Vintage Guitars Info's
Vintage Fender Guitars, Basses, Amps.
Introduction and General Specs.
Dès février 1996
Overview of collecting vintage Fender guitars, basses and amps.
General specifications, serial numbers, Fender vintage guitar cases. Private
vintage guitar collector.
Contact the vintage guitar
September 1952 Fender calendar.
For most collectors, pre-CBS (pre-1966) Fender vintage guitars
and amps are the desirable ones. Although CBS purchased Fender (officially)
on January 3rd 1965, it took some time till the guitars changed (though
by mid 1964, six months before CBS bought Fender, things were already
"on the way down"). By the end of 1965, the general look and feel of the
Fender guitars had changed significantly. All collectors feel the quality
of their instruments and amps suffered as CBS employed more "mass production"
manufacturing processes to the Fender guitars. The "large peghead" (starting
in late 1965) as used on the Fender Stratocaster was one example of the
(bad) changes to come. The "custom contoured" bodies Fender was famous
for no longer were as sculped and sleek. Newer (and less attractive) plastics
were used for the pickguards. Pearl fingerboard inlays replaced the original
"clay" dots. Indian rosewood replaced the beautifully figured Brazilian
rosewood on the fingerboards. And by 1968, polyurathane replaced the original
nitrocellulose lacquer that was used from Fender's conception. By early
1971 the party was truely over. Fender now employed the infamous "3 bolt
neck" and one piece die cast bridge on the Strat, ruining it's tone and
feel. Many other models suffered the same miserable fate of being over
mass-produced and cheapened by corporate zellots.
Because of this, Fender's most innocent era of the 1950's is their
most collectible. This decade produced guitars with one-piece maple
necks, single layer pickguards, thin "spaghetti" logos, and tweed cases
that seem to capture collectors the most.
The early 1960's Fenders with "slab" rosewood fingerboards are also
collectible, but not to the extent of the earlier 1950's maple-neck
era. Of the rosewood fingerboard models, the "slab" fingerboard (1958/mid-1959
to July 1962) variants are more desirable than the "veener" fingerboard
(August 1962 and later) pre-CBS models. The "transistion" era (late
summer 1964 to December 1965) are the least collectible of the pre-CBS
models. This era is known as a "transition" because later summer 1964
to December 1965 was the time when there was a transition from the Leo
Fender management to CBS management, and mass-production manufacturing
techniques were starting to take a firm hold.
By 1966 (a year after CBS bought Fender), CBS management had really
taken hold of Fender's production facilities and incorporated many changes.
The sum of of all these changes had a serious effect on Fender guitars
as a whole. 1966 brought an era of "large" pegheads, less contoured
bodies, and much higher production numbers. CBS looked for ways to cut
production time and costs, which generally led to much lower quality.
Because of this, 1966 and later Fender instruments are considered far
less collectible than vintage pre-CBS Fender guitars.
The Guitar Models.
The Esquire was
Fender's first electric spanish guitar. Originally introduced in June
of 1950 as a black (and later blond), one or two pickup model, it was
discontinued by Fender's marketing arm in September 1950. Only about 50
of these original Esquires were shipped, though Fender had a backorder
of hundreds of units. And many came back to Fender to have the neck (and
body!) replaced because of neck warpage, from the lack of a truss rod.
In October 1950, the Broadcaster replaced the Esquire as their two pickup
electric spanish guitar, with a truss rod! The Esquire was re-introduced
in early 1951 as a single pickup version of the Broadcaster. The 1951
and later Esquire, because of its single pickup, does not have the value
today of its two pickup brother, due to its limited tonal range with one
pickup. By February 1951, the Broadcaster was renamed the Telecaster (though
the guitars didn't actually have a "Telecaster" decal on them until the
summer of 1951), because of a naming conflict with a trademarked Gretsch
1954 Fender Stratocaster ad.
The Fender Stratocaster
(and Telecaster) from the 1950's put the solidbody electric guitar on
the map. The Stratocaster was like no other guitar ever produced. With
three pickups, a contoured body that made playing guitar comfortable,
and a tremolo built-in and designed correctly for the guitar, made it
an instant sucess. Even today, nearly 50 years later, the Stratocaster
is the electric guitar by which all others are judged.
From country, to rock and roll, to surf music, Fender found a niche
with its instruments. Especially different for the era was those Fenders
with Custom Color
finishes. Hence they are more valuable than the standard finish (usually
Sunburst, or Blond for the Telecaster/Esquire).
introduced in 1958, became Fender's "top of the line" instrument (though
today's vintage guitar market does not hold this view; it's clearly a
3rd class citizen behind the Strat and Tele). Fender truely thought the
Jazzmaster would make a sensation in the jazz scene. Instead, it became
the main instrument of many Surf-guitar bands of the 1960's.
Likewise, in 1962 Fender introduced another "top of the line" instrument
called the Jaguar. Again,
this model quickly lost popularity, starting in 1968 with decreased sales.
The short scale length of the Jaquar was one of its major flaws. Finally
the Jaguar and Jazzmaster were discontinued by 1975 and 1982, respectively.
Before the death of Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, interest had revived
in these models, though no were near the level of Strats and Teles. Now
most collectors interested in these models do so because they can not
afford a vintage Strat or Tele.
The Low-end Fender solidbodies such as the DuoSonic, MusicMaster,
and the Mustang are
not collectable and are considered student models. Even with the recent
popularity of the Mustang, it's still a short scale, entry level instrument.
All these instruments share that basic problem of a shorter scale length,
and lower quality electronics.
The Bass Models.
Fender hit another home run with the Precision Bass,
the first fretted electric bass. Still today, it's the standard by which
all basses are judged. Early P-basses (late 1951 to mid 1957) are collectable,
but not as much as the models from mid-1957 to mid-1959 with split coil
pickups, aluminum pickguards, and maple necks.
Basses with concentric tone and volume knobs are also very collectable,
along with the three knob configuration pre-CBS Jazz basses. Until the
late 1980's, the P-bass sound was more desirable by players than the
J-bass. But by 1990, the sound and feel of the J-bass had become preferred.
The Amp Models.
Tweed covered Fender amps are
very collectable. The more powerful tweed amps with multiple speakers
are the most valued by collectors and players. The tweed Bassman with
four 10 inch speakers and four inputs (1957-1960) is considered by many
to be the finest guitar amp ever made.
