I often get asked, how old is my Fender guitar? Most of the time this question can't be answered specifically. The Fender numbers tell the story of the company over the years.
Unfortunately, the serial number placement is sporadic and many ID numbers over lap between years and models. In many instances, there is no exact known date for a specific guitar.
That is why I decided to write this article. I want to help you understand how to tell the age of your Fender as well as any Fender you see.
Fender like Gibson has been producing guitars for many years. Certain styles and colors have come and gone over the years, but there is no real obvious way to tell how old a Fender is other than the indentification number. Unfortunately, Fender decided not to simply write the date of manufacture on the guitar. They decided that it would be easier to decipher the serial number code than just write the year on the guitar. I say this only joking. Most manufactures don't actually write the production dates on the guitar in plain view.
First let's take a look at where to find ID numbers on a Fender guitar. Where do I find my Fender Serial Number? This article is intended to help you date your Fender Stratocaster, Telecaster, and Precision Bass guitars all the way back to the early s.
In order to tell how old your Fender is you will have to find the indentification number or neck number. The serial number location has changed a few times of the years. From to Fender guitar unique numbers were stamped in the bridge cavity cover plate. From to Fender stamped its guitar's serial number on either the top or bottom of the neck plate. Modern Fender production guitars, to the present, have their ID numbers on the front or back of the headstock near the Fender decal.
In Fender decided to start making reissued vintage guitars. These guitars were replicas of the early and s era guitars. True to form the reissue guitars have their indentification numbers stamped in the neck plate. The serial numbers on the outside of the body are not the only way to date a Fender guitar however. Fender also dated the neck when it was manufactured. After the neck was finished, a Fender employee would either stamp or handwrite the date on the end of the guitar neck on its heel.
This marking is only visible when the neck is removed from the body because it is covered in the neck pocket. Almost all Fender guitars have a dated neck.
Some Fender guitar bodies and pickups also have dates written on them. Few Fender guitars have dates written on the bodies under the pickups, in the routed out cavities, and near the wiring harnesses. Fender only decided to write dates on the bodies for a few years here and there. They never really did that consistently. What does the date on the neck mean? Many people think that the date on the heel of their Fender neck is the production date of the guitar.
After reviewing the ID number, you might find out that the two corresponding dates don't coincide. It all has to do with how Fender produced guitars. Leo Fender was a genius with minimizing the costs of production. Unlike Gibson, Leo found did everything the cheapest and fastest way possible. He made a bolt-on neck, so the neck and the body could be manufactured at the same time. He wired the pickguard with pickups, so all the wiring could be finished before the body was even dry from finishing.
That's how the Fender production line worked. The number and date on the neck is simply the date that the neck was finished--not the date that the guitar was completed. Necks could sit for days, weeks, or even months at a time before being matched with a body.
After the entire guitar was assembled, the indentification number was stamped in place. Being many months later, the serial number date and the neck date might not match. Remember, these serial and neck numbers were never really intended for historical dating. They were simply internal numbers to help with production. Fender Serial Number Guide Now that we have talked about where to find your Fender guitar ID number and what it means, here is the Fender serial number database that I have compiled.
It includes most of the Fender serial numbers issued along with the corresponding dates and a short history of Fender Guitars through the years.