“What year was my Taylor made?”

To help answer that question, Taylor Guitars has published a serial number guide that helps to date their guitars all the way back to the mid-70s.   According to Taylor’s website: “Our numbering system was a little less sophisticated in the early days, and we didn’t adhere to an actual production “schedule” until 1987. If your serial number is near the tail-end of a particular year’s sequence (pre-1987), your guitar might have been made very late that year, or very early the following year. Gradually, we got around to our current, more accurate formula for pinpointing the exact day that work was begun on a particular guitar.”  Follow the jump for the full table of numbers and years, plus some interesting historical information along the timeline.  This information is courtesy of Taylor Guitars.

To date your guitar, simply read the serial number found on the label inside your Taylor, match it to the range in the table below, and viola, you’ll see what year it was made.

[didn’t use serial numbers!] 1974 Employees Bob Taylor, Kurt Listug, and Steve Schemmer purchase the American Dream Musical Instrument Manufacturing shop in Lemon Grove, California, and change the name to Taylor Guitars; all rosewood used is Brazilian.
10109 to 10146 1975 Had to let most of our employees go after we used up our original capital; settled into being broke and trying to figure out how to make guitars.
20147 to 20315 1976 Guitar #20168 is the first Taylor made from East Indian rosewood; guitar #20179 is the latest Taylor “on record” to have the mortise neck joint (by the time we made #20229, we were not using mortise neck joints); Kurt hits the road to sell direct to dealers.
30316 to [–]450 1977 Taylor Guitars signs a distribution deal with the Rothschild company, an instrument distributor.
451 to 900 1978 Introduce 500 and 600 Series (600s were dark-stained mahogany with white binding).
901 to 1300 1979 Start using scalloped bracing on all 6- strings; terminate distribution deal with Rothschild.
1301 to 1400 1980 Still finishing up and selling off guitars started in 1979, before we let our employees go for the second time; sold some guitars to Musician’s Supply, and finally paid off a five-year-old bill for wood we’d purchased from Martin.
1401 to 1670 1981 Company takes out bank loan to purchase equipment to facilitate production.
1671 to 1951 1982 Kurt travels as far as Maine, selling Taylor guitars to dealers out of his car.
1952 to 2445 1983 Bob and Kurt buy out partner Steve Schemmer; purchase more equipment.
2446 to 3206 1984 Introduce Grand Concert body style (the earliest Grand Concert we know of is #2744); for the first time, Bob and Kurt represent their own guitars at the National Association Of Music Merchants show.
3207 to 3888 1985 Introduce the “Artist Series”. Latest model “on record” to have a label hand-signed by Bob Taylor is #3262.
3889 to 4778 1986 Introduce Dan Crary Signature Model.
4779 to 5981 1987 In July, move to 5,000-square-foot plant in Santee, California; guitar #5300 (a 510-C) is a “transitional” instrument (built in the original Lemon Grove shop, but strung-up in the new Santee facility).
5982 to 7831 1988 Gross $1 million for the first time in the company’s history.
7832 to 10070 1989 Begin making our own cases (August). Purchase our first Fadal, a CNC (computer-controlled) milling machine to increase the levels of productivity and precision in making guitar parts (December).
10071 to 12497 1990 Introduce Leo Kottke Signature Model.
12498 to 15249 1991 Introduce 410 model; first 400 Series numbers began with “4-” as in “4-0001” (ending number of 400s: 4-1132).
15250 to 17953 1992 In August, move into 25,000-square-foot plant in El Cajon, California; guitar #16250 (a 712) is a “transitional” instrument (built in Santee plant, strung-up in the new El Cajon facility); 400 series ending number: 3152.
930104001 to 931221124 1993 Introduce current numbering system (see below*).
940104001 to 941220130 1994 Introduce Grand Auditorium body style on 20th Anniversary, limited-edition models; in May, begin sanding all fingerboards on the new Fadal sander; publish premiere issue (Summer) of quarterly newsletter, Wood&Steel, which features a “Pushing the Envelope” story about the new fingerboard sander.
950103001 to 951219136 1995 Introduce Limited Edition Grand Auditoriums (GAs); create Pallet Guitar; introduce Taylor acoustic bass; in February, begin using ultraviolet (UV) finish on all Taylor guitars (see “The Finish Line: What UV Means to You” on the Details/Tech-Sheets page).
960102001 to 961219140 1996 Introduce Presentation Series; Baby Taylor; LKSM-6; Grand Auditoriums added to regular line; SKB cases for 400 Series; in January, begin making “curved” pegheads on all Dreadnoughts; introduce TaylorWare line of branded clothing and accessories.
970106001 to 971219144 1997 Re-open Custom Shop; in January, introduce new Dreadnought shape; SmartStart Guitar program; Cujo Guitar signed by author Stephen King; groundbreaking on new factory building.
980105101 to 981218144 1998 In January, Taylor Guitars’ website goes online; guitar line expanded to 61 models, including three new series (300, Koa, and Walnut), revamped 400, 600, 700, 800 Series, introduction of Baby-M and AB-3 maple/spruce bass; release of Sounds of Wood&Steel: A Windham Hill Collection, a CD featuring numerous artists playing Taylor guitars and basses; in August, begin moving into new factory/office building; introduce re-designed label and begin affixing them to the back of the interior of each guitar, where they’re easily visible.
990104101 to 991220148 1999 In January, introduce Bob Taylor’s “new-tech” design, representing the first re-design of the acoustic steel-string guitar in 100 years; Windham Hill releases Sounds of Wood&Steel2, a sequel to the 1998 CD collection; introduce new gig bag for the Baby Taylor; open 8,000-square-foot storage facility next to Taylor factory; enter agreement to factory-install Elixir strings, featuring Polyweb coating, on all Taylors.
20000103101 to 20001221160 2000 In January, we introduce the Gallery Series of guitars, featuring original, thematic artwork inlays (for 2000 it was “sea life”); also create our first new Signature Models in a decade, making guitars with Clint Black, Jewel, Kenny Loggins, Richie Sambora, Doyle Dykes, John Cephas, and Chris Proctor, and create a Limited Edition version of the Pallet Guitar; in April, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office grants Bob Taylor his first-ever patent for his revolutionary new neck design; we add Taylor-branded guitar and bass gig bags; extend our Limited Warranty to Canadian Taylor owners and to owners of Baby Taylors, both retroactive, and establish our first official warranty repair center in Canada; on August 24, Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug sign a five-year lease agreement on a 22,000-square-foot building in Tecate, Mexico, where Taylor will make its hardshell cases; in September, we open an in-house production training room equipped to introduce prospective employees to a full range of guitar-making processes; re-design the Grand Concert and Jumbo bodies to bring them into aesthetic alignment with the proprietary Grand Auditorium and the re-designed Dreadnought; transform our former mega-storage facility into a full-time Baby Taylor factory, and add maple-, koa-, and rosewood-veneer Babys and a 15/16-size Big Baby to the line; launch a program to provide Baby Taylors to elementary schools that have guitar programs, beginning with a donation of 28 Babys to Emerson-Bandini Elementary School in an economically disadvantaged area of San Diego; make significant advancements in technology, including the implementation of a robotic buffing machine; push past 350 employees for the first time.

