That would mean my 2nd vantage was older than my first, even though I bought them new, a year apart, in the same shop. Possible, I guess.....
That wouldn't surprise me at all. A lot of Electras and Vantages sat around in the music stores for many months and years before eventually being purchased. My BP is almost certainly a circa 1975 or 1976 vintage but was purchased brand new in 1981. The sales receipt was actually still in the case when I purchased the guitar on ebay in 2005!
So if a vendor was continuing to receive new Vantages, they could easily sell a newer one now and an older one later.
Also, no one seems to know whether this serial number dating stuff is at all accurate. You'd have to ask the guy who put up the info on the site how he came to his conclusions about it. I think the only way to know for sure is to see all the catalogs. And even then it seems that not all the guitars actually produced appeared in the catalogs. As someone on this site said, there was a lot of fiddling around done back then.
Still, it seems to me that the 24-fret VA800 (assuming that's what it is) was an actual production guitar. I suspect it did appear in the catalog for the relevant year, which I'm guessing is circa 1978.
I should have also mentioned in my last post above that the VA800 shown in the 'Early 80's' catalog is a 22-fret guitar. I think anyone who's followed this discussion already knew that but I should have mentioned it anyway. Which is to say that I've not yet seen any 24-fret VA800 in any catalog.
And there's no mention of the VA800 in the 1983 spec sheets shown at the site. So it appears it was no longer in production as of 1983. Also, it does not appear in the 1982 'Born To Rock' Electrics Catalog' at the site. The closest thing to it in that catalog is probably the VP820, which is similar but (again) a 22-fret guitar. There's no 'VA' model guitar at all in that 1982 catalog.
So no 'VA' guitars in either the '82 catalog or the '83 spec sheets. Thus, it appears that the 'Early 80's' catalog (which does
have the VA800) must be either a 1980 or a 1981 catalog. This suggests to me that these VA guitars were pre-1982 guitars and thus more likely to be made in the 70's or 'early 80's' -- meaning 1980 or 1981.
As far as the 24-frets go, I'm guessing that this was something that was tried in the 70's but didn't sell all that well. So when they decided to keep making the VA800, they made it in the more traditional 22-fret variety and left the 24-fret versions to the VA900 series guitars (like that VA912 12-string).
I got my VA800 out and put it next to my red VP795 (s/n 10xxxx) and they are virtually identical in fit and finish. Same frets, neck, etc. Same thing with my walnut VP795 (s/n 00xxxx). So if my VA800 is indeed a 1978 guitar, these guitars indicate a very consistent production quality and technique over those years (1978-1981). AND, same thing with my VE550 Entertainer (solid body) which has a 7-digit serial number (s/n 306xxxx) and which appears in the 1983 Vantage Electrics Specs Sheets at the site. So it seems pretty clear that this is indeed a 1983 vintage guitar, giving weight to the generally-accepted serial number dating system.
I'll put some pics of that one here as well (since I'm so busy showin' off).
From what I think I know (and have observed), Vantages seem to have been pretty much exclusively produced by the same factory, and that seems to have been Matsumoku. Some of the Electras look to me to have pretty clearly been made at other factories, particularly at least some of the ES335 copies, which seem to have Ibanez-style serial numbers that are very different from other Electra serial numbers.
I'm speaking only of the period ~ 1976-1984 (inclusive) when I talk about these guitars.
Finally, lest someone gripe that this is the ELECTRA forum (not the Vantage forum), keep in mind that these are all Matsumoku guitars. Generally speaking, that is.
Here's the Entertainer (formerly owned by Kazzelectro) -