How old is my Maglite?
For a while I've been saying I would put together a quick dating guide for Maglites for those with this very question. You can always e-mail Mag Instrument to determine the month, year, and sometimes day your light was produced but from my experience they have no records for 1979 and 1980 lights. This guide also helps in determining the age of Maglites seen online for sale where the serial number is not often advertised. I'll keep it short and sweet instead of my long winded posts. My contact information is on the right if anyone needs assistance too. Parts are sometimes switched making the lights difficult to identify.
Below is a checklist of which features are found on which age range lights. Below this checklist I'll go into detail and provide pictures of the features in each age range.
1979 Was the first year of manufacture for Maglites. They have some differences from all the rest of the Maglites as the design was still a work in progress. Please see my post, here, for a detailed explanation of 1979 lights. These lights were produced only in black.
Low Focus Grip
There is a 1/4" gap between the top of the head and the focus grip. 1979 light (right) vs. standard focus grip location (left).
Large Switch Cover & Paten Pending Stamped Barrel
The switch hole is larger and the cover more bulbous. All 1979 lights were stamped "Paten Pending" on the barrel opposite the serial number as the patent wasn't approved until 1981. 1979 light (bottom) vs. 1981 - 1987 (top).
TM is stamped after the Maglite logo as the trademark was claimed but not registered as shown in the above photo.
2D 1 - 18,000
3D 1 - ????
4D 1 - 11,000
5D 1 - 14,000
6D 1 - 5,000
7D 1 - 4,500
In 1980 the focus grip was moved to its standard location and the switch hole and cover were standardized. Red and blue anodizing are introduced at this time.
Paten Pending Stamped Barrel
All 1980 lights were stamped "Paten Pending" on the barrel opposite the serial number as the patent wasn't approved until 1981.
TM is stamped after the Maglite logo as the trademark was claimed but not registered.
Focus Grip Location Standardized
The focus grip is now located even with the top of the head as in the above photo.
Switch Seal Standardized
The switch hole size and seal type are now standardized.
2D 18,000 - 70,000
3D ???? - 100,000
4D 11,000 - 82,000
5D 14,000 - 50,000
6D ???? - ~30,000
7D 4,500- 10,000
1981 - 1986
Lights are almost identical to 1980 lights with the exception of the patent stamping on the barrel. 7Ds are discontinued in early 1982. Polished silver lights are introduced sometime after 1981.
Patented Made in U.S.A. Stamped Barrel
All barrels are now stamped "Patented Made in U.S.A." as the patent for the light is approved.
TM is stamped after the Maglite logo. The trademark was registered at this point but the bezel wasn't updated until later 1987.
2D 70,000 - 700,000
3D 100,000 - 1,000,000
4D 82,000 - 700,000
5D 50,000 - 300,000
6D ~74,000 - 190,000
7D 10,000 - 19,000 (1982)
1987 - 1989
An R with a circle replaced the TM after the Maglite logo. Camo is introduced in 1989. Gold anodized lights are available for 1989 only.
The Maglite trademark was registered in 1981 but it wasn't until 1987 that Maglite decided to update the bezel and step up enforcement of their trademarks due to competition from other manufacturers.
2D 700,000 - 1,400,000
3D 1,000,000 - 2,000,000
4D 700,000 - 1,000,000
5D 300,000 - ????
6D 190,000 - 300,000
1990 - 1991
1990 marked the beginning of the modernization of Maglites. I've done a post about these Transitional Lights which can be found here.
Reduced Grip Length
In order to save on production costs grip lengths are shortened and standardized. 1989 and prior grip length (top) vs. 1990 and later grip length (bottom).
Laser Etched Bezel
In order to save on production costs bezels are now laser etched. 1987 - 1989 stamped bezel (right) vs. 1990 -1991 laser etched bezel (left).
Plastic Retaining Ring
Around 1990 switches started to use a plastic retaining ring instead of an aluminum one. This made maintenance easier and production costs less. Other parts were also different colors but the basic operation remained the same. 1979 - 1989 switch (left) vs. 1990 - 1991 switch (right). The plastic ring switch is the only one available as a replacement from Mag Instrument.
2D 1,400,000 - 3,000,000
3D 2,000,000 - 4,100,000
4D ???? - 3,000,000
5D ???? - 800,000
6D 300,000 - 500,000
1992 - 1995
In 1992 the lights were completely re-designed into the model that's currently available today. I've detailed these differences here. These lights are typically referred to as New Maglites, Panther Maglites, or Letter Serials.
Letter Added to Serial
D was placed at the beginning of serial to designate the cell size and to avoid confusion when ordering parts. 1992+ letter serial (bottom) vs. a 1979 -1989 non-letter serial (top).
Panther Logo Added
The panther logo was added to the bezel. The trademark of the panther logo wasn't approved until late 1995 so 1992 - 1995 models have a TM after the logo.
Barrel Size Reduced
D cells are now produced using extruded aluminum instead of 1.25" aluminum pipe. The barrel OD went from 1.66" to 1.55" and the ID went from 1.38" to 1.35". 1992+ end cap (jade) installed in a 1979 - 1989 barrel (red) to show the barrel change.
The switch was completely redesigned into it's current form. There are several internal differences but the largest difference is external. The switch now uses a retaining clip instead of a retaining ring to simplify maintenance and decrease tooling and production costs. 1979 - 1989 switch (left) vs. 1990-1991 switch (center) vs. 1992+ switch (right).
2D 3,000,000 - ????
3D 4,100,000 - ????
4D 3,000,000 - ????
5D 800,000 - 1,400,000
6D 500,000 - 1,000,000
1996 - 2002
R Panther Bezel
The trademark of the panther logo was registered in late 1995 so starting in 1996 the TM was replaced by an R with a circle after the panther logo.
2003 - 2009
Patented in U.S.A. Stamped Barrel
After 23 years of being "Made in the U.S.A." Maglite could no longer source enough parts made in America to meet the California definition. As such the barrels are stamped "Patented in U.S.A." instead of "Patented Made in U.S.A." as shown below. Please find more info in the following article: http://maglite.com/maglab/made-in-california-but-not-the-usa
The trademark of the panther logo was registered so this carries over from the prior year.
The light receives 2 minor updates, removal of stamping an update to the switch. All other features of the 2003 to 2009 lights remain.
Patented in U.S.A. Stamping Removed from Barrel
The "Patented in U.S.A." stamping is abandoned all together. Lights now carry no stamping opposite the serial
Switch Screws Changed
Switches now use a proprietary torx screw instead of the standard hex screw. In the picture below is a torx screw (left) vs a hex screw (right). The bulb holder as well as the retaining screw were both changed but on the bulb holder is visible. In order to disassemble these lights you will need a proprietary Maglite torx key which comes with all new switch assemblies.
I also know that there were minor updates to the letter serial switch around 2000 because there are 2 different types of switches. I haven't been able to get an exact date though. The changes are relatively minor.
As always I'm looking to buy Vari-Beams and Vintage/Rare Mags. Please let me know if you have any, top dollar paid.