DATING MITCHELL REELS
Determining dates of issue for Mitchell spinning reels has always been at the forefront of questions asked by collectors. Researching an answer was not an easy task since Mitchell did not use a system that was user friendly! Mitchell’s numbering system was designed for internal use such as quality control, and audits and not for the collector to trace production data or historical events. Our research revealed inconsistencies in the methodology of how they applied their serial numbers. This is not to say Mitchell did not have a suitable system, but if they did, it is not evident. What we did uncover was somewhat satisfying but also disappointing at the same time. We divided the dating process into four periods. Each group has their own unique method of numbering with no tie between the systems. We looked at the problem from an analytical approach so we can make some sense of their methods. What was uncovered was not always conclusive.
Reels produced during this period present a greater debate as to when they were manufactured. For some unknown reason, Mitchell had serial numbers on a few models and on others had none. We know this sounds odd but can assure you this is the way it was. All serial numbers are located on the foot from this point forward except for the 302, which is on the side cover. To further compound the situation, some reels had lettered prefixes, which we hoped would give us a year but this is not the case. It appears the 302 was the only model to have any consistency in serial numbering but there was no rhythm to the sequence to determine the year. We further realised that some reels distributed in the US had serial numbers and the same reel released in Europe had none! In essence, exact dating of reels based on serial numbers during this period is inconclusive.
Finally, Mitchell got it right; almost. In 1971, Mitchell started a new system of serial numbering reels so that accurate dating was possible. All serial numbers started with a lettered prefix giving you the year of manufacture, i.e., A = 1971, B = 1972, C = 1973, etc. Six numbers followed this lettered prefix. The letters O & I were omitted from the sequencing so that they would be no confusion with the numbers 1 & 0. Working from the end of the serial number, the last two digits represent the month of production. You should never find a reel with an, "08" as month of issue. The reason is Mitchell closed the factory for one month every August for Holiday. The first two digits are used to indicate day of manufacture. The two middle numbers are used to indicate production line information. Now for the bad news, this system although consistent, was not utilised on all models made during those years! For example, fly reels have a totally different numbering system then spinning reels! You will also find the same models made in France and later in Japan, with or without serial numbers. Additionally, we have models with two different lettered prefixes; assumptions are the second letter signifies distributor or destination.
The following schedule provides dates of manufacturing that coincides with a lettered prefix. Mitchell’s started their financial year from September 1, and ended on August 31 the following year.
* Actual date of issue for the first Mitchell is in the process of being determined and will be discussed in a future article.
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