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Dating Your Fender

Fender Serial Numbers, 1950 to Present
(more or less not always up to date)

Dating a Fender guitar with the serial number is a hit or miss propisition. It helps narrow things down, but in most cases is an inexact science. Leo Fender never intended for his guitars to become collectors items. He never invisioned a need to pinpoint the manufacturing date of any of his guitars. At least not while he was at Fender Musical Instrument Corporation.

With that said, and with great help from numerous sources including FMIC, George Gruhn’s publications, and A. R. Duchossoir the following information should help you but it is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate.

Before 1977 Fender guitars hd a serial number on the bridgeplate or neckplate. Serial numbers are basically chronological, but there is some overlap in some years. Before the later 1970′s Fender never expected the guitars to be collectable or for serial numbers to be important. The bridge plate or neckplate were applied to a guitar with no thought to keeping any kind of number sequence. Fender serial numbers were assigned like this:

  1. In the factory, there was a large container with serialized items such as neckplates and bridges.
  2. A Fender employee simply reached in and grabbed one (or many) and installed them on the instrument(s) as they worked.

As you can see from this over-simplified example, serial number assignment was fairly random. Just keep this in mind. The only truly 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.

Fender Esquire, Broadcaster, and Telecaster Serial Numbers 1950 to 1954
(serial number stamped 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):

Esquire, Broadcaster and Telecaster, Numbers On Bridge Plate

  0001 to 0999 = 1950 to 1952
  1000 to 5300 = 1952 to 1954

Serial Numbers for all Fender Guitar Models, from summer 1954 to mid 1976
In mid-1954 Fender changed the location of serial numbers to the neckplate. This was probably done as a cost saving measure. Because different companies did the stamping of the serial numbers on neckplates they vary in location and layout. 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. Unfortunately, there is also some overlap in serial numbers between years — again due to the fact that neckplates were re-ordered various times from various manufacturers.

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 noted.

   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 = 1963

L-Series (1963 to late 1965)
Called an “L Plate,” Fender neckplates started showing up with LXXXXX numbers sometime in 1963. Why the “L”? It was an error by the company that produced the neckplate stamping for Fender. Fender was using up their neckplates with numbers under 100,000. So, they ordered neckplates that were supposed to have numbers above 100,000. But the stamper misread the order and thought that the number “1″ was an “L” and so instead of plates starting with 100,000 they started with L00,000. Fender demanded corrected neckplates immediately. But it took a while to manufacture and number the plates. So, the company just used the L Plates not wanting to let them go to waste.

Neckplates with an “L Plate” are considered a Pre-CBS Fender (even though the CBS corporation bought Fender in January 1965). Sometimes an “L” serial number can be seen as early as late 1962.

  L00001 to L20000 = 1963
  L20000 to L55000 = 1964
  L55000 to L99999 = 1965

F-Series (late 1965 to mid-1976)
After CBS took over Fender changed the neck plates once again. This time, probably in a corporate branding effort, a large Fender script “F” was added to the neckplate below the serial number. F Series guitars are generally considered CBS Fenders… though most collectors will value all 1965 Fenders similarly to Pre-CBS (the sale was consummated in early February, 1965)

  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

Serial Number on Peghead Decal.
For many reasons, Fender decided to change the serial numbering system and it’s location in the mid-1970′s. You can imagine that it might have been cheaper to have the serial numbers added to the decals rather than have them machined. But you can also imagine that there were many times for inventory purposes when suppliers, vendors, and etc. wanted to be able to see the serial number, and now, the year of production without turning the guitar over.

So starting in mid-1976 the serial number was moved to a decal on the peghead. Even with the new system, Fender didn’t like to throw away a perfectly good serialized decal just because the year code would be incorrect. So, the information on the peghead could be off as much as two years. Generally speaking, a “S” prefix equals the 1970′s (Seventies), “E” prefix equals the 1980′s (Eighties), and “N” prefix equals the 1990′s (Nineties). Also note: “E” and “N” prefix serial numbers were also sometimes also Japanese-made.

In March 1985, CBS sold Fender to a group of private investors made up of the management of the corporation at the time. The serial numbers do not reflect this change – Fender continued to make instruments using existing serial number schemes. The new Fender (FMIC) did not acquire any physical assets of the old company, just the name “Fender” and the rights to all products and trademarks . So, without any factories FMIC moved all guitar production during 1985 and early 1986 to Japan, while FMIC built a new factory in Corona, California. The Japanese-made Fenders do have some slight serial number differences (typically a “J” serial number prefix).

