Washburn Prewar Instrument Styles by Pleijsier Hubert is a good source book for Washburn guitar information.
Post a picture of the paper label, any stamp marks burned onto the back center strip and of the bridge. Those things are more helpful for dating Washburns than the serial number by itself. Serial numbers where started over a few times, you need the additional clues to get you in the ballpark.
Ian, welcome to the Forum! This place loves to see photos, many and varied! Maybe take a bunch and post um for us to see what you are fixing? Thanks!
jus'a wildwestern guess.......Sept 1st 1939...better than no guessatall
The paper label in your Washburn was used from 1906/7 - 1915. The serial number A3991 would date your guitar to 1907. It's hard to quit make out but it appears to be a style 115 (see bottom of the paper label). The bridges would typically be Ebony and normally have flattened pyramid wings, this one looks more like one you would see on a Regal made guitar. They also owned Regal Instrument Co. and there was a lot of parts swapping done at that time.
Here is a picture I had handy in my computer from a vintage instrument exhibit we hosted in 07 of my Style 115 Washburn. It has the Ebony, flattened pyramid bridge I mentioned.
This instrument would have been built for gut strings originally. It will be ladder braced and have a bridge plate that is in all likely hood be made from Spruce. The straight across, non-compensated saddle will not play in tune with steel or silk and steel strings. I use Nylgut "Alabastro" strings on mine and they sound and play great, Elderly Instruments has them. Any plastic strings for classical guitar would work though.
Ian, Here are some pictures of original Washburn bridges.
And a couple more.
Checked my Washburn book last night, your label and serial number dates it at 1910. The bottom of the label, just above the D6050 ( I have no idea what that is/means) should be stamped with the model description. They are generally faded and I can't see any trace on your label. I haven't tried myself but it may be worth checking with a UV light and see if that makes it legible.
Excellent, thanks much for your help Paul!!
I've got to get my hands on a copy of that Washburn book. I really don't know much about vintage Washburn guitars. I had a beautiful one come in the shop this week and I'm hoping someone (Paul Breen) can help me put a date on it, and maybe a rough value. I've never seen a Washburn decorated so elaborately. I can't make out the Style number. The serial number is 81243. It appears to be all original except for one repair on the soundboard seem, done fairly well. Unfortunately I didn't take a picture of the whole body, for some reason, sorry.
That's the early round label, used until 1905. It could be a Style 299 from from the first years of the 20th century. Has pretty good value, since they're pretty rare. Tom