Contact the vintage
guitar info guy
Brown and white tolex amps (1960-1963), and some "black face" models
(1964-1967) are highly regarded by players. "Silverface" and later models
(post 1967) are fine utility amps, but have no collectable value.
of Fender Electric Guitars, Basses, Amps.
Contact the vintage
guitar info guy
Year, Model Description
- 1946 Hardwood Amplifiers
- 1948 Tweed Amplifiers
- 1950 June, Esquire
(1 or 2 pickups)
- 1950 October, Broadcaster
(replaced the 1 or 2 pickup Esquire)
- 1950 December, "NoCaster"
as it is called since Fender clipped-off the name "Broadcaster"
from its decals as the name was already in use by Gretsch.
- 1951 January, Esquire
(one pickup "NoCaster").
- 1951 summer, Telecaster.
- 1951 fall, Precision
Bass, the first solidbody electric bass.
- 1954 spring, Stratocaster.
- 1956 spring, Electric Mandolin
- 1956 summer, Duosonic
(two pickups) and MusicMaster
- 1958 summer, Jazzmaster.
- 1959 summer, Telecaster
Custom (sunburst body with binding).
- 1960 White/Brown
- 1960 summer, JazzBass.
- 1961 late, Bass VI.
- 1962 summer, Jaquar.
- 1964 Black Amplifiers
(know as "blackface" models)
- 1964 summer, Mustang
- 1965 summer, Electric
XII (12 string solid body).
- 1968 fall, ThinLine Telecaster
(semi-hollow "F" hole Tele).
- 1969 summer, Rosewood Telecaster
(body and neck made of rosewood), and the Thinline Tele were
General Fender Parts and Detail Specs
Inside a 1954 Fender
Stratocaster. Click for an inside tour of a first year model of
Fender's premier guitar. Also inside a 1958 Fender
Jazzmaster. Click for an inside tour of the first year for this
model. Also check out the comparison of reproduction and original
Fender vintage parts.
Left: 1950 to 3/62 style pencil-written neck date at butt of
Note the initials before the date were consistent till about 1954,
and were sometimes there till they completely stopped around 1956.
Right: 3/62 to 1969 style stamped neck date at butt of neck. The
before the month indicates the guitar model, NOT the day of the month!
The body and neck dates on a 1956/1957 strat. The body date
(right) is in the middle pickup cavity on this guitar.
The body date on a 7/57 Telecaster, under the lead
pickup. The body date on the Telecaster moved from
the neck pocket to under the lead pickup around 1954
or 1955. Consistently by 1956 it usually appears
under the lead pickup.
Fender Body Dates, 1950 to present.
The earliest models (Broadcaster, NoCaster, Telecaster) had a body date
under the neck, in the neck pocket. But by 1954 or 1955, this date moved
to under the lead pickup (but didn't show up consistently in this spot
until 1956). Stratocasters also had variable body date positions. Usually
they are seen in the rear tremolo cavity (if the Strat is a tremolo model!).
But it is also common for the body date to be under the middle pickup.
For all models, by about 1963 or 1964, body dates were rarely used.
Fender Neck Dates, 1950 to present.
From the first solidbody guitars to 1976, Fender dated their instruments
at the "butt" of the detachable neck. Here is a timeline of the format
the dates, and how they were printed:
- 1950 to 1954: Penciled by hand below the truss rod adjustment at
the butt end of the neck usually in M-D-YY format. Many times the
initials of the woodworker were also indicated, such as "TAD" or "TG"
for Tadeo Gomez.
- 1954 to 1959: Penciled by hand below the truss rod adjustment at
the butt end of the neck in M-YY format.
- Early 1959: Due to a complaint by a Fender customer as to an obscentity
written on the neck butt, no markings were used for the first part
of 1959. I've seen dates of 6-59, so they started using them again
at least by mid-year.
- Mid-1959 to March 1962: Penciled by hand below the truss rod adjustment
at the butt end of the neck in M-YY format.
- March 1962 to 1965: Ink stamp in dark blue or red ink below the
truss rod adjustment at the butt end of the neck in "XX MMM-YY W"
format. The "XX" is not the day of stamping. Instead it is
a code for the type of neck (for example, "02"=Stratocaster). The
"W" is the neck width where "A" is the narrowest, "B" is normal, and
"C" is the widest.
- 1966: the model number (the number stamped on the neck before the
month) change (for example, "13"=Stratocaster).
- 1969: new type of neck stamp consisting of 6, 7 or 8 digits was
used on some models. This new stamp was usually green ink. An example
of this type of neck code is "529129B". The new green stamp was used
concurrently with the previous "XX MMM-YY W" format. So a neck could
have either code system! The model numbers change yet again (for example,
"22"=Stratocaster). See below for more info.
- 1972: Fender changed to yet another new type of neck stamp which
had 8-digits. This was stamped in green or red ink. A example of this
is "02033923" found on a Jazz Bass. From 1972 through about March
1973, this new system was used concurrently with the previous "XX
MMM-YY W" format. Again, a neck was stamped with either the new or
the old date stamp, but not both. The model numbers change yet again
(for example, "09"=Stratocaster). See below for more info.
- April 1973 to 1980: After March 1973, Fender dropped the old style
date stamp and continued to use the new style, 8-digit code. See below
for more info.
- 1976 to present: All non-vintage reissue instruments have the serial
number printed in the decal on the face of the peghead. The approximate
year of manufacturer can be determined from this (see serial number
section below). Sometimes a date is also stamped or pencil written
on the butt of the neck. Vintage reissue instruments have the date
on the butt end of the neck as was used during the time period being
- 1980: Small adhesive labels with Month-Day-Year date stamps appeared
in the neck pocket, pickup cavity and/or back of the neck.
The 1969 to 1980 Neck Stamps.
This information was documented and written by Greg Gagliano, and was
published in a 1998 article in 20th Century Guitar magazine.
About 150 Fenders made between 1967 and 1980 were examined. Of these,
less than half had useable information. In most cases, the stamp was
smudged beyond legibility or the stamps were incomplete. Many guitars
had no stamped codes at all. Some guitars simply had the model name,
such as "MUSTANG" stamped on the butt end of the neck in green or red
This means two things for the owner of a 1969 to 1980 Fender. First,
the chances of having an intact stamped code is about 50/50. Second,
the dataset for making conclusions is relatively small and therefore,
subject to change as new information surfaces. However, the interpretation
of the two date code systems appears to be relatively straight forward
and the conclusions were confirmed by pickup dates and pot dates in
The 1969 to 1971 Neck Stamps Explained.
