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Thread: Stamped vs. Labeled T&B's?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2005

    Default Stamped vs. Labeled T&B's?

    Posted by: Stratmeister

    I've been seeing a lot of mention about 'stamped' T&B pups lately, obviously that means the corresponding letter is stamped into the metal.

    Well, I've also seen original T&B's with paper labels stuck to them. So what's the difference? Are the stamped ones older? If so when did the switchover occur?


    Hi Strat!

    It is my understanding the switchover occurred somewhere around the middle of 87. (Someone please correct me if I'm wrong here, but) I believe the difference between the stamped and unstamped is that PRS used slugs in the B and E poles for the treble PU on the later, labeled T&Bs.
    Also, the some of the earliest T&B's were stamped 7 and 8.
    My 88 has unstamped and unlabeled PUs which I suppose are T&Bs......


    AFAIK, this is all accurate. The labels say Standard Bass and Standard Treble. The slugs were only used in the bridge Pup IIRC, so the stickered B pup should (theoretically) be the same.


    Gruhn has an 88 Standard and when I asked what pickups were in it they replied that they were stamped #6.


    So pickups with label that says standard bass and standard treble are actually T&B's?

    Bruce O'Donnell:

    That is correct.

    Jon Silberman:

    Mine ('86) appear to me to be neither stamped nor labeled but etched. Is this correct? I'm sure they're original as I'm the original and only owner of the guitar which I bought new in '86.


    Stamped T&B's were the usual pup through late 87. Around #2400 in the 87 run, the B and E magnets were replaced with blanks, but the stamp remained. So there are two interations of the stamped T&B's. Magnets for 2400 and under and slugs for 2400 to 3900 (approx).

    The stamps were eliminated around late 87 - though very few folks have 88's with stamped pups. A few early 85's also had no stamp.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2016


    So my question is what happens after Serial #3900 until the HFS/Vintage Bass was introduced in '91. Did they stop using the "blanks" after 3900? I have a 1990 with a 8XXX serial #. Without examining the actual pickups, do I have T & B with or without magnets?

    Actually, since I posted this thread, I have spoken to some great PRS dealers and they state: refer to Dave Burrluck's book, "The PRS Guitar Book". That book states that as early as 1987 "PRS making 6 pickups: Standard Treble, Standard Bass, HFS, Vintage Treble, Vintage Bass and single coil Bass". Paragraphs later: "By 1990 the pickup complement had changed yet again...the entire PRS line of Signature, Custom, Standard, Special, CE and CE Maple Top had switched to an HFS at bridge and Vintage Bass neck." So I guess the only way I will ever know exactly what is in my guitar (purchased used but seller assures me, nothing was ever changed..all stock, is to pull the pups and look and photograph for posterity.
    Last edited by nedder1; 05-08-2016 at 12:07 PM. Reason: additional pertinent information

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    North Coast


    Hey, nedder1, assuming you ever come back to VR to look in on your inquiry, here's my take on this:

    First off, you can't really match pickups with serial numbers or even build years with any certainty. PRS in the early days was a pretty loose assemblage of guitar-building people under Paul's tutelage and they had pickups that were evolving rapidly as were a lot of other features on the guitars and various models being built. Yeah, the early guitars built in '85 and '86 for the most part had pickups with 'T' and 'B' stamped on the backs. It was the 'T' pickups that changed to a '2nd gen' version with the changing of the slugs under the B and E strings, sometime in '86, I believe. They were still stamped with a 'T' but were a little less shrill than some of the 1st gen bridge pups could be at higher registers. Some people used the term 'ice pick' as a not-so-favorable reference to the effect. But the point to take away from this is that there was variation from one pickup to the next and from one guitar to the next. For some unexplainable reason, let's call it 'mojo', not all guitars were equally blessed.

    From my personal experience, I've owned a 1986 Custom (SN 6 1074) with stamped T&Bs (1st gen T), an '87 Standard (SN 7 2789) with unstamped pickups that had stuck-on labels describing the formula used (something like "Alnico II everything"), an '88 Special (similar to a Standard, SN 8 4975) with blank-back pickups (sweetest of the bunch) and an '88 Standard (Crackle finish, SN 8 4122) with stamped T&Bs, 2nd gen T (this one could split neurons in your brain if care wasn't observed).

    So the only way to know is by taking a look inside to check, but the reality is: it's not how the pickups are stamped, labeled, or otherwise indicated (or not) that counts. It's the tone from the total build and the magic PRSh put into so many of the guitars coming out of his shop(s) in Maryland that makes the guitar truly valuable. This is something that can only be discovered by exploring the guitar under proper amplification and effects.
    I can't think of anything to say . . . I think it's nice.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2016


    Hey, after many months I have come back to see if there was any response to my post. Thank you llocust for the extremely well thought out response and even though my experience with older PRS guitars is not as extensive, ie., have not owned as many, think you are 100% spot on. But let me tell you what may be a little secret. One evening, after playing my guitar, sitting on the floor as I so often do, I stood it against the bed as the light from the western setting sun came in the bedroom window. What!?!? Looking at my guitar, with the sunlight shining on it, me thinks I spot something unusual. I could actually see that the two "pole pieces" on the Treble PUP under the high E and B strings looked different. Yes, they are. All the other pole pieces have a shiny hue. But these two have different reflective properties! Eureka! Those are the slugs and I have Standard Treble and Standard Bass!!!!

    The only other input I have gotten, one from a not terribly friendly seller on Reverb (will leave him unnamed) is that 90's Custom 24's are fairly evenly split between Standard T & B and HFS (treble)/Vintage Bass (neck). So, I would bet $500 that if I ever do pull my PUP's and look, I will find Standard T & B.

    All this being said, llocust, on the '88 where you said the Bridge PUP could split Neurons in your brain if care was not observed, was that good or bad? My question meaning, most certainly you had the plugs on the Bridge PUP which was supposed to cure those high pitched nasties. So are you saying that it did not? And again, thank you for your input. The more knowledge, the better.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2007


    I can't tell the sound difference anyway... So it's all good to my ears!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    The wilds of Bethesda


    I bought my '89 new off the rack, and actually never even looked at the pickups before this:

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