Tips and How-To's So you need to figure out the year of production for your Fender guitar or bass. Fenders rank as the most frequently bought and sold instruments on Reverb, and finding a precise date of manufacture can be key to determining the value and specifics of an instrument.
The most important thing to keep in mind when dating a Fender is the highly modular nature of the designs. Like Henry Ford, part of Leo Fender's genius was in optimizing the company's production efficiency. His guitars were built en masse by an entire factory, not a single luthier toiling over one instrument at a time.
Features like bolt-on necks and pickups wired into the pickguard all helped the Fender factory churn out guitar after guitar, day after day. This also means that various parts used on a particular guitar may have come from different points in time, so no single number can absolutely define when the instrument was built.
Instead, the best approach to dating a Fender is to combine indicators from the design of the instrument, the dates found on the neck and body, along with the serial number. Design Changes and Features Perhaps the best place to start when dating your Fender is to get an approximate idea of the era based on the instrument's design and components.
This can be a tall order for someone less versed in guitar history, but we do have some resources here on Reverb to help you out. For starters, there's the Reverb Price Guide which has thousands of entries with pictures and details on various guitars and other gear.
Some browsing around the Fender section of the Price Guide can definitely help you find which model you have. We also have some other blog posts related to Fender that can hopefully be of some help. Similarly, take a look at Behold the Jazzmaster for general timeline of the history of everyone's favorite offset guitar.
Body and Neck Dates Through much of Fender's production history, Fender workers would print or write a production date on both bodies and necks where the two pieces meet. These dates will tell when the original part was manufactured, but are not exact indicators of when the guitar was actually put together and finished.
Here is what the neck date and body date look like from a Telecaster: If you're not comfortable removing the neck of a guitar to peek at the date marker, I encourage you to take it to a local tech or luthier. I will also mention briefly pot-codes as a resource numbers on the internal potentiometers of the guitar.
These can definitely be useful in cases where no other numbers exist, but just tell when the pot itself was made. Who knows how long it was waiting in the Fender factory before finding its way into a Tele?
Serial Numbers Like the body and neck dates, using serial numbers to date a Fender is not a sure bet. At many points in Fender's history, serial number usage overlapped again owing to the modular manner of production. Below we'll go into detail about the various serial number schemes employed by Fender as far back as There are certainly plenty of exceptions, so again, using serial numbers in conjunction with other dating methods is always the best bet.
Click on the links here to jump directly to the serial number style that matches your instrument: