Hetchins used several different systems of frame numbering over the years. Hilary Stone and Len Ingram have researched Hetchins frame numbers; the following information is summarized from their work.
With few exceptions, frame numbers from 1935 to 1986 are sequential, but rather complicated to decipher. In principle the frames were numbered sequentially, the last known one being 13270 (April 1986). This does not mean, however, that 13,270 frames were produced in all. There are gaps in the sequence, and a few oddball frame numbers and two oddball series from the 1970s or 80s are known. For post-1986 numbering, see Bob Jackson and David Miller below.
Hetchins frame numbers consist of three to eight digits, sometimes (but not always) preceded by a letter. A larger number of digits does not necessarily imply a later year of production; some 1930s frames have three-digit numbers, other 1930s frames have eight-digit numbers, whereas 1960s and 1980s frames may have four- or five-digit numbers.
The frame number usually consists of two parts: a date prefix, and the frame production sequence number (suffix). The dating prefix system was changed many times and this complicates the dating of Hetchins frames based on frame numbers alone.
The frame number was usually stamped onto the right-side dropout and the steerer; some frames have the number stamped onto the left-side dropout. Starting with the Jackson period, and continuing to this day, the number is stamped on the bottom bracket shell and the steerer.
See also conclusion,
where to find frame numbers,
and not frame numbers below.
Very early frames, 1935. Hetchins began frame production in January 1935. The first frame number known and verified by extant sales receipt dates from March of that year. The purchaser was Mr. Bert Liffen of London who took delivery on the 19th of April. The number, stamped on the right rear dropout and on the steerer tube, is 336; click here for details on the Liffen Brilliant. The sales records list one other three-digit number, sold in January 1936. Two four-digit numbers are listed, both sold in early 1936. None had a leading 'H'. We do not know what these numbers mean; it is unlikely that these very early frame numbers represent production figures, since Jack Denny could hardly have built 336 frames from January to March. Furthermore, the sales ledgers for 1935 record the sale of 106 frames in total.
Above, frame no. 336, the oldest surviving documented Hetchins, sold in March 1935.
August 1935 to Dec. 1935. In August 1935, a date-coded numbering system was introduced consisting of a date prefix and a production sequence suffix. The first frame bore the number 3581. Decoded, it read (19)35 for the year, 8 for August, 1 for frame number 1. There were 24 frames with the August code, the last being 35824. It should be noted that the first nine frames had four digits and the next 15 had five. This dating system continued into October when, with October needing two digits, the 3 was dropped from the year code; so, October frame numbers continued from 510xx, where 5 stood for 1935, and 10 for October, and xx was the production sequence number. The dating system (or prefix) was subsequently changed many times, but the production sequence number (suffix) ran continuously until December 1961.
Above, frame no. 51285: 1935, December, 85th frame.
1936 to 1939. Production for 1936 continued the previous system of date-prefix and production-sequence-suffix, using 6 for 1936, followed by one or two digits for the month, and frame sequence numbers continuing on from December of the previous year. 1936 frame numbers ranged from 61107 (January, 107th frame) to 612546 (December, 546th frame). The system for 1937, 1938, and 1939 continued as in 1936, using 7, 8, and 9 for the year, respectively, and one- or two-digit figures for months. Hetchin's one thousandth frame was produced in November 1937 and required seven digits: 7111000. Some frames produced in 1938 but sold in 1939 bear 8-digit numbers with an additonal "9", i.e., 9 8xxxxxx (the 9 was apparently prefixed at the time of sale).
Above, 9 8111747: 1938, November, 1,747th frame, but sold in 1939.
Above, 911843: 1939, January, 1,843d frame.
1940. In 1940 the date prefix changed. 'H' prefixed all frame numbers; the year was omitted entirely; the first digit indicated the month, 1 for January, 2 for February, and so on up to 8 for August; the last 4 digits continued the production sequence numbers from December 1939. Frame numbers ranged from H12302, the 2,302d frame (counting continuously from August 1935), made in January 1940--to H82442, the 2,442d frame, made in August 1940.
