Mosrite ID and serial numbers
Here's a couple of points to get you started :
1960-63. The early Bakersfield solid body period. Semie's serial numbering system was 100 series for the double necks, 1000 series for the single neck models and 000 series for the basses. Serials are stamped in the back of the headstock like Gibson.
Mosrites from very late 1963 have their serial number stamped in the fretboard between the 21st and 22nd fret. If your guitar does not have the serial # stamped there, it is likely to be either A: a replacement neck (some do have serials stamped here) B: a copy (some do have serials stamped here) C: Mosrite forgot to stamp it (it happened) or D: A refret where the board has been sanded/leveled.
Most Mosrites from late '64 to late '68 have an assembly date and batch number stamped on the neck and in the neck pocket (bolt ons only of course) and some have hand signed signatures of the inspector/builder. Do not just rip the neck off your Mosrite. Get a professional or someone who knows what they're doing to carefully remove the neck and any shims that may have been used to get the angle right.
NOTE : The following is an attempt to help everyone who wants to date their Mosrite. Use this in conjunction with the serial number listing below and catalogue page to hopefully get a close date of manufacture. If you still have problems/ questions, by all means contact me with all your information and pics and I will try and help out.
Mosrite timeline :
|Semie works for Rickenbacker under Roger Rossmeisl and learns his famous German Carve. Semie started doing his customizing work while working for Paul Bigsby. He did work on Joe Maphis' Super 400, Larry Collins Gibson ES-140, and several others.
|Lots of customizing jobs on country western singers' guitars, including re-necked acoustics for Little Jimmy Dickens, Lorrie Collins, Skeets McDonald, Johnny Bond, and many many others.
|Semie made himself a triple neck guitar with a 6 string octave neck, a standard 6 string neck and an 8 string octave neck. Semie sets up a workshop in Rev Boatright's garage.
|Early hand made single and double necks and customs. First few had Moseley on the headstock. Double and triple necks tended to be Tele like shape and usually with an octave neck. All handmade components with Carvin AP-6 pickups and knobs.
|The famous Joe Maphis double neck had "Joe Maphis" inlaid into the fretboard. Most custom guitars made around this time had the player's name inlaid into the fretboard.
|The first double necks, as made for Joe Maphis, Larry Collins, Bob Regan and a bunch of preachers, had no serial numbers on them.
|Larry Collins got his custom made double neck. Semie moves to San Fernando Valley north of LA. Both Larry and Joe's double necks get "hogged out" to relieve weight. Both guitars will be extensively modified by Semie over the years.
|Double neck made for Roy Nichols who was playing with Wynn Stewart. There were probably only about 15 of the original big-bodied, full gingerbread double necks ever made (and 5/6 triple necks), there were LOTS of double necks made in the period 1960 to 1966, mostly custom ordered with some based on the earlier Joe Maphis design but with varying degrees of "gingerbread" appointments.
|Semie starts making his own pickups based on P-90s. Initial attempts have a tinfoil covered plastic cover with slot head screws. Slightly later versions are slotted screws coming through the scratchplate with the bobbin attached to the underside of the plate.
|Semie moves to Panama lane in the Bakersfield area and makes some ornate custom guitars and simple single and double neck guitars. They tended to be single cutaway solid bodies with Mosrite crudely inlaid/painted on the headstock or trussrod cover.
|Semie makes some guitars for Standel based on his single cutaway "Tele" style solid body. Brian Lonbeck receives the second new style double neck with his name inlaid in the fretboards with serial number 102. Brian was the first guitar player for Barbara Mandrell.
|Offset solid body with German carve we now associate with the Ventures shape with Mosrite and no model name or Joe Maphis model on headstock. Full neck and body binding. Early vibratos had a plastic plate around them that was referred to as the "mistake plate". They also had a flat plate type string guide (like a very thin nut, or sometimes a slotted fret) or wooden string guide.
|Semie moves around Oildale. Bill Gruggett, Joe Hall and some other young men start work for Semie in small sheds on Panama where Gene Moles introduces Nokie to Semie. Andy Moseley moves back from Tennessee to help with the new company. Andy is to be Vice-President.
|Joe Maphis single ($375-398) and double neck ($575-585) models are further developed and start showing up in advertising. Neck ends are still square, not angled like the neck pick up. They use hand made vibratos, bridges and pickups and Guild knobs. These were closer to what was to become the Ventures model.
|Early Vibramutes were made for Guild but rejected and as such had the name "scratched off" the black part of the vibrato that later had "Mosrite of California" on them. These were fairly crude aluminium castings with the mute system attached to the Bigsby style bridge.
|Mosrite moves from an earlier smaller shop at 1500 P street to larger facilities on 1424 P Street, in downtown Bakersfield.
|The first Ventures model was a set neck, celluloid bound body with a large "The Ventures" logo on the headstock. Side jack models. Thin necks and low frets known at Mosrite as speed frets. They had a zero fret and semi circular type metal nut. Knobs are chrome "spun" types with no markings.
|These were available in red or sunburst only. Number 0001 (red) goes to Don Wilson and 0003 (and 0047) to Nokie Edwards.
|Approximately 200 of these guitars were built from late '63 to mid '64. Headstock logo changes in size and typeface. Some '64s have a white print on natural headstock.
|Ventures basses follow similar specs to the guitars with set necks with body binding and large Ventures logos.. Available with only a single pick up in neck position until late '64. Serial numbers start at 5000.
|Most of these guitars up to this point had a scratch plate held in with 3 screws or 4 on some basses. Plates are made from plastic or acrylic. All Ventures models have neck binding and Kluson SAFETI Deluxe tuners with metal buttons. Single line until early '64. Double line after.
|Necks attached with four screws with a neck plate covering screw heads. A very few "transition" models have surfaced with bolt on necks and a side jack or top jack with body binding starting at serial numbers around 0175.
|The Ventures model ($398) now has the jack moved on to the scratch plate (now held on with 8 screws) and the body binding was dropped. The Ventures logo became smaller in late '64 (and again in mid '65) and the pick ups changed to show the Mosrite of California logo embossed on them with no ®
|Ventures basses ($330) now come standard with 2 pickups, still optional with one ($310). More colours added to catalogue. Custom colours have been available since early '64.
Celebrity semi acoustic 6 and 12 string guitars are introduced listed at $448 and $485, followed slightly later by a bass version ($398). These early Celebritys have a mahogany neck with symmetrical headstocks and mortise and tenon neck joint. Bodies have a laminated spruce top with large F holes, multiply binding and two pieces of 1/4" timber running under the top in line with the bridge from the neck to the back blocks. Celebrity body parts are made by Hofner in Germany.
|The Ventures 12 string ($449/$489 with vibrato) is introduced which is a standard Ventures model with a hard tailpiece, later to have a Moseley style vibrato. Bridge has rollers for 12 strings. The headstocks are large to accommodate 12 Kluson deluxe tuners.
|Asuka trade co, Ltd of Japan started importing Mosrites from Mosrite Distributing Corporation. Owner Kazuo Morioka would later start Firstman.
|Ventures model II (no catalogue listing) is introduced. A cheaper "student or entry level" guitar, it has no German carve, larger scratch plate, closed pickups (smaller in size to Ventures models) and the first series has a unique vibrato unit with the arm coming out between the D and G strings. This is the model made famous by Johnny Ramone. Estimates put the production of these at about 65. Made from approx. May to July 1965.