This information was provided by Greg Gagliano. The neck stamp used
from 1969 to 1971 can be extracted by working from the outside inward.
For example, letís take Telecaster Thinline (s/n 272207) with the code:
3320119B. Starting a the right we have the letter B. This appears to
be the same neck width code that Fender had been using since 1962. The
next digit denotes the year, in this case 9 = 1969. The next one or
two digits denote the month, in this case 11 = November. The first one
or two digits of the code, in this case 3, denotes the model. For Telecasters,
Telecaster Thinlines, and Esquires that code is 3. For Stratocasters
it is 22 and for Precision Basses it is 5. The other three digits (320)
area mystery and perhaps are some kind of batch or lot number.
Hereís our P-Bass again (s/n 277983) with the code 529129B. Breaking
up the code we get:
- 5 = code for Precision Bass
- 291 = batch or lot code?
- 2 = February
- 9 = 1969
- B = 1 5/8 inch neck width (correct for a í69 P-Bass).
Here's another, a Strat (s/n 279515) with code 22384109B. Break it
- 22 = code for Stratocaster
- 384 = batch or lot code?
- 10 = October
- 9 = 1969
- B = 1 5/8 inch neck width
Exceptions do exist. A few Telecasters have shown up with neck codes
that would indicate a 1967 date and one has been reported with a possible
1968 date, yet the rest of the guitar appears to be from 1969. If
Fender used the coding system as early as 1967, then we should see
more 1967 and 1968 guitars surfacing with the green stamped code.
One explanation is the use of leftover necks. Fender is known to have
done this often.
1972 to 1980 Neck Stamps Explained.
This information was provided by Greg Gagliano. The 1972-1980 eight
digit code is similar to the previous 1969-1971 system. Example, Music
Master (s/n 595121) with code 49002153. The first 6 digits are paired
off and the last two digits are taken singly. So that gives us 49
00 215 3 where:
- 49 = model code (Musicmaster, Mustang, Bronco)
- 00 = neck code (rosewood fingerboard)
- 21 = week code (week 21)
- 5 = year code (1975)
- 3 = day of the week code (Wednesday)
Now try and decode a Precision Bass (s/n 647149) with code 01031051.
You should get:
- 01 = Precision Bass
- 03 = fretted maple neck
- 10 = Week 10
- 5 = 1975
- 1 = Monday
Here's a Telecaster (s/n S725092) with rosewood fingerboard and code
- 13 = Telecaster
- 03 = rosewood fingerboard on skunk stripe neck
- 16 = Week 16
- 7 = 1977
- ? = day unknown as digit was illegible
Differences between the end of a Telecaster and
Stratocaster neck. Note the Tele neck on the left
has a straight end, and the Strat neck on the right
has a rounded end. The bodies and pickguards are
cut differently to accomodate this.
Style of Strat pegheads and logos from 1954 to 1980.
Shown is the "spaghetti" logo, the "transition" logo,
and the "black" logo on a large peghead. The Large
peghead style started in late 1965 on the Strat, and
lasted throughout the 1970s.
- Telecaster/Esquire: consistent peghead shape from 1950 (Broadcaster)
to present, except on the "Telecaster Deluxe".
- Stratocaster: "small" peghead shape from 1954 to end of 1965.
At the very end of 1965 Fender enlarged the peghead shape. This
"big head" size was used till 1980.
- In 1980 Fender changed back to the small Strat-style peghead design
on most models (except the Tele).
Top: the "transistion" logo as
used on a Custom Telecaster
starting about fall 1964.
Bottom: the "spaghetti" logo as
used on a Custom Telecaster
- Telecaster/Esquire: thin "spaghetti" logo (silver with black trim,
except for 1952 to 1955 Esquires which were gold with black trim)
from 1950 (Broadcaster) to late 1965. Larger "transition" logo used
from late 1965 till 1967. Thick "black" logo was used from 1968
to 1980. The Tele Custom and Esquire used the "spaghetti" logo from
mid-1959 to late 1960's (stock not depleted till later).
- Stratocaster: thin "spaghetti" logo from 1954 to fall 1964. Larger
gold "transition" logo from fall 1964 till 1967. Thick "black" logo
from 1968 to 1980.
- Pbass, Jazzmaster: followed same trend as the Stratocaster.
- Jazzbass: from 1960 to 1967 the Jazzbass always used a "transistion"
style logo. Switched to the thick "black" logo in 1968. Note Jbass
never used a "spaghetti" style logo.
- In the 1980's Fender changed back to using "transition" and "spaghetti"
logos, depending on the model.
Peghead Decal Pictures.
The following are scans of most Fender decals used from 1950 to the
late 1960s. These are all original, unapplied decals. Note decals from
the 1970s are "backwards" (reversed). For comparison, I have "unreversed"
the pictures so the text is not backwards. Picture from Jim Shine.
- Strat, 1954
- Strat spaghetti
decal repro vs. original
- Strat transition
decal repro vs. original
- Esquire, 1950
- Custom Esquire,
1959 to 1968.
- Custom Telecaster,
1959 to 1968.
- Jaguar, 1962
1962 to 1975.
- Precision Bass,
1951 to 1968.
- Jazz Bass, 1962
- Telecaster Bass,
- Bass 6, 1961
Typical wear on a 1950's
Fender maple fingerboard.
- Maple fingerboard, 1950s: from the start in 1950, Fender used a
one piece maple neck with a walnut "skunk" stripe down the back (except
on early Esquires with no truss rod), where the truss rod was installed.
This was the standard neck on all models until 1958 (when the Jazzmaster
was introduced with a rosewood fingerboard; the rest of the Fender
models changed to rosewood fingerboards in mid-1959).
- Rosewood fingerboard, "Slab" (Brazilian), 1958 to 1962: from mid-1959
(1958 for the Jazzmaster) till August 1962, Fender used a "slab" rosewood
fingerboard. That is, the bottom of the fingerboard was flat and the
board was fairly thick. A picture of a slab board neck (as seen from
the "butt" of the neck) can be seen in this picture.
Also shown is the difference between reissue and original slab board
necks. The Musicmaster family also used slab fingerboards (usually
Indian rosewood) for about a year from Sept 1965
to Oct 1966. Slab fingerboards are also identifiable from the
peghead by their "hump" line (humps toward the tuners), just above
- Rosewood fingerboard, "Veneer", 1962-1980: from August 1962 till
1980, Fender used a curved bottom rosewood fingerboard that was much
thinner than the slab 'board. The veneer of rosewood got even thinner
by mid 1963. Also by 1966 the rosewood changed from Brazilian to Indian
rosewood. Veneer fingerboards are also identifiable from the peghead
by their "dished" line (dishes toward the nut), just above the nut.
- Maple fingerboards, 1960-1968: available as special order. Different
than the 1950s one-piece maple necks. These used an actual slab maple
fingerboard glued to the maple neck, and no "skunk stripe" down the
back of the neck for the truss rod.
- Maple fingerboards, 1969 and later: Fender's maple neck changed
back to the 1950s style one piece neck with a walnut "skunk stripe"
down the back.
- Rosewood Fingerboards, 1980 and later: Starting in 1980, Fender
switched back to the slab rosewood fingerboard style, made from Indian
rosewood (except on certain recent custom shop models).
The body routes on a 1970's Fender Stratocaster. Note the added "shoulder"
near the body's edge to accomodate an attachment screw. Also notice the
squared off corner pickup routes. Earlier 1960's Strat bodies have rounded
corner pickup routes.
- Black dots: used on maple fingerboards and made of fiberboard-like
material (in the 1950's) or black plastic later.
- White dots: used on rosewood fingerboards (Jazzmaster in 1958, all
other models in mid-1959). Till the end of 1964 Fender used "clay"
dots as position markers. This material has an off-white opaque color.
In very late 1964 all models changed to pearl dot position markers.
Side markers remained "clay" until spring 1965 when these too changed
- White dot spacing: In 1963, the spacing of the two fingerboard dots
at fret twelve changed (the spacing became closer together).
Neck Back Shapes (profiles), all guitar and bass models.
Fender neck shapes have changed through the years too.
- 1950 to 1955: Fender neck shapes (all models) have a standard large
and chunky "D" profile (big "baseball bat" style neck).
- 1956: Fender necks change to a large and chunky "soft V" profile.
- 1957: the "V" shape gets much stronger. This 1957 "strong V" neck
profile becomes famous, and musicians like Eric Clapton prefer its
shape. Some Fender necks produced have a "small strong V", where the
neck isn't so big feeling, but still has a very strong "V" shape (mostly
seen on Musicmasters and Duosonics, and the occassional Strat).
- 1958: the neck profile completely changes, with the "V" shape completely
gone. It's back to a conventional "D" neck profile, but not nearly
as thick and large as 1955 and prior neck profiles. This neck style
is used on most reissue Fenders (regardless of the year being copied).
- 1959 and later: the "D" profile gets yet a bit smaller and less
chunky. With the release of rosewood fingerboards on all models in
mid-1959, the "D" neck profiles pretty much stay the same throughout
the 1960s with only minor variance from year to year (for example,
1962 necks seem to be a bit chunkier than 1959 to 1961 necks).
From March 1962 to 1969, Fender marked their necks with an "official"
neck width letter at the butt of the neck (in front of the date code).
The "B" neck width is the normal width, as used on about 99% of all
Fenders from this period. All other sizes were available by special
order only. Also all pre-1962 Fender necks have a 1 5/8" nut width (though
I'm sure there are some exceptions, but none I have seen).
- A = 1 1/2" wide at the nut.
- B = 1 5/8" wide at the nut (normal size).
- C = 1 3/4" wide at the nut.
- D = 1 7/8" wide at the nut.
Shims were used between a Fender neck and body to adjust the "neck set"
of the instrument (the "neck set" is the angle of the neck in relationship
to the body; if the neck set is too shallow, it needs a shim so the
playing action can be lowered with the bridge to a comforable level.
If the neck set is too sharp, the strings can not be raised enough with
the bridge to stop string buzz). Fender adjusted the neck set at the
factory with a shim. Some Fenders use them, so don't. Click here
for a picture of the shim used during the 1950s and 1960s.
Neck Bolt Numbers (3 or 4).
- 4 bolt neck plates: all models used 4 bolt neck plates from 1950
to early 1971.
- 3 bolt neck plates: starting in early 1971, the Stratocaster, Telecaster
Thinline, Custom Telecaster, Telecaster Bass used 3 bolt neck plate
(the Telecaster and Precision Bass always used 4 bolt neck plates).
In 1972 the Telecaster Deluxe (from introduction) also used the 3
bolt neck plate. By late 1972/early 1973, the Jazz Bass went to a
3 bolt neck plate.
- In 1979 the 4 bolt neck plate came back to the Anniversary strat.
By 1980 all Stratocaster models were again 4 bolt. And by 1981, all
Fender models converted back to the 4 bolt neck plate.
Peghead String Guides (or "String Tree").
String guides were used on most models to give the treble strings greater
string tension across the nut.
- 1950 to Mid-1956: Single round "button" string guide for E &
- Mid 1956: Changed to a "butterfly" string guide.
- 1959: a metal spacer is used beneath the butterfly string guide.
- 1964: the metal spacer is changed to a nylon spacer beneath the
butterfly string guide during 1964.
- 1971: two butterfly clips are used for the E, B, G, & D strings
on the Stratocaster, Telecaster, Telecaster Deluxe, Custom Telecaster.
- 1976: two butterfly clips on the Mustang.
- Click here
to see the difference between reissue and original Fender "butterfly"
Truss Rod and Truss Rod Nut
- October 1950: all Fender guitars have a truss. Only pre-October
1950 Esquires have no truss rod. Adjusts at the "butt" of the
neck by the pickups. Click here
to see the difference between vintage and repro Fender truss rod nuts.
- Late 1971: truss rod changed to adjust at the peghead behind the
nut with a "bullet" system on Stratocasters and Jazz Basses. Telecaster
and Precision Bass keep traditional truss rod system.
- 1980: Fender starts using different truss rod systems, depending
on the model.
The body routes on a 1968 Stratocaster. Note the rounded
pickup route corners, compared to the 1970's pickup routes
The body routes on Telecasters. In the 1970's the
"notch" was removed from the bass side of the neck pocket.
