In the late 1970s many American products were being sent overseas to be manufactured. Guitars were no different. Fender decided to start building guitars in Japan in March 1982 after CBS, then owner of Fender guitars, worked out a deal with Yamaha Music and Kanda Shokai. Originally, the Japanese Fenders were only offered to the European market but later became available in the US. Fender used Fuji Gen Gakki or the Fuji String Instrument Production Corporation exclusively to build all of their Japanese guitars until 1997. These Fenders are commonly referred to as Made in Japan Fenders or MIJ because of the made in Japan stamp on the neck heel. Fender switched to using Crafted in Japan or CIJ decals in 1997 and returned to the original Made in Japan decals in 2007.
Are you confused yet? Well, I have divided these serial numbers into three main categories and wrote a little history about each one. Take a look at the tables to see how old your Japanese Fender is. Good luck!
The Japanese Fender serial numbers from 1982 -- 1984 have a few oddities. The first Japanese models were Fender Reissues or Vintage guitars. Fender wanted to differentiate the American made Reissue and Vintage guitars from the Japanese ones, so Fender substituted a "JV" serial number, Japanese Vintage, for the "V" serial number on the American guitars. The JV serial numbers started with JV followed by five digits. These numbers were stamped or engraved in the neck plate of Stats and basses and the bridge of Teles. The JV models also had the Made in Japan decal on either the headstock or the neck heel.
The double-letter serial number was also used on the Squier "SQ" numbers. The Squier models came from a different division of Fender than the Stats and Teles, so the Squiers did not have the Fender logo on the headstock. Fender only made the JV and SQ guitars for two years, so of course they decided to change the numbering system on us again. :) In 1984, Fender went back to a single letter followed by six digits.
|JV + 5 Digits||1982 - 1984|
|SQ + 5 Digits||1983 - 1984|
In 1984, Fender stopped producing the Japanese Vintage guitars and decided to change the entire serial number system to something closer to what they used on their American guitars. They use a single letter followed by either five or six digits. All of these guitars have a Made in Japan decal on either the heel or headstock. Fender consistently made these serial numbers until 1997 when they switched from Made in Japan decals to Crafted in Japan decals.
The Crafted in Japan Fenders were made until 2007 when Fender decided to change its mind again and go back to the "Made in Japan" decal. This wasn't fully adopted on all models the first year, so MIJ and CIJ decals show up on both 2007 and 2008 guitars.
|A + 6 Digits||1985 - 1986|
|B + 6 Digits||1985 - 1986|
|C + 6 Digits||1985 - 1986|
|E + 6 Digits||1984 - 1987|
|F + 6 Digits||1986 - 1987|
|G + 6 Digits||1987 - 1988|
|H + 6 Digits||1988 - 1989|
|I + 6 Digits||1989 - 1990|
|J + 6 Digits||1989 - 1990|
|K + 6 Digits||1990 - 1991|
|L + 6 Digits||1991 - 1992|
|M + 6 Digits||1992 - 1993|
|N + 5 Digits||1995 - 1996|
|N + 6 Digits||1993 - 1994|
|O + 6 Digits||1994 - 1995|
|P + 6 Digits||1995 - 1996|
|Q + 6 Digits||1993 - 1994|
|S + 6 Digits||1994 - 1995|
|T + 6 Digits||1994 - 1995|
|T + 6 Digits Made in Japan||2007 - 2010|
|U + 6 Digits||1995 - 1996|
|U + 6 Digits Made in Japan||2010 - 2011|
|V + 6 Digits||1996 - 1997|
So what about serial numbers after 1997? Well, Fender stopped using Fuji Gen Gakki to build their guitars. They switched to Tokai and Dyna to build their Japanese guitars after 1997. These guitars are often called Crafted in Japan or CIJ guitars because of the stamp on the neck heel. These Japanese Fender guitars made after 1997 used a single letter followed by five or six digits. Pretty simple, right? Well, there's a catch as with all Fender serial numbers. Fender ran out of numbers! So what did they do? They just started reusing the same numbers. Well, they may not have actually run out of numbers, but they did reuse numbers for a few years. You can see that in the "A" and "S" serial numbers.
So if you have a Japanese Fender with a serial number starting with either an "A" or "S", you have to look at the decal on the heel or headstock. Made in Japan decals were made before 1997 and Crafted in Japan decals were after. You can see both serial numbers on my tables. I know it is pretty convoluted, but that's how they did it.
|A + 6 Digits Crafted in Japan||1997 - 1998|
|O + 5 Digits Crafted in Japan||1997 - 2000|
|P + 5 Digits Crafted in Japan||1999 - 2002|
|Q + 5 Digits Crafted in Japan||2002 - 2004|
|R + 5 Digits Crafted in Japan||2004 - 2005|
|S + 6 Digits Crafted in Japan||2005 - 2006|
|T + 6 Digits Crafted in Japan||2007 - 2008|
I hope this helps you figure out how old you guitar is and that deciphering the Japanese Fender serial number code wasn't too difficult. Fender definitely didn't make it easy for us. :)
You can also find more information on the Fender site.