|The Mk II is modified as the replacement for the "slab body" Model II ($299). It is a slightly different shape to the earlier Mk II with a German carve, a Moseley vibrato, a Ventures style scratch plate and bigger parallel pickups without exposed pole pieces. No binding.
|The Mk V ($299) is introduced to replace the Mk II and is essentially the same as the previous Mk II. MK II/V and some Celebrity models have plastic buttons. These have shown up on a small number of Ventures models as well.
|Celebrity II and III semi acoustic in 6 ($369/279), 12 string ($419/329) and bass ($349/279) are introduced. These have the angled M headstock with standard rectangular bolt on neck joint. Available in trapeze or half trem tailpiece. The III is the cheapest with no neck binding listed at $279. Celebrity II and III's are more budget versions and have a bridge bracing block.
|The Combo 6 ($398) 12 ($448) and bass ($369), The Joe Maphis model 6 ($498) 12 ($589) and bass ($449), and the Serenade ($198) and balladeer acoustic are introduced to increase the range. The Combo and Joe Maphis are available as basses as well. The Combo and Maphis had the angled non symmetrical headstock with the truss rod adjustment at the headstock end.
|Most Mosrites have 1, 2 or 3 piece rock maple necks with rosewood fingerboards with small dot markers on the face and side. Markers changed from clay to plastic at around this time. Small, low frets are still in use throughout the 60's. The Celebrity I (and Gospel equivalent) still has a mahogany neck with symmetrical headstock.
|The vibrato unit is changed to a Moseley type around serial # 2500. This is essentially the same vibrato unit, but chrome plated die cast alloy instead of sand cast brass or polished aluminium like the Vibramutes.
|Volume and tone knobs are changed to a "hat type" with an "M" stamped on top and are numbered from 1 to 5 with V and T. This appears around very late '65/early '66 around serial number # 3000. Pickups also get the ® around this time.
|Mosrite makes slide guitars for Melobar. The very wide necks with angled fretboards and intricate markings are attached to leftover slab Mk II bodies.
|Mosrite acquires Dobro and starts making Dobros first still in the Gardena, California factory and then in Bakerfield out of old stock before starting manufacture of their own parts. The popular Californian D-100 is a Celebrity II body with the resonator.
|Mosrite makes some Celebrity guitars as Gospel Mk I (6 string), Mk XII (12) and MK X (bass) although these are not listed in the price list. This name will reappear in late 1968 and later in 1969/70 when Semie loses the Mosrite name temporarily. Most Gospels were Celebrity's with the symmetrical headstock shape (no M). Later in '69/70 some Mk V's were made as Gospels too.
|The Ventures model is now referred to as the Mk I in catalogues to align with other models. They still retain the Ventures logo until the deal expires in '67.
|The Joe Maphis double neck ($689) is introduced. Originally listed in the catalogue as Ventures Mark XVIII this is a Ventures style double neck as opposed to the original single cutaway early double neck Semie made for Joe. Available only in 12/6 configuration although custom order guitar/bass ones have turned up. A small number of single neck Joe Maphis Model IIs are made following the production Maphis model with more curved in horns.
|The truss rod adjustment is moved to the headstock end and a plastic rod cover installed to all Mosrites inc. the Ventures models. Some other Mosrites have been running this system since their introduction. Ventures/Mk I scratchplate moves to 7 screw attachment.
|Mosrite starts production of Fuzzrite pedals ($39.95) designed by Ed Sanner. The Fuzz pedal is one of the first commercially available floor effects units with the initial batch being germanium transistors.
|The Award amps which were realized by Bob Bogle (not designed or made by Mosrite) are introduced with the more expensive amps BG500 ($749) and BG1000 ($1099) had the Fuzzrite built into the amp circuitry. These amps are shipped from Minneapolis, Mi while all guitars and accessories are shipped from Bakersfield, Ca. The much better Mosrite Electronics amps are designed by Ed Sanner and built by Mosrite.
|The Ventures distribution deal is finished and the logo disappears off all headstocks. There is some confusion that the "V" serial prefixes started here at V0001 after the Ventures deal fell through. In fact the guitars carried on in sequential order from number 5000 with a V prefix (V5298 has the Ventures logo, V5368 doesn't). The reason for this is, as mentioned above, the basses started at number 5000 , so when the guitars reached 5000, they were given a V prefix to differentiate between the two.
|Mosrite M knobs get taller without the V and T written on them. Now marked 0-5. Moseley vibrato gets patent number.
|The Gospel branded guitars reappear. These are standard Mosrite Celebrity models with the Gospel headstock logo. Mosrite production is at it's peak at this time. Every model is being manufactured at the Bakersfield factory.
|Japanese copies started to appear by companies like Jaguar, Ibanez and Firstman. Firstman is set up by Kazuo Morioka who has been importing Mosrites through Asuka trade co since '65 and contracts Kurokumo to make several Mosrite models with the Mosrite names for the domestic market.
|The guitar market was shrinking and many manufacturers in both the US and Japan are struggling after several years of unbelievable growth.
|Mosrite shuts production in Bakersfield, Ca. Semie loses the Mosrite names and the factory, inc parts, guitars and machinery as all is auctioned off to pay debtors.
Mosrites from 1970 to the late 70's mainly had either "Mosrite of California USA by Semie Moseley" OR "Mosrite of California USA" as the headstock logo. This logo was not used at all in the 60's. In the mid 70's some Mosrites (mainly Brassrails) also had "The NEW Mosrite of California" Some 80's Mosrites have appeared with one of these headstock logos as well. Some 70's Mosrites have the "M" in a square instead of the usual serrated circle.
80's and 90's Ventures reissues sometimes had serial numbers that correspond with the year of manufacture e.g. 87034. This was the 34th guitar of that series made in 1987. They also had larger dot markers in the fretboard than the early "original" Ventures models. Some of these did have the Ventures logos back on the headstock and some had the original plated brass Vibramutes.
The Ventures model without the Ventures logo is referred to as the Mk I model. These were essentially a Mosrite ventures model.
|Semie has built guitars under the Gospel name since '66 and does again in 1969-70 until he bought back the Mosrite name which he had lost when the company closed down in '69. The Gospel name will pop up on hollow and solid bodies until the early 90's.
|Mosrite starts back up near Bakersfield. Some 60's models are offered inc. the Mk I model guitars and basses, the Celebrity series, the Joe Maphis, the Dobro style resonator guitars, all in 6 and 12 string versions and FUZZrites (sometimes branded Mosrite by Semie Moseley/ FUZZley by Moseley) using parts bought at the auction.
|The Mk I models (no Ventures logo) guitars and basses (Mk X) back in production.
|Dobro style guitars are now called Mobro after the Dopyeras new company OMI had re-acquired the Dobro name back from Mosrite in 1970.
|Semie moves back into the P street factory and all models now have Mosrite, with "by Semie Moseley" back on the headstock.
|The Bluesbender is offered in 6 string guitar only. Les Paul shape with solid German carve body and bolt on neck with symmetrical headstock. 2 humbuckers with push coil/phase switches.
|Semie made approximately 200 Black Widow guitars and basses for the Acoustic company.
|The 300/350 solid body series with single cutaway with flipped down bottom horn becomes available in mono and stereo will become a standard production model. Also available in bass.