Initially, when the Fender Stratocaster was introduced in 1954, it had
a single layer white pickguard attached with 8 screws. In mid 1959, Fender
switches to a multiple layer pickguard with 11 mounting screws. One of
the additional screws required a change to the interior body route on
the Stratocaster. Now a added "shoulder" was left in the electronic route
to accomodate one of the extra pickguard screws. Starting in the late
1960's, Fender also changed the shape of the pickup routes on the Strat.
Now the corners were more square, instead of being round.
The Telecaster body also changed in the 1970's. The "notch" that existed
on the bass side of the neck pocket was removed. See the picture above.
1956 to 1964 style single line
Kluson tuners on a Tele neck.
- 1950: Fender used "single line" Kluson tuners, that had "Kluson
Deluxe" stamped in a single vertical row (like 1956 and later Klusons);
these are easily identified as "early" Klusons (and not 1956 and later
Klusons) because "Pat Pend" is also stamped below the vertical "Deluxe"
marking. These are also different because they lack the side "exit"
hole for the tuner post (there is only a side "entrance" hole).
- 1951 to 1956: Fender used "no line" Kluson tuners exclusively, and
were unmarked (had no brand name stamped in the tuner back).
- 1956 to 1964: Fender used Kluson tuners exclusively on all models.
The only variable was the tuner tip. DuoSonics, MusicMasters, Mustangs
and other low-end models had white plastic tips, all other models
had metal tips. All tuners had "Kluson Deluxe" stamped vertically
into the tuner back in a single row.
- 1964 to 1967: Fender used Kluson tuners, but now the "Kluson Deluxe"
was stamped into two vertical rows ("Kluson" in one line, "Deluxe"
in the other). Note some models (such as the Jazzmaster and Jaquar)
the use of Kluson tuners ended in mid 1966 (see below).
- Fall 1965 to late 1970's: Fender had tuners made for them with a
big "F" stamped in the back cover. Tuner buttons were chrome plated
plastic. Note models such as the Jazzmaster and Jaquar (1966) and
the Musicmaster family (fall 1965) got these tuners before Strats
and Teles (late 1967/1968).
- Click here to see
the different Fender tuners used from 1950 to the 1970s.
- Click here to see
a comparison of vintage versus reissue Kluson tuners.
- Click here
to see a comparison of vintage versus reissue Kluson tuner bushings.
- 1950 to 1962: the tone capacitors are either big, round (sausage-like)
paper caps on Teles and Esquires, or flat box-shaped paper caps on
- 1963 to present: all models use a standard ceramic pancake-shaped
Old style (pre-1971) Stratocaster bridge. Note the nickel plated
saddles with "Fender Pat. Pend." stamped in them. Reissue saddles
look exactly the same but are stamped "Fender Fender". Also since
the pickguard is removed on this Strat, we can see the "nail hole"
just above the pickguard screw hole. If this nail hole does not
have paint in it (as seen here), the finish is probably original.
Old style Telecaster bridges. The bridge at the top is a mid-1954
and prior style Tele bridge with brass saddles, and the serial number
stamped into the bridge plate (reissue vintage Tele bridge plates with
serial numbers have a "dot" pressed below the third number in the serial
number, so not to be confused with original Tele bridge plates). The picture
below it shows the low E/A string saddle, and how it is ground flat on
the bottom. The picture at the bottom is a mid 1954 to 1958 style Tele
bridge with "smooth" saddles, and no serial number on the bridge plate.
In 1958 Fender then switched to "threaded" saddles on the tele bridge
The jack cup on Telecasters changed through the years. Pre-1953 jack
cups were milled, and have sharper edges and "teeth" to hold it in the body.
Later jack cups are pressed steel and have smoother edges and smooth sides.
- 1950 to 1967: all models used "cloth" wire where the shielding is
actually made of cotton. Usually the color is black for ground and
white for "hot". Starting in 1965 sometimes yellow is used instead
of white. Jazzmasters and Jaquars also used other colors like red
- 1968 to early 1980's: PVC plastic shielded wire is used. Black for
ground, white for "hot".
- 1980's: all reissue guitars use the old style cloth shielded wire.
An original 1956 Stratocaster wiring harness and pickguard.
Notice the small metal shielding plate around the pots,
and the white single layer pickguard. At the top edge is a
early 1960's three-layer celluliod "mint green" pickguard
with it's full-size aluminum shielding plate.
First generation CRL switches from 1951 to 1954 had two patent numbers.
Second generation CRL switch used from 1954 to about 1962 have three
patent numbers. Otherwise the two and three patent number switches look
identical. Shown below is a three patent number switch.
Top: Mid 1960s to 1970s style CRL 3-way switch with round cuts.
Bottom: late 1970s to 1980s style 3-way switch.
- 1951 to 1954: Early style CRL 3-way switch with two patent numbers.
Switch made of metal and a fiberous brown bakelite type material which
has flat cuts.
- 1954 to 1962: CRL switch with three patent numbers. Switch made
of metal and a fiberous brown bakelite type material which has flat
- 1963 to 1977: Teles and Strats still use a 3-way switch, but the
fiberous brown bakelite material is replaced with a non-fiberous bakelite
material that is cut round (like a half moon).
- late 1970s: Switch changes again. See picture.
- 1977 to present: Fender strats use a 5-way switch on many models.
A virgin 1960 Stratocaster pickup assembly with no broken solder joints,
"black bottom" pickups, "cloth" wire, flat box-shaped paper tone cap,
rubber pickup springs, flat edge 3-way switch, CTS pots, and an
aluminum pickguard shield all attached to a "green" pickguard.
- Black pickguards: black pickguards were used from 1950 to mid-1954
on the Telecaster, Esquire and Precision bass. This material consisted
of a fiberous bakelite, and was about .060 (inches) thick. The fiberous
material was added to the bakelite to add strength (bakelite is too
brittle and would crack at that thickness without it). Finally the
black pickguards were clear-coated with clear nitrocellulose lacquer
(top side only) to give them depth and shine.
- White pickguards (single layer): starting in mid-1954 on the Telecaster/Esquire
and Precision bass, and from the start on Strats in 1954. Fender used
a single layer white pickguard material made from vinyl about .040
(inches) thick. This relatively new material for the time was cheap,
easy to work with, and somewhat flexible. Note bakelite was never
used for white Fender pickguards on any model (though many people
refer to white pickguards as such; but it's not bakelite). Fender
stopped using the white vinyl material in mid-1959 except on the Telecaster,
Esquire and DuoSonic/MusicMaster. In this case the single layer thickness
increased to .080 (inches), and was used till about 1965 (Esquires
till about 1967, when all old stock was depleted).
