Raleigh Serial Numbers of 1947-1955

As a complete chart of serial numbers for these years has yet to be compiled, we have since authored a monograph upon the subject to satisfy the curious collector.

A Monograph Upon Raleigh Serial Numbers of 1947-1955


At first glance, Raleigh serial numbers of the 1947-1955 era may make little sense when a precious few of them are presented individually, in various posts, on internet forums. In fact, I believe this to be one of the main reasons why nobody has ever made sense of the chart up to now.

However, place these serials in a spreadsheet, along with a good deal of other serials from the forum archives (and a few that have been kindly sent to me via email), and a pattern does make itself visible, however, not in the way one might expect.

Before continuing, I should make it clear that Raleigh ran at least two individual serial numeration systems between the dates of 1947 and 1955, plus a third serial system, introduced in 1954 (which will not be a subject of this article). The first of these three numeration systems, incidentally, is partially represented (in a partially incorrect form as might be expected) in the widely circulated, and highly criticized Nottinghamshire Archives serial chart that appeared online in 1994.

The second system has not been decoded or mentioned in any published chart, to my knowledge, although a good number of Raleigh cycles have been found to exhibit it, and I would dare say this is the more common of the two serial systems.

The actual patterns associated with these serials have been quite easy to make sense of, and have been succesful in understanding these patterns. Some collectors may conclude that if the pattern has been decoded, then the complete year-to-serial chart is understood as well. That is not altogether true, as I have successfully discovered the pattern myself without completely unraveling what serial or serials corresponds to what year. This is mainly due to the odd pattern that the Nottigham factory applied to these serials.

Both of Raleigh's serial numeration systems have an order to them, yes, but not an order as you may imagine from, let's say, reading a Schwinn serial chart from the 1970s. The system used by Schwinn in the 1970-1979 period is possibly the single best example of simplistic genius applied to any cycle-oriented serial chart. A two letter prefix, with each letter stating the year and month of manufacture, respectively, follows the actual serial number of six or seven digits. Nothing more logical could have been devised. Uncluttered, incomplex and effective.

In contrast to the beautiful simplicity of the Schwinn chart, both the numbers and letters of Raleigh's serials simply 'rolled-over', like an odometer, when the previous digits and/or letters were used up, with no attention paid to the Gregorian calendar, or any other such calendar for that matter. This is exhibited in both of the Raleigh serial numeration systems, which you will read about below.

The Numeration Systems of 1947-1955:

The first numeration system, as I noted before, is essentially identical to that of the post-WWII to 1955 chart from the Nottighamshire Archives, with each serial composed of a series of numbers followed by a "P" or "T" suffix.

The "Nottighamshire Archives" chart is mostly correct, save for a few corrections such as the missing 1950 serial start-number. We will probably never know this numeral combination down to the last digit, but the addition of this particular bit of information, though approximated, will no doubt be helpful - and a slight clarification as to the extremes of the existing serials already mentioned on the chart.

These corrections will be published only when the serial number chart for the 1947-1955 period is complete, as I do not wish for any form of preliminary serial charts to begin circling the Internet. There is enough confusion as it is with the Nottinghamshire chart's existence.

The second numeration system features four to five numbers followed by two letters, e.g., "12345AB." As I mentioned before, each number and letter in these serials 'rolled-over' to the next available without regard to the calendar, but rather, in accordance to when the particular serial reached the point of repeating itself. For instance, serials "00000AZ" through "00000BR" have all been found to represent cycles sold under the 1951 model year (with the earliest frames probably manufactured in 1950).

Many in our Raleigh collecting hobby will probably agree that the actual serial pattern of ...AZ, ...BA, ...BB, ...BC, ...BD, etc., for a single particular year, while no doubt logical, is by no means the most sensible serial system which common sense may invent. Nevertheless, this is how Raleigh Industries of Nottingham, England found it best to do, and we are indirectly stuck with it if we wish to continue our obsession upon our cycles' serial numbers.

10/22/05: The position of the letters in relation to the numerals in the serials may be inverted depending on the frame model.

Most light-roadster and sports-type frames have the letters following the numerals (i.e. "12345AB"), while the DL-1 roadster model will have the letters following the numbers (i.e. "AB12345"). Other then the physical position of the letters, there is no practical difference between these serials and those used on the Sports-type models.


These are my findings upon the matter currently, and it simply remains for the members of our hobby to participate with their serial numbers so I may definitely conclude at which points Raleigh carried over their serials to the next year. Obviously, there will be some overlapping of these serial numbers between years, as these serials date the cycle according to when the frame was produced, and not when the cycle was boxed up for shipment to dealers.