|Mosrite signs a deal with Kustom in Kansas to distribute their guitars inc hollow bodies, solid bodies and Dobro (Mobro) style guitars.
|Mosrites address is again listed as 1424 P street in Bakersfield in catalogues and advertising.
|Celebritys are offered in Celebrity and Celebrity II in standard and deluxe. Deluxe has 4 knobs.
|The VII a Mk I guitar with Mosrite humbuckers and 4 control knobs and push buttons for coil/phase. Also available in bass as above or with 2 humbuckers and 2 knobs.
|Mosrite signs an exclusive distribution deal with Pacific Music Supply Co to distribute all Mosrite products. The catalogue shows all the standard models and includes the new VII and 300 and 350 guitar and basses.
|Bill Gruggett rejoins Semie in Bakersfield to make guitars together again. Hollywood Music orders Ventures reissues.
|The new Brassrail is the same shape as a Bluesbender with a 1/4 x 3/4" brass rail running down the fretboard to the bridge. A prototype aluminium rail was made. Some Brassrail deluxes had active electronics and removable cartridges for changing to 6 different tones. The SM model is similar in shape with more slab body and slightly cheaper appointments.
Some guitars are made with "the NEW Mosrite" headstock logos. Mainly Brassrail models. Semie starts a new "Sooner" model but few are made. Semie moved to Oklahoma city.
Semie was originally going to make 76 special Celebrity style guitars with no F hole for the US bicentennial. Only about 9 are completed before a fire burns down the factory in Oklahoma city. One custom brassrail version is built for a local preacher.
|Semie moves to Yuba City, California
|Semie moves again to Carson City, Nevada.
|Semie moves to an old school building in Jonas Ridge, NC to set up the new factory and start fresh.
|Production starts up again for Ventures models (with Ventures logo) made primarily for a Japanese dealer (Fillmore shop).
|Semie and Loretta have a car accident which leaves Semie unable to work on Mosrite for about a year.
|In November 1983 the factory burned down. Semie had little insurance on the building so production had to shut down yet again.
|Semie sets up shop in Morganton, NC to make small runs of guitars on a custom order basis. Ventures models with AF prefix in the serial number after the fire in Jonas Ridge, NC. Several new models start production including the Ventures shape with carved top and no scratch plate with two or three Mosrite single coil pickups known as the VII and VIII and the Double Axe which is a Ventures shape with cutouts in the body.
|The standard Ventures "re-issue" is now listed in catalogues as the Voltage ($987.00) and the Vintage ($1275.00) with a hardcase for $125.00.
|Semie is diagnosed and undergoes colon surgery. After another lengthy recovery he starts up again in Jonas Ridge, NC in 1986..
|Metallic silver Ventures model commemorating the 25th anniversary of the release of the first Ventures guitar. Only 12 of a proposed 25 were made.
|The V88 is a Ventures model reissue made in 1988/89. No Ventures logo. The M88 is a Ventures shape without German carve or scratch plate. The Tonechambers are Ventures shape with acoustic chambers routed out of the body with a top and back glued together. Essentially a semi hollow body with no F holes.
|Prototype made in 1988, but released in '89. This was a set neck, side jack reissue Ventures model. Finished in metallic paint.
|Only a handful of guitars were made in '89 when the State of Arkansas helped Semie move to Leachville, Ark. Action by investors no longer interested in Mosrite in Arkansas failed to follow through with financing and Semie went back to Jonas Ridge, NC for a short time.
|Several new models were introduced including some "official" Ramones guitars, Victory series and Gospel models.
|The State of Arkansas put money up for Semie to relocate to Boonville and the new factory was set up in an old Wal-Mart building in Boonville, Ark on March 9,1991.
|Semie had 15 employees that had built Gretsch guitars but 3 months after the move he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, Cancer of the Bone marrow.
|Ventures model released to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Mosrite name. Set neck, side jack Ventures models are produced in medium quantities mainly for the Japanese market (40 for Fillmore).
|Several new flat bodied Ventures shape "budget" models started including the Equalizer and a single pickup Ramones model.
|A Nokie Edwards Set neck Ventures model released to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Ventures playing Mosrite.
|In April the company was declared bankrupt after not being able to pay debts and the factory was closed. The last Mosrites made in the US are sold until 1995.
Note : I'll add more links to these tables as I get time to write full blogs about more of my personal collection.
Mosrite Identification points.
NOTE : Mosrite made all their own hardware including string guide, pickups, switch tip, strap buttons, knobs, bridge and vibrato or tailpiece from late '63. Semie ordered these parts in massive quantities (for cost) so most production and custom orders had mostly Mosrite hardware. Tuners were Kluson SAFETI deluxe tuners throughout the 60's (see below).
Mosrite and Semie Moseley made so many one offs and custom orders it is almost impossible to list them accurately. This following section is an attempt to help people work out their Mosrites if they can not identify from the previous pages.
When Semie started in the mid 50's he was working from "workshops" and sheds wherever he could find space. All through the Mosrite history there are stories of Semie using "whatever he could get hold of at the time" and because of this, some guitars are very hard to identify or confirm as original. Using the previous tables together with this section should hopefully help you get at least close.
Mosrite used many different types of knobs although the most common and recognizable are the "top hat" knobs with M in the top. I'll start with the late 50's models since this is when a certain consistency (although very scattered) came in.
Joe Maphis model (Ventures shape) used clear plastic Guild knobs with the "G" scratched off. These knobs appear on most of the early Bakersfield guitars and some very early Ventures models.
Some early Joe Maphis and early Ventures production models had black plastic Guild knobs with the "G" scratched off. They are black with silver tops with a serrated edge and numbers 1 - 9 with either volume or tone written on them.
Next came the "spun" knobs. These were metal (chrome or nickel plated brass) with two machined grooves in the side for grip. They matched the grooves in the strap buttons and switch tips. These ran from very late '63 through to early '65. Earliest versions in early '64 had no dot marker. Later versions had a small "dot" drilled into the skirt.
Then the famous M top hat knob. Numbered 1 - 5 with V or T and a big M embossed on the top. These replaced the spun knob as an instant product identification and were used from late '65 to late '66. They were chrome plated brass.
In late '66 the previous M knob was changed to a knob that looks very similar but is significantly higher. These were marked 0-5 which meant they could be used in V or T position. These ran through the '70's and 80's until production ceased in the '90's.
Some early '70's Mosrites have turned up with black plastic knobs the same as the early Mosrite Award amps used. This was probably due to financial problems and low stock levels. Some Brassrails and 300/350 models have also had "generic" plastic knobs available at electronics stores. The bottom line is, don't change them if you're not sure, they might be original.
Pickups and pots.
Several different types of pickups have been used by Mosrite over the years. The earliest guitars had Carvin AP-6 pickups which were one of the only commercially available aftermarket pickups on the market. Semie started making his own pickups in around '59 and some (early Bakersfield) models had handmade "primitive" looking black plastic or pick ups wrapped in aluminium foil. Early Joe Maphis models had wooden cover pickups which turned into a black plastic "dog ear" close to what would become the standard Mosrite pickup. All pickups made by Semie at this stage had slot headed screws for pole pieces. I'll stick to "production" pickups here unless anything interesting comes up.
