PRS Guitars History

PRS Guitars History

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The PRS Story

Paul Reed Smith has done more for the high end guitar market than any other person alive. If it weren't for Paul Reed Smith, people would still be playing Gibson's & Fenders.  The early PRS guitars were absolutely the best guitars I had ever seen or played in my life. Up until the mass production and CNC manufactured models of 1995 I was recommending PRS guitars to everyone.

The absolute best thing that Paul ever did was to bring the perceived price of an electric guitar up to the level where a consumer would actually consider buying a custom made instrument. Today there are hundreds of small builders who owe their success to Paul. I am one of them.

Paul wasn't the only company who built great guitars, There was Hamer, Dean, BC Rich, Jackson, Moonstone, Turner, Alembic, Veillette Citron, and many others. These other companies even though they built great guitars failed to capture the imagination and hearts of thousands of guitarists who could afford to purchase a beautiful guitar. Paul succeeded where all others failed.

I am not a huge fan of what he is doing today but his guitars will always have a special place in my heart.

My first contact with Paul Smith was in 1977, this was as a direct result from my conversations with Stanley Whittaker and Rick Kennel of the Maryland based band,  "Happy the Man". They  were raving about this unknown builder making guitars in his attic. They were so enthusiastic that I simply could not ignore them. As a large retailer, I am frequently approached  by many small luthiers. I will generally check them out and occasionally I will find a real diamond in the rough. In this case these 2 guys were incessantly driving me up the wall. I had never been pitched so strongly about any other guitar up until that time and to this day. later that day I called Paul I spoke to him for a few moments. He sent me a handwritten letter (which I still have) and several not so good pictures of his guitars. I was not terribly impressed by the photos. In any case a few years went by and I spoke to Paul several times about his product. They were high priced for a completely unknown brand name. I sold very few of the original pre production models that were made between 1976 and 1984. These guitars played and sounded extremely good but there were many custom builders in that era that were advertising more and we all know the golden rule of the guitar business.

"He who advertises the most sells the most guitars "

In 1985 Paul got some major financing and he was able to start limited hand-made production of the PRS Custom. His design got sleeker his finishes were and still are probably some of  the best in the industry to this day. The locking tuning pegs that were standard were the best in the industry at that time and have been copied in theory by Fender, Sperzel, Schaller and other notables. (Today Sperzel probably manufactures the best one) The headstock design is great. The angle of the headstock facilitates a lesser tension and makes the guitar a pleasure to play not to mention the fact that the locking tuners simply cannot work with any other nut design but what Paul designed in 1985. He used only the finest Brazilian Rosewood for his fingerboards and the wood that Paul used for the bodies and necks were tone woods that he had "hoarded and stashed for years" Paul built an incredible monument to himself in those early guitars and anyone who has had the privilege to own or even play one of those beauties is a very lucky player indeed. I could go on for paragraphs about how great those guitars were. His major financing also included an advertising budget. So at that time I became extremely interested in carrying his guitars. I already knew the quality and playability was excellent and best of all the buying public were going to see ads in magazines.

Check Out The Quicksilver Guitars

 1995 The End of an Era

In 1995 as most of us already know, PRS expanded their facility and went close to a full year being unable to supply the demand for the products. Of course the products that were in demand were actually the older original ones. In any case a whole new group of PRS buyers came to the table. Most of these people were the uninformed or misled majority of guitarists who bought them only because of their early reputation. These are the people who make up the PRS Forum today. A sad group of people with nothing better to do than go into chat rooms and blab about PRS guitars, OY !!!

Many people who bought PRS guitars in 1993 were able to sell them for more than double what they paid in 1996. This led to the investor market getting involved. Most of the investors made bad purchases thinking that lightning would strike twice. Some lucky ones were able to find more misinformed buyers and still continued to make some profits. The vast majority however lost their butts on the post 1995 guitars. Many of those guys reside on the popular PRS forum that breeds people with nothing better to do but gossip about PRS all day.  (Get a Life)

Many of those forum people don't like me, or anyone like me, for pointing out the changes in the pre and post 1995 models. They used to send me hate mail and have long Ed Roman bashing threads on the forum. Personally I didn't like what they were saying but it was wonderful for business and it drove thousands of buyers to my site.  That's pretty much old news now so that's why it's on the history page.

The reasonably intelligent people who landed on my site and read all the comparisons and did their due diligence, resulted in lots of sales for me.