- Multi-layer pickguards: starting in mid-1959 Fender switched to
a 3 layer pickguard (w/b/w) made from Celluloid on most models. The
Pbass and Jazzmaster used a 4 layer pickguard of Tortoise/w/b/w (except
on certain custom colors which used a 3 layer w/b/w pickguard). These
celluloid 'guards had an outer white layer with a mint green/yellow
tint, thus giving them the name "green 'guard". The amount of green/yellow
depends on the abuse and UV the pickguard was subject to. To some
degree the effect is not only caused by age and sun, but the "felting"
of the black layer below the white layer. This material was used till
January 1965 when Fender switched to vinyl for their multilayer pickguards
(Celluloid was dangerous and very flamable, and shrunk with time causing
cracks). Sometimes these pickguards are called "nitrate 'guards" because
nitric acid is one of the key ingredients used to make celluloid.
The 1965 and later white pickguards do yellow a bit with age. But
even aged white 'guards look much different than the older "green"
'guards. In the late 1960s, white Stratocaster pickguards change slightly
(not sure about other models). Though from the front they look identical
to the 1965 to 1967 variety, the 1968/1969 white Strat pickguards
had a bottom layer (the layer not seen unless the pickguard is removed
from the body) of "pearloid".
- Stratocaster pickguards: multi-layer Strat pickguards had a thin
(.015") aluminum shield underneath the pickguard (see picture above)
till 1967. Click here
for a picture of the ink stamp on this aluminum pickguard shield used
during the 1960s. From 1968 and later, sticky aluminum foil was attached
to the bottom of the pickguard, just around the pots and switch. In
the 1950's, this metal shield was much thicker (.040"), but also much
smaller, only covering the area around the pots. Note reissue Strats
also use these shields.
- Click here for
a comparison of pickguard material used from 1962 to 1965, and a reissue
Stratocaster Plastic Parts.
Left: The two pickup covers on the outside are vinyl plastic. The
three covers on the insides are "bakelite". Note how the "bakelite" covers
are whiter, and the edges have rounded. When new, the "bakelite" cover
edges were as shape as the vinyl covers. But with time, the edges round
only on the "bakelite" covers. They can even wear to show the black pickup
Right: The top row of knobs are vinyl, the bottom row are "bakelite".
Notice again how the edges of the "bakelite" knobs wear (especially on
the volume knob), and the vinyl edges don't. Also the "bakelite" knobs
Telecaster Switch Tips.
The original Daka-Ware switch tips used on Broadcasters and
Telecasters from 1950 to the 1960s. These black bakelit tips
are made by Daka-Ware, with the earliest round tips only saying
"PAT. PEND." (as seen here on the left). The switch tip on the
right is a "top hat" style switch with a 2189845 patent number
(though round switch tips can also have these markings).
Other Plastic Parts (pickup covers, knobs).
- Stratocaster: this was the first Fender model to use plastic knobs
and pickup covers. From 1954 to early 1957, these parts were made
from white urea formaldehyde, commonly (and incorrectly) known as
"bakelite" (bakelite is actually a trade name for phenol formaldehyde,
and is most commonly black or molted brown; for consistency, I will
refer to these white pickup covers as "bakelite", though in fact they
are not). These covers were very brittle and very white. Note early
1954 Strat knobs have a different and taller shape than late 1954
and later knobs. Since "bakelite" cracked and wore very easily, Fender
switched to white vinyl parts in early 1957. These vinyl parts yellowed
with age unlike the earlier "bakelite" parts. Click here for
a comparison of vintage versus 1980s and later Strat knobs.
- Telecaster/Esquire: these models didn't use plastic knobs or pickup
covers. But the switch tip for Telecasters was bakelite plastic. These
black tips are still available today, with very minor differences.
Early Broadcasters/Telecasters had round (as viewed from the top)
pickup selector tips. In about 1955 this changed to the "top hat"
style of selector switch tip. In either case, all original Tele switch
tips have some stampings on their bottom side. The Broadcaster and
early Telecasters said "PAT. PEND." on the bottom of the tip. All
tips about 1952 and later say "PAT. NO. 2189845" and "DAKA-WARE CHICAGO".
See the picture above. Reissue "top hat" tele switch tips have no
marks on the bottom. Click here to
see the difference.
- Precision Bass: this model didn't use plastic parts till mid-1957
when the pickup changed to a split coil design, and had a vinyl plastic
cover. Click here
for a comparison of old and new pbass plastic pickup covers.
- Jazzbass: click here
for a comparison of old and new jbass plastic pickup covers.
- Jazzmaster: from the start in 1958 all plastic parts were vinyl
on this model. Click here for a picture
of the knob style used on Jazzmasters starting in 1965.
Exceptions to the below data: the Rosewood Telecaster, the Walnut strat,
Thinline Telecasters, etc.
- October 1950 to mid 1956: All models used Ash as the body wood.
Most ash bodies are two or even three pieces, but sometimes a one-piece
body was used.
- Mid 1956 to current: All models used Alder as the body wood. The
ONLY exception to this is if the model had a "blond" finish. In that
case, the body would was ALWAYS Ash. For example, since the stock
finish on a Telecaster is "blond" (a translucent white color), all
blond Telecasters are made of Ash. If a post-1956 Stratocaster was
ordered in blond, it too would be Ash. To summarize, if the Fender
instrument is later than mid-1956, and was originally not blond in
color, the body wood should be Alder! Most alder bodies are 2 to 4
pieces. Alder trees do not grow "big", so multiple pieces were used
for Fender guitar bodies. The number of pieces has little effect on
sound or value.
- 1963-1964: a few models made with Mahogany bodies.
- 1990-current: Most Japanese Fenders (and some US made models) use
a Basswood body.
- 1992-current: Some Mexican made models use Poplar bodies.
Left: a 1966 Custom Telecaster with the "target 'burst" style
sunburst. Starting in mid-1964, Fender sprayed the yellow part
of the sunburst. This allowed Fender to be less picky with their
choice of Alder, because the sunburst is less transparent.
Right: a 1959 Custom Telecaster with the old style Fender sunburst.
