Orville Serial Number & Manufacturing Information
(By Kevin, Orvilleowner, Updated May 2007)
Gibson Japan used a number of different serial numbering schemes throughout its production from 1988 through 1998. All Orville by Gibson electric models featured inked on serial numbers. The earliest Orville models had serial numbers on stickers, while the later models were inked on. The different serial number schemes are described below and observed examples are given. Sometimes examples that violate the scheme are seen (factory mistakes or exceptions that prove the rule?).
Orville by Gibson - first type of inked serial numbers:
A seven character serial number of the form GYYNNNN, that is, the letter “G” followed by two digits that indicate the year; followed by a four digit production number. Examples:
1988: G884248, G887012, G887138, G887399, G887500, G889046, G889057
1989: G892858, G893020, G893090, G894479, G894879, G895249, G895313, G895319, G895343, G895395, G897017, G897162, G897484, G897841, G897923, G897981, G899441, J899511, G899544
Orville by Gibson – second type of inked serial numbers:
A seven character serial number of the form GYMMNNN, that is, the letter “G” followed by one digit that indicates the year; followed by a two digits that indicate the month; followed by a three digit production number. Examples:
1989: G903415, G904271, 907019, G908478, G909947, G909990
1990: G006681, G007101, G007300, G007456, G007767, G008119, G008214, G008296, G009685, G010488, G010820, G011213, G011253, G012248, G012446, G012503, G012515, G012942
1991: G102288, G101030, G104574, G104576, G104578, G104662, G106386, G107029, G107030, G107385, G107588, G107562, G107604, G108714, G108722, G108723, G109600, G110104, G110394, G110802, G111305, G111433, G112075, G112094, G112540, G112773
1992: G202450, G203353, G203435, G204747, G206136, G206367, G207003, G208032, 209044, G212245
1993: G301241, G301245, G302012, 302099, G306227, G306270, G307211
1994: 407530, 410311
Orville by Gibson reissue-type inked serial numbers:
A five to seven character serial number like that used on classic 1950s Gibsons, that is, a digit that indicates the year separated from a four digit production number. However, the Orville by Gibsons sometime have a “G” and/or a dash. Examples:
1993: 3 1246, 3 2320, 3 2451, 3 2467, G3-5079
1994: 4 1228, 4 1267, 4 3036, 4 4035, 4 7110, G4-6154, G4-6554
1995: 5 2064, 5-4015
Orville stickered serial numbers:
A seven character serial number of the form K0YNNNN, that is, the letter “K” followed by a zero; followed by one digit that indicates the year; followed by a four digit production number. Examples:
1989: K095511, K095754, K097945, K098376, K098643
1991: K015293, K015571, K016499, K017290, K019587
1992: K028039, K028168, K029208
Orville inked serial numbers:
A six or seven character serial number of the form (J)YMMNNN, that is, sometimes the letter “J” (sometimes not!) followed by one digit that indicates the year; followed by two digits that indicate the month; followed by a four digit production number. Examples:
1989: 905184, 906425, 907031
1993: 302168, 305412, 305647
1994: 401110, 402104, 402168, 405256, 406058, 406317, 406530, 407446, 407479, 411037, 412246
1995: 502130, 502372, 503046, 504071, 504126, 506052, 506628, 507091, 507329, 510016, 510138, 511004, 511148, 511394, J512071, J512073, J512085
1996: J601136, 601273, 601314, 603230, J604010, 604073, 604135, 604275, 605299, 605397, 606562, J607006, J607081, 607193, 607282, 608192, 608305, 609325, J610035, 610251, 610545, 611306, 611334, 612064, 612176, 612266, 612290
1997: J701014, J701032, 701216, 702003, 703046, 703096, 703394, 704075, 704076, 705106, 705248, 705279, J706034, 706211, J708016, 708058, 708255, 709038, 709290, J710085, 710109, 710179, 710455, 710547, J711038, 712017, J712057
1998: J802010, 802028, 802170, 802364, 803202, 803290, 804021, 805011, 805167, 805189, 806045, J806048, 806057, 806399
An eight character serial number (on a label inside the guitar) beginning with the letters "AG" as the first: AG205031.
Unfortunately, there is no definitive evidence about which Japanese guitar makers were involved with Orville and Orville by Gibson guitars: who, what, when? It's likely that for every category of serial number listed above, there was a different Japanese maker involved, perhaps more than one as contracts changed hands over the years. Also, the letter in the serial number, or lack thereof, probably means something. There's a lot of conjecture and very little certainty.
Fujigen Gakki is the most likely candidate for all manufacturing, Orville and Orville by Gibson guitars, beginning in 1992 (hearsay from Jim Donahue, Ibanez R&D at the time). For the Orville models, the ones with inked on serial numbers are thought to be made by Fujigen Gakki, until the end of production in about June 1998.
Fujigen Gakki is said to have temporarily ceased production of set-neck guitars in the late '80s to early '90s, so, if true, that would rule them out as a maker over that time frame. Conjecture of who made the late '80s to early '90s Orvilles and Orville by Gibsons runs the gamut from Terada, Kasuga, Dyna, and IIDA to Tokai. Of these, Terada is a safe guess for some kind of involvement, even if it is only the hollow-body guitars.
Over the years, a belief that some Orvilles were made in Korea grew from a slight involvement (in 1996 in order to meet unexpected demand) to the idea that all Orvilles with stickered “K” serial numbers were made in Korea in 1996. The “K” most likely stands for “Kanda Shokai” and not “Korean.” The Orvilles with stickered serial numbers (or no serial number because the sticker was removed) stopped in 1993 when Kanda Shokai's involvement with Gibson Japan ended and the contract with the maker ended (because then Fujigen Gakki started making them and Yamano started distributing them too). Finally, two arguments/pieces of evidence dispel the Korean rumor. First, the prices of all Orvilles remained constant. If production shifted from Korea to Japan, the price should have increased. Second, the Les Paul experts, Bacon and Day, in their brief early '90s mention of Orville by Gibson guitars, indicate that both brands were made in Japan.
Much of this information is communal, from anonymous posters on forums and web sites, absorbed over the years. Most of the serial numbers were gathered from images found throughout the web (many from eBay listings). One person, a poster on the Tokai Forum with the user name “japanstrat,” provided the most recent conjecture on the manufacturers, discovered the dating code of the stickered serial numbers, and communicated with Jim Donahue. All errors here are ours, but hopefully there are less errors here than on other web sites! If definitive information becomes available, we will incorporate it.