  7600000 ("76" in bold) = 1976-1977
  800000s = 1979-1981
  1000000 to 8000000 = 1976-1981 (7 digits)

  S1 to S5 + 5 Digits = 1979-1982
  S6 + 5 digits = 1976
  S7 + 5 digits = 1977-1978
  S8 + 5 digits = 1977-1978
  S9 + 5 digits = 1978-1981
  E0 + 5 digits = 1979-1981
  E1 + 5 digits = 1980-1981

  E1 + 5 digits = 1982
  E2 + 5 digits = 1982-1983
  E3 + 5 digits = 1982-1984
  E4 + 5 digits = 1984-1985, 1987-1988
  E8 + 5 digits = 1988-1989
  E9 + 5 digits = 1988-1990
  N9 + 5 digits = 1990
  N0 + 5 digits = 1990-1991
  N1 + 5 or 6 digits = 1991-1992
  N2 + 5 or 6 digits = 1992-1993
  N3 + 5 or 6 digits = 1993-1994
  N4 + 5 or 6 digits = 1994-1995
  N5 + 5 or 6 digits = 1995-1996
  N6 + 5 or 6 digits = 1996-1997
  N7 + 5 or 6 digits = 1997-1998
  N8 + 5 or 6 digits = 1998-1999
  N9 + 5 or 6 digits = 1999-2000

  DZ0 or Z0 + 5/6 digits = 2000
  DZ1 or Z1 + 5/6 digits = 2001
  DZ2 or Z2 + 5/6 digits = 2002
  DZ3 or Z3 + 5/6 digits = 2003
  DZ4 or Z4 + 5/6 digits = 2004
  DZ5 or Z5 + 5/6 digits = 2005

Japanese Serial Numbers on Peghead Decal
Due to the popularity of Rock Music in the ’70′s and ’80′s electric guitar sales soared. Many Japanese companies started make knock-off versions of US electric guitar designs. Once these guitars started effecting sales of US made guitars, US guitar manufacturers decided to put a stop to the infringement and to join in the process all at the same time. A CBS-Owned Fender selected a Japanese guitar manufacturer to make official “Fenders” — but made at a less expensive price — in Japan. This gave CBS/Fender a chance to have a lower price point in the market while continuing to offer the more expensive US made models. The corporation sometimes put the Fender logo on these guitars and sometimes put the new name Squier on the these models.

Note that the “E” and “N” series does sometimes appear on “made in Japan” models. Most likely a mistake on Fender’s part using the same prefix for both U.S. and Japanese-made guitars (know as MIJ). However, if the back of the guitar neck bears a “made in Japan” or even “crafted in Japan” decal, then it is made in Japan.

  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

Guitars labeled “Crafted in Japan” Serials.

   A + 6 DIGITS = 1997-1998
   O + 6 DIGITS = 1997-2000
   P + 6 DIGITS = 1999-2002
   Q + 6 DIGITS = 2002-2004
   R + 6 DIGITS = 2004-2005

Dating Mexican Made Fender Guitars
As was stated earlier, when CBS sold Fender in 1985 to an investment group the company didn’t have any factories in the US. So, initially, Fender imported guitars from Japanese manufacturers who had proven their ability to produce affordable, viable instruments. But the company immediately set about construction of Fender’s flagship domestic factory in Corona, California. In an effort to produce lower priced products, without having to utilize Fender Japan in the process, Fender built a second modern manufacturing facility in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, with the goal of being able to build quality instruments and offer them at more budget-oriented prices.

	MN0+ 5 DIGITS = 1990-1991
	MN1+ 5 DIGITS = 1991-1992
	MN2+ 5 DIGITS = 1992-1993
	MN3+ 5 DIGITS = 1993-1994
	MN4+ 5 DIGITS = 1994-1995
	MN5+ 5 DIGITS = 1995-1996
	MN6+ 5 DIGITS = 1996-1997
	MN7+ 5 DIGITS = 1997-1998
	MN8+ 5 DIGITS = 1998-1999
	MN9+ 5 DIGITS = 1999-2000
	MZ0+ 5 DIGITS = 2000-2001
	MZ1+ 5 DIGITS = 2001-2002
	MZ2+ 5 DIGITS = 2002-2003
	MZ3+ 5 DIGITS = 2003-2004
	MZ4+ 5 DIGITS = 2004-2005
	MZ5+ 5 DIGITS = 2005-2006

Other Fender Serial Number Schemes.
In the last 20 years, Fender has introduced many different serial numbers schemes, depending on the country the Fender guitar was made (USA=MIA, Mexico=MIM, Japan=MIJ, Korea=MIK, etc). Not all schemes are covered here. Below are some examples of letter prefixes used in recent serial number schemes.

