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New estimate on how many Rhodes were made!

Started by spave, February 04, 2023, 07:11:29 PM

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Hi all,

So I started compiling Rhodes production info a while ago in my free time and I wanted to share some of the conclusions I made from the data I compiled. The main reason I started this project was to try and get an accurate estimate on how many Rhodes were produced in total.

So how many Rhodes were actually produced?

Many people over the years (including Harold) have tried to estimate the total number of Rhodes produced with the consensus estimate currently being anywhere from 100,000 to 250,000 units in total. Unfortunately, due to poor record keeping at the factory and a haphazard serial # system (more on that below). we will never be able to know with 100% certainty how many Rhodes were produced. However, after reviewing the data, I have come up with an estimate that I am fairly confident in and that is probably about as accurate as we can get without an exponentially larger dataset to use. With that being said, I am going to share my estimate as 2 separate totals based on what I consider to be the 2 Rhodes production eras. The first era is from 1959 to 1976 and the second era is from 1977 to the end of production in 1984 (I will explain why I choose to group production like this later).

Based on the data, my estimate for the total amount of Rhodes produced from 1959-1976 is 78,550 units which includes all the models produced during that era. My estimates for each model are listed below.

1,750 sparkle tops (73 suitcase only): Serial #s from 1-1750ish.

(In the data set, the first black top piano occurs at serial 1754 in mid 1969. While this piano is still identical under the hood to the previous Sparkletops, I consider the black lid to officially mark the start of the MK1 era.)

31,300 suitcases: The first MK1s started using the Sparkletop serial numbers around 1750 in late 1969 and continued till around serial 3020 in early 1970. After that, the serials go from 50,000 in late 1970 to what was most likely 79,999 in late 1976.

40,000 Stages: Started at serial number 20,000 in 1970 and goes to around 49,999 in 1975. Then because the suitcases already used the 5x,xxx's, the production #s jump to 80,000 sometime in late 1975/early 1976 and continue to around 90,000.

NOTE: For a brief time in 74/75 I believe the Stage 88s used the 1x,xxx serials before rolling into the 73 numbers. Unfortunately most of the 1974/75 pianos I came across had illegible date stamps and or serial #s so I was not able to include many in the dataset to confirm.

Piano basses: I didn't spend too much time looking for piano basses, but for the data I did collect it looks like they made about 1500 total from 1959-1973 (A 1973 was the last model I had in the dataset for pre 1977 piano basses).

Throw in say another 4,000 units for all the misc. rarer models like the Jetsons, KMC, Celeste, Home, 1974-76 basses, etc and the grand total of Rhodes from 1959-1976 comes out to about 78,550.

So what happened in 1977?

From 1959-76 Rhodes used the gold foil labels with the serial #'s hand stamped on. However, in 1977 they switched to the black ink labels that already had the serial #s printed on them. From what I can tell, they started these in early 1977 in the 6xx,xxx's and then around mid to late 1977 they jumped up to the 72x,xxx's for some reason. These labels were applied to all models indiscriminately so there is no way to see a breakdown between the different models like on the pre 1977's. These stickers were also applied randomly as I found numerous times in the data where earlier pianos had later serial #s than later pianos and vice versa. I still created a rough estimate from these pianos but because of the inconsistencies and because it seems like they might have skipped some "blocks" of #s I have a lot less confidence in the accuracy of the production totals for the 1977-84 pianos which is why I choose to create two separate eras. With that being said, the total estimate I have for 1977 through 1984 is 108,678 Rhodes produced with the breakdown in serial numbers being:

Early 1977: The black ink badges start around 600,000 and went to most likely 62x,xxx by the middle of the year. (I don't have any serial numbers from the change but based on how many they were making per week it seems likely this was the cutoff. Then they jumped to 720,000 and stayed in that format to the end of production in 1984. The very last production date I have recorded is a MKV with serial 804,332 which was made in the 43rd week of 1984. However, the latest serial I recorded is from a MKV that was made in the 29th week of 1984 which is serial 806,351. With that being said, John McLaren claims that the last serial # used by Rhodes was 808,678 so that is the serial # I am going with as the last Rhodes produced.

Added up with the 1959-1976 estimate and my total estimate for the number of Rhodes produced between 1959 and 1984 is 187,228. Obviously this a rough estimate due to the factors mentioned above but I still think it is a really good ballpark for the total produced. Ben Bove previously estimated between 100,000-150,000 and Harold himself estimated about 250,000 were made so I feel comfortable claiming 187,228 as an accurate estimate.

Feel free to look over the data and let me know what you think. Also, if anyone wants to create estimate breakdowns for specific models or years feel free to post it in this thread. I already did this once a while back on the post below where I estimated the total # of "Golden era" suitcases.


TL;DR I estimate that Rhodes produced 187,228 pianos from 1959-1984.
1969 KMC Home Rhodes Prototype
1977 Wurlitzer 270


Another great research and analysis ! thank you very much Spave for sharing this knowledge.

I was wondering if my sparkle top number 320 could be the 320th Rhodes on this earth, it seems almost right ! wow !
'66 Sparkle top, '71 Suitcase MKI 73, ยด77 Suitcase MKI 88  & '81 Stage MKII 73

The Real MC

Hammond organ also had a non-sequential serial number system.  They did this to hide the production capacity from competitors.