The records show that a year prefix started to be applied from as early as September of the previous year, when Hyman started his bookkeeping year.
1941 to 1950. The month prefix was dropped from the start of 1941 (possibly starting from the accounting year, Sept. 1940); instead of a month code, the date prefix then consisted of the last two digits of the year: 41 for 1941, 42 for 1942, and so on. The last four digits carried on the production sequence number, unbroken from frame no. 1 as of August 1935 as the start of the sequence. This numbering system was carried on to the end of 1950, the last frame being no. 503720 (1950, 3,720th frame).
H462868: 1946, 2,868th frame.
1951 to 1961. In 1951 the system was changed. 'H' replaced all but the last digit of the year (195)1, so H1 stood for 1951. For 1952, the prefix was 'E2'; the first 49 frames for 1953 had a 'T2' prefix, the last frame with this code being T24508--the 4,508th frame counting from August 1935; as before, the last four digits carried on the production sequence numbering. Apparently, Hetchin intended to carry on with C, H, I, N, and S prefixes. However, after T24508, the sequence carried on from frame number H24509, and subsequent 1950s frames all had 'H2' prefixes (although a few frames are known from this period without the leading 'H'). This carried on until the end of 1961.
E24114: 1952; H26955, 1957 or 8.
1962 to 1969. In 1962 a new system was introduced consisting of 4 digits: the first digit indicates the last digit of the year (2 for 1962, 3 for 1963, etc.). The last 3 digits represent the production sequence number which restarted at 1 in 1962. The sequence was started at 2001 (first frame, 1962), and ran until approx. 3360 at the end of 1963; after that, the production sequence number was restarted at 1 each year, 4001 (for 1964), 5001 (1965), 6001 (1966), 7001 (1967), 8001 (1968), 9001 (1969).
H3259: 1963, 259th frame counting from 1962.
H7054: 54th frame made in 1967.
1970 to April 1986. In 1970 the series continued 10xxx (carrying on from 9xxx from 1969) and ran for a couple of years at least. 11xxx series numbers are not known. The series picked up at 12xxx sometime in 1973 and carried on with 13xxx to April 1986 where x indicates the production sequence number. The last known frame made by Jack Denny bore the number 13270.
H12679, ca. 1976.
H13057, 1982, with matching panier carrier.
H13267, fourth to last Southend number.
H13 270, the final Southend number, 1986.
A) In the 1980s, some other frame numbers were used, parallel to the above-mentioned series; these frame numbers consisted of four-digit numbers, mostly without a leading H, starting at H1000; the last known one of the series bore the number 1116. A series of 4-digit frame numbers starting with a C is also known. It is possible that these frames were subcontrated by Alf to an unknown Italian frame builder. The frames seen to date are plain-lugged.
B) In 1952, five frames were made and presented to the Romford Club Team to be raced in the Tour of Britain (ToB). They bore numbers from HET1 to HET5; two are known to have survived.
C) A few frames from the 1930s have surfaced with three-digit numbers, both with and without a leading H.
1060, 1050: 1980s; running from 1000 to 1116.
C1019, ca. 1970s or 80s.
HET3 and HET5: year 1952, two of five special orders for ToB.
Occasionally frames turn up which fit into no known block of year-prefixes; for dating these frames, we rely on physical evidence on the frame itself (lug pattern, fitments, dropouts, and so on), as well as the Hetchins Register for comparison to known nearby frame numbers, and other documentary &/or anecdotal evidence (such as magazine articles, catalogs, and so on). Click here for an article how we do it.
