DATING FENDER GUITARS BY REFERENCE OF SERIAL NUMBERS

Fender's production methods from the early fifties resulted in the numbers sometimes not being consecutive. Also overlaps of serial numbers and years occur regularly.

Where to find the serial number
The serial numbers have been placed on or in the guitar in different places over the years.
At the top of the neck plate, on the front or at the back of the headstock or on the cover plate of the vibrato (Stratocasters), or at the end of the heel of the neck.
Between 1973 and 1981 there were periods when this did not happen consistently.

serial numbers

If you want to know the year of manufacture of your Fender guitar, you can decipher it with the serial number decoder, or find it in the tables below.

Fender serial number date decoder  (v2.1)

Although a serial number is useful for roughly determining the age of a guitar, this is often not the exact date. As a result of the overlap between years, Fender serial numbers are also not by definition chronological.
In the past (before 1976) the serial numbers were often randomly assigned. To approximate the correct year of construction for the period before 1976, also look at the date on the heel of the neck and of the potmeters. Usually the production date is stamped or written on the heel of the neck. To approximate the correct year of construction for the period before 1976, also look at the date on the heel of the neck and of the potmeters. To read this it is necessary to unscrew the neck from the body.


Neck dates

Most specifications for a particular Fender guitar have hardly changed, if at all. Although there have been times when major changes have taken place, such as the acquisition of Fender by CBS, and the transition from CBS Fender to the current owner (Fender Musical Instruments Corporation), most models have generally not changed.

At Stratocasters from the early fifties, the serial numbers were stamped on the back of the vibrato cover plate. On some Telecasters at the bridge between the pick-up and the saddles.

Patent numbers
Various patent numbers were added to the models between 1960 and 1977. These were stamped in the headstock under the Fender logo.
Patent numbers

Example:
PAT, 2,573,254 2,968,204 3,143,028 2,976,755 DES 187304

2,573,254 for pickup and bridge combination.
2,968,204 for the single coil pickup patent awarded in 1961 under other for Jaguar, Stratocaster, Duosonic.
3,143,028 the patent granted in August 1964 for Fender's adjustable neck construction.
2,976,755 for the split coil pickup design. (Used since 1957 to the Precision Bass)

The DES is the serial number.

Esquires, Broadcasters and Telecasters 1950-1954
The serial numbering for these three models can be found on the bridge plate and lasted until the beginning of 1954.
Fender then switched to a serial numbering on the neck plate for all models in that year.


SERIAL NUMBERS PRODUCTION YEAR
0001 - 0999 1950 - 1952
1000 - 5300 1952 - 1954
Precision Basses 1951-1955
There is some overlap of the serial numbers and dates. The serial number was applied to the bridge plate until 1955. Although Fender had already in 1954 switched to be placed the serial number on the headstock for all models, it was still punched on the bridge plate with some Precison's.

SERIAL NUMBERS PRODUCTION YEAR
100 - 400 1951 - 1952
0001 - 0999 1952-1954
1000 - 2000 1953 - 1955




All models

The table below shows the Fender serial numbers as they were used from 1950 to 1964.
The serial numbers are basically chronological, but as already mentioned, due to Fender's numbering methods, there are a number of serial numbers and years that overlap.
The only way to try to find the date is to remove the neck from the body. If the year is unreadable, it can also be written on the body under the pickguard or in the cavity in which the pickups are.

With Fenders from before 1955 you cannot use the serial numbers to determine the exact year of construction. The first Telecasters and Stratocasters appear to have a separate numbering.
With Telecasters it can happen that a '52er has a higher number than
a '53er. The serial numbers from after 1955 have a logical order.


SERIAL NUMBERS PRODUCTION YEAR
Until 6000 1950 - 1954
Until 10000 1954 - 1956
10000 1955 - 1956
10000 - 20000 1957
20000 - 30000 1958
30000 - 40000 1959
40000 - 50000 1960
50000 - 70000 1961
60000 - 90000 1962
80000 - 90000 1963
90000 - L10000 1963

In January 1965, Fender was acquired CBS Corporation.
Although that is not directly attributable to the serial numbers. CBS continued to make the guitars using the available, Community, parts, and the serial numbering system. The following table shows the serial numbers as they were used from 1965 to 1976.

Here too there are a number of numbers and years that overlap.

The serial numbers can give a rough indication of the year of construction.