Early Ventures models (inc. some late Joe Maphis) had Mosrite manufactured "smooth" cover pickups. These were black plastic covers with 6x32 thread x 3/4" long Phillips Fillister head screws (also known as a raised cheese head screws) for pole pieces and no writing or embossing on them. These were hand made by Semie using a wooden mold and the kitchen oven. Earliest examples have cast black epoxy bobbins from the same casting as the pickup surrounds. These moved to wooden bobbins once production ramped up in early '64. These smooth cover pickups were used until early 1965. AWG 44 and 43 wire was used to wind these early pickups up to around 15K.
The next pickups for all guitars except the newly introduced Mk II/Mk V range looked essentially the same but had Mosrite of California embossed into the plastic cover. This was part of the die and not "branded in" afterwards like a lot of people think. These pickups are identical internally using wooden off-cuts for bobbins with thin clear plastic sheet glued to the top and bottom of these wooden centres with wire wrapped around. Pickup surrounds are now die cast plastic as well.
In 1965 another pick up was introduced to the Mosrite range. These were only used on the slab bodied Mk II's. These were hand formed covers with two bar magnets vertically with a thin piece of timber separating them. This was wrapped in tape and the thin plastic sheet glued top and bottom to form a bobbin. These were much narrower than other Mosrite pickups.
This year also saw the MK II/Mk V pick up with no exposed pole pieces introduced. This was the same cover as the Ventures pickup with no holes drilled for pole pieces only used on the Mk II/Mk V and Celebrity II, III and IV range of "cheaper" Mosrites and would have been cheaper to manufacture. These are similar construction to the slab body pickups with two bar magnets separated by a (slightly thicker) piece of timber to form a crude bobbin to wind onto.
In 1966 the pickup cover had an "®" (registered trademark) added after the Mosrite. These were used for the remainder of the Mosrite production until the 90's. They changed slightly in size over the years, but looked the same.
1966 also saw the Dobro/Californian guitar and bass models get 1 or 2 pickups that were slightly Rickenbacker with a chrome open top cover/surround with a white or black insert with pole pieces. These appear on some slightly earlier (before the Mosrite takeover) Dobro models with and without chrome surrounds. These were later used on Rosac made Melobars and again in the 70's on Semie's ill fated Sooner guitars, both without pole pieces.
All '60's Mosrites had the Ventures style pickup except the ones noted above. Basically, the pole piece pickups were used on all the upper tier models including the Combo, Joe Maphis and Celebrity I.
Mosrite started making humbuckers from 1973. These were the single coil covers with two rows of pole pieces. One row is drilled through the Mosrite of California embossing. Some neck humbuckers had the poles staggered so all 12 poles lined up with the strings. These are sometimes mistaken for 12 string pickups. The New Mosrite of California guitars had humbuckers with no exposed pole pieces and some of these had the embossed logo painted silver. These would date from around 1975/76.
White pickup covers and surrounds appeared in the 80's in limited numbers.
Mosrite primarily used a segmented (snap off) magnet originally designed as a commercial "fridge magnet" type material that could be broken to the desired length. These were essentially simple cast bar magnets. It's unclear what material they were made of exactly but to my ears A3 sounds as close as I can get. Nearly all Mosrite pickups from '63 to '94 have these magnets. Some 70's Mosrites had ceramic bar magnets from new. These were probably in times Semie could not get his beloved segmented magnets.
Early Ventures models had a simple cast black epoxy bobbin with thin clear plastic glued to the top and bottom to form a bobbin. Once production increased these bobbin centres were changed to timber off-cuts from necks with the same thin plastic top and bottom. In the 70's Semie made pickups with air coils using AWG43 wire with the coil, pole piece bar and aluminium attachment bar all being held in place with dental putty. Both single coils and humbuckers were made in this method.
Mosrite used different epoxies and resins to assemble their pick ups over the years. Earlier pickups (60's) used a thin white foam material as a base. All Mosrite pickups have an aluminium adjustment bar with two holes for the height screws (pole piece screws were used) on each end. This is NOT a certain dating method, but here's an outline.
White bottoms with clear, red or black epoxy (60's)
Green bottoms (early '70's)
Some pick ups from 1973/74 have the date scratched into the bottom.
Tan bottoms (early/mid '70's)
Clear bottoms 80's
Pickups up until the late 60's mainly used thin black and white lead wires twisted together which sometimes turned into a shielded (usually grey) 1 or 2 core wire on some 70's pickups, especially humbuckers. Most standard single coils from the late 70's go back to the thin black and white wires. Wiring can be all over the place and hard to identify as original unless solder joints are untouched. It's not uncommon to see many different types (brands) of shielded and non shielded wire from new with brass solid core being used as a common earth on many. 0.05 (0.047 will work fine) ceramic disk capacitors of no particular brand are most common throughout.
Early Joe Maphis single necks have pot dates of 20-61 but these pots weren't used until later. The pots in Joe Maphis serial number 0002 (first owned by Gene Moles) are dated 17-63 and a large proportion of the pots in the first Ventures models are dated 31-63 and 47-63 and the most common 49-63 which ran well into the serial number 200's made in August '64.
Mosrite (mostly) used 250, 350 and 500K CRL pots that have the EIA source-date code stamped into the side of the pot eg.:1346534. This means THE POTS were manufactured in the 34th week of 1965. The first 3 digits (134 - CentraLab) are the manufacturer, the next 2 are the year (e.g. 1965) the last 2 are the week (e.g. 34th week). Because production was at an all time high between '65 and '68, pot dates are a fairly accurate way of dating your Mosrite unless they've been replaced. Early 70's Mosrites also used some CTS (EIA source-date code stamp 137) pots and some later Mosrites (1970's) also used unknown brand 6 digit pots, some with plastic shafts. Some early 70's Mosrites used Japanese pots (and generic knobs) that can not be dated. Some 80's Mosrites had DiMarzio pots.
NOTE : Pot dates should never be used as an actual way of dating a guitar but if original it tells you the guitar could not have been made BEFORE those dates.
Vibratos and bridges.
Mosrite used 2 main types of vibratos units both based on the same concept. The early models had a cast aluminium unit called a Vibramute. These were designed and manufactured by Semie for Guild and early Mosrites have the Guild writing ground off the black part that later had Mosrite of California written on it. These were attached to the body with 6 screws and had a cast bridge similar to the ones used by Bigsby with a muting mechanism attached to the front (pickup side) These only appeared on the Joe Maphis and very early Ventures models.
The Vibramute that followed was plated cast brass to speed up manufacturing and some people insist these sound better than the Moseley unit that followed due to its denser construction. These had the aforementioned Mosrite of California and Vibramute cast into them and were paired with the now famous Mosrite roller bridge. This was developed to aid in tuning problems caused by the cast bridge.
In 1965 the vibrato unit was changed to the Moseley unit. Essentially the same unit, it now has Moseley written behind the tailpiece (where the strings anchor) instead of Vibramute. These were diecast alloy and chrome plated. In late '66 the Moseley vibrato got a patent number (3,237,502) added to the back near the Moseley. 2 springs (light and heavy) came with the guitar from new.
Also available through the '60's on semi acoustics was the "half trem" which was essentially a Moseley unit without the flat plate to fix the bridge to the unit, to accommodate the curved top. It looks like the back half of a Moseley unit. This was commonly available on some Combos and Celebrity models. This version moves the vibrato further away from the bridge which can sound really nice on some models. Semi acoustics were also available with trapeze tailpieces in 6 and 12 string versions.
