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Dating Your U.S. Made Fender Stringed Instrument

Published: Wed June 06, 2007  News Feed

For most of Fender's U.S. instrument production history, production dates have been applied to various components.

Most notably, production dates have been penciled or stamped on the butt end of the heel of the neck of most guitars and basses, although there were periods when this was not consistently done (1973 to 1981, for example) or simply omitted. Neck-dating can be useful in determining the approximate age of a guitar, but it is certainly not definitive because the neck date simply refers to the date that the individual component was produced, rather than the complete instrument.

Given the modular nature of Fender production techniques, an individual neck may have been produced in a given year, then stored for a period of time before being paired with a body to create a complete guitar, perhaps, for example, in the following year. Therefore, while helpful in determining a range of production dates, a neck date is obviously not a precisely definitive reference.

Most specifications for a given Fender instrument model change little (if at all) throughout the lifetime of the model. While there have been periods of dramatic change—such as the transition periods between the Leo Fender years and the CBS years or the transition between the CBS years and the current ownership—most models are generally feature-specific and do not change from year to year.

Serial numbers are also helpful in determining an instrument's production year. For years, serial numbers have been used in various locations on Fender instruments, such as the top of the neck plate, the front or back of the headstock and the back of the neck near the junction with the body. Serial numbers were stamped on the back vibrato cover plate on early '50s Stratocaster® guitars, and on the bridge plate between the pickup and the saddles on some Telecaster® guitars.

But once again, due to Fender's modular production methods and often non-sequential serial numbering (usually overlapping two to four years from the early days of Fender to the mid-1980s), dating by serial number is not always precisely definitive.

Dating Your Instrument

The chart below details Fender serial number schemes used from 1950 to 1964. Notice that there is quite a bit of overlap in numbers and years. The only way to try to narrow the date range of your specific instrument is to remove the neck and check the butt end of the neck heel for a production date, which may be stamped or written there (if you're uncomfortable doing this yourself, please refer to an experienced professional guitar tech in your area).

SERIAL NUMBERS

PRODUCTION DATES

Up to 6,000

1950 to 1954

Up to 10,000

1954 to 1956

10,000s

1955 to 1956

10,000s to 20,000s

1957

20,000s to 30,000s

1958

30,000s to 40,000s

1959

40,000s to 50,000s

1960

50,000s to 70,000s

1961

60,000s to 90,000s

1962

80,000s to 90,000s

1963

90,000s up to L10,000s

1963

L10,000s up to L20,000s

1963

L20,000s up to L50,000s

1964


Fender was sold to CBS in January 1965. Serial numbering didn't change immediately because instruments continued to be made using existing, tooling, parts and serial number schemes. The chart below details Fender serial number schemes used from 1965 to 1976. Notice that there is quite a bit of overlap in numbers and years.

SERIAL NUMBERS

PRODUCTION DATES

L50,000s up to L90,000s

1965

100,000s

1965

100,000s to 200,000s

1966 to 1967

200,000s

1968

200,000s to 300,000s

1969 to 1970

300,000s

1971 to 1972

300,000s to 500,000s

1973

400,000s to 500,000s

1974 to 1975

500,000s to 700,000s

1976


The charts below detail the most common Fender serial number schemes from 1976 to the present. Once again, there is quite a bit of overlap in numbers and years. The only way to try to narrow the date range of your specific instrument is to remove the neck and check the butt end of the neck heel for a production date, which may be stamped or written there (if you're uncomfortable doing this yourself, please refer to an experienced professional guitar tech in your area). Serial numbers with an "S" prefix denote the 1970s (signifying a CBS attempt to use serial numbers to identify production years); an "E" prefix was introduced in 1979 to denote the 1980s. As seen in the overlap of numbers and years, even these references to actual production dates are rather loose.

