Yamaha FG-360 Acoustic Guitar

I've had my Yamaha acoustic guitar so long, I don't even remember where or when I bought it.  Mine was built on July 23, 1975.  I bought it new in my hometown of Watertown, New York.  My best guess is that I got it late in the summer or fall of '75 from Schmidt Music, a music store there at that time.

This guitar has served me well.  It has seen many a campfire and years of fun with friends.  For several years I said that I was keeping it around in case one of my children or grandchildren ever decides to learn how to play.  One of my daughters actually had it for several months but her schedule didn't allow for the time needed to learn. 

Now, it is in my office along with several other guitars .  I usually grab it when I want to learn a new song.  I have replaced the strings with a set of lighter gauge Martins and I have sanded down the bridge saddle slightly.  It seems that this guitar plays better than ever and still has very nice tone.

On December 22, 2016, I was contacted by a man on Long Island, New York.  He owns several guitars and his brother passed away a few years ago and left his guitars to him.  One was an FG-360.  He was reaching out to me because he decided to sell some guitars, including the Yamaha.  The guitar was special because it had been his brother's and he offered it to me because he wanted it to go to someone who would appreciate it.  He made me an offer I couldn't refuse.  Between his schedule and mine, it took a while for us to put this together.  I received it on Friday, March 17, 2017, St. Patrick's Day.

Whereas my first FG-360 is a Taiwanese model, this one is a 1973 Japanese built.  Although both have original cases which are different, the guitars are pretty much identical.  I installed light-weight Martin strings.  Other than that this guitar is in great shape.  There are very few blemishes on it.  You wouldn't know it is over 43 years old.

My 1975 Yamaha FG-360
The FG-360 was a special, limited edition run of hand-built guitars.  I received an e-mail from a Yamaha official when I inquired a few years ago and more recently, I actually spoke with another official there.  I sent an inquiry in on February 8, 2013.  That afternoon, Ed Blackmore from Yamaha called me!  I had posed several questions and he thought a call would be more effective than an e-mail.  We had a nice chat and I have edited some of my previous conjectures to reflect our conversation.
My 1973 Yamaha FG-360 According to Ed, around 2008, Yamaha saw an upturn in questions and interest in some of these vintage guitars, including the FG-360, and started compiling information then.  Before that, their records were limited.

According to Yamaha, record keeping was not done well back in those days.  As Ed Blackmore said, "no one knows for sure" what some of the numbers mean.  "Nobody paid attention to what was going on" when it came to serial numbers.  Here is what we do know.  There were actually two different FG-360 guitar models made.  They were two completely different guitars. 

The FG-360 was made between 1972 and 1974 in Japan.  It had a spruce top, coral rosewood back and sides, African Mahogany neck and Indian Rosewood fingerboard and bridge.  There was never an MSRP listed because it was never distributed in the US.  Having said that, it may have been sold here.  In addition to used units that people may have brought in on there own, it was not uncommon back then for European dealers to make deals with US dealers for units like this that they couldn't get.  He called it a "gray market".

There was a second FG-360 that was available in the US. It has a spruce top, Jacaranda rosewood back and sides, mahogany neck and ebony fingerboard and bridge.  It has full body and neck binding with the traditional old style Yamaha black and white stripe rosette and plastic tortoise pick guard. The back is two piece and it has chrome, enclosed Yamaha tuners.  This one was made between '73 and '75 and retailed new for $376.00 (USD).  I don't remember what I paid for mine.  At that time, I was just going into my third year of teaching.  Even with the $200 raise I got that year, I was only earning $7900 a year.  How times have changed!  Come to think of it, my car and motorcycle were both paid for, I had no loans and I had gas and beer money.  Things were pretty good!  If I had the forethought to buy a Martin at the time, I wouldn't have the appreciation for this guitar today.  Although a 1975 Martin would probably be worth a lot of money today, and I now own two Martins, this Yamaha is a very cherished possession.

Again from Ed Blackmore, "if your guitar has a black fingerboard, it is probably an FG-360N."  The "N" may not show on the label, but to Yamaha, it is an FG-360N.  Bottom line, those of us who own an FG-360 model, actually have a guitar that Yamaha calls an FG-360N.  These were the only ones distributed to the USA.  Several of the owners of the Japanese built model have found the letters "NK" on the inside.  Could this have something to do with the "N" model?

FG-360 serial number information:

I am appealing to other FG-360 owners.  I have contacted several owners who have contacted me in the past and many of them got back to me very quickly.  It seems that FG-360 owners are passionate about the guitar.  I am compiling a data base of serial numbers to try and make sense of the numbering system.  If there are others out there who would like to share this info, please contact me and let me know the number(s) and where you found them.  Here is what I have found ...

The serial number is stamped on the cross brace, just inside the top side of the sound hole.  It is either a 5 digit or an 8 digit number.  The 5 digit numbers are on the earlier models that were made in Japan and the label also indicates "Nippon Gakki".  The first digit is the year ... a 3 is for 1973, 4 is for 1974.  The next two digits are the month and the last two digits are the day of the month that the guitar was built.  This numbering scheme apparently did not take into account any type of build sequence.  Mr. Blackmore also said that there may be other numbers inside the body on any of these guitars.  They may be in places that can't be seen through the sound hole.  The only way this could be confirmed is probably with some kind of snake style gooseneck camera.

As for the 8-digit models, these appear to fall into two categories.  Some reflect guitars made after the production was switched to the Kaohsiong factory in Taiwan.  My particular guitar does show "Republic of China Made in Taiwan" on the label.  Based on the data I have received, this must have happened sometime between late July and mid-September of 1974.  The latest 5 digit s/n we have recorded is dated July 18 and the earliest 8 digit, Taiwanese model was built on September 10 of that year.  Again, according to Blackmore, even Yamaha isn't absolutely certain when this happened.  Good records were not kept and basically Yamaha is doing the same thing we are, trying to collect data to solve mysteries.

With these 8 digit s/n, the first 5 digits conform to the 5 digit numbering system.  The last 3 numbers apparently reflect the number of the guitar in the build sequence.  We have been trying to analyze this but after speaking with Mr. Blackmore, I now realize our efforts may be futile.  Even Yamaha isn't certain exactly what these three digits mean.  It is some kind of build sequence.  We know it isn't annual because one February '75 guitar is number 194 and my July edition is 080.  The earlier build wouldn't have a larger number if it was an annual count.  Even Yamaha doesn't know if it is monthly, weekly or daily.  Blackmore suggested it may even be during a shift, a production run or some kind of batch number.  They don't even know if it represents just this model.  Multiple models may have been made in the factory at one time and they may all have been lumped together.  The numbering scheme may represent all guitars built in the plant that that time and not just the FG-360.  Yamaha just doesn't know.

The second category of the 8-digit models leads to a theory ... actually, a couple of theories.  We have now received info from four people who own Japanese-made models with 8-digit s/n.  Two of these guitars are owned by people in Canada and two are in Denmark.  They are all 1973 guitars.  As previously mentioned in this article, Yamaha suggests that our FG-360 guitars are actually FG-360N models, although the label doesn't indicate that.  The FG-360 was Japanese made and never imported into the US.  Our theory is that these 8-digit Japanese-made guitars are actually FG-360 models that fall into this group.    

 I am hoping other owners will discover this page and share their serial and other numbers with me.  The Taiwanese made units also have a number way down inside, at the base of the neck.  Some of these guitars have 7 digits and one we know of has 6.  Yamaha, like us, does not know what those numbers mean.  Since all of these we know of were built in early 1973, the last being March 26, I am going to theorize that they quit making these around the time they started making the model that was shipped to the USA. 

The earliest USA model that I know of is owned by Mike Brooks.  It was built on April 24, 1973.  For a long time, my July 23, 1975 model was the newest I knew of, but on January 13, 2015, I received an e-mail from Kreg Theakston.  He now has the distinction of owning the newest FG-360 we know of.  His was built on August 2, 1975.

Label color:

There are also many references on the Internet about the color of the label on the Yamaha guitars.  It seems that a "Red Label" Yamaha is a hot commodity.  I have not done enough research on this topic to offer anything of value.  What I have read indicates that these red labels pre-date our FG-360 models and only apply to models made in Japan that were exported to the US.  I do know that the labels on the guitars I have compiled data on all have a light tan label.  I have seen this referred to as a "green label".  This includes both the Japanese and Taiwanese FG-360 (which as previously mentioned, Yamaha considers the FG-360N) and the FG-360 that was not not exported to the US.

Other thoughts:

One owner mentioned that he was told that only FG-360S models had the solid spruce tops.  I had never heard this before and had never heard of an FG-360S.  Within 24 hours of getting this info, I stumbled upon a website with the same claim, stated not as a suggestion but as a fact.  The claim was that the FG-360 models have a laminated top, sides and back.  The Yamaha Guitarchive website indirectly supports this claim because FG-360 and FG-360N show a spruce top whereas some models, such as the F335 show a solid spruce top.  On the other side of the coin, entering FG360S returns "Model Number Not Found...".  This not only takes away from this theory but opens the question whether there ever was such a model.

Many owners who have contacted me feel that the top is not laminated.  They base this on the appearance of the edges of the top around the sound-hole, even though the Yamaha site doesn't claim that it is solid.

Bottom line, I am going to continue this research on the serial numbers.  As previously stated, I am hoping other owners will send information to me.  I am also hoping that owners of other models that were built during this era will send me serial number information.  That may help with the mystery of whether our numbers refer just to the FG-360 models or to all models made in that factory.

