Telecaster build quality year by year - 2002?

Discussion in 'Telecaster Discussion Forum' started by StainlessStevie, Jun 12, 2019.

  1. StainlessStevie

    StainlessStevie NEW MEMBER!

    Jun 11, 2019
    Blackwater UK
    Hi all, I'm a newbie to this forum. Here in the UK I believe that brand new Teles are over-priced at the top specification, and in the lower priced guitars there have necessarily been compromises. I have an itch to get a tele, and I'm struggling with Ebay choices. A friend of mine paid £400 in the mid-90s and sold it recently at a profit, for £700. So it seems an oldie might be an investment. But I'm not in it for profit, I just want to play, so I'm looking for quality of build, and authentic tele chicken-pickin' sound. I'm tempted by a Baja as possibly the best out of Mexico, but there's some innovation in that guitar which I'm not sure about. To get to the point specifically - what was the build quality, and sound quality and playability, of a USA built standard telecaster of year 2002? Was that a good period, or one of the less glorious times of Fender production?
  2. dreamingtele

    dreamingtele Friend of Leo's

    Jun 16, 2010
    Melbourne, Australia
    Id get the Baja instead of the 2002 Am. Std Telecaster..

    The top of the line coming out of Mexico is just simply good value.. Manufacturing processes have improved since then, and i believe that quality has been consistent from guitar to guitar..

    Look at the specs and see if thats what you like... Baja gets a lot of praise here mainly because of it's fat neck which is super nice, and give a few higher priced tele's a run for it's money.. It doesnt hurt to try around a couple of teles and see which ones you like..

    and dont underestimate the Squier CV line as well.
    RoCkstAr256, nojazzhere and hemingway like this.
  3. PARCO

    PARCO Tele-Meister

    Mar 5, 2008
    One of the defining characteristics of Fender guitars is their inconsistency. There are good ones and bad ones and a lot of that is up to the player.I own an American Special Tele roughly from the time you describe and I own a 50's Baja. The American Tele is hands down a better guitar in every respect. I bought the Baja for the fat neck but everything else lacks in comparison to the American Special. Specifically the pickups. I know there are folks here who love the Baja Tele pickups but for me the Texas Specials in the American Tele have a lot more character.
    swany and hellopike like this.
  4. hemingway

    hemingway Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 14, 2012
    London, UK
    So the first two replies pretty much totally contradict each other - and yet they both make good points.

    I love this place.
  5. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Doctor of Teleocity

    Feb 3, 2017
    Foat Wuth, Texas
    Why deal with Ebay? Have you no music stores nearby where you can try guitars out? Sometimes a lower-priced guitar speaks to you far better than a more expensive one. Buying online is almost always a roll of the dice.
  6. 3-Chord-Genius

    3-Chord-Genius Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 3, 2015
    Winchester, VA
    Try asking if it's safe to impedance mismatch your amp and speaker cab, and whether it's safer to go up or down with the impedance mismatch. All of the answers will contradict all of the other ones.
    AlbertaGriff and hemingway like this.
  7. Lobomov

    Lobomov Friend of Leo's

    Jul 15, 2013
    Sorry to break it to you, but your friend sold it at a 55£ loss. There is this thing called inflation. Check out this calculator from The Bank of England

    400£ in 1995 is equivalent of 755£ in 2018.

    Also you're over thinking it. All years of production have their good and bad apples, but whether it is a 2002, 2008 or 2019 all in all does not make much of a difference. What makes a difference is that used guitars usually go for from 50% to 70% of new price depending on how much time you can wait for a good deal.

    Happy hunting!
    hellopike and nojazzhere like this.
  8. rich815

    rich815 Friend of Leo's

    Aug 22, 2016
    San Francisco Bay Area
    Exactly. I wouldn’t buy anything I couldn’t play first. If you’re that concerned with build quality by year you should try first. It’s not just the quality of the build but what feels “best” to you.
    Lefty Addams and nojazzhere like this.
  9. hellopike

    hellopike Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 3, 2015
    It’s all anecdotal information. That’s the problem with asking questions like “is xxxx year a good year for Telecasters” Like someone said, there are so many variables, that inconsistency on massed produced instruments will exist no matter what. And what one person considers good might be considered lousy to the next person.

    I think one of the few true statements you can say is that the technology for producing certain guitar components has improved- ie CNC machining for necks and bodies is quicker, and more consistent now than 15-17 years ago. So in a sense, you could argue newer guitars are therefore a better bet than an older one.

    But then who can even say with certainty that the Fender Plant has changed their cnc equipment at all In the last 15 years? I work in a production facility and we have some machinery that is 30+ years old and we usually don’t upgrade until something fails catastrophically.

    Specific models may be similar when taken as a whole, but each one is an individual with its own qualities.

    Personally, I’d let finish color be the deciding factor. ;)
    hemingway likes this.
  10. Flaneur

    Flaneur Friend of Leo's

    May 24, 2010
    I have a '76 and an '83.....but I gig with a Baja. Does that help?

