How to Date your Fender Guitar by Serial Number

How Old is My Fender Guitar?

American Stratocaster GuideI often get asked, how old is my Fender guitar? Most of the time this question can’t be answered specifically. The Fender numbers tell the story of the company over the years. Unfortunately, the serial number placement is sporadic and many ID numbers over lap between years and models. In many instances, there is no exact known date for a specific guitar. That is why I decided to write this article. I want to help you understand how to tell the age of your Fender as well as any Fender you see.

Fender like Gibson has been producing guitars for many years. Certain styles and colors have come and gone over the years, but there is no real obvious way to tell how old a Fender is other than the identification number. Unfortunately, Fender decided not to simply write the date of manufacture on the guitar. They decided that it would be easier to decipher the serial number code than just write the year on the guitar. I say this only joking. Most manufactures don’t actually write the production dates on the guitar in plain view. First let’s take a look at where to find ID numbers on a Fender guitar.


Where do I find my Fender Serial Number?

Fender Telecaster 1954 Reissue DatabaseThis article is intended to help you date your Fender Stratocaster, Telecaster, and Precision Bass guitars all the way back to the early 1950s. In order to tell how old your Fender is you will have to find the identification number or neck number. The serial number location has changed a few times of the years. From 1950 to 1954 Fender guitar unique numbers were stamped in the bridge cavity cover plate. From 1954 to 1976 Fender stamped its guitar’s serial number on either the top or bottom of the neck plate. Modern Fender production guitars, 1976 to the present, have their ID numbers on the front or back of the headstock near the Fender decal. In 1982 Fender decided to start making reissued vintage guitars. These guitars were replicas of the early 1950 and 1960s era guitars. True to form the reissue guitars have their identification numbers stamped in the neck plate.

The serial numbers on the outside of the body are not the only way to date a Fender guitar however. Fender also dated the neck when it was manufactured. After the neck was finished, a Fender employee would either stamp or handwrite the date on the end of the guitar neck on its heel. This marking is only visible when the neck is removed from the body because it is covered in the neck pocket. Almost all Fender guitars have a dated neck. Some Fender guitar bodies and pickups also have dates written on them. Few Fender guitars have dates written on the bodies under the pickups, in the routed out cavities, and near the wiring harnesses. Fender only decided to write dates on the bodies for a few years here and there. They never really did that consistently.


What does the date on the neck mean?

Many people think that the date on the heel of their Fender neck is the production date of the guitar. After reviewing the ID number, you might find out that the two corresponding dates don’t coincide. Why is this? It all has to do with how Fender produced guitars. Leo Fender was a genius with minimizing the costs of production. Unlike Gibson, Leo found did everything the cheapest and fastest way possible. He made a bolt-on neck, so the neck and the body could be manufactured at the same time. He wired the pickguard with pickups, so all the wiring could be finished before the body was even dry from finishing. That’s how the Fender production line worked. The number and date on the neck is simply the date that the neck was finished–not the date that the guitar was completed. Necks could sit for days, weeks, or even months at a time before being matched with a body. After the entire guitar was assembled, the identification number was stamped in place. Being many months later, the serial number date and the neck date might not match. Remember, these serial and neck numbers were never really intended for historical dating. They were simply internal numbers to help with production.


Fender Serial Number Guide

Now that we have talked about where to find your Fender guitar ID number and what it means, here is the Fender serial number database that I have compiled. It includes most of the Fender serial numbers issued along with the corresponding dates and a short history of Fender