Kelsey serial numbers and dates

Following the informative discussion on cleaning a press at, I received an inquiry about the Kelsey serial numbers that subscriber ‘forme’ posted. There has always been much confusion about Kelsey model numbers and how or if they relate in any way to the date of manufacture. As I mentioned in a previous post, although presses were marked as Model, P, Model U etc. the catalogs make no reference to these letters. Many catalogs refer to “Printing Outfit B” or “Printing Outfit E,” but this appears to have had no bearing on the model number of the press or the date of manufacture.

The numbers that forme posted, do however tell us about the date his presses were made. For example, the first number posted, C54C, provides the following information: C is the size of the press, 6 x 10 inches. 54 is the year, 1954, and the second C is the month the press was made; C being the third letter of the alphabet relates to March as the third month of the year, so that particular 6x10 press was made in March 1954. Therefore, the second number, A83D, indicates that the press is a 3 x 5 inch press made in April 1983.

Serial numbers were used mainly in the later Kelsey presses. If your press has a serial number, it can be found at the top of the chase bed. New to letterpress? To locate the press bed, click on our illustrated letterpress glossary that resides on the old site.

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I just brought home my first Kelsey, a 3x5. (A little buddy for my C&P 8x12 OS!) The number on my chase bed is 7AOH - any thoughts?

Where was that code located? We always put the stamp on the chase bed right under the chase latch notch. Our numbering system was just as Elizabeth stated. I certainly do not recognize the code that you provided. If that number showed up in a different area of the chase bed, possibly it was a casting pattern number.

The code is located directly below the latch notch. Here is a picture…

image: kelsey 034a.jpg

kelsey 034a.jpg

Well, I don’t recognize that numbering scheme. Could you post a picture of the complete press? What I am interested in are the pivot pins that hold the press together, and how the pins were secured. We made some changes over the final years and we can sometimes date the press by looking at those.

Here’s a few pictures (I couldn’t resist the first one!) Let me know if you need any close-ups. Thanks for your help

image: kelsey 032a.jpg

kelsey 032a.jpg

image: kelsey 013a.jpg

kelsey 013a.jpg

image: kelsey 008a.jpg

kelsey 008a.jpg

I don’t think a press should be sitting on a piece of glass, I defer to others about the pooch.

Hey Paul,
You sure that’s a pooch?


Pocket pooch.

that’s a 9x13 press, so that dog is the size of a small wolf, be careful. dick g.

That’s Vinnie (AKA Porkchop) the shop mascot and no, I don’t operate the press on the glass!

Looks to me like they may have transposed the A and the 7, which would make it A70H, or using the numbering scheme mentioned above, a 3x5 manufactured in August of 1970.


I think Three Quoins may be on to something. One of the people who was assembling the presses when I got there in 1972, occasionally would sneak out the back door, and his spelling sometimes would become worse as the day went on.

What I was looking for was the method by which the pins were held in place. On older units, the pins were just peaned over. Later the switch was made to the star clips that can be seen in the picture. Around 1974 we replaced the star clips with “C” clips.


Thanks for the help Pete and John, I’ll go with August 1970 - not a big issue, I was just curious about the manufacture date. By the way, does anyone know where I can pick up a chase or 2 for it? They seem to be scarce right now.

Check with Letterpress Things in Chicopee, MA, if they don’t have it I would try Excelsior Press in New Jersey. Good Luck Dick G.

Thanks Dick - John Barrett is on the lookout for one for me but he told me that they are in short supply right now. I’ll be stopping in to see him on Saturday, hopefully he found one for me, if not I’ll try Excelsior. Thanks again

Steve, if John Barrett doesn’t have one for you swing by my shop and i will loan one to you till you can find one, that is a 3x5 kelsey isn’t it . i am about 1 hour east of John’s place. Dick G.

Thanks so much for the offer Dick - I’m not in a big rush for one, I can get by with the one that I have until I can find a replacement. That was a kind offer and I really appreciate it. I’ve been amazed at all of the nice people and the help that I’ve gotten since I brought my press home last August. Thanks to All!

If the serial number is not located on the chase bed where the latch hits, where else could it be? The press is a curved handle with a square gripper bar.

Adding the serial number very well could have started after your press was built. Also for later vintage units, sometimes people would buy replacement chase beds, which obviously would not have the number.

Hi All, I just acquired a 9x13 Kelsy with the serial number D48O… so I know its 9x13, from 1948, but O? Would it stand for October? Since its the 15th letter I can only guess it stands for a month that starts with that letter…

I think the O stands for what will come out of you when you try to print a heavy form on that press, i had one as a young kid and couldn’t get the impression lever all the way down with heavy forms, it it one big table top.

Where did you find the D48O? As seen in the photo of the 3X5 chasebed, that is where we would put the date code. I really didn’t think the date codes started appearing until the 60’s. Could be wrong however.

Regarding the 9x13 press, I could knock out 10 or more 3X5 or 5X8 units in one day. It took me 2 or 3 days to put together a 9X13. Pretty much hand crafted. Thank God, I think I only had to put together 2 or 3 during my tenure.


I’m so thankful for this thread. However I find myself confused about the Kelsey 5”x8” that I just got my hands on. The serial # is B72GS.L. which I don’t get what the “S.L.” means.

The press says it’s a Mercury Model U. I’ve attached some photos of it if anyone can contribute more info about the serial # and the style I’d really appreciate it.

From the limited research I’ve done, it seems like the Victor arm was usually for the 6”x10” press. Can anyone explain this a little further to me?

I’m a Kelsey newbie!


image: Right side of press

Right side of press

image: Serial B72GS.L.

Serial B72GS.L.

image: Left side of press

Left side of press

I think the S.L. stands for side lever. (just guessing)

I’m trying to find an estimated build date for a Kelsey that I’m prepping for sale. It’s an Excelsior 3x5 Model C, there’s nothing on the front of the bed, but on the back in the center is stamped ‘20’. The pins are peened over, and it has a round style handle. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
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