2001 PRS starts importing Korean Guitars  EEEEEEKKKK

PRS has made some very good moves over the years but I think he has made even more mistakes. It's OK to make mistakes, I mean how else do you learn? Fran Tarkington threw more touchdowns than any other football player but he also threw more interceptions than any other player. The bottom line is that he simply threw the ball more than any other player.   (I don't know Jack about football, I read that someplace and it made a lot of sense)

Some major mistakes that PRS made were Basses, Amplifiers, Acoustic Guitars and the dreaded Heel from Hell.

His Basses were pigs that didn't sound too good and never even became collector worthy. He finally discontinued them only to bring them back about 8 years later and fail again miserably.

Remember Bass players are almost always musicians.
Guitar players, especially the people who buy PRS guitars today, are rarely musicians.
Musicians aren't impressed with bird inlays and 10 tops so PRS could never have hoped to sell too many Basses.

 Some Good Moves were the Dragon & The Smithsonian Exhibition

Ed Roman

Prefix Number Year or Years
0 1990 2000
1 1991 2001
2 1992 2002
3 1993 2003
4 1994 2004
5 1995  
6 1996  
7 1997  
8 1998  
9 1999  

Serial Number Prefix -Year Codes


The first digit is the last number of the production year, followed by the sequential number of guitars produced to that date. For example - 7 3559 would be a guitar manufactured in 1987 and was the 3,559th Glued on neck guitar made.

While 6 29475 would be a guitar manufactured in 1996 and was the 29,475th set-in neck guitar made.

Approximate Serial Numbers Year
0001 0400 1985
0401 1700 1986
1701 3500 1987
3501 5400 1988
5401 7600 1989
7601 10100 1990
10101 12600 1991
12601 15000 1992
15001 17900 1993
17901 20900 1994
20901 24600 1995
24601 29500 1996
29501 34600 1997
34601 39100 1998
39101 44499 1999
44500 52199 2000
52200 62199 2001
62200 72353 2002
72354 82254 2003
82255 92555 2004
92556 103103 2005
103104 2006

Set-Neck Sequential Serial Numbers

The year of manufacture of any glued in neck PRS Guitar can be determined by the serial number located on the back of the headstock. The series of numbers that follow the year prefix is the sequential number of guitars produced to that date.

Paul Reed Smith Homepage


Approximate Serial Numbers Year
0001 0270 1988
0271 1830 1989
1831 3200 1990
3201 4540 1991
4541 7090 1992
7091 8820 1993
8821 10700 1994
10701 13000 1995
13001 14680 1996
14681 17130 1997
17131 19580 1998
19581 20749 1999
20750 21599 2000
21600 23199 2001
23200 25389 2002
25390 26399 2003
26400 27900 2004
27901 29377 2005
29378 2006
Bolt In: Sequential Serial Numbers

The year of manufacture is determined the same way for the CE bolt-on neck models however the serial number is located on the neck plate on the back of the guitar.

The following number determines the model: 7 or CE for the Classic Electric models,

Then the sequential number for that particular model.

As far as I am concerned these were the Best PRS guitars ever made, They were also the most reasonably priced

Approximate Serial Numbers Year
00001 00410 1997
00411 00760 1998
00761 00969 1999
00970 01179 2000
01180 01399 2001
01400 01899 2002
01900 02099 2003
02100 02287 2004
02288 2005

Swamp Ash Special Models: Sequential Serial Numbers

The year of manufacture is determined the same way for the Swamp Ash Special. Like the CE and EG models the serial number is located on the neck plate on the back of the guitar. The following number determines the model: 8 or SA for the Swamp Ash Special, then the sequential number for that particular model * the first 200 Swamp Ash Specials were given a CE serial number.


Approximate Serial Numbers Year
0001 0230 1986/87
0231 0350 1988
0351 0680 1989
0681 0730 1990
0731 0800 1991

Set-Neck Bass: Sequential Serial Numbers

The PRS Bass models produced between 1986 and 1991 will be numbered with the year as the first number, followed by the prefix 9 indicating a set-neck model bass, then the sequential number for that particular model. The serial number will be located on the back of the headstock.


Approximate Serial Numbers Year
00007 00072 2000
00073 00199 2001
00200 00422 2002
00423 00501 2003
00502 2004

Electric Bass: Sequential Serial Numbers

The PRS Electric Bass models introduced in 2000 will also be numbered with the year as the first number, followed by the prefix EB indicating Electric Bass, then the sequential number for that particular model. The serial number will be located on the back of the headstock.


Prefix Letter Year
A 2000
B 2001
C 2002
D 2003

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SE Model Serial Numbers     "Who Cares"

Please don't call us and ask us about your guitar if it is an import. We don't know and We don't care !!!!
I get at least one call a day from some 12 year old kid who wants to know about his platinum series BC Rich or an imported Jackson  model !!

  We don't know and We don't care !!!!