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How many early Suitcase Fender Rhodes were made?

Started by spave, March 28, 2022, 07:37:16 PM

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Hi all,

After searching on this forum and elsewhere for seemingly nonexistent total production numbers, I've decided to do some of my own research to see if I could come up with a ballpark figure on the number of early mk1 suitcases.

Specifically, I am going to estimate the number of 1969-1973 suitcases originally produced. The data I reference is from 1971-72 but the yearly production numbers should be similar for 1969, 70, and 73 as the pianos were still mostly handmade until 1973.

To make this estimate, I'm going to use the serial numbers from several pianos and attempt to figure an average pianos finished in a week to get the yearly total. It is important to note that the first few digits have zero correlation to the number of pianos built till that point (ex: a 1971 rhodes with a 50,000 serial # IS NOT the 50,000 piano produced.)

The production #'s are ones that I've found on this forum, pianos listed for sale, the E model, and my own 1971. If  your production # is here and you want it removed I'm happy to take it off.

ok so here are the serial #'s followed by the finish date week/year:

1.  50,433     03 1971

2.  50,795     35 1971

3.  50,871     43 1971

4.  50,923     44 1971

5.  51,743     37 1972

So with these numbers we can deduce a few possible conclusions.

1. Within a week between pianos 3 & 4, roughly 50 pianos were produced. There is a chance that 3 was on a Friday and 4 was the next Monday, but I think this is still a good benchmark.

2. From pianos 2 and 3, there is a roughly 75 piano jump which is a lot less than would be expected for an 8 week gap from the previous estimate of 50 per week. My guess is that Rhodes were made in "batches" so that some weeks produced a lot more finished Rhodes than other weeks.

3. Between pianos 2 and 5 there is a gap of about 1,000 pianos which gives us another estimate of around 1,000 suitcases being produced for 1971. This is a much lower estimate than 50 per week (which at 52 weeks would come out to 2,600 per year). Personally, I find 1,000 to be more realistic than 2,600 at least for 1971 due to the batch theory and because there were numerous changes made to Rhodes that year which combined with the handmade nature of the early Mk1's meant that the bean counters hadn't fully streamlined production yet.

So using some rough guesstimation, I'd figure:

650 for 1969 (including transition sparkletops)

800 for 1970

1000 for 1971

1200 for 1972

1400 for 1973

Which would add up to roughly 5,050 "golden era" suitcase Fender Rhodes originally produced. Obviously this is a really crude estimate but I think it is a good place to start. I'd love to hear any other production total theories if anyone has any. I saw Ben Bove did a production survey years ago but I didn't see him post any conclusions on total amounts produced. If there's enough interest in this topic, I figure we could get more accurate estimates and possibly work on similar ones for the other post 1970 models as well.
1969 KMC Home Rhodes Prototype


Hi Spave,

I just picked up a Suitcase from this era and your post is very interesting.
Your research, thought and approach are very credible, I love it ! 

My piano's serial number is 50656 with date stamp 3071.
Continuing your thought, let's call this point 1bis.
So, 139 pianos would have been released between week 30 (1bis) and 35 (2) in 5 weeks, with an average of 28 per week. Between 1 and 1bis, that's 223 pianos over 27 weeks.

This can confirm your conclusion of production by batches.

'66 Sparkle top, '71 Suitcase MKI 73, ยด77 Suitcase MKI 88  & '81 Stage MKII 73