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In 1979, Weber began stamping an alphabetic code into the vent dampers of all Weber charcoal grills. This code represents the model year of the grill. From 1979 to 1993, the code was a single letter. In 1994, Weber switched to a two-letter code.
The Weber model year runs from around November through October of the following year. So, the code "AT"—representing the 2013 model year—indicates a date of manufacture between November 2012 and October 2013.
In 2001, I cracked the Weber date code...not through my superior skills as a code breaker, but over dinner and drinks at the Weber Grill Restaurant in Lombard, IL with a member of the Weber Customer Service team. We got to talking about the code, and this individual got very quiet for a moment...then told me that the code was based on the word "AUTHORIZED", where A = 1, U = 2, T = 3, H = 4, O = 5, R = 6, I = 7, Z = 8, E = 9, and D = 0.
Here's the list of codes and their corresponding values:
Below you'll find more interesting info about Weber's code scheme. As always...click on any of the pictures to view a larger image.
Here's an example of a vent damper code. This photo shows the two-letter code "EE" from a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker manufactured in 1999. The code appears on all four WSM vent dampers.
If you call Weber Customer Support and ask for a replacement part during the warranty period, the representative may ask you for the "serial number" stamped into the vent damper. But you now know that the "serial number" is actually a date of manufacture code, and Weber uses that code to determine if you're requesting a warranty claim on a cooker manufactured this year...or ten years ago.
There are reports from a few WSM owners that their vent dampers are not stamped with any code at all. This is simply a manufacturing error, but it makes warranty claims difficult because you cannot provide your "serial number". However, if you remember the year you bought your cooker, you can find your "serial number" from the list of codes above.
The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker is said to have made its debut in 1981, so the earliest date code found on a WSM should be "C".
However, I am aware of one "B" WSM, which is documented below. Either this cooker was manufactured in late 1980, or some leftover 1980 stamped vent dampers were used in early 1981 production.
If you're the proud owner one of these cookers, then you're a member of a very exclusive club: The "C" Club (so named before I learned of the existence of the "B" WSM).
To join the club, send me an e-mail including your name, city/state, some background on how you got your WSM, and a digital photo of your cooker with "B" or "C" clearly stamped on the vent damper, and I will add you to the list below.
Clark Hodgson, Wyocena, WI
"I was driving past my neighbor's place in Wyocena, WI on Memorial Day weekend 2006 while they were having a garage sale. I saw what I thought for sure was a WSM sitting in his driveway. It was a little rusty, the access door and legs anyway, but appeared to be in excellent condition otherwise.
"My neighbor had a price tag on it of $20.00. He said, 'Don't buy that because then you'll have to cook!' I told him I used my Brinkman to cook all the time. Since I am his neighbor, he said $10.00 would take it away. I couldn't pass up that deal.
"So I came back with my truck, loaded it up, took it home and gave it a good cleaning. All of the porcelain was in really good shape. The grates were all rusty, but a wire brush took care of that. Since it did not have a thermometer, I searched the Web for retrofit ideas, which is how I happened on your site and learned about the date codes."
Clark cleaned up the old steel legs as best he could, but took a wire brush to the steel access door and sprayed it with black barbecue paint to make it look better.
"(My WSM is) currently serving vacation duty near Yosemite," says Michael. "I think I paid $150 for it back then. Over 20 years, and still a friend."
"I bought mine at the Ace Hardware store in Lake Forest, IL at the end of the season for around $100. It was their floor model, which was already assembled."
"Here is a picture of my old bullet. My wife seems to think we bought the smoker in Spring 1982."
John Wells, Overland Park, KS
"I had to laugh when I saw the note about the 'C' club on New Years Day 2005. I was smoking a turkey and realized when loading the charcoal, that I need a new charcoal grate. It's FINALLY giving out. I was checking your website and saw the thing about the letters stamped into the vents.
"This has been one great smoker, consistent and easy to use! I can't remember where I got it or what I paid for it, but I'll buy another for sure--when this one can't be used anymore!"
Edward Dannewitz, Overland
"Although it's not in top shape, my 'C' model WSM still cooks up a storm. My father found this gem for me approximately 12 years ago sitting in a moving sale. Asking price was $15.00 and he talked them down to $5.00. Didn't fully appreciate what he had gotten me until I found out what it was and what real Q'ing was about. I now own three, and all are being used in competitions yearly."
"Just joined TVWB and thought I’d send in my application for the 'C' Club. I inherited it several years ago from a friend going through a bad divorce. She was just going to put it out with the trash, getting rid of all his stuff. She gave it to me for free, just had to go and pick it up. Since then I’ve put it to extremely good use."
Jim Pfefferle, Pewaukee, WI
"I rescued this badboy from the back porch of my sister's place, where it had gathered dust since my father's passing five years ago. Before looking, I was pretty confident it would be a 'C' model, since my Dad was always trying out new grills and loved Weber products. I now consider this WSM a family heirloom."
Bill Nipe, Birchwood, WI -
"I was attending an estate auction when I came across a box which appeared to have a small charcoal grill in it. Upon further inspection, I noticed it was a Weber smoker.
"I was sure someone was gonna outbid me, but I won at $18. When I got home, I removed the smoker from the box and found out that it had never been used. I did not know much about the art of smoking or about these smokers until I stumbled across your site.
"Well, I have been smoking this little guy every weekend since and the whole family loves the meals this thing turns out. This smoker has been a blast to use along with your site, and it will be smoking for a long time to come."
Craig Smith, Chattanooga, TN
"I was talking at work about building a drum smoker and a girl I work with overheard me. She said her husband had an old smoker that doesn’t get used at all and offered to call him to see if it was something he wanted to get rid of. Turned out that he was, and this smoker has the date code of "C".
"Thanks for putting a website like this up and thanks for all the info to use my new to me old Smokey Mountain."
Clay Houser, Topeka, KS
"I was looking at Big Green Eggs online, but I was appalled at their price and weight, so I was searching for a better alternative when I came across The Virtual Weber Bullet. The site convinced me (pretty easily) that a WSM was what I needed, so I started searching Craigslist and found one for sale about 60 miles away in Kansas City. The pictures looked great, and when I got there the next day I found a well-used but wonderfully maintained WSM, so I paid the man and took it home!
"The previous owner was a BBQ enthusiast and he'd already changed to a Brinkman water pan and installed a Tel-Tru thermometer, so I was ready to go as soon as I got home and I haven't slowed down since. It was a huge surprise to find out that this WSM left the factory two years before I was born and it still cooks like a dream!"
Lu Bennett, IL
"We found your website after
we had the pleasure and excitement of finding a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker at
an estate sale. We love our Weber Performer but have always wanted to have a
Lu contacted Weber about this pristine WSM and agreed to trade it for a new 2009 WSM. Lu says that "it just feels right" for this "C" WSM to return to Weber headquarters in Palatine, IL where it will take its place alongside other historic Weber charcoal grills. Way to go, Lu!
Frits de Jonge, Nijmegen,
Netherlands - Model 1880
"Today I saw an advertisement for a WSM on a second-hand website in the Netherlands," writes Frits. "From the pictures, it was clear that it was a small Model 1880. When I phoned, they told me that the letter C was stamped on the top vent. I immediately closed the deal and jumped in the car to collect it.
"Although it has some imperfections—the enamel on the bottom rim is not perfect, the bottom grill is missing, and it's not perfectly round anymore—the rest it still looks great. The original booklet was present as well.
"The owner told me that he had received this smoker from his sister in Scotland, but they never used it. As you can imagine, I am very pleased to own such an old, special WSM."