*From 1993 until the end of 1999, each Taylor guitar featured a nine-digit serial number that precisely pinpoints when work was begun on that guitar. (As of 2000, the serial number expanded to 11 digits to accommodate the four-digit year designation.) Reading left to right, the first two digits (or four starting in 2000) represent the year; the second pair of digits represents the month; and the third pair of digits represents the calendar day that work was begun. The seventh digit indicates whether the guitar is a 300 or 400 series (“0”) or a higher series (“1”); and the last two digits denote the guitar’s position in that day’s production sequence. So, for example, if the serial number were 980103004, it would break down as follows:

98: 1998 01: January 03: 3rd 0: 400 Series 04: 4th Guitar Made That Day

It should be emphasized that the serial number does not indicate when a guitar was finished, or when it was shipped. It takes days to make each Taylor guitar, and the serial number indicates only the day a particular guitar was started in assembly.

Effective November 2, 2009, Taylor officially revised its serial numbering system. The change occurred as part of a transition to a new software system that was implemented to improve the company’s inventory management. The new serial numbering convention takes into account Taylor’s two manufacturing locations: its main complex in El Cajon, California and a second factory complex located in nearby Tecate, Mexico.

The new, 10-digit serial numbering format identifies the factory of production, year, date and the assigned number of the guitar on that day’s production schedule, although the numerical sequence is slightly different from the previous system. For example, the serial number for the first guitar built in the El Cajon factory on November 2, 2009 is 1011029001. Here’s how it breaks down:

Factory: 1 Year (3rd Digit): 0 (2009) Month: 11 Year (4th Digit): 9 (2009) Prod. Sched. #: 001

Factory Designation:

1 = El Cajon

2 = Tecate

Accordingly, the serial number for the first guitar built in the Tecate factory on November 2, 2009 is 2011029001.

As with the previous serial numbering system, the serial number does not indicate when a guitar was finished, or when it was shipped, but the day the guitar’s body was assembled.

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