  V + 4 to 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series) = 1982-1988
  V + 5 to 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series) = 1989-present
  AMXN + 6 DIGITS = California Series , '97 and '98
  DN + 6 DIGITS = Am Deluxe series, '98 and '99
  NC(XXXXXX) = Squier Strat Bullets (dating unclear)
  FN(XXXXXX) = US made  for the export market. Some may
  have stayed or found their way back (dating unclear)
  I(XXXXXXX) = Limited no. of these were made in '89/'90.
               They were made for the export market
               and have Made in USA stamped on neck heel.
  LE(XXXXXX) = Blonde Jazzmasters / Jaguars w/ Gold hardware
  made in 1994. Sold as a promotional 3 piece set with a
  Blonde Deluxe Reverb Amp
  CN(XXXXXX) = Korean Fender/Squier guitars (dating unclear)
  VN(XXXXXX) = Korean Fender/Squier guitars (dating unclear)
  CA(XXXXX) = Gold Strat 1981, 82 and 83
  CB(XXXXX) = P Bass Special, 1981, Gold Jazz Bass, 1982
  CC(XXXXX) = Walnut Strat 1981-82-83
  CE(XXXXX) = P Bass Special, 1981, Black/Gold Tele, 1981-82
  CD(XXXXX) = P Bass Special (Walnut) from 1982
  CO(XXXXX) = P Bass Special (Walnut) from 1982
  GO(XXXXX) = P Bass Special (Walnut), 1982, Gold Strat 1982-83
  D(XXXXXX) = Jazz Bass from 1982
  SE8(XXXXX) = Signature Ed Strats (check neck date)
  SE9(XXXXX) = Signature Ed Strats (check neck date)
  SN0(XXXXX) = Signature Ed Strats 1990
  SN1(XXXXX) = Signature Ed Strats 1990
  SN2(XXXXX) = Signature Ed Strats 1992
  SN3(XXXXX) = Signature Ed Strats 1993
  3 digits of 500 = 35th Anniversary Strat from 1989-1990
  G(XXXXXX) = "STRAT" about 1980,
 (Gold hardware, 2 pos. rotary tone switch)
  4 digits stamped on bridge plate = 1952 reissue Telecaster
  1982-1988 (Check neck date for exact year)
  5 digits stamped on bridge plate = 1952 reissue Telecaster
  1988-present (Check neck date for exact year)

Reference Materials to Help Date Your Guitar
If you are unable to place the approximate year of manufacture of your instrument using the above charts, there are a few great books available, which have invaluable information on the
history of Fender instruments. If you have serious interest in learning about the history of Fender instruments, or if you just want to try to establish the year of production of your own axe, we would highly recommend that you pick up one or more of the following books. They are detailed reference resources with a wealth of information for helping to either establish the vintage of your guitar or bass or for just learning more about Fender history in general. These books are the same resources we refer to here at Fender, when trying to research answers to these same history and dating questions.

You may want to consider ordering one or more of the following reference books:

DATING YOUR U.S. MADE FENDER STRINGED INSTRUMENT
For the majority 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. There were periods of time when this was not consistently done, (between 1973 and 1981), and there are certainly other examples of short periods of time, and individual pieces, where the dating was simply omitted.

While this neck dating is useful in roughly determining the age of a guitar, it is certainly not definitive. The neck date simply refers to the date that the individual component was produced. Given the modular nature of Fender’s production techniques, an individual neck may have been produced in a given year, placed in the manufacturing warehouse and remained in stock for a period of time, and then subsequently paired with a body to create a complete guitar in the following year. So, obviously a neck date, while being helpful in providing a date range of production, it cannot be a definitive reference.

Unlike the auto industry which has specific model years for their products, most specifications for a given Fender instrument model, change little if any, through the lifetime of the model. While there have been periods where dramatic changes have occurred, for example: the transition periods between Leo’s Fender and the CBS years, as well as the transition between CBS’ Fender and the current ownership, generally speaking, most models are feature specific and do not change from year to year.

Serial numbers are also helpful in determining the year of production of a given instrument.
Serial numbers have been used in various locations on Fender instruments through the years. They have been placed at the top of the neck plate, on the front of the headstock, on the back of the headstock, and on the back of the neck near where the neck bolts onto the body. They were stamped on the back vibrato cover plate (early ’50s Strats), and on the bridge plate between the pickup and the saddles on some Telecasters. But once again, due to the modular nature of Fender’s production methods, and the fact that most serial numbers schemes are not sequential and usually overlap from between 2 to 4 years, (from
the early days of Fender, through to the mid 1980s), dating by the serial number is not an exact science.

Establishing the Value of Your Vintage Guitar
Fender/Guild, as a manufacturer and distributor of new instruments, has no direct involvement in either the used, collectors, or “Vintage” instruments markets and therefore they are unable to offer you the current value of your instrument.  These used, “Vintage” and collectors markets operate completely dependently from the new instrument market.

If you have interest in establishing a relative value for your instrument,it might be helpful to contact any of the used or vintage instrument dealers in your area. If you have an older “vintage” instrument, you may want to pick up a copy of Vintage Guitar magazine, or visit their website at http://www.vguitar.com. Vintage Guitar magazine is a great resource for people who buy, sell and trade vintage instruments and should be quite helpful.

You might also want to check with one of the many instrument dealers who offer appraisals of vintage instruments such as: Elderly Instruments, at: http://www.elderly.com, Gruhn Guitars at: http://www.gruhn.com, or Norman’s Rare Guitars, at: http://www.normansrareguitars.com.

Other resources would be to check with your local library for a copy of the “Orion Blue Book” or the “Blue Book of Guitar Values”. You can also check with your local pawnshops, as most refer to this book, or one like it, to establish the values or used instruments. Lastly, one of the best measures of value may be completed Ebay Auctions for similar guitars. All of these are excellent resources for researching the fair market value of your instrument.

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Comments

30 Responses to “Dating Your Fender”
  1. tele74 says:

    I have a Telecaster Custom from 1974. It has 6 string trees. Are these original? Or is it likely that this guitar was only made with the three string trees? Any feedback really appreciated.

  2. tele74 says:

    Sorry, meant saddles not trees!

  3. wally 1 says:

    Giday from Australia ,Can any one help with dating my neck serial number.. 1300×2503 I can’t find anything about a neck with an X in the numbers. The headstock serial number is S838495…..so 1978 , but can’t work out the neck numbers…thanks guys…Wally

  4. wint1 says:

    Is the tele I am trying to buy on ebay Japanese or American made? It has serial number E328285 on the headstock, which per TDPRI means 1982-1984 if American made, but the date on the neck is 1988, and if I go Japanese serials per TDPRI the E plus six digits means 1984-87 if it was made in Japan! The seller says the serial number means 1983, but it is 1988 per the neck, and that Fender used up old E3 and E4 decals after the factory moved from Japan to US! The pots are unreadable. It is black with rosewood fretboard on maple neck.
    Thanks-wint1@juno.com

  5. wint1 says:

    To clarify, the seller says it is a 1988 and the neck is right.

  6. cgren72 says:

    id date a fender…lol

  7. poppymike says:

    I’m having trouble with the date #’s on my MIM
    what I see is the MZO and 6 digits not 5 —(MZO160680) I thought it was an 01.
    Am I looking in the wrong place?
    MIke

  8. What´s more in the serial number? I have a tele E810115. Don’t think that Fender produced more then ten thousand guitars in USA during 1988. So what is the first “10″ referring to?

  9. benfrancis says:

    I got a challenge for anyone willing: I have a Squier MIM Tele that has a headstock serial of MN8106*** (the last three digits aren’t needed. BUT the neck number is 70719? Is this okay or is there something askew here? I can’t figure out if this is a Fender MIM or a squier or if there is something weird here. It has the Squier Gold logo on the headstock, not the mystery Black one.

  10. TDPRI TDPRI says:

    The way to get answers to your questions is to post your question on the Forum. The TDPRI Forum has 50,000+ members that can answer questions for you. The Resources and blog areas are not the place to get answers to questions from others.

  11. N3TeleMan says:

    I think the page needs updating?
    I have a new 2010 US Deluxe and on the back of the headstock it says: “Corona”, the number is: US10124241.
    I rang Fender and they said ‘US10′ means made in USA in 2010.
    I think the DZ serial numbers are over?

  12. bowler2013 says:

    I have a MIA Telecaster with a serial number on the back of the headstock 10001888. The previous owner told me it was an american standard, but it looks more like a reissue because it has the old style bridge plate. If anyone can let me know anything that would be great!

  13. PEFEAGAN says:

    Hello, I am a new member and I have a question hopefully someone could help me with, I have a Fender custom shop tele thin line, set neck, demarzio pups, chambered body and the guy I bought it from said it was a Robbin Ford model made by Micheal Stevens sn#908752. Does anyone no where I could find out more about this guitar? Thanks

  14. gehhhh says:

    Hi Guys!
    I bought a Greg Fessler Tele Custom at Guitar Center any expert can help me?

    neck plate: CZ515963
    inside neck joint: 10909141-580
    neck: “Dealer Summit 580″ (greg fessler signed)

  15. rvf263 says:

    Just picked up a used MIM Tele serial number: MZ9571201. Any idea how old this guiatar is?

    Thanks,
    Bob

  16. Obieone1 says:

    Check out [URL="http://electricfender.com"]http://electricfender.com[/URL] if you ever doubt your Fender serial number

    [B]Bookmark the site because soon we will be giving away a Fender[/B]

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