Yamaha first began making musical instruments in Japan in 1887. The company began as a manufacturer of reed organs but eventually became the world's largest manufacturer of musical instruments. Yamaha guitars date back to the 1940s. These guitars originally were produced solely in Japan, but over the following 70 years, Yamaha guitars have been made in Taiwan, Korea and Indonesia. The serial number on one of these instruments is the best way to determine when it was created.
Locate the serial number on your guitar. On acoustic guitars, the number usually is written somewhere inside the guitar's sound hole. On electric guitars, the serial number generally is located on the headstock. Check the neck joint of the guitar if you can't find the serial number anywhere else.
Look at the first letter of the serial number, which indicates which year the instrument was made. Yamaha's guitars serial numbers repeat every 10 years, so additional research may be needed to find the exact year your guitar was made. The letter "H" is used for years ending in one, beginning with 1961. The next nine letters of the alphabet correspond to years ending in the next nine numbers. For example, a guitar with a serial number starting with an "M" was made in a year ending in a six.
Look at the second letter of the serial number, which represents the month the instrument was manufactured. The letters "H" through "P" correspond with January through September, and the letters "X," Y" and "Z" correspond with October, November and December.
Read the next two numbers in the serial number, which indicate the day of the month that the guitar was created.
Examine the last three numbers, which indicate the order of production. For example, a 013 would be the 13th guitar made that day.
Certain types of Yamaha guitars have a slightly different serial number system. Yamaha offers a convenient serial number wizard on its website to determine the age of instruments. If you are having trouble determining the decade in which your Yamaha guitar was made, try taking the instrument to a guitar shop and ask if someone can help date the guitar.
Michael Black has been a freelance writer based in South Central Pennsylvania since 2010. He graduated from York College of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts degree in professional writing. He has written music- and writing-related articles for various websites.