An L followed by a number indicates a guitar from the early 1960s, while the large Fender F logo implies that the guitar was made after being taken over by CBS, so from the mid to late 1960s.



 SERIAL NUMBERS PRODUCTION YEAR
L10000 - L20000        (neckplate) 1963
L20000 - L59000        (neckplate) 1964
L59000 - L90000        (neckplate) 1965
100000 1965
100000 - 200000 1966 - 1967
200000 1968
200000 - 300000 1969 - 1970
300000 1971 - 1972
300000 - 500000 1973
400000 - 500000 1974 - 1975
500000 - 700000 1976



The following table shows the most common Fender serial numbers
from 1976 to the present.
Note the introduction of the letter prefix to the serial numbers.
The S stands for the decade of the seventies, an attempt by CBS to identify serial numbers every year of production. The E stands for the decade of the eighties and was used for the first time in 1979.

But here too there were a number of overlaps and the reference to
the correct production date is sometimes vague.

 SERIAL NUMBERS PRODUCTION YEAR
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




In 1982, the U.S. Vintage Series launched with the V as a prefix for the serial number.








 SERIAL NUMBERS PRODUCTION YEAR
E1 + 5 digits
E2 + 5 digits
E3 + 5 digits
V + 4, 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series excluded '52 Telecasters)

1982
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check date on the neck for specific year)
E2 + 5 digits
E3 + 5 digits
V + 4, 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series excluded '52 Telecasters)

1983
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check date on the neck for specific year)
E3 + 5 digits
E4 + 5 digits
V + 4, 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series excluded '52 Telecasters)

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





In March 1985, CBS Corporation Fender was sold to a group of private investors led by William Schultz. The company was given the current name; Fender Musical Instruments Corporation.

The transition to the new owners cannot be deduced from the serial numbers, because the numbering remained the same.





 SERIAL NUMBERS PRODUCTION YEAR
E3 + 5 digits
E4 + 5 digits
V + 4, 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series excluded '52 Telecasters)

1985
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check date on the neck for specific year)
V + 4, 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series excluded '52 Telecasters) 1986
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check date on the neck for specific year)
E4 + 5 digits
V + 4, 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series excluded '52 Telecasters)

1987
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check date on the neck for specific year)
E4 + 5 digits
E8 + 5 digits
V + 4, 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series excluded '52 Telecasters)

1988
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check date on the neck for specific year)
E8 + 5 digits
E9 + 5 digits
V + 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series excluded '52 Telecasters)

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


To date American Vintage Series with the prefix 'V' serial numbers correctly, the neck of the body must be unscrewed. The production date is stamped or written on the end of the neck heel.


In 1990, the N came as prefix for the serial numbers, and stands for the nineties. The numbers and stickers were produced far in advance.
Due to a factory fault, N9 stickers (intended for use in 1999) were affixed in 1990 to a number of instruments built in that year.
As a result, you will come across a number of guitars built in 1990 with an N9 serial number. The guitars from 1990 have the serial number on the front of the headstock. Fender moved the serial number to the back of the headstock in 1996.


 SERIAL NUMBERS PRODUCTION YEAR
N9 + 5 digits
N0 + 5 digits
V + 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series excluded '52 Telecasters)
1990
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check date on the neck for specific year)
N1 + 5 or 6 digits
V + 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series excluded '52 Telecasters)
1991
N1 + 5 or 6 digits
N2 + 5 or 6 digits
V + 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series excluded '52 Telecasters)
1992
N3 + 5 or 6 digits
V + 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series excluded '52 Telecasters)
1993
V + 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series excluded '52 Telecasters) 1994
N4 + 5 or 6 digits
N5 + 5 or 6 digits
V + 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series excluded '52 Telecasters)
1995
N6 + 5 or 6 digits
V + 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series excluded '52 Telecasters)
1996
N6 + 6 or 6 digits
N7 + 5 or 6 digits
V + 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series excluded '52 Telecasters)
1997
N8 + 5 or 6 digits
V + 5 or 6 digits (American Vintage Series)
1998
N9 + 5 or 6 digits
V + 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series excluded '52 Telecasters)
1999



The Z for the digits was added in 2000.
A Z0 prefix dates from 2000, a Z1 from 2001, etc. The U.S. Deluxe Series have the same standard but with the addition of a D for the Z, e.g. DZ1, DZ2 etc.