Most 12 string guitars had a hard tailpiece that was the same design as the basses used. It was a piece of angle aluminium (or stainless steel) with a piece of lacquered dark hard timber inset into it and screwed directly to the body with 3 screws. Later '70's Mosrites used this design a lot and sizes vary from year to year. Later models seem to have smaller ones.
The early Mk II Ventures models had another completely different and unique vibrato unit again. This was a relatively cheap pressed/folded steel unit with the arm coming out through the D and G strings. The pivot tailpiece is only held to the base with string tension. The initial version has a flat top pivot plate which was changed to a rolled edge plate for the second run. It only appeared on the slab body Mk II's and a few of the first German carve Mk II's (and a couple of Ventures models made by Semie possibly in '69/70).
After the original cast aluminium bridges, the early roller bridges were made out of folded plated brass plates with 6 individual saddles, each with its own roller. The earliest roller bridges fitted to early Vibramutes had a flat base with 3 different height saddles to accommodate the fretboard radius and the intonation acorn nuts were soldered onto the bolt so couldn't be removed. In '64 the shape of this plate changed slightly, and the acorn nuts were no longer soldered on. In early '65 the base plate changed to a curved base with 6 identical roller saddles which followed the radius of the fretboard. Slightly later in '65 (around the time of the introduction of the Moseley vibrato) the acorn nuts were changed to a slightly shorter version. The non-roller bridges commonly available on the Mk II/Mk V/Celebrity had grooves cut into the top of each solid saddle where the roller was and were available on the cheaper models. These have shown up on higher end Mosrites from time to time. The bass bridges followed a similar path to the guitar bridges but with 4 non roller saddles. The 12 string guitars had the same roller bridge as the guitar except with 2 rollers on each saddle.
Early bridges (from late '63) had height adjustment posts with tall, slotted posts above the bridge which was reduced in height from early '65. These adjustment posts were anchored in the threaded holes of the vibrato or on non/half vibrato models in ferrules pressed into the body. In the 80's these adjustment posts got nuts on top to hold the bridge down.
Semie was making another bridge late in the 80's that had a steel bar that tied the saddle adjustment screws down to the base plate to stop the saddles rattling although they were not widely used and may have been a small run of units to test his new idea. These had rollers that could be used for 6 or 12 string guitars. There was also a Vibramute vibrato with "Semie Moseley" with the M cast into the part that usually says Mosrite of California on some models around this time.
The V88 (and other late 80's guitars) was offered with a hard tailpiece that looked like a Moseley unit but without the pivot or arm (It's a beautiful tailpiece) and the Brassrail and some SM models had a hard tailpiece that was a flat aluminium plate with a half rounded anchor to hold the strings. These are both fairly rare as well.
Both the cast Vibramute and Moseley vibratos use Torington BRG B-36 roller bearings in the pivot points. These will fit most Japanese vibratos too.
Tuners, strap buttons, neck plates and switch tip.
Mosrite mainly used Kluson tuners and these were one of the only pieces of hardware not made "in house" for their guitars. Ventures and the more expensive models used Kluson SAFETI deluxe single ('56-64) or double ('65-69) line tuners with metal oval shaped buttons. Mk II/Mk V and some Celebrity's (a few Ventures models have turned up with these) used Kluson deluxe tuners with white plastic oval buttons.
In the late '60's Mosrites started turning up with a very strange tuner that had a diamond shaped angular closed gear housing. These were made by Gotoh in Japan and rarely turn up on other guitars from the period. Semie owed money to Kluson and Grover and had to source tuners from offshore for the first time.
Basses started out with the classic "elephant ear" 2 a side tuners and in the mid/late 60's went to a "duck foot" tuner with Mosrite stamped into the gear housing. These were made for Mosrite and were made of a light and brittle alloy which over time has proven to be unreliable. They do look great though.
Some '73/74 Bluesbenders and 300/350s have chrome Gotoh sealed gear tuners with 2 screw pattern (Kluson style) and a pressed in (not usual threaded nut) ferrules as standard. Some mid '70's Mosrites like the Bluesbender and Brassrails and later 70's and into the 80's models came out standard with Grover or Schaller tuners. This was probably due to Semie not being able to get Klusons.
Mosrites through the late '80's/early 90's including all Ventures reissues used double line Grover Deluxe Kluson split shaft tuners copies.
Strap buttons were made in house as well and feature two lines of rings around the body of the button that matches the early knobs and switch tip which is a plated brass tip with the same two lines running around the tip. Early Joe Maphis and Ventures models have the original Switchcraft long black plastic switch tip (like some Rickenbackers) which is used again on some 70's models.
Early neck plates were a peanut shaped metal plate held on with 4 small screws covering the 4 neck screws. In late '64 the neck screws were run through the same shaped plate like Fender. The slab body Mk II had a similar square plate covering the neck screws. Most hollowbody and some late 60's and early 70's Ventures had ferrules in the body for uncovered neck screws. In the late 80's there was a cast peanut shaped plate with Semie Moseley and the M cast into it.
Bodies and finish.
Most production Mosrite bodies are made from basswood with the exception of a small run of Ventures models in late '64 made of a light mahogany that Semie bought cheap. These guitars tended to have a smooth German carve transition. Alder was also used on early Maphis/Ventures models and later when basswood was not readily available. Combo versions were hollowed out carve top and back glued together a la Rickenbacker as was the Joe Maphis (60's single neck) which was a thick spruce top with a walnut back. Some bodies in the 70's were mahogany (300/350) but basswood was still Semie's choice of body timber. Semie experimented with some exotic timbers like wenge in the 70's but no big runs were made. German carves varied over the years and you can sometimes tell a year by the carve, especially on the bottom horn. Body thicknesses varied also with late 60's Mk Is getting thinner before the close-down and 70's MK Is being thicker than any 60's version.
Celebrity bodies were laminated maple tops Some Celebrity Is have a spruce top), backs and sides made by Hofner (also made as a Hofner 4572 (also sold as a Carvin in the US), Ovation Tornado circa '67 to early 70's and Kapa model 506 circa late 60's) in Germany. Bodies were shipped in parts (top, sides and back) or complete in several different side depths and binding appointments. These parts were assembled and painted at Mosrite depending on what model/version was being made. All Celebrity guitars and basses had necks made by Mosrite with different binding and headstock shape options depending on the model. Bolt on necks were 2 screws for the mortise and tenon joint and 4 screws for the standard rectangular version. Early versions have a larger hand bound F hole with later smaller F hole versions having a 1 piece "plug in" binding. Gospel guitars used the same body as the Celebrity I. Early hollow bodies had a smaller orange label with "Style" and "Serial number" positions with typed in details. Later labels were slightly bigger with the same details and thicker black border. Labels were hand cut oval shape and glued into the top F hole or sound hole on acoustics.
