
and had little to do with when the guitar was produced. After Arai joined
forces with Matsumoku, the serial numbers began to have some bearing on
the guitar's production year and rank in production sequence. Serial numbers
on these guitars were arbitrary numbers and did not indicate date of manufacture.
When dating these guitars only ballpark ranges is possible. One tip is
the type of pickups. Single coil trapezoid face = mid to late 1960s, P-90
sized single and dual coil pickups = early 1970s, normal humbuckers and
more strat like singles = early to mid 1970s.
Guitars produced by Matsumoku
Nearly all guitars produced
by Matsumoku (beginning sometime late 1976 or early 1977) bore serial numbers
indicating the year and possibly production sequence. A small number of
guitars produced had serials preceeded by a letter, but as to what the
letter inidicated is yet a mystery and one can only guess without concrete
evidence. I have seen both 6 and 7 digit serial numbers (excluding the
letter if it is present).This new serialization covered Aria, Aria Pro
II, Vantage, Westbury, most Westones, Japanese Washburns, some Electras,
and the Skylark as well as others. As far as I know, the Korean version
of these labels bear 8 or more digit serials and sometimes the production
locaciton code (letter indicating Korea, Phillipines, Indonesia, etc.)
which does not concern us here.
The first digit (and upon
rare occasion the first two) indicated the year. There is an inherent flaw
with this single-digit method as the single digit year indicator will re-cycle
after a decade! Attention must be paid to when the particular model was
available and apply that to the first digit of the serial, excluding the
letter if present. A bit of cross referencing is required. For example,
my first Cardinal CS-350 has the serial 2010237 which indicates both by
the first digit and the duration of the Cardinal CS-350 run it is a 1982
(and I know it is, I bought it then!). In rare instances the first two
digits would indicate the year, in which case we can safely assume that
my Cardinal is not a 1920! Had it been the two-digit version it would have
begun with 82XXXXX rather than 20XXXXX, which would also indicate 1982.
Spotting and identifying early
Korean models after production shifted to Korea...
Early Korean models adopted
similar looking serial numbers but were not indicative of the year manufacturered.
Many early Koreans appeared to be nearly identical to the Japanese models
with one important thing missing, at least on models with bolt necks and
neckplates: "Made In Japan" or "Product of Matsumoku". Without this, it
is not an earlier Japanese model. Other tip-offs to later Korean heritage
are bridges with squared-off ends, 3rd fret scarf joint in the neck, Schaller
style tuners on models previously equipped with keystone style tuners,
smaller potentiometers, and Quck-hook tailpieces with standard stop-bar
stud spacing among others.
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