Prior to 1964, Fender stained the yellow of the sunburst into the
wood, instead of spraying it. This saved a spray step when shooting
a sunburst finish.
There is a lot more info on Fender finishes here.
- 1950 to 1967: Fender used nitrocellulose lacquer for all finishes.
Film thickness was very thin, especially in the 1950's. From the beginning,
Fender would hammer nails into the face of the guitar body before
painting, under the pickguard areas. Then the body was painted on
a "lazy susan". First the face of the guitar was painted. Then the
body was flipped over onto the nails (which suspended the freshed
painted body face), and the back and sides of the body were painted.
The nails were then used to suspend the body while the paint fully
dried. After all the paint was sprayed, the nails were removed. Hence
all original pre-CBS Fender bodies will have "nail holes" (with no
paint in them!) under the pickguard or control plates.
- Mid 1956: Fender started using Alder (instead of Ash) as the main
body wood for all models that were not finished in Blond (which means
the Telecaster stayed Ash). They did this because it was easier to
paint Alder (it required less paint steps). All Alder bodies were
dipped in a yellow stain, which was the first step in the sunbursting
paint process (sunburst was Fender's primary color on Alder bodies,
hence all Alder bodies were prepped this way, regardless of what color
they were actually painted).
This Strat has a neck date of December 1964, and still has the "nail
holes" under the pickguard. The nails holes were pretty much gone by fall
- Late 1962/early 1963: Fender now bolted a "stick" inside the body's
neck pocket (to the two bass side neck screw holes) prior to painting.
The stick allowed the body to be easily held by the painter while
spraying paint and drying. This left a visible paint stick shadow
inside the neck pocket. Fender used this technique into the 1970s.
The nails were still used, but now only for the drying process (and
were no longer needed during painting). Still, the "nail holes" will
be present (with no paint in them!) under the pickguard or control
plates of original Fender bodies.
- Mid-1964: Fender changed how they sprayed a sunburst finish. In
early 1964 and before, the yellow part of the sunburst was stained
into the wood. This meant Fender only had to spray two colors (red
and brown) instead of three. But in mid-1964, Fender changed to spraying
the yellow portion of the sunburst finish. This made the finish less
transparent, and allowed Fender to use Alder body wood with minor
defects (such as mineral stains). The 1964 and later sunburst finish
colors didn't blend together as nice and don't show much wood grain,
and hence are sometimes called a "target 'burst". Also by the fall
of 1964, Fender no longer hammered nails into the body prior to painting.
They instead used the paint stick to suspend the body while drying.
- 1968 to 1980: Fender used a "thick skin" polyester finish. Later
"thick skin" finishes got really thick in the 1970's, resembling a
bowling ball. But all polyester finishes are very thick and glossy
compared to the early lacquer finishes.
- 1954 to late 1960's: Fender also made available Custom Color finishes.
These finishes were special ordered for an additional 5% cost.
A 1962 Jaquar in the very rare, top-of-the line
molded form-fit case.
Note that the following case descriptions concerns mostly U.S. sold guitars.
Fenders distributed in other countries were often shipped without cases.
The reason: the foreign distributor felt they could get cases locally
and less expensively. Canada and Europe are perfect examples of this.
Until the mid 1960's, most Canadian imported Fenders were sold with a
Note: the following info does not apply to student model Fenders
such as the MusicMaster and DuoSonic. The interior material of these
cases generally will match the descriptions below, but the exteriors
will not. The exterior of these cases in the 1950's didn't have any
material on them (they were just a brown formica), and didn't have any
interior pocket system.
- From 1950 to 1953 Fender used a guitar-shaped hard case for the
Tele and Pbass nicknamed the "thermometer" case, due to it's unique
thermometer shape. This case had a brown covering with a brown plush
lining. The case had a bulb shape at the peghead.
The 1950s Fender gig bag, an alternative to the more
expensive rectangle hard shell tweed case.
Left to right: Tweed, brown
tolex, white tolex.
- In late 1963 to mid-1964, the exterior again changed on Fender cases.
Now white tolex with black leather ends was the standard. The interior
stayed the same dark orange plush.
- In mid-1964, Fender finally moved to a black tolex case with the
(same) dark orange interior. This type of case was basically used
till the end of the 1970's, with some minor changes (mostly the logo).
Mid 1964 to 1966 cases have no exterior "Fender" logo.
- about 1967: Still used the black tolex case, but now the case exterior
has a plastic Fender logo with a "tail".
Contact the vintage
guitar info guy
U.K. Fender cases: Starting around 1961, Jennings Musical Industries
of Unity House Dartford Road, Dartford Kent, was the sole Fender distributor
in the U.K. The case included with these Fender guitars was a Jennings
case, which was similar in dimensions to a California rectangle Fender
case, but not as stylish. For example, the Jennings case had no leather
ends, and were covered in thin brown vinyl tweed with dark pressed metal
corners. The interior was a plush deep wine color, with no lid to the
interior "glove compartment". The handle was a smooth plastic-leather
over metal. By 1964, Selmer also became a Fender importer. And later,
Arbiter also became a Fender distributor in the U.K.
- about 1972: The logo on the black tolex case changes to have no
"tail" and a small "R". Also the white piping around the leather case
ends becomes more pronouced.
- Mid to late 1970s: The logo on the black tolex case changed yet
again. No "tail", a bigger "R" (registered) mark, and a "Made in USA"
- When Fender started making reissues in 1983, they also reissued
the tweed case. But now the exterior tweed was considerably "hairer",
and was not lacquered. Also the interior was not a short dark orange
plush, but was now a long, light colored orange shag.
The exterior case logos used through the years. The top logo was
used on rectangle Fender tweed cases from about 1956 to early 1958.
It is missing on 99.99% of all original tweed cases today. The next
three plastic case logos were used through the mid 1960s to thru the
1970s. Second logo from top used in 1967 to 1971 ("tail"). The third
logo from the top with no tail and small "R" was used from 1972. The
bottom most plastic logo (with "Made in U.S.A." and the "R" symbol)
was adopted in the mid to late 1970's.
Fender Serial Numbers, 1950 to Present (Identifying the Year).
Serial numbers compiled from several sources including myself,
Gruhn, and Duchossoir.