In the late spring of 1986 Hetchins and Bob Jackson Cycles were officially fused. However, Alf had been subcontracting at least some frames out to Jackson before this. Jackson used a totally different numbering system. The first frame documented to have been built by Jackson bears the number 8601 on the bb shell; Donald Thomas has confirmed by email that this was the first number using Jackson's system (though not necessarily the first frame subcontracted to Jackson). Alf's receipt gives the date of sale as 12 Nov 1984, and the original owner said he waited at least 6 months for it, so it was presumably built in the late summer or autumn. The number 8601 is puzzling, as we had previously assumed that the 86 prefix stood for the year of the official fusion, whereas this frame was built nearly two years before that.
above: 8601, first documented Jackson build;
original receipt, 12 Nov 1984.
Jackson continued using 86xxx & 87xxx numbers, where x stands for sequential production. 86xxx numbers appear to have been built in 1986; 87xxx started in 1987 and continued until 1993.
above: 86004, Jackson build from 1986; 87184 from 1991.
Above: 87129, Jackson build,
Southend shop receipt dated 1989.
David Miller separated Hetchins from Jackson in the period from about April to July 1993. He has used a 2-digit year prefix plus a 2-digit production suffix. David Miller's production suffix restarts for each year, but is not always sequential because some customers choose their own suffixes. For 2020, 20xx numbers would have overlapped with 1962 numbers, hence, the first frame ordered in 2020 bore the number 2020 00.
0500: year (20)05, frame no. 00.
0750: year (20)07, frame no. 50.
2020 00: year 2020, frame no. 00, first frame ordered in the year.
Duplicates: in 2010, ten frames were made with frame numbers ranging from 10005 to 10009, and 10015 to 10019, duplicating some frame numbers from 1970. The 1970s numbers would most likely have had a leading 'H' and have been stamped on the dropout; the 2010 numbers were without a leading 'H' and were stamped under the bb shell.
Conclusion: we may not assume that every frame number can be assigned a date of production, or that a lower frame number within a block of sequential ones necessarily implies that it was made before a frame with a higher number within the same block, for the following reasons
First, a complete production list of every frame number is not available; production lists are available only for some years. Extensive sales records do exist, listing nearly every frame number. However, the date of sale was sometimes years after the date of production. Moreover, Hetchin's accounting year did not begin on January 1st, but Sept. 1st of the previous year. This further complicates the dating of historic frames, as sales dates give only a latest-possible production date, but no firm earliest-production date.
Second, during the 1950s, Hetchin employed three frame builders, Jack Denny, Bob Stratfull, and Stan Broom. Each was capable of producing 14 to 20 frames per week. Each one kept his own sequence for each week (documented by extant job orders). Job orders exist for some frames made during the 1950s and 60s; thus, some frames can be dated exactly, down to the day. However, the total production over a week's period, when all three frame builders are taken into account, implies that sequential numbers do not necessarily map to sequential production days.
For these reasons, apparently sequential frame numbers may exhibit anomalies: a higher one may have been sold &/or produced before a lower one, and a frame may seem to have been sold before it was even produced. This may be due to overlapping production by three frame builders, complicated by Harry's financial year starting a quarter early, complicated by changing the year-prefix at irregular intervals (apparently corresponding neither to calendar years nor to Harry's financial years).
So far as we know from what the builder's cards reveal, frame numbers were assigned only after a frame had been soldered and cleaned up, but before painting.
In sum: sales records are extensive from 1935 to 1967; production records are partial. There is a long gap in records, from 1968 to 1986; no records (neither sales nor production) are extant for this period. Production records from 1986 to 1992 were in the possession of Donald Thomas (formerly of Jackson Cycles) until 2020 when Jackson Cycles was acquired by Woodrup Cycles; the current whereabouts of these records is unknown. Production records pick up again in 1993 and are extensive from 1993 to the present.
Where to find the frame number:
The frame number on historic Hetchins is usually stamped onto:
a) the bottom bracket (1986 to present) or
b) the left or right rear dropout (1930s to 1986)
and c) the steering tube (all years); the fork must be removed from the frame to verify the number on the steerer.
Not Hetchins frame numbers:
A correct frame number appears below right. Note the font--this remained constant throughout the production period from 1934 to 1986. Forged frames may have numbers which fit the sequence, but the font may be different.
No frame numbers here.