by Henrik Hjortnaes
by Henrik Hjortnaes
1987 CHARVEL MODEL 2
Chushin Gakki Japan
Charvel Model Series guitar on the assembly line in Japan at the Chushin Gakki factory 1985-1986. Photo supplied by Grover Jackson.
This comprehensive Charvel guide will enable you to determine the year of production and verify any of the legendary Japanese made Charvel guitars, designed by Jackson Charvel and built by the Japanese Chushin Gakki factory back in 1986 through 1991. The guide will also show you both the original configuration of the guitars and the evolution they went through.
During these six years of production, close to 80 different variations were offered and the best way to get a proper overview of this bunch, is to categorize them. Below is how Jackson Charvel defined the series back then. Clicking the links will take you to the relevant catalogue scan.
Model Series 1986-1988 Classic Series 1989-1991 Fusion Series 1989-1991 Contemporary Series 1989-1991 Professional Series 1989-1990 Charvette Series 1989-1991
The Reference Chart further down uses the same categorization.
 The Charvette Series guitars were initially not in scope for this article, due to mainly being built in Korea, but I have included all the Charvel categories for the sake of completeness.
Why focus on these six years?
The 1986-1991 Charvel imports were the very first Charvel imports and they have become legendary due to their build quality vs. price ratio in the second hand market.
The guitars have proven themselves to be a fantastic alternative to the higher priced American made Jacksons and Charvels and having played both, you probably realize how great these vintage Japanese guitars really are.
Get all the details on the Charvel import guitars by also reading the Jackson Professional History article.
1986. A Japanese Chushin Gakki worker at the Charvel assembly line, installing hardware on a 1986 Charvel Model 2, 3 or 3A (confirmed by the Kahler™ Fulcrum tremolo and white dot rosewood fingerboard). Photo supplied by Grover Jackson.
1986. Another view inside the old Chushin Gakki factory. Photo supplied by Grover Jackson.
Year of manufacture, Charvel Model 1 - 4 [copy link]
A quick and dirty way of determining the year of manufacture for the bolt-on Model Series 1 - 4, is to look at the combination of trademark symbols used on both the headstock and the neckplate. Furthermore, the presence or absense of a neckplate gasket will also help you find the year. The serial on these guitars can't be used directly to find the year. Study the following table to determine the year.
Year matrix, Charvel Model 1 - 4
1 - 4
|Neckplate gasket||Neckplate symbol||Headstock symbol||Serial start, approximate|
Year of manufacture, Charvel Model 5 and 6
The Charvel Model 5 and 6 have a neck-through design and unlike the Model 1 - 4, their serial number directly reveal the build year. The serial syntax is CXXXXXX. For example, C800210 is built in the year of 1988. C701212 would be 1987.
When the Charvel Model 5 and 6 were introduced in 1986, the serial number was found on the back of the headstock under the clear coat, in the form of a plastic decal. Later on, around mid 1987, the factory abandoned the decal on the headstock and began stamping the serial number into the last, blind fret of the fingerboard.
Logo trademarks on the headstock of the Model 5 and 6 should be the same as the bolt-on models.
There are exceptions to the above, but the guidelines here are generally accepted and works for the most part in dating your instrument.
Year of manufacture, Charvel basses
The year of the Model series bass guitars (1B, 2B, 3B, 4B) can be determined using the same method as for the guitars described above. The only neck-thru version of the basses were the Model 3B.
Charvel Model Series - made in USA? [copy link]
None of these guitars were made in USA. The neck plates on the bolt-on neck Charvel Model Series bear IMC's Fort Worth Texas address, despite the fact that they were all built in Japan. The address reads: Fort Worth, TX 76113, U.S.A. All the Charvel imports in the scope of this article (1986-91), are made in Japan (except the Charvette Series which is made in Korea).
IMC (International Music Corporation), who in 1985 merged with Jackson Charvel, was based in Fort Worth, Texas and having their USA P.O. address on the neck plate, was probably a sleek marketing trick to have us believe the models were made in USA.
In all fairness it should be said, that the bolt-ons had a small MADE IN JAPAN sticker placed on the back of the neck at the heel (not like in the picture to the right, where is has been moved to the neck plate). This sticker told us the true origin, but it was easy to remove or would easily fall off.
Charvel import neck plates 1989 onwards
The Ft. Worth PO stamp seemed to disappear from the neck plates, when the Model Series ended in 1989 and the other Charvel Series took over.
