U.S. Instruments Product Dating

View products this article applies to ...

How can I find out when my American-made instrument was manufactured? How can I find out how old my instrument is?

DATING YOUR U.S.-MADE FENDER STRINGED INSTRUMENT


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 CHARTS


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 digits
E4 + 5 digits
V + 4, 5 or 6 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 digits (U.S. Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster) 1986
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check neck date for specific year)
E4 + 5 digits
V + 4, 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)
1987
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check neck date for specific year)
E4 + 5 digits
E8 + 5 digits
V + 4, 5 or 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)
1988
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check neck date for specific year)
E8 + 5 digits
E9 + 5 digits
V + 5 or 6 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 inadvertently 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
N8 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
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 (American Deluxe)
V + 5 or 6 digits (American Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster, which uses a five-digit number stamped into the bridge plate)
2000

(for American Vintage series, check neck date for specific year)
Z0 + 5 or 6 digits
Z1 + 5 or 6 digits
DZ1 + 5 or 6 digits (American Deluxe)
V + 5 or 6 digits (American Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster, which uses a five-digit number stamped into the bridge plate)
2001

(for American Vintage series, check neck date for specific year)
Z1 + 5 or 6 digits
Z2 + 5 or 6 digits
DZ2 + 5 or 6 digits (American Deluxe)
V + 5 or 6 digits (American Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster, which uses a five-digit number stamped into the bridge plate)
2002

(for American Vintage series, check neck date for specific year)
Z2 + 5 or 6 digits
Z3 + 5 or 6 digits
DZ3 + 5 or 6 digits (American Deluxe)
V + 5 or 6 digits (American Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster, which uses a five-digit number stamped into the bridge plate)
2003

(for American Vintage series, check neck date for specific year)
Z3 + 5 or 6 digits
Z4 + 5 or 6 digits
DZ4 + 5 or 6 digits (American Deluxe)
V + 5 or 6 digits (American Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster, which uses a five-digit number stamped into the bridge plate)
XN4 + 4 digits
2004

(for American Vintage series, check neck date for specific year)
Z4 + 5 or 6 digits
Z5 + 5 or 6 digits
DZ5 + 5 or 6 digits (American Deluxe)
V + 5 or 6 digits (American Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster, which uses a five-digit number stamped into the bridge plate)
XN5 + 4 digits
2005

(for American Vintage series, check neck date for specific year)
Z5 + 5 or 6 digits
Z6 + 5 or 6 digits
DZ6 + 5 or 6 digits (American Deluxe)
V + 5 or 6 digits (American Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster, which uses a five-digit number stamped into the bridge plate)
XN6 + 4 digits
2006

(for American Vintage series, check neck date for specific year)
Z6 + 5 or 6 digits
Z7 + 5 or 6 digits
DZ7 + 5 or 6 digits (American Deluxe)
V + 5 or 6 digits (American Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster, which uses a five-digit number stamped into the bridge plate)
XN7 + 4 digits
2007

(for American Vintage series, check neck date for specific year)
Z7 + 5 or 6 digits
Z8 + 5 or 6 digits
DZ8 + 5 or 6 digits (American Deluxe)
V + 5 or 6 digits (American Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster, which uses a five-digit number stamped into the bridge plate)
XN8 + 4 digits
2008

(for American Vintage series, check neck date for specific year)
Z8 + 5 or 6 digits
Z9 + 5 or 6 digits
DZ9 + 5 or 6 digits (American Deluxe)
V + 5 or 6 digits (American Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster, which uses a five-digit number stamped into the bridge plate)
XN9 + 4 digits
2009

(for American Vintage series, check neck date for specific year)


A new serial numbering scheme was adopted toward the end of 2009 using the number “10” as a prefix, followed by a space, followed by seven digits. The “10” prefix was designed to identify the first year of the second decade of the new millennium, and while it appears on the instrument decals, it was not captured in Fender’s operating system. Only the seven-digit suffixes were actually entered into the database. These serial numbers did not identify the country of origin in the body of the number. Instead, the instrument's country of origin appears on the decal on the back of the headstock, near the serial number.

