Dating Your B.C. Rich Guitar
Dating B.C. Rich neck-through guitars is relatively easy, although slightly imprecise by the 1980's. Begining in 1972, the first B.C. Rich guitar was stamped 'Proto', and subsequent guitars were consecutively numbered beginning 001, 002, 003, etc. These consecutive numbers ran up to between 340 and 360. This system was used for the guitars distributed by L.D. Heater.
When distribution came back to B.C. Rich in 1974, a system of serial number coding began using a 5-digit code (XXYYY) with the first 2 digits indicating the year and the last 3 indicating the production number. That would make the first guitar of 1974 to have been numbered 74000, followed by 74001, 74002, 74003, etc. Throughout the '70s, production numbers were low enough that the serial numbers pretty much reflect the year of manufacture.
In the late '70s as production grew, the serial numbers begin to get ahead of themselves since only 1000 numbers were available in a series. With production growing rapidly by 1980, the serial numbers had gotten about two to three years ahead. For example, a bass guitar that is documented to have been purchased (not necessarily made) in 1980, bore the serial number #82595. Although neck-through production never surpassed approximately 2200 guitars a year, as the '80s progressed, the serial numbers continued to get ahead of the actual year. By 1981 the numbers were about four years ahead. This gap remained fairly constant until Bernie Sr. turned the production over to Class Axe in 1989.
Bolt-neck guitars are less precise for the usual reasons. The serial number is stamped on a neck plate, and like every other company, when the guitar was being finished, someone grabbed a plate out of the box and put it on in no particular, precise or documented order. These do not follow the same XXYYY dating scheme as the neck thru models. If a guitar has a number of 89321, for example, it was probably built in 1987, but it could have been assembled a bit earlier or later than 1987.
If it is a USA model, it will say "Made In The USA" on the headstock just below or beside the B.C. Rich script logo. The serial numbers are a bit hard to date because there was no uniform way they were assigned a number at Bernie's original shop. The neck plates were pre-stamped and pulled out of a box at random when it was time to install the neck onto the guitar or bass.
The Bolt On guitars serial numbers started with "BC" followed by five digits (BCXXXXX). Between 1989 and 1993 Class Axe took over production of B.C. Rich instruments and also used the "BCXXXXX" numbering scheme as well as "RXXXXXX" for it’s imported models. Class Axe did make some USA instruments of very good quality. Once again, the guitar will indicate that it was made in the USA by the "Made In The USA" stamp on the headstock. These will also have a small "TM" next to the script logo.
The USA bolt on guitars never followed the same serial number sequence as the neck thru models, which were numbered using the (YYXXX) format with the first two digits being the year, and the last three digits being the production number. Also, keep in mind on the 2+3 (five digit) serial numbers, they got out of sequence in the early to mid 80's. In other words, a guitar with serial number "84532" could have been made in 1982 or 1983, not 1984 as the number would suggest. They got back on track in 1993. Also, at some point in 1999 or 2000 the "Made In The USA" below the script logo disappeared on most of the guitars built.
In the year 2000, they changed to the letters "BO" (Bolt On) and three digits (B0XXX), which was the actual production number, but there was no number stating the year the guitar was built. The import guitar models before November of 2000 have a serial number starting with the letter "F", the USA models do not.
In November of 2000 B.C. Rich implemented a new date stamp format for serial number coding of it’s imported models. . This started on the January 2001 models. All B.C. Rich models, both imported and usa handmades implement this same year time date stamp and guitar production number format:
121XXXXX first digit = year of manufacture
second digit = means nothing until double-digit years get here again
third digit = quarter of manufacture
digits 4 thru 8 = production number
Current US-made B.C. Rich serial numbers follow the same year and guitar production number format. (example - serial number #24123 was the 123rd guitar made in 2004)
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