This was also around the time when IMC moved most of the Jackson production to Japan and Grover Jackson sold his interests in the company to IMC.
The picture to the right shows the neck plate from a late 1990 Charvel 475 Deluxe and the stamp is gone.
The Charvette Series - made in Korea
The Charvette Series neck plates looks quite different and plain compared to the Charvel plates. Some of them have the Ft. Worth stamp as shown in the picture.
The Charvette Series was introduced in late 1989 as low priced versions of the Charvel Series imports, with a suggested retail price range of $320 - $500.
My personal notes indicate that the production started with the 170 and 270 models.
They were initially made in Japan by Chushin Gakki, having basswood bodies, but soon the entire production of the Charvette Series was moved to Korea, introducing the use of plywood for the body.
So there are most likely both basswood and plywood versions of the 170 and 270 models out there.
A low number of the very first Charvel Model Series released, did not feature a painted headstock, which is most common on these guitars. Instead, they had a thin black cap glued onto the face of the headstock, the cap being similar to a black fiber board or piece of phenolic plastic.
USA made Jackson guitars also used this cap around the same time, circa 1986-1988.
The Model Series Charvels came with an Inspection Card, typically hung by the low E tuner, presumably filled out by personnel at the Chushin Gakki factory.
This suggests to me that the Japanese factory did indeed keep logs of the guitars produced. Maybe not a comprehensive log, but rather a simple log where the serial number is related to a model, a color and a year. But no one has ever seen or heard of such a log.
An original Inspection Card for a Charvel Model 2 guitar. Click here to see a picture gallery of the exact guitar this card came with.
Charvel Japanese Guitars 1986-1991
Made in Japan at the Chushin Gakki factory
is special info • For pop-up picture, hover your mouse over the model name. Click for catalog and full specs.
Price is list price when the model was introduced • Pc is Pickup configuration • All necks are Flatsawn
|Charvel Model Series|
|Model 1||1986-88||$450||Basswood||Maple||Maple||Bolt-on 22||Dot black||H||J90C||Trad. Fulcrum|
|Model 1A||1986-88||$500||Basswood||Maple||Maple||Bolt-on 22||Dot black||SSS||J100 • J100 • J100||Trad. Fulcrum|
|Model 1B bass||1986||$550||Poplar||Maple||Maple||Bolt-on 21||Dot black||H||J40||-|
|Model 1B bass||1987-88||$550||Poplar||Maple||Maple||Bolt-on 21||Dot black||S||J20||-|
|Model 1C||1988||$500||Basswood||Maple||Maple||Bolt-on 22||Dot black||HSS||J90C • J100 • J100||Trad. Fulcrum|
|Model 2||1986||$600||Basswood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 22||Dot white||H||J90C||Kahler 2500|
|Model 2||1987-88||$600||Basswood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 22||Dot white||H||J90C||JT-6|
|Model 2B bass||1986||$650||Poplar||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 21||Dot white||SS||J150 • J20||-|
|Model 2B bass||1987-88||$650||Poplar||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 21||Dot white||SS||J150 • J20||-|
|Model 3||1986||$700||Basswood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 22||Dot white||HSS||J90C • J100 • J100||Kahler 2500|
|Model 3||1987-88||$700||Basswood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 22||Dot white||HSS||J90C • J100S • J100S||JT-6|
|Model 3A||1986||$600||Basswood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 22||Dot white||HH||J80C • J80C||Kahler 2500|
|Model 3A||1987-88||$600||Basswood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 22||Dot white||HH||J80C • J80C||JT-6|
|Model 3B bass||1986||$900||Poplar wings||Maple||Rosewood||Neck-thru 21||Dot pearl||SS||J150 • J20||-|
|Model 3B bass||1987-88||$900||Poplar wings||Maple||Rosewood||Neck-thru 21||Dot pearl||SS||J150 • J20|
|Model 3DR||1988-89||$700||Basswood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 22 rev||Dot white||HS||J80C • J100S||JT-6|
