Mitchell Collectors International


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.

FIRST PERIOD (1946–1957)

At the time Mitchell introduced the first two versions of the Mitchell reel, serial numbers were not utilised. This is difficult to explain but speculation is that the first two versions were either prototypes, or not marketed outside of Europe thereby eliminating the need for unit numbering. The actual reason for this omission is uncertain. It is also of importance to note that some early first versions did not have stamped (Made in France) on the bodies. Mitchell also imprinted a single numerical digit on the reel foot on some -but not all- first versions. It is unclear what this single digit represented but it has sparked many debates with collectors. The 3rd and 4th versions had either an A or B prefix before the serial number on the reverse side of the body located on either the top or the bottom. Common sense would dictate that A was for the 3rd version but not so. We find A and B on either version! It appears that the prefixes, A & B signified production lines at the factory in the early years! The 5th version we discovered has a 6-digit serial number with and without lettered prefixes on the body. The 6th and all subsequent versions up to 1956 have 6 or 7 digit serial numbers on the body with no lettered prefixes. In April 1957, reels are inscribed "Garcia Mitchell 300" or " Mitchell 300 (for European vendors)" for the first time. These versions were found with a combination of serial numbers either on the body (early versions) or on the reel foot (later versions). Unfortunately, Mitchell was very ambiguous about their serial numbers. There is probably some type of order in this but we could not determine the sequence to establish a consistency that would coincide with year of manufacture. Mitchell reels sold in the US and those sold in Europe have the same sequence of numbering and placement.

SECOND PERIOD (1958–1970)

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.

THIRD PERIOD (1971-1989)

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.

A =

01/09/1971 until 31/07/1972

K =

01/09/1980 until 31/07/1981

B =

01/09/1972 until 31/07/1973

L =

01/09/1981 until 31/07/1982

C =

01/09/1973 until 31/07/1974

M =

01/09/1982 until 31/07/1983

D =

01/09/1974 until 31/07/1975

N =

01/09/1983 until 31/07/1984

E =

01/09/1975 until 31/07/1976

P =

01/09/1984 until 31/07/1985

F =

01/09/1976 until 31/07/1977

Q =

01/09/1985 until 31/07/1986

G =

01/09/1977 until 31/07/1978

R =

01/09/1986 until 31/07/1987

H =

01/09/1978 until 31/07/1979

S =

01/09/1987 until 31/07/1988

J =

01/09/1979 until 31/07/1980

T =

01/09/1988 until 31/07/1989

FOURTH PERIOD (1990 to Present)

Lastly, we have the years of 1990 to the present. This period also has its uncertainty as to accurate dating. Now we have entering into the picture Mitchell’s Pacific Rim manufacturing. When Johnson World Wide (JWW) purchased Mitchell, the previous system of identification was discontinued. From this point forward we had sporadic serial numbering with and without prefixes. There are some cases where there is no numbering on the reel. We are quite sure Mitchell had some internal method of determining what was made and when. Unfortunately, it did not avail itself for collectors to interpret. It is also important to note that replacement bodies do not have serial numbers, which further taints the accuracy of dating reels. Mitchell made some special issue reels that were not intended for resale to the public. Therefore, they were never serial numbered! Mitchell tournament reels & silver or Gold plated reels were exempt as were certain other issue reels!

* 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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