    Every guitar is different, so you need to play a heap of them, to find which pickups and neck dimensions suit you best. Build quality and hardware in new, mid-range guitars is really good.
    hellopike likes this.
  11. Beachbum

    Beachbum Friend of Leo's

    Mar 11, 2009
    Sand Land
    When you talk about the quality of the bones of Fender Telecasters meaning the bodies and necks it doesn't get more simple and it doesn't get more standardized. From the lowly to the grandiose and across the various eras they're all pretty much the same stuff quality wise and you pretty much can't go wrong. The difference in price from low to high has a lot more to do the cost of electronics, hardware and cosmetics than it has to do with any difference in quality of the bodies and necks just as the difference in price between one era and another has a lot more to do with myth and legend than it has to do with any real world quality differences.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
    Dacious likes this.
  12. Nick Fanis

    Nick Fanis Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Mar 3, 2003
    Playability is only a matter of set up and individual preferences.If thinner necks and a flater radius and jumbo frets are your thing you will love the guitar after a good set up.
    American standards were always very well made guitars.
    Soundwise they only thing they need is a real tele bridge pickup (the bridge pups of pre 2014 Am Stds lack a baseplate and sound harsh clean) the neck pup is fine.
  13. jman72

    jman72 Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 31, 2013
    Central Florida
    I think the early/mid 2000's Teles are great. I have a 2005 and it is top-notch. But like others have said, playing first is better, but I'd personally have no reservations about buying an American Standard from that period.
    swany likes this.
  14. Sean Mac

    Sean Mac Tele-Meister

    Mar 2, 2016
    Dublin. Ireland.
    The poly finish on the neck of the one in my avatar developed some serious cracks.

    In between the frets, to make the repair as annoying as it could be.

    "Toffee apple" thick application :(

    Beautifully made in every other way.

    Play before you pay :)
  15. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

    Sep 4, 2008
    Hudson Valley, NY
    1. Nobody really will have the answer to your question unless they're the owners of Anderton's or something. Maybe I once owned one 2002 telecaster, it doesn't make me an expert on Fender's QC that year!
    2. You can't judge any guitar by its model year, you have to play it.
    3. Most used guitars play just fine, but most of the really special ones don't get re-sold much for obvious reasons. If you're looking for something special, don't expect to find it in a random ebay purchase. You might, but...
    4. Play what's in the shops near you and go by ear and feel, not by reputation, brand, or even by price to the extent you can avoid it.
    hellopike likes this.
  16. teleplayr

    teleplayr Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 7, 2012
    Nicoma Park, Oklahoma
    Play as many Telecaster's as you can.

    Buy the one that speaks to you!
  17. AJBaker

    AJBaker Friend of Leo's

    Oct 3, 2010
    Lobomov likes this.
  18. Matthias

    Matthias Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

    Jun 30, 2003
    American Standards got an overhaul/reintroduction in 2008 and they're great. They then put the custom shop pickups in for 2012 (along with tummy cut on the Teles). They then got replaced with the American Pros in 2017 but I haven't heard universally glowing reports about the V-Mod pickups. Depending what you want, the 2008-2012s might be a sweet spot if you like their sound. My Strat is from that vintage and it's amazing. 2000-2008 was the American Series, and while I believe the USA quality was there, from what I can tell the 2008 models onward were considered upgrades.

    I'd ignore country of manufacture and go for something of the neck and spec you like, and consider upgrading pickups. On a budget, it's hard to get both the exact sound AND playability.

    Having said that, pretty much any recent US Fender is going to be a decent guitar. They've got it spot on with those. It's just whether it's the one you're looking for.
  19. alathIN

    alathIN Tele-Holic

    Oct 25, 2017
    This is an interesting take.
    Please note I am not contradicting at all - but I always had the impression that Leo Fender's innovation was to build guitars the way modern engineers do - design the product and the manufacturing process at the same time, to make manufacturing less expensive and more consistent.
    Compare to Gibson, who started building guitars according to the same luthiery techniques that developed over centuries of handcrafting.
    Results (again, my half-informed takes):
    1) Comparing across the spectrum - low end, mid-level, and high-end, Gibsons are still markedly more expensive than Fenders and arguably less value for the money
    2) Gibson has had a more difficult time adapting to the modern marketplace
    3) and this one is really speculative - Fenders can be assembled or re-assembled incorrectly, making a really unplayable guitar. By the same token, a skilled tech/luthier can make drastic improvements to Fenders by shimming the neck, tweaking the saddles, etc. If a Gibson develops major problems, it's going to be a major project to fix it.

  20. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 18, 2014
    Lions & Tigers oh Mi !

    Start with do you like chunky necks or skinny necks?
    If you want chunkier necks then avoid the Squiers -- they carve away too much wood on the shoulders on the back of the neck (even though width and depth are 0.5mm different from MIM/MIA the neck circumference is much smaller).

    Best Value is in the MIM line. I'd suggest buying an average MIM Tele in the color you want and then add an $11 4-way switch to get the feature that sets the Baja up to be a favorite. You can buy a new MIM Player Series and get Alnico pickups or a used MIM Standard that has ceramic (hotter output, so just lower them toward the body).

    A lot of the chicken picking Tele tone comes from the ergonomics of the guitar where your picking hand rests around the bridge and you pick over or slightly behind the bridge pickup. You can make a Les Paul do country if you pick back there but LPs tend to set you up for palm muting and picking forward of the bridge pickup.

    Get the MIA if you are trying to be a collector and squirreling the instrument away for years hopeful the price will go up (stock market is a better investment medium though). Get the MIM if you are planning on playing.

    hellopike likes this.
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