|Model 4||1986||$900||Basswood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 22||Dot pearl||HSS||J50BC • J200 • J200||Kahler Std.|
|Model 4||1987-88||$900||Basswood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 22||Sharkfin pearl||HSS||J50BC • J200 • J200||JT-6|
|Model 4B bass||1988||$850||Basswood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 21||Dot white||SS||J150 • J20||-|
|Model 4M||1988||$850||Basswood||Maple||Maple||Bolt-on 22||Dot black||HSS||J50BC • J200 • J200||JT-6|
|Model 5||1986||$950||Poplar wings||Maple||Rosewood||Neck-thru 24||Dot pearl||HH||J80C • J80C||Kahler Std.|
|Model 5||1987-88||$950||Poplar wings||Maple||Rosewood||Neck-thru 24||Dot pearl||HH||J80C • J80C||JT-6|
|Model 5A||1988||$900||Poplar wings||Maple||Rosewood||Neck-thru 24||Dot pearl||H||J95||JT-6|
|Model 5FX||1988||Poplar wings||Maple||Rosewood||Neck-thru 24||Dot pearl||HS||J95 • J100S||JT-6|
|Model 6||1986||$1150||Poplar wings||Maple||RW bound||Neck-thru 24||Sharkfin pearl||HSS||J80BC • J200 • J200||Kahler Std.|
|Model 6||1987-88||$1150||Poplar wings||Maple||RW bound||Neck-thru 24||Sharkfin pearl||HSS||J50BC • J200 • J200||JT-6|
|Model 7||1988-89||$700||Ash bound||Maple||Maple||Bolt-on 22 rev||Dot black||SS||J120 • J100S||Telecaster|
|Model 7||1998-89||$700||BW bound||Maple||Maple||Bolt-on 22 rev||Dot black||SS||J120 • J100S||Telecaster|
|Model 8||1988||$800||Basswood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 22 rev||Dot white||SSS||J200 • J200 • J200||JT-6 chrome|
|Model 88||1988||Mahogany||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 22 rev||Sharkfin white||H||J95||JT-6|
|Model 8M||1988||$800||Basswood||Maple||Maple||Bolt-on 22 rev||Dot black||SSS||J200 • J200 • J200||JT-6 chrome|
|Charvel Classic Series|
|275 Deluxe||1989||$600||Basswood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 22||Dot white||HS||J90C • J100||JT-6 chrome|
|275 Deluxe||1990-91||$600||Basswood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 22||Dot white||HS||JT-570|
|375 Deluxe||1989-91||$785||BW opt.flame t+b||Maple||Maple or RW||Bolt-on 22||Dot B/W||HSS||J90 • J100 • J100||JT-590|
|475 Deluxe||1990-91||Basswood||Maple||RW bound||Bolt-on 22||Sharkfin pearl||HSS||J50BC • J200 • J200||JT-590|
|475 Deluxe Exotic||1990-91||$965||BW with fig.t+b||Maple||RW bound||Bolt-on 22||Sharkfin pearl||HSS||J50BC • J200 • J200||JT-590|
|475 Special||1989||$880||BW opt.fig. t+b||Maple||RW bound||Bolt-on 22||Sharkfin pearl||HSS||J50BC • J200 • J200||JT-590|
|575 Deluxe bass||1989-91||$600||Hardwood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 21||Dot white||SS||J50 • J20|
|Charvel Fusion Series|
|Fusion guitars are 24¾ inch (Gibson) neck scale. Fusion basses are 34 inch scale.|
|Fusion Custom||1989-91||$800||Basswood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 24||Dot white||HSS||J90C • J200R • J200R||JT-590|
|Fusion Deluxe||1989-91||$700||Basswood||Maple||Maple or RW||Bolt-on 24||Dot B/W||HS||J90C • J200R||JT-590 chrome|
|Fusion IV bass||1989-91||$850||Basswood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 24||Dot offset white||SS||J150 • J20|
|Fusion Plus||1990-91||Ash||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 24||Dot offset white||HH||J80 • J50||JT-590|
|Fusion Special||1990-91||Basswood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 24||Dot white||SSS||JT-590|
|Fusion V bass||1989-91||$1050||Basswood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 24||Dot offset white|
|Charvel Contemporary Series|
|The Eliminator bass||1990-91||Hardwood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 24||Dot white||SS|
|The Eliminator V bass||1991||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on||Dot offset white||SS||Joe Barden dualcoil P/J||Schaller roller|
|The Legend||1989||$600||Basswood||Maple||Maple or RW||Bolt-on 22 rev||Dot B/W||SS||J120 • J120||Telecaster|
|The Predator||1989-91||$700||Basswood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 22 rev||Dot white||HS||J90C • J200R||JT-590|