Early Ventures models were available in sunburst and red only although custom colours were quickly introduced with pearl white, black and blue being popular. Bill Gruggett was in charge of painting and would check bodies for grain before deciding what colours were used. Nice grain bodies were kept for sunburst, which had an enhanced base coat to make the yellow really pop. The rest were painted with a white sealer for opaque colours. Metallic colours (like reds and blues) had a metallic gold (or later sometimes silver) base coat before the top colour coat. Pearl whites were mixed by Bill and varied over the years. Production guitars were offered in 3 "colour groups" and most got up to 12 coats of hand rubbed nitrocellulose lacquer which resulted in a lustrous finish which over time checks (cracks) badly under certain circumstances. Around the end of '65 Semie changed paint suppliers and started buying large drums of paint (possibly from PPG/Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co (and Ditzler Color Division) which had offices in Detroit and Berkeley/Torrance, Ca during the 1960's) which was a thinner lacquer. While Mosrite didn't use colour "names" (like Lake Placid Blue) at least some of these colour options appear to be available colours mainly from imported or commercial codes. Clear topcoats went to a (thick) single coat (catalyst) activated poly finish at this time.
The mid 60's catalogues list both standard colour chart and available custom colours (for additional charge) but you could request any colour that was available at a nominal fee including any colour and metal flake. These colour charts were separated into 3 groups and each model was listed as available in 1 or more groups as standard. Group 1: Sunburst, Cherry Burst, Metallic Red, Metallic Blue, Pearl White, Deep Black. Group 2: Transparent Cherry Red, Transparent (sometimes "Golden") Sunburst, Deep Black. Group 3: Natural, Transparent Sunburst. Confusingly at the same time flyers in shops listed "NOTE: A metallic finish is available in the Mark I, Mark X and Mark XII models for an additional $30.00" It is not uncommon to see Ventures models with a black body and sunburst neck or a black front and sunburst back and neck.
In the 70's guitars were mainly offered in Sunburst, Cherry Sunburst, Cherry, Natural, Walnut and Black with some models also offered in Dark Burgundy (Blues Bender) and even Transparent Gold (Celebrity Is) and in the 80's Semie offered most of the standard colours along with names like California Grape and Diamonized Ebony.
Necks and scale length.
Mosrite lists all their guitars as having 24.5" scale. Slightly shorter than Gibson, the same as most Gretsch guitars. Necks tended to be 1, 2 or 3 piece rock maple except for early Celebrity I's and most 70's 300/350 models, which were mahogany.
Although most Mosrite guitars had the 24.5" scale, neck thicknesses varied a lot over the years. The '63/64 models had the thinnest necks. All through the '60's the necks were thin in both depth and width and these are the necks that Mosrites are usually associated with. By the late 60's necks were getting slightly thicker (bodies were getting slightly thinner) The early 70's necks are generally wider and thinner than the early necks and use slightly larger frets while later 70's were slightly more substantial. The '80's reissues have thinner necks again but with wider fretboards than the original '60's models. 12 strings were the same as 6 string with a longer headstock to accommodate the tuners.
Most Mosrites had bound necks. The exceptions are The Mark II/V models, some Celebrity's, some Gospels and the M88. Mosrite were also working on a couple of cheaper Ventures shaped models without a German carve and no neck binding when they shut down in '93.
Mosrite primarily used small dot markers in a rosewood fretboard on most models with 2 at the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th and 3 at the 12th with one thereafter. 70's and some 80's Mosrites can have bigger dots. Some later 80's guitars had a maple fretboard.
Bass guitars had a 30.25". Neck characteristics are the same as the guitar necks.
The octave necks on double necks were generally 14" scale.
Necks were glued in up until just after serial 200 and then bolted on with 4 countersunk neck screws covered by a peanut shaped chrome metal plate covering the neck screws. At about serial 1000 this method is changed for the standard 4 neck screws through the peanut shaped plate. See above.
Trussrods for both guitars and basses were made in house and were based on the Rickenbacker rod with a piece of mild steel bent back on itself with a slightly longer section with a threaded end. A washer and nut is fitted to this threaded part which puts tension on the shorter piece making it bend. Trussrods were fitted after the fretboard and can be removed without removing the board. Both round and flat steel was used. Nuts are 1/4" same as Ric. Adjustment was made from headstock or body end depending on year/model. Necks with headstock adjustment have the trussrod channel running all the way through to the heel end.
Headstocks, like bodies, varied in shape and thickness slightly over the years but all "generally" had the 3 a side "narrow Ric" shape with an "M" cut into the end. Early "pre Bakersfield" headstocks were mainly 6 a side with 2 x sets of 3 a side tuners with a gap between the D and G strings. By '64 Mosrite headstocks were pretty consistent with either a flat (on cheaper models) or slightly angled back headstock tapering off in thickness with either an angled or flat "M" cut into the end with 3 a side tuners. Some special or custom guitars had unique shapes. Mosrite always screen printed their logos on and logos changed in size and design over the years. The original Ventures model had large logos with a very blocky typeface. In mid '64 this changed to similar size but much finer typeface and in late 64 (around serial #730) it changed again to smaller logos. The Ventures logo was made smaller in mid '65. Headstock logos throughout the 70's-90's changed in size and typeface many times. There are claims Mosrite used decals in certain years/circumstances but this is not true. Mosrite water-slide decals (like most brands) have been available online for some time but were never used by Mosrite.
Mosrite one offs, custom orders and related.
Mosrite and Semie Moseley especially made so many one offs and custom orders it is almost impossible to list them accurately. I still come across "new" Mosrites that I haven't seen before and there are literally 100's more of them out there.
Original production left handed guitars are RARE. There are at least 4 left handed Ventures models and an early Joe Maphis (hollow body) from the mid 60's made at the factory using right handed vibratos and a Ventures with a aluminium/timber hardtail..
You can usually tell a "real" Mosrite by it's hardware and feel. They had necks like no other guitar. The hardware was mostly made in house, even on real custom work, so not many other manufacturers have Mosrite hardware on their guitars (Hallmark, Epcor etc), although some have turned up with parts from the auction in '69. There are several ex Mosrite employees who still have NOS parts and have built Mosrites for people since the end of the company. Gene Moles, who was a local player and repair man (Doctor of Guitars) who had worked at Mosrite made quite a few "Mosrites" out of parts from the late 60's well into the 80's. Most had his name or "gm Custom" on the headstock but a few had the original Mosrite logos intact with gm Custom on the back of the headstock. Bill Gruggett followed a similar path and made custom guitars with leftover Mosrite parts with (mostly) wooden pickup covers in both Mosrite and custom original designs with Mosrite logos or Gruggett names on the headstock including several Brassrails.
Customs varied from Standard shapes with custom paint or hardware to wild and crazy shapes like no other guitar. Semie made many one-offs for friends and gospel players over the years and they are still turning up from time to time. Semie made many Ventures models during the 80's and early 90's that are essentially exact copies of the originals and some have corresponding serial numbers, which confuses things somewhat. Semie was also "famous" for completely re-doing a Mosrite sent back to him for the smallest of repairs. Some early Mosrites were retrofitted with the latest hardware and even refinished before being sent back to the owner, usually without their knowledge (until opening the hardcase) as Semie considered this "good customer service" to update and restore an old guitar to current specs. He also made guitars for Johnny Ramone and a bass for Dee Dee in '88 and a handful of official Ramones models as well as a bass for CJ Ramone in pearl white.
During the 80's (mainly) Semie would pay off debts to investors by paying them in finished or unfinished guitars and/or parts. Over the years these guitars and parts have come up for sale with a huge lot of parts coming out in Canada in the mid 2000's. These were mostly unfinished and even production damaged or seconds bodies and necks, some of which were unusable. There was also lots of unfinished hardware and some of these assortments have been built into "Mosrites" over the years and unscrupulous, or unknowing sellers have tried to pass them off as real. Most of the nearly finished necks and bodies had C93 stamped into them.