This new numbering scheme was short-lived and was replaced only a few months later by an improved scheme that identifies an instrument’s country of origin and year of manufacture in the body of the serial number.

This new scheme uses the letters “US” as a prefix to designate an instrument made in the United States, followed by an eight-digit number. The first two digits of the number identify the year of manufacture, (10 for 2010, 11 for 2011, etc.). The following six digits are the unit identifier, although it should be noted that these final six numbers are not sequential and do not provide any other identification information about the instrument. This new scheme is now used on the majority of U.S.-made Fender instruments, with exceptions including the American Vintage series and certain special-run instruments.

SERIAL NUMBERS PRODUCTION DATES
“10” prefix followed by a space and seven digits (late 2009 through March 2010)
US10 + 6 digits (beginning in about March 2010)
V + 5 or 6 digits (American Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster, which uses a five-digit number stamped into the bridge plate)

2010

(for American Vintage series, check neck date for specific year)
US11 + 6 digits
V + 5 or 6 digits (American Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster, which uses a five-digit number stamped into the bridge plate)

2011

(for American Vintage series, check neck date for specific year)
US12 + 6 digits
V + 5 or 6 digits (American Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster, which uses a five-digit number stamped into the bridge plate)

2012

(for American Vintage series, check neck date for specific year)


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
SN0(XXXXX)-'90, SN1(XXXXX)-’90, SN2(XXXXX)-’92, etc.
SZ0(XXXXX)-2000, SZ1(XXXXX)-2001, SZ2(XXXXX)-2002, etc.
3 digits of 500 35th Anniversary Strat from 1989-1990
G(XXXXXX) “Strat” 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


REFERENCE MATERIALS FOR DATING FENDER INSTRUMENTS


If you’re unable to identify the approximate production year of your instrument using the above charts, several excellent books are available that contain invaluable and reliable information on the history of Fender instruments. We highly recommend each of them.

They are detailed reference resources with a wealth of information on determining the production years of various instruments and on Fender history in general. Indeed, we use these same books here at Fender when researching historical and date-related issues. You can order these titles through your local Authorized Fender Dealer.

TITLE PART NUMBER U.S. MSRP
50 Years of Fender 099-5050-000 $19.99
The Fender Stratocaster 40th Anniversary Edition 099-5000-000 $14.99
The Stratocaster Chronicles 099-5057-000 $50.00
The Story of the Fender Stratocaster 099-5017-000 $19.99
Fender—The Sound Heard ’Round The World 099-5015-000 $29.95
The Fender Telecaster 099-5005-000 $14.99
The Fender Bass 099-5004-000 $9.99
The Fender Bass: An Illustrated History 099-5046-000 $24.99
How the Fender Bass Changed the World 099-5045-000 $27.99
The Fender Book—2nd Edition 099-5006-100 $24.99
The Fender Custom Shop Guitar Gallery 099-5012-000 $12.99
Fender Classic Moments 099-5013-000 $24.99
The Story of the Fender Stratocaster 099-5016-000 $24.95


ESTABLISHING THE VALUE OF YOUR USED OR VINTAGE INSTRUMENT


As a manufacturer and distributor of new instruments, Fender has no direct involvement in the used, collector or vintage instruments markets, and is therefore unable to comment or speculate on the current value of such instruments. These markets operate completely independent of the new-instrument market.

If, however, you’re interested in determining a relative value for your instrument(s), we recommend that you contact used or vintage instrument dealers in your area. You might consider referring to Vintage Guitar magazine (www.vguitar.com), a great and helpful resource for those who buy, sell and trade vintage instruments. You might also consider consulting one or more of the many instrument dealers who offer appraisals of vintage instruments, such as Elderly Instruments (www.elderly.com), Gruhn Guitars (www.gruhn.com), Mandolin Bros. (www.mandoweb.com), Norman’s Rare Guitars (www.normansrareguitars.com) or Tundra Music (www.tundramusic.com).

Other resources include the Orion Blue Book (or Blue Book of Guitar Values), which might be found in your local library. Many pawnshops use this book and others like it to establish instrument values.