Pre-1977 Fender guitars have a serial number on the bridgeplate or
neckplate. Serial numbers are basically chronological, but there is some
overlap amoung years. Fender serial numbers were assigned like this:
bin with serialized plates/bridges. Assembler reached in and grabbed
one (or many). Put them on the instrument(s). As you can see from
this over-simplified example, serial number assignment was fairly
random. Just keep this in mind. The only truely definitive way to date a
pre-CBS fender is to look at all the dates on the instrument
(body date, neck date, pot dates). The serial number can only
generalized the age of the instrument within a few years.
Esquires, Broadcasters, Telecasters 1950 to 1954 (number on
bridgeplate). This system of serial numbers is unique to these three
models until about the early summer of 1954 (when Fender switched to a
universal neck plate serial number system for all models):
Telecaster, Numbers On Bridge Plate
0001 to 0999 = 1950 to 1952
1000 to 5300 = 1952 to 1954
Basses 1951 to 1955 (number on bridgeplate). Note there is some
overlap. This system of serial numbers is unique to this model until
about 1955 (even though Fender went to a universal neckplate serial
number system on all instruments in 1954, some old style Precision Bass
serialized bridges were still left over and used until 1955.)
Pbass, Numbers on Bridge Plate
100 to 400 = 1951 to 1952
0001 to 0999 = 1952 to 1954
1000 to 2000 = 1953 to 1955
Neck plates, clockwise from top left:
1954, 1956, 1972,
All Models, summer 1954 to mid 1976 (serial number on
neckplate). In 1957/1958 some serial numbers started with a minus sign
("-"), or had a "0" prefix before the number. Also in 1959/1960 some
serial numbers were at the bottom of the neck plate instead of the usual
top. Double stamped serial number plates were also produced (number on
both front and back of the neck plate) in late 1957 to early 1959. As a
good example of all four of these serial number oddities, click here. This shows a
"double stamped" neck plate, one number with a "-" prefix and stamped on
the bottom of the plate, and the other number with a "0" prefix! And yes
there is some overlap in serial numbers between years.
4 to 6 digit Neck Plate Serial Numbers (no other letters or
markings on the neck plate, except for the rare "-" or "0" prefix, as
0001 to 6000 = 1954
6000 to 9000 = 1955
9000 to 16000 = 1956
16000 to 25000 = 1957 (some numbers with a "0" or "-" prefix)
25000 to 30000 = 1958 (some numbers with a "0" or "-" prefix)
30000 to 40000 = 1959
40000 to 58000 = 1960
55000 to 72000 = 1961
72000 to 93000 = 1962
93000 to 99999 = late 1963 to mid 1963
1962 to late 1965) (serial number on neckplate preceded with an
L00001 to L20000 = late 1962 to late 1963
L20000 to L55000 = 1964
L55000 to L99999 = 1965
1965 to mid-1976) (big script "F" on neckplate below serial number):
100000 to 110000 = late 1965
110000 to 200000 = 1966
180000 to 210000 = 1967
210000 to 250000 = 1968
250000 to 280000 = 1969
280000 to 300000 = 1970
300000 to 330000 = 1971
330000 to 370000 = 1972
370000 to 520000 = 1973
500000 to 580000 = 1974
580000 to 690000 = 1975
690000 to 750000 = 1976
on Peghead Decal.
U.S. made Fenders, starting in mid-1976 has the
serial number on the peghead. Note the following number could be off as
much as two years. Generally speaking, a "S" prefix equals the 1970's,
"E" prefix equals the 1980's, and "N" prefix equals the 1990's. Note "E"
and "N" prefix models are sometimes also Japanese-made (see below).
7600000 ("76" in bold) = 1976-1977
800000s = 1979-1981
1000000 to 8000000 = 1976-1981 (7 digits)
S100000's-S600000's = 1979-1982
S700000's to S770000's = 1977
S740000's to S800000's = 1978
S810000's to S870000's = 1979
S880000's to S980000's = 1980
S950000's to S990000's = 1981
E000000's to E100000's = 1979-1982
E200000's = 1982
E300000's to E310000's = 1983
E320000's to E390000's = 1984-1985
E400000's = 1984, 1985, 1987
E800000's = 1988-1989
E900000's = 1989-1990
N900000's = 1990
N000000's = 1990-1991
N100000's = 1991
N200000's = 1992
N300000's = 1993
N400000's = 1994
N500000's = 1995
N600000's = 1996
N700000's = 1997
N800000's = 1998
N900000's = 1999
Numbers on Peghead Decal
Note the lack of S, E, N series. These
are reserved for U.S. made Fenders in their corresponding decade. BUT
note that the "E" and "N" series does sometimes appear on "made in
Japan" models. I believe this was a mistake on Fender's part using the
same prefix for both U.S. and Jap-made guitars. In any case, if it says
"made in Japan", then it is...
JV + 5 Digits = 1982 to 1984
SQ + 5 Digits = 1983 to 1984
E + 6 Digits = 1984 to 1987
A + 6 Digits = 1985 to 1986
B + 6 Digits = 1985 to 1986
C + 6 Digits = 1985 to 1986
F + 6 Digits = 1986 to 1987
G + 6 Digits = 1987 to 1988
H + 6 Digits = 1988 to 1989
I + 6 Digits = 1989 to 1990
J + 6 Digits = 1989 to 1990
K + 6 Digits = 1990 to 1991
L + 6 Digits = 1991 to 1992
M + 6 Digits = 1992 to 1993
N + 6 Digits = 1993 to 1994
O + 6 Digits = 1994 to 1995
P + 6 Digits = 1995 to 1996
Serial Number Schemes.
Fender has recently (in the last 20 years)
introduced LOTS of different serial numbers schemes, depending on the
country the Fender was made (USA, Mexico, Japan, Korea, etc). Not all
schemes are covered here! Sorry, since I do not collect new Fenders, I
don't really keep track of these things. Below are some examples of
letter prefixes used in recent serial number schemes.
V : this prefix used for US made "vintage reissue" models, 1982 to present.
25 + 4 digits : 1979 to 1980 Anniversary Stratocaster.
AMXN : "AMX" means assembled in Mexico with American parts,
"N" is the decade (1990s).
MN : "M" means Mexican made, "N" is the decade (1990s).
C : this prefix used in 1982.
D : this prefix used in late 1981 to early 1982.
GO : this prefix used in the early 1980s.
SE : this prefix means a Signature Edition, 1982 to present.
4 digit decal on back of peghead: custom order model 1987 to present.
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