If you find something that feels like a Mosrite and has Mosrite hardware, it could be a VERY rare piece indeed. Contact someone who knows and find out more.
Many companies (including my own) have made Mosrite copies over the years. This is probably due to their appeal and relatively small production numbers. If you have read the previous pages and are still not sure here's a couple of points to help you maybe decide if your Mosrite is in fact a copy. Of course, this section could be a whole site on it's own but this might help, or just make things more confusing?
I'm dealing primarily with copies that are as close to the real thing as possible. Many manufacturers made "Mosrite copies" that were really, to me, just Mosrite inspired and these are easy to tell apart. My blog is absolutely full of info and pics on these.
Japan was absolutely swept up by Mosrite and the Ventures in the mid 60's and Japanese companies such as Morales (Zen-On), Aria, Excetro, Minister, Teisco, Kawai, Tokai, Jaguar, Guyatone and even our very own Onyx, and many more have all made Mosrite inspired guitars mainly during the late 60's, when Mosrite were at their height. To be clear, NONE of these companies were "official" or "semi-official" Mosrites. These were entirely low to medium high quality Japanese domestic market Mosrite inspired guitars produced to "cash in" on the popularity of the Mosrite guitar, some made in the same factories with a different name on the headstock. For accuracy and quality, the Hoshino (Jaguar), Zen-On (Morales) and later Teisco-Gen-Gakki (Excetro) factories came the closest to producing anything like a Mosrite. However both Fillmore and Mosrite Japan (Kurokumo) made more accurate reproductions of most Mosrite models, especially the Ventures model in later years.
The first commonly available Japanese copies were called the Mosrite Avenger (the Hoshino made Jaguar and Ibanez copies were slightly earlier) which were marketed by Firstman from 1967 and used the Mosrite names. By 1969 Firstman offered copies of most Mosrites including the Ventures models, Joe Maphis double necks, Combos, Celebritys Californian Dobro and even showed a FUZZrite in their '69 catalogue. In 1967 Firstman applied for the Mosrite trademarks in Japan. Firstman (as Asuka trade co. of Japan) had been the exclusive importers of Mosrite from the US since 1965 but due to their relatively high prices, sales were slow leading to them asking for a licence to make official Mosrites in Japan, which they claim was approved in 1968. Firstman mainly used Teisco-Gen-Gakki for manufacturing after their owner, Kazuo Morioka left Teisco after the Kawai takeover in '67. Some bodies for these Avengers were made by Teisco-Gen-Gakki with the majority of bodies and all necks being made by the Kurokumo factory which had been operating in the Nagano Prefecture since 1961. When Firstman stopped making guitars in 1969 the Mosrite section was sold and production stopped. Firstman (and manufacturing section Hillwood) went on to become primarily an electronics company continuing making amps, synths and sequencers for brands like Multivox from '72.
Soon after the Firstman guitar section shutdown some owners from other post Teisco companies bought the rights and contracted Kurokumo to start production again. These guitars are essentially identical but some have LOGIC on the trussrod cover and despite using the Mosrite names, have no connection to Firstman (or Mosrite). Some of these have Mosrite "of" Avenger and the Ventures logo on the headstock. This company made Mosrite copies until 1977 when it sold the trademarks (assumed it took over when they started production in '69) and essentially morphed into Mosrite Japan (Kurokumo black cloud/Kuroun Seisakusho) who kept making Mosrite copies for many years. These early ('68-late 70's) Mosrite copies were made with solid timber and plywood bodies (depending on factory and model) and had necks with trussrod adjustment at either end with metal or plastic (Fender like) string guides or no zero fret with Fender style nut. While some were reasonably convincing they are easy to spot as copies. Despite what is circulated on the net, none of these companies had any deals or rights in place to make "official" Mosrites and were not affiliated with Firstman or Kazuo Morioka in any way.
In 1976 Noriyuki Yusa opened a musical instrument shop called Fillmore to deal with Mosrites in Japan which hadn't been officially imported/distributed since 1968/69. He files for trademarks in Japan and meets Semie at a guitar show in Texas in 1981 and starts a relationship importing genuine Mosrites and working with special and custom models. Noriyuki Yusa passed in 2000 and Fillmore has since been run by Mr. Yukie Yusa.
Noriyuki Yusa (who had an impressive early Mosrite collection) started making essentially the same product as Kurokumo in the early 90's with really convincing copies of mainly Ventures models but also offered a "Johnny Ramone" slab body (like Kurokumo) and eventually made "official" Ramones versions with Johnny's approval in 2001. Fillmore would go on to market a lot of original, and non original "Mosrites" and have lines called Mosrite of Classics and Mosrite Ranger when they weren't allowed to use the "of California" due to legal reasons. Later Kurokumo guitars had a label under the finish on the back of headstock that read "Crafted by Kurokumo" while later Fillmore had a "Made in Japan" on the neck heal end like some Fender Japan models. Fillmore (and Hallmark who own the name now) have made copies using the Gospel name.
Over the next 40+ years Fillmore and Kurokumo will claim and counterclaim ownership of rights and names to manufacture Mosrites with both companies essentially making accurate some good quality Mosrite copies. After years of legal action by the Moseley family and these Japanese companies as to who owns the rights to make Mosrites, as far as many are concerned, you could not buy a "real" Mosrite after 1994. In 1998 Fillmore applied for the trademarks in the US which had recently lapsed. In 2009 Loretta Moseley tried to claim the rights back (against Fillmore and Ed Roman for illegally using/importing the Mosrite names in the US) but the case was dismissed in 2010. Moseley family members have been involved in trademark rights with some claiming to once again make "genuine USA Mosrites" which for the most part have been made in Japan Fillmore guitars with pickups made by a Moseley family member fitted in the US. Both Kurokumo (dark cloud/Mosrite Japan) and Fillmore have made some very good and faithful reproductions of a Mosrite. I've owned MANY and some of them are really (I mean really) nice. Fillmore still operates under the mosrite.co.jp site and claims to own many of the Mosrite names. There is a company in Kyoto, Japan called the Mosrite Custom Shop currently making "official Mosrites" with Semie Moseley on the headstock where the Ventures logo was but it's unclear who this is and what rights, if any, they have although they appear to work (have worked?) with Dana Moseley (Mosrite Dana-Mo pickups). They sell online (www.mosrite.jp and mosrite.net) or through the Mosrite Shop in Tokyo which opened in 2015. The Mosrite cafe (mosritecafe.com) is also run by the same people.
Some ID points.
The early Firstman made Mosrites will have an "FM" prefix serial number stamped into the fretboard which disappeared around 1969-70 (some into the early 70's) and became just a number (or no serial) when the new owners took over (serial numbers contain no date codes) and later Mosrite Japan (Kurokumo) have made some copies over the years with actual Mosrite serial numbers some of which are almost impossible to tell from a real USA one in photos.
If your guitar has only Mosrite (no "of California") on the headstock it is Japanese. Some Japanese copies do have Mosrite of California written on both the headstock and vibrato unit although just having Mosrite (no "of California") is more common. Some Japanese Mosrites have the Ventures logo and there were runs of Ventures style guitars and basses made by Kurokumo in the 70's with a Joe Maphis logo. The Japanese vibrato can have Moseley or Vibramute but not all have the "of California" under the Mosrite logo and name. Some Japanese versions have EXCELLENT where the Moseley was. There were also copies of the half trem vibrato made in Japan.