|The Spectrum||1989-91||$800||Basswood||Maple||Maple or RW||Bolt-on 22 rev||Dot white||SSS||J200 • J200 • J200||JT-590 chrome|
|Charvel Professional Series|
|550 XL||1989||$970||Basswood||Maple||Rosewood||Neck-thru 24||Dot pearl||HS||J90C • J200R||JT-590|
|650 Custom||1990||Basswood||Maple||RW bound||Neck-thru 24||Sharkfin pearl||HSS||J50BC • J200 • J200||JT-590|
|650 XL||1989||$1100||Basswood||Maple||RW bound||Neck-thru 24||Sharkfin pearl||HSS||J50BC • J200 • J200||JT-590|
|750 XL||1988-90||$1400||Mahogany||Maple||RW bound||Set-neck 24||Sharkfin rev pearl||HH||J80C • J80C||JT-390|
|750 XL||1988-90||$1170||Mah or BW||Maple||RW bound||Set-neck 24||Sharkfin rev pearl||HH||J80C • J80C||JT-590|
|850 XL bass||1989||$1000||Basswood||Maple||Rosewood||Neck-thru 21||Dot white|
|The Charvette Model's 170 and 270 are 24¾ inch (Gibson) neck scale.|
|100 Korea||1989-91||$320||Plywood||Maple||RW Indian||Bolt-on 22 rev||Dot white||HS||Charvel||Vintage|
|150 Japan||1989||$360||Basswood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 22||Dot white||HS||J-50BC • ?||CH-120|
|150 Korea||1990-91||$360||Plywood||Maple||RW Indian||Bolt-on 22||Dot white||HS||Charvel||CH-120|
|170 Japan||1989-91||$490||BW or plywood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 24||Dot white||HS||Charvel||JT-580 Takeuchi|
|200 Korea, Japan?||1989-91||$330||Plywood||Maple||RW indian||Bolt-on 22 rev||Dot white||HSS||Charvel||Vintage|
|250 Japan?||1989-91||$370||Plywood||Maple||RW indian||Bolt-on 22||Dot white||HSS||Charvel||CH-120|
|270 Japan||1989-91||$500||BW or plywood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 24||Dot white||HSS||Charvel||JT-580 Takeuchi|
|300 Korea||1989-91||$330||Plywood||Maple||RW Indian||Bolt-on 22 rev||Dot white||SSS||Charvel||Vintage|
|400 bass Japan||1989-91||$330||Plywood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 21||Dot white||S|
|500 Korea||1989-91||$400||Maple||Rosewood||Set-neck||Dot white||Piezo|
|Avenger||1990-91||Basswood||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 22||Dot white||HS||JT-570|
|ST Custom||1990-91||Ash||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 22||Dot pearl||HSS||JT-490 w/roller nut|
|ST Deluxe||1990-91||Maple||Maple||Bolt-on 22||Dot black||HSS||Trad. Fulcrum|
|STX Custom||1990-91||Ash||Maple||Rosewood||Bolt-on 22||Dot pearl||HSS||JT-590|
|TE Custom||1990-91||Ash bound||Maple||RW or maple||Bolt-on 22||Dot white||SSS||J120 • J100 • J100||Telecaster|
Serial number database - work in progress
Charvel Model Series 1 through 4
The pedigree of the Model Series
The following info is the work of Mark St. and he very generously let me publish it here on the site.
This following data is being collected to confirm the pedigree of the Model Series 1 - 4 guitars. The ONLY intent here is to simplify the identification of these guitars by production year, and to uncover any cool production changes that may have occurred.
How accurate is the data?
As accurate as can be expected from in-hand inspection, photos of widely varying quality and verbal descriptions. The data is compiled with a reasonable amount of certainty - no guesses or interpolation - but I'm sure there are some mistakes due to blurry vision and catalog interpretation.
About 15% of the data is from "neckplates only", and there are a large number of guitars being parted out on eBay. Personally, I like original guitars, to some folks it is less important. Just be aware of what you're looking at before you lay your money down. Hopefully, this data will be of some interest and assistance.
Work in progress
Model 5, 6, 7 and 8's are not covered in the following serial list, because most of them can be dated from the serial number, stamped into the fingerboard or printed on a decal placed under the clear coat. Eventually, the serial list will maybe include these and also some of the later Charvel imports - the toothpaste models like the 375, 475 etc., to complete the period 1986 - 1991. More on that later.