Recently there have been comments and discussion about the "original" case for this guitar.  I can't state anything definitive on that other than to make some comments on my case.  The case that came with my FG-360, and remember, I bought it new, is a chipboard case.  I would say it is a fairly cheap case.  It is lighter gauge than the cases for my Martins.  It has a red fuzzy liner, but isn't a padded/cushioned liner.  It is just a fuzzy red fabric.  No where on or in this case is there any type of Yamaha marking or logo.  There is a picture of the guitar in the case in the slideshow above.  Could the music store have slipped me a cheap case and kept the one I should have gotten?  Maybe!  Did they give me a better deal with a cheaper case?  I don't remember that, but it was over 37 years ago.  All I know is that I am the original owner and this is the case that came with it.

A few years ago, David from Canada sent me a picture of Bob Dylan playing what appears to be an FG-360.  On October 4, 2014, he sent me a link to a YouTube video showing Dylan playing it.  We have linked this here.

Links of interest to FG-360 owners:

Owners might also like to check out ...

Yamaha Guitarchive Yamaha S/N Wizard Yamaha S/N Chart
Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum Acoustic Guitar Forum Harmony Central
ebay article on indiscriminate ads Yamaha Guitar brochure

If you have any additional information on the FG-360, I would certainly be interested in hearing from you.  I have received several e-mails from people about their FG-360s.  Their stories are linked here, along with the original date they contacted me ...

Troy Beal February 4, 2018
Daniel Knowles January 30, 2018
Ron Davis December 18, 2017
Steve Cunningham December 17, 2017
John Palmer November 10, 2017
Steve R October 26, 2017
Leigh Clark October 13, 2017
Susan Pletkovich September 6, 2017
Matthew Hunt July 14, 2017
Ray Bearfield June 14, 2017
Craig Rich June 9, 2017
Robert Aldridge June 3, 2017
Gary Perez April 16, 2017
Chip Edwards March 26, 2017
Ed Brown February 15, 2017
Jens Wendelboe February 5, 2017
Kimberly McDonald January 26, 2017
Mike Brooks December 14, 2016
sasquatchlives_1@yahoo.com December 3, 2016
Steve from Canada November 29, 2016
Jim Austhof November 26, 2016
Bill Sims November 8, 2016
Brian MacLure October 21, 2016
Bob Dzerk October 11, 2016
Pam September 30, 2016
Dave Campbell August 27, 2016
Carter Braun July 29, 2016
Christopher Takashima May 25, 2016
Robin Ray April 15, 2016
Ruth Jackson April 4, 2016
Sam Durie February 26, 2016
James Jisaka February 14, 2016
Gary Daw January 30, 2016
Thom Taylor January 20, 2016
Brendan Devine January 16, 2016
Brian Melnyk January 3, 2016
Jacey Radford December 2, 2015
Bruce Hoffman October 21, 2015
Jeff Shubert October 8, 2015
Dan Rizzie September 15, 2015
Gary Benson August 7, 2015
Jim Macartney June 8, 2015
Weldon Laviolette May 29, 2015
Mike Baumer August 9, 2014
Mike Durkin August 4, 2014
Roxy Powell July 4, 2014
David Lacroix June 29, 2014
Buzz Merrick June 24, 2014
Jett Langston June 21, 2014
Alex Wong May 8, 2014
Ben April 6, 2014
Michael Tetrault March 23, 2014
Karen Gilbert March 16, 2014
Rodney MacLeod January 25, 2014
Larry Weissenborn March 11, 2014
Scott Olson March 5, 2014
Andy Harvey March 2, 2014
Gerry Tinkle February 22, 2014
William Darling November 27, 2013
William Flores November 8, 2013
Michael Dodd July 5, 2013
Dave Lakeman June 29, 2013
Rex Patterson June 20, 2013
Kurt Blachowicz June 11, 2013
Jim Nicholson June 9, 2013
Kimi Smith June 1, 2013
Mark Mikoleit May 28, 2013
Mike Folkerth May 28, 2013
JmpngJFlash May 27, 2013
Kaare Nielsen May 24, 2013
Leif Sorensen May 14, 2013
Richard Hendry April 19, 2013
Mark Johnson March 29, 2013
Bob Kelley February 27, 2013
Gordon Dunn October 21, 2012
Steve Rowley February 3, 2012
Jeff Terrell December 27, 2011
Mike Lott November 21, 2011
Tony Goodway August 15, 2011
Jim Phelps April 9, 2011
Jeanne Rose April 5, 2011
Stefano Conti February 22, 2011
David Milne February 13, 2011
James Adams August 14, 2010
Donald Forbes August 4, 2010
Scott Gagel March 7, 2010
Mike Clarke February 16, 2010
David of Canada September 1, 2008
Dr. Dave Bradley March 28, 2008
Jerry from Texas May 12, 2006
Rick Zylka March 2, 2006
Rick Poole March 1, 2006

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