Why Doesn’t My Guitar Have A Serial Number? | Expert Advice for Musicians

Most guitar lovers know that the guitar market can be a dangerous place. This is because the process of verification for the authenticity of guitars might be a little bit complex. The first step to verify your guitar is by checking its serial number, but sometimes, this number might be missing. So, what does it mean when a guitar does not have a serial number? 

If a guitar does not have a serial number, that might mean that the instrument is stolen or a counterfeit. However, if you buy your guitar from a manufacturer, it may mean that it is a prototype or a factory-reject product. It is also important to note that sometimes serial numbers are not put in a visible place, but hidden in the heel of the neck. 

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If you cannot find the serial number of your guitar, do not panic since that does not necessarily mean that your instrument is fake. In this article, we are going to discuss the meaning of guitar serial numbers, and what it means when the number is missing. We will also give you tips on how to look for the serial number on your instrument. 

What Does It Mean When A Guitar Does Not Have A Serial Number? 

Guitar enthusiasts and collectors have a hard time purchasing guitars because they are always faced with the possibility of buying a counterfeit. Nonetheless, real guitar connoisseurs know how to check the authenticity of a guitar. The easiest way to verify your guitar is by checking its serial number. 

Once you find the serial number, you can check its authenticity online. Many guitar manufacturers offer online methods for verifying guitar models. However, you may come to a dead end if your guitar does not have a serial number. When you cannot find the serial number, you might be facing the following situations: 

  • The serial number is not in a visible place on the guitar. 
  • The guitar is a manufacturer’s prototype. 
  • The guitar is a factory-reject product. 
  • The guitar is a counterfeit.
  • The guitar is stolen.  

The Serial Number Is Not In A Visible Spot On The Guitar

If you cannot spot the serial number on the back of the headstock, which is the usual place where manufacturers put serial numbers, you need to look elsewhere. For instance, Fender guitars have their serial numbers hidden in the heel of the neck of the instrument. In this case, you will have to detach the body and the neck of the instrument. 

This process requires a few technical skills, so if you are not experienced and confident that you can do it, it is better to find a professional who can do this. It is not a difficult task, but we do not recommend you to do it if you are not sure what exactly you need to do. 

The Guitar Is A Prototype 

If you have bought your guitar from a verified manufacturer but the serial number is missing, you might have a model that is a prototype. This does not mean that the guitar is of lower quality or less valuable. It is just the first example of a particular guitar model. 

If you are lucky, you might be owning a model with unique features. Sometimes, manufacturers design the prototype with the finest properties. 

The Guitar Is A Factory-Reject Product 

When a guitar does not include a serial number, it might be possible that it is a non-production product. This means that the particular guitar was not included in the mass production of the model in question. This does not mean that the guitar is broken or does not sound well, but it may not contain some of the same features that the specific model has. 

The Guitar Is A Counterfeit 

Well, this is the part that may really hurt. Usually, when you cannot find the serial number, your first thought is that you may have been deceived. It is quite possible that you may own a counterfeit or a cheap copy if your instrument does not go with a serial number. 

However, this refers to guitars that are bought from unverified stores or common owners of guitars. A purchase of a fake guitar generally happens to guitar lovers who are in search of a vintage guitar but are quite inexperienced. 

If you want to buy a guitar from someone, make sure that you check it carefully. If there is no serial number, then you might want an expert to help you date the guitar. Guitar historians have the ability to distinguish specific features of guitars and discover whether the instrument is original or fake. 

The Guitar Is Stolen 

A good indicator of a stolen guitar is a missing serial number. Thieves remove the serial numbers immediately, so the instrument cannot be tracked down. If you intend to buy a guitar from someone, make sure that they provide you with some kind of ownership proof. Otherwise, do not go for it because you may get involved in something that is not legal.   

How To Recognize A Fake Guitar? 

As you can see, a missing serial number can mean different things, and if you do not know any reliable experts that can assess a particular guitar, you might never get to the truth. Nonetheless, you can become an expert, and you can do the evaluation on your own. There are different ways to learn how to recognize whether a specific guitar is real or fake. 

The first thing you can do is learn about all of the features that are included in a real guitar. Being able to recognize the genuine structure of a guitar is the only thing you need. This means you need to differentiate between cheap and authentic materials, the changes that occur in the process of building guitars over the years, as well as the common building steps. 

We know that we make this sound really easy while it is actually the whole craftsmanship in question. However, there are some excellent guides that can help you learn every single detail related to guitars, and with a little bit of practice, you can become a real expert. 

You can start by purchasing an essential guide that will teach you everything about vintage guitars. Guide to Vintage Guitars by George Gruhn is a magnificent tool that includes information about guitar manufacturers, dates, and models that will help you determine what kind of guitar is real. 

There are also some renowned guitar dealers that have been in the business for a long time, and they offer tips on their YouTube channels. Some of the best are Crimson Guitars and Stew Mac, so following them might really improve your skills.  


Can I Sell A Guitar Without A Serial Number? 

Selling a guitar without a serial number is not a good idea since this might indicate that the guitar is either stolen or fake. If you have bought the guitar from a manufacturer and you have proof, then you might try but you should not expect that the sale is going to be easy. Not many people want to rely on unverified instruments. 

Why Do Guitars Have Serial Numbers? 

Serial numbers on the guitar give information about the manufacturer and the year of production. The year of production is essential when you want to learn about specific features of a guitar, such as the materials from which it is made, the mechanics that are used, and so on. 

Is It Legal To Own A Fake Guitar?       

There are a lot of fake guitars on the market, and usually, it is very difficult to recognize them if you are inexperienced. It is legal to own a fake guitar, but it is strongly prohibited to sell and transport counterfeit instruments. 


A guitar without a serial number might not mean that it is fake, but it is definitely not a desirable thing. A serial number is a guarantee that you have the real thing, so it is always wise to look for it before you make the purchase. We hope that we have shed some light on this notion, and now you will know how to choose your next guitar!

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