But here too there are overlaps of numbers and years.


 SERIAL NUMBERS PRODUCTION YEAR
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 excluded '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 excluded '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 excluded '52 Telecaster)
2002
Z2 + 5 or 6 digits
Z3 + 5 or 6 digits
DZ3 + 5 or 6 digits (American Deluxe Series)
V + 5 or 6 digits (American Vintage Series excluded '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 excluded '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 excluded '52 Telecaster)
XN5 + 4 digits
2005
10 + 7 digits
(Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster, which uses a five-digit number)
End 2009 - March 2010
US + 8 digits
(Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster, which uses a five-digit number)

First two digits of the number identify the year of manufacture.

Starting March 2010



The following serial numbers are somewhat outside the familiar Fender numbering.

If in doubt about an odd serial number, check the table below to see if you can find the letter number combination here.



SERIENUMMER DESCRIPTION
AMXN + 6 digits California Series electric guitars and basses, '97 en '98 (Made in USA and Mexico)
DN + 6 digits American Deluxe serie instruments, '98 en '99
NC(6 digits) Squier Strat Bullets (see Squier serials)
FN(6 digits) US-made guitars and basses destined for export.
Some are not exported or sent back.
I(7 digits) A limited number of these I-Series were made in '89 and '90. Made for the export market and have 'Made in USA' stamped on the heel of the neck.
LE(6 digits) Blonde Jazzmasters and Jaguars made in 1994. Sold as a promotional 3 piece set with a Blonde Deluxe Reverb Amp.
CN(6 digits)
VN(6 digits)
Produced in Korea, Fender/Squier guitars. (dating unclear)
CA(5 digits) Gold Strat 1981, '82 and '83
CB(5 digits) Precision Bass Special from 1981, CB(5 digits) Gold Jazz Bass from 1982
CC(5 digits) Walnut Strat 1981, '82 and '83
CE(5 digits) Precision Bass Special from 1981, Black and Gold Telecster from 1981 and 1982
CD(5 digits)
CO(5 digits)
Precision Bass Special (Walnut) from 1982
GO(5 digits) Precision Bass Special (Walnut) from 1982, Gold Strat 1982 and 1983
D(6 digits) Jazz Bass from 1982
SE(6 digits)
SN(6 digits)
SZ(6 digits)
Signature Series Instruments
SE8(5 digits)-'88, SE9(5 digits)-'89
SN0(5 digits)-'90, SN1(5 digits)-'90, SN2(5 digits)-'92, etc.
SZ0(5 digits)-'00, SZ1(5 digits)-'01, SZ2(5 digits)-'02, etc.
3 digits or 500 35th Anniversary Strat from 1989-1990
G(6 digits) "STRAT" from about. 1980, (Gold hardware, 2 position rotary tone switch)
4 digits stamped on bridge plate U.S. '52 Vintage Telecaster 1982-1988 (Check neck for specific year)
5 digits stamped on bridge plate U.S. '52 Vintage Telecaster 1988-present (Check neck for specific year)
T(6 digits) Tribute series instruments
C(6 digits) Collectors Series
XN(5 digits) FSRs and '52 Telecasters
If you cannot find a serial number of the guitar (illegible, worn away), you can approximate the antiquity of a electric or semi-acoustic guitar by means of the potentiometers. The code on potentiometers gives information about the manufacturer and the year and week when it was made.
See: Dating potentiometers

The used Fender logo can also be an indication of the period in which the guitar was made. Whether it is an original model or a vintage (the old logos are used there too) depends on your own assessment of the age of the guitar.

spaghetti-logo 1950-1965

transition logo 1960-1967

CBS era logo 1967-

Fender has used 3 different logos for guitars. The original logo, also called "spaghetti logo", the transition logo and the CBS era logo. The spaghetti logo was used in the 1950s and is so named for its thin silver letter with a thin black line. This logo was used in the mid-sixties.

At the end of 1959 a new logo was designed by designer Robert Perine and Leo fender himself. The logo has bold gold letters with a thicker black border. The logo was later named transition logo, because it bridged the period between the thin spaghetti logo and the CBS era. The first guitar to be presented with this new logo was the Jazz Bass in 1960. All new models were given the new logo from that moment.

In 1967 after the takeover of Fender by CBS, the design remained the same but the letters turned black with a gold-colored border.