How To Read Dean Guitar Serial Numbers? How Do You Tell Where A Dean Guitar Was Made?

Dean guitars have a long history dating back to the late 1970s when they were founded. Since Dean guitars was founded, they have been bought and sold numerous times. Each time the new owners had a different method of implementing and printing the serial numbers on the guitar.

Depending on which era the guitar is from will make a difference in how to decipher the serial number on the guitar. Here is everything I learned from researching the topic. In case you want to dig deeper for yourself, most of the information I learned came from the Dean guitars forum, found here.

How do you tell which country your Dean Guitar was made in? Dean guitars will have a stamp or sticker, usually on the rear of the headstock, that says, “Made in “, followed by the country they were made in. Dean Guitars made in the USA will have a stamp followed by the serial number. Dean Imports usually will have a sticker.

One caveat to that answer is that Dean guitars produced while under the ownership of Tropical Music will have the serial number printed on the last fret, closest to the pickups.

Another thing to take note of is that over the years certain Dean models have been moved from factory to factory in various other countries for production. As a result, many Dean dealers have not updated or changed the pictures or specifications. (That’s one reason I like Sweetwater. They use the actual image of the guitar. Every time!)

If the dealer’s website says one thing, but the sticker on the guitar says another, believe what the sticker says.


Deciphering Dean Guitar Serial Numbers

Another way to tell where a Dean guitar is made is by looking at the serial number itself.

How do you read Dean guitar serial numbers made in the USA? Dean Guitars manufactured in the USA will have a 6 digit serial number on the back of the headstock. The first 2 digits represent the year and the remaining digits typically represent the production number, although this is not consistent. Dean Guitar serial numbers from 1986 to 1996 have no meaning.

Note: If there are any letters before the serial number, or the serial number does not match this format, then your Dean guitar is an import. See the next section in this article for more information.

Dean guitars was bought Tropical Music from the original owner Dean Zelinsky in 1986. During this period, the serial numbers were printed on the last fret of the fretboard. Tropical Music did not follow the serial number format previously used and did not keep any existing records. 

Tropical music sold Dean guitars to Armadillo Enterprises in 1997, who have remained the owners. Dean guitars returned to using the standard serial number format previously used, although not always consistent with the format. 

Guitars manufactured while Dean Zelinsky owned the company are often referred to as vintage Dean guitars. There was a logbook previously on the Dean guitars website that was taken down in 2011 that logged all the vintage guitars from 1977 to 1983. 

I recommend visiting the Dean Guitar forum for more information on vintage Dean Guitars. One of the forum members took pictures of all the logbooks which he can reference. He has not publicly posted these pictures to my knowledge.

If you have a modern Dean guitar, that is guitars made since 1997, then you can contact the current parent company for more information.

Armadillo Enterprises, Inc.

4924 W Waters Avenue

Tampa, FL 33634

United States

(813) 600-3920 ph

(800) 793-5273 toll-free

(813) 600-3933 fax   

Customer Service

Dean Guitars –

If you have a Dean guitar manufactured during the Tropical Music era, for the most part, you are out of luck. You can try to request more info on the Dean guitars forum, but there just isn’t that much information out there. Tropical music appears to have kept very poor records.

Serial Numbers on Dean Imported Guitars

Dean guitars that were imported from different countries are a whole nother headache. For the most part, the serial numbers are meaningless.

Imported Deans do not have year-coded serial numbers, and would have to be dated through configuration, headstock design, and other design factors. This requires extensive knowledge of their hardware and which year Dean used which hardware. Dean throughout the years has used a variety of hardware, including pickups, tuning knobs, and pots on various guitar years.

There may be some kind of structure to the imports starting in 2008/2009 but there isn’t for anything older. 

Here is what you can decipher from the imported Dean guitars’ serial numbers. The Letter from of the number indicates which factory location the guitar was manufactured at.

Meaning of the Letters before the serial number on Dean Imported guitars:

S = Samick Korea 

E = World Musical Instruments Co Ltd 

US = UnSung Korean 

Y = YooJin China

CT = Indonesia

J = Japan

S – Samick, Korea

Dean guitars made in Samick, Korea is the same plant where Samick guitars are made. (What a surprise!) Dean guitars were only manufactured there while owned by Tropical Music from 1993 to 1996.

E – World Musical Instruments Co Ltd

World Musical Instruments Co Ltd manufactures guitars for a ton of different brands, such as Ibanez, Schecter, and even PRS SE at one point.

The serial numbers on the guitars that from here are meaningless, but at least you’ll know where the guitar came from.

US – UnSung Korea

This is the one that tricks most people. They see the US and think that the guitar was made in the United States. 

These Dean guitars are not made in the USA.

Don’t be fooled. The US obviously stands for UnSung, and they are where a lot of Dean imports are manufactured.

On the bright side, you can clean some information from the serial number. The first two digits are the year the guitar was made. 

UnSung Korea started producing Dean guitars in 2006 and is still producing them.

Y = YooJin China

The first two digits are the year the guitar was made. 

YooJin China started producing Dean guitars in 2006 and is still producing them.

CT = Indonesia

The first two digits are the year the guitar was made. 

J = Japan 

The first two digits are the year the guitar was made. 

There were high-quality Dean Soltero SLs built in Japan. They are built with better parts versus the Soltero SL’s made in Korea.

Czech Republic

There were some Dean guitars made in the Czech Republic in the 1997 to 2000 timeframe. These guitars will typically have a 5 or 6 digit serial number, but not say made in the USA. These guitars are generally well built, and more sought after than the guitars imported from Korea.


Dean guitars produced in the USA between 1977 and 1985, and since 1996, can be dated using the first two digits of their serial numbers. Dean Guitars made between 1986 and 1995 do not have dated serial numbers, and Dean did not keep records. These guitars are hard to date.

Imported Dean guitars are nearly impossible to date before 2006 when most of the international factories started using a dated serial number.

When it comes time to buy a Dean guitar, and you are out shopping for one, being able to read the serial number will really help you out. You will be able to recognize where it was made and in what year it was manufactured if it was made in the USA. 

If it has the serial number on the fretboard, you know if was made between 1986 and 1995.


My name is Kit. I am a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, producer and music teacher. I have toured around the world, taught thousands of lessons, produced hundreds of tracks, self-released an album and EP, and written hundreds of songs.

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