SERIAL NUMBERS

PRODUCTION DATES

76 + 5 digits
S6 + 5 digits

1976

S7 + 5 digits
S8 + 5 digits

1977

S7 + 5 digits
S8 + 5 digits
S9 + 5 digits

1978

S9 + 5 digits
E0 + 5 digits

1979

S9 + 5 digits
E0 + 5 digits
E1 + 5 digits

1980

S9 + 5 digits
E0 + 5 digits
E1 + 5 digits

1981


1982 saw the introduction of the U.S. Vintage Series instruments and "V"-prefix serial numbers. The only way to definitively date U.S. instruments with "V"-prefix serial numbers is to remove the neck and check the butt end of the neck heel for a production date, which may be stamped or written there.

SERIAL NUMBERS

PRODUCTION DATES

EI + 5 digits
E2 + 5 digits
E3 + 5 digits
V + 4, 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series except '52 Telecaster)

1982
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check neck date for specific year)

E2 + 5 digits
E3 + 5 digits
V + 4, 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series except '52 Telecaster)

1983
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check neck date for specific year)

E3 + 5 digits
E4 + 5 digits
V + 4, 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series except '52 Telecaster)

1984
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check neck date for specific year)


CBS sold Fender in March 1985. Serial numbering didn't change because instruments continued to be made using existing tooling, parts and serial number schemes.

SERIAL NUMBERS

PRODUCTION DATES

E3 + 5 5 digits
E4 + 5 5 digits
V + 4, 5 or 6 5 digits (U.S. Vintage Series except '52 Telecaster)

1985
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check neck date for specific year)

V + 4, 5 or 6 5 digits (U.S. Vintage Series except '52 Telecaster)

1986
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check neck date for specific year)

E4 + 5 5 digits
V + 4, 5 or 6 5 digits (U.S. Vintage Series except '52 Telecaster)

1987
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check neck date for specific year)

E4 + 5 5 digits
E8 + 5 5 digits
V + 4, 5 or 6 5 digits (U.S. Vintage Series except '52 Telecaster)

1988
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check neck date for specific year)

E8 + 5 5 digits
E9 + 5 5 digits
V + 5 or 6 5 digits (U.S. Vintage Series except '52 Telecaster)

1989
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check neck date for specific year)


"N"-prefix serial numbers denoting the 1990s were introduced in 1990. The numbers and decals were produced far in advance, and some N9 decals (denoting 1999), were inadvertantly affixed to some instruments in 1990. Consequently, some 1990 guitars bear 1999 "N9" serial numbers.

SERIAL NUMBERS

PRODUCTION DATES

E9 + 5 digits
N9 + 5 digits
N0 + 5 digits
V + 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series except '52 Telecaster)

1990
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check neck date for specific year)

N0 + 5 digits
N1 + 5 or 6 digits
V + 5 or 6 v (U.S. Vintage Series except '52 Telecaster)

1991

N1 + 5 or 6 digits
N2 + 5 or 6 digits
V + 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series except '52 Telecaster)

1992

N2 + 5 or 6 digits
N3 + 5 or 6 digits
V + 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series except '52 Telecaster)

1993

N3 + 5 or 6 digits
N4 + 5 or 6 digits
V + 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series except '52 Telecaster)

1994

N4 + 5 or 6 digits
N5 + 5 or 6 digits
V + 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series except '52 Telecaster)

1995

N5 + 5 or 6 digits
N6 + 5 or 6 digits
V + 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series except '52 Telecaster)

1996

N6 + 6 or 6 digits
N7 + 5 or 6 digits
V + 5 or 6 v (U.S. Vintage Series except '52 Telecaster)

1997

N7 + 5 or 6 digits
N8 + 5 or 6 digits
V + 5 or 6 digits (American Vintage Series)

1998

N9 + 5 or 6 digits
V + 5 or 6 digits (American Vintage Series except '52 Telecaster)

1999
1999


"Z"-prefix serial numbers denoting the new millennium appeared on U.S.-made instruments in 2000. Z0 denotes 2000; Z1 denotes 2001, etc. American Deluxe Series instruments use the same dating convention, but with the addition of a "D" in front of the "Z", i.e., DZ1, DZ2, etc. As always, there is typically some number prefix overlap and carryover from year to year.