There have been a few different Japanese Mosrite bridges with some being almost identical (and retrofitting real Mosrites) in construction. The early versions had a similar looking bridge with small triangular points where the rollers were followed by almost exact copies of the original roller bridge. There were later versions (Kurokumo) of the roller bridge with slots in the base plate and screws running up into the saddles to lock them in place (stop rattling) but these don't go as low as originals so may not work on your Mosrite. By the later years Japan was making both flat and curved base roller bridges and curved base non roller bridges. All will fit an original Mosrite.
Japanese pickups can have the Mosrite of California embossing on the pickups but some early (Firstman and Logic) versions have no "of California" and used bigger pole pieces than standard. Japanese pickups (from both companies) vary in quality depending on the model they are in but all lower end versions have grey 1 core shielded lead wires. Very few Japanese pickups have the epoxy construction with the aluminium bar, with lower end models essentially being P-90's with ceramic bar magnets with a full brass or aluminium plate on the bottom. Starting at around the custom 64 models the pickups get alnico magnets and the aluminium bar with aluminum foil bottoms for shielding and the high end 63s have A5 magnets, wooden bobbins and thin black/white lead wires. Current Mosrite Custom shop pickups have red epoxy and aluminium bar construction. There are also white Japanese pickups like 80's US ones.
Generally speaking you could say that recent (90's to present) Japanese copies are going to have better condition finishes than an original Mosrite because age has not checked the finish. Mosrite used thick (12-16 hand rubbed coats) lush finishes which does check badly in some cases while most Japanese copies except the high end '63s have modern poly finishes.
The toggle switch on all original Mosrites was a long blade type switch made by Switchcraft with a round attachment nut. Most Japanese Mosrites have a box type switch with a hexagonal nut. Later Kurokumo and Fillmore models have a blade type switch with a course knurled round nut with metal switch tip. Most Japanese Mosrites have a plastic or smooth metal tip. Strap buttons are standard on most Japanese copies too with later models having a convincing original type button.
Early Japanese Mosrites (Firstman, Logic and Kurokumo) have the common rectangular (or square with little point) neck plate with Made in Japan stamped into it while later Kurokumo and Fillmore use the original peanut shaped plate. Later Kurokumo have Mosrite engraved on this plate.
Original US pots were Centralab brand and will have production dates and a fine spline shaft (plastic in the 70's). Japanese Mosrites have a generic Japanese brand pots with a coarse spline. Japanese wiring tends to be quality shielded wire throughout. Knobs on early Japanese copies were chrome hat type with knurled dome and no markings. Later with an M on top (no markings around the skirt) with 63/64 and some 65 versions having spun knobs very similar to originals.
Mosrite fret wire in the 60's was very small and is not being made at all anymore. Later Japanese copies have a small wire close to this, but not exactly the same. Some of the late '60's copies have wire almost identical. Some Japanese copies have plastic string guides (set in like both Fender and Gibson style nuts) which original US ones never did. Early chrome metal string guides are a half circle with a curve to follow fretboard radius, which original Mosrite didn't do. Later copies followed the half or 1/4 round guide the same as originals.
Most Japanese copies have Gotoh Kluson style tuners (some with Mosrite stamped into the housing where Kluson was written). Mosrite never used these tuners although they may have been retro fitted over the years. Early lower end copies had generic staggered screw cheap pressed steel cover tuners with oval buttons and some 70's versions have a type of Gotoh "star tuner" with staggered screw holes.
Japanese versions copied both trussrod adjustment at body and neck end from very early on. Trussrods are allen key adjustable whereas original US Mosrites are 1/4" nut.
It's a little hard to tell this, but US made Mosrites used imperial measurements where Japanese copies use metric.
The bottom line is, if it's a nice playing and great sounding guitar and it's not too expensive, then buy it. If you're buying it as an investment, then make sure it's real. If you're buying it to play, then make sure you like it.
NOTE : The original Vibramute had 5 mounting screws where the Moseley has 4 and the outside holes don't line up exactly. The shape of the two vibratos is slightly different too, so if there is a mark in the finish around a Vibramute and you are skeptical of it's originality, it my have had a Moseley originally.
Listings are in (kinda) alphabetical order by model name. Mosrite and Semie made many one offs and special orders that may not be listed. This is NOT the "be all and end all" in Mosrite serial listings, it is just meant to help guide you to identify your Mosrite. I have thousands of serials listed so contact me if you'd like more info. Serial numbers from late '63 to '94 are (mostly) stamped in the fretboard between the 21st and 22nd fret.
|300. Solid body, single cutaway
|350. As above with stereo electronics , two output jacks and bypass switching.
|350. As above in bass
|350. Possibly a prototype, serial NO not N0
|Black Widow. Double cutaway, black guitar with red pad on back. No prefix on bass.
|Bluesbender. Solid body "Les Paulish" shape with german carve
|Brassrail. As above with brass bar running down fretboard , brass electrics cover plate.
|Californian. D-100 model, Resonator guitar.
|Celebrity I. Semi acoustic electric , double cutaway with spruce top and maple back and sides
|Celebrity I. As above.
|Celebrity II. As above with small control plate
|Celebrity II. As above.
|Celebrity III. As above with bigger control plate
|Celebrity III. 12 string. Some have the letter A after number
|Celebrity 12 string.
|Celebrity. As above in bass. Also ZZ prefix. Some had an L serial.
|Celebrity deluxe. 4 control knobs.
|Celebrity III. As above.
|Combo. Semi solid double cutaway with "f" hole. 12 string has "G" prefix also.
|Combo. As above.
|Dobro guitar by Mosrite.
|Dobro above with Mobro on headstock.
|Slab body Ventures shape with hardtail.
|Gospel series I . Similar to Celebrity I.
|Gospel / Gospel Encounters. Hollow and solid body.
|Joe Maphis double neck. Double cutaway solid body 12 over 6.
|Semi solid without "f" hole. Same shape as Combo with spruce top/walnut back
|Joe Maphis. As above in bass. Also R and DR serial prefixes.
|Mk II. Small body with full scratch plate and no German carve, smaller single coils.
|Mk II. Small German carve body parallel pick ups with no pole pieces.
|Mk V. As above with Ventures mark V on headstock until '67.
|Acoustics including small body Serenade and large body Balladeer.
|Tonechamber. Semi solid Ventures
|Ventures model had no prefix before mid '67. Serial numbers start at 0.
|Ventures bass. As above but serial numbers start at 5000.
|Mk I starts prefix around serial number 5300. Some later Ventures reissues use V again with some 80's models having the date in the serial number.
|Mk I bass. As above.
|V88. Ventures model. Signed by Semie.
|M88. As above with no scratch plate or German carve.
|Ventures model 12 string. Prefix still used after Ventures.
|Ventures reissues made "After Fire"
|Original VII. Mk I with 2 humbuckers and 4 control knobs.
|Later VII and VIII. Three pick up Ventures shape, carve top, no scratch plate, Signed by Semie
|2501-2512. 25th Anniversary model, silver and black, only 12 of 25 made
|Built for CJ Ramone, pearl white, used in filmclips.