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In this website, we credit the people involved in the understanding of these codes. (Naturally, for information provided by others, such as for the Campagnolo and Williams codes, the original source should be cited.)Ben writes: "Brakes and brake levers often have date codes on them.
Weinmann and Dia-Compe calipers usually have codes on the back of a caliper arm.
Other manufacturers of bicycle components have date marks on their pieces.
Unfortunately, many of these are coded, and require some additional knowledge to understand the code.
Especially useful, and challenging to sort out and verify, was the Shimano code.
On a vintage bike in excellent condition (that apparently had a lonely existence in a garage) all of the components likely are original.
As the wear on a vintage bike increases, the greater the likelihood components are not original, either through replacement of worn parts or through component swaps.
The rear derailleur can often be dated to a year or two by referring to the book "The Dancing Chain - History and Development of the Derailleur Bicycle", by Frank Berto, 3rd edition 2009.
The Appendix gives dates of initial manufacture for the vast majority of derailleurs made from 1920 to 1999.