SERIAL NUMBERS

PRODUCTION DATES

N9 + 5 or 6 digits
Z0 + 5 or 6 digits
DZ0 + 5 or 6 digits (Am. Deluxe)
V + 5 or 6 digits (American Vintage Series except '52 Telecaster)

2000

Z0 + 5 or 6 digits
Z1 + 5 or 6 digits
DZ1 + 5 or 6 digits (Am. Deluxe)
V + 5 or 6 digits (American Vintage Series except '52 Telecaster)

2001

Z1 + 5 or 6 digits
Z2 + 5 or 6 digits
DZ2 + 5 or 6 digits (Am. Deluxe)
V + 5 or 6 digits (American Vintage Series except '52 Telecaster)

2002

Z2 + 5 or 6 digits
Z3 + 5 or 6 digits
DZ3 + 5 or 6 digits (Am. Deluxe)
V + 5 or 6 digits (American Vintage Series except '52 Telecaster)

2003

Z3 + 5 or 6 digits
Z4 + 5 or 6 digits
DZ4 + 5 or 6 digits (Am. Deluxe)
V + 5 or 6 digits (American Vintage Series except '52 Telecaster)
XN4 + 4 digits

2004

Z4 + 5 or 6 digits
Z5 + 5 or 6 digits
DZ5 + 5 or 6 digits (Am. Deluxe)
V + 5 or 6 digits (American Vintage Series except '52 Telecaster)
XN5 + 4 digits

2005


The "odd" serial numbers on the chart below exist somewhat outside the more well-known Fender serial number schemes. If you have what you consider an odd serial number, it might appear here.

NUMBER

DESCRIPTION

AMXN + 6 digits

California Series electric guitars and basses; 1997 and 1998

DN + 6 digits

American Deluxe series instruments; 1998 and 1999

NC(XXXXXX)

Squier® Strat Bullets (dating unclear)

FN(XXXXXX)

U.S.-made guitars and basses destined for export market. Some may have stayed in the U.S. or found their way back (made to Standard Stratocaster specs; dating unclear)

I(XXXXXXX)

A limited number of these "I" series guitars were made in 1989 and 1990. They were made for the export market and have "Made in USA" stamped on the neck heel.

LE(XXXXXX)

Blonde Jazzmaster® and Jaguar® guitars with gold hardware made in 1994. Sold as a promotional three-piece set with a Blonde Deluxe Reverb® Amp

CN(XXXXXX)
VN(XXXXXX)

Korean-made Fender/Squier guitars (dating unclear)

CA(XXXXX)

Gold Stratocaster; 1981, 1982 and 1983

CB(XXXXX)

Precision® Bass Special from 1981, CB(XXXXX) Gold Jazz® Bass from 1982

CC(XXXXX)

Walnut Stratocaster; 1981, 1982 and 1983

CE(XXXXX)

Precision Bass Special from 1981; Black and Gold Telecaster from 1981-1982

CD(XXXXX)
CO(XXXXX)

Precision Bass Special (Walnut) from 1982

GO(XXXXX)

Precision Bass Special (Walnut) from 1982, Gold Stratocaster from 1982-1983

D(XXXXXX)

Jazz Bass from 1982

SE(XXXXXX)
SN(XXXXXX)
SZ(XXXXXX)

Signature Series Instruments
SE8(XXXXX)-1988, SE9(XXXXX)-1989
etc.
SZ0(XXXXX)-2000, SZ1(XXXXX)-2001, SZ2(XXXXX)-2002, etc.

3 digits of 500

35TH Anniversary Strat from 1989-1990

G(XXXXXX)

"Start" from about 1980, (Gold hardware, two-position rotary tone switch)

4 digits stamped on bridge plate

U.S. '52 Vintage Telecaster 1982-1988 (Check neck date for specific year)

5 digits stamped on bridge plate

U.S. '52 Vintage Telecaster 1988-present (Check neck date for specific year)

T(XXXXXX)

Tribute series instruments

C(XXXXXX)

Collectors Series

XN(XXXXX)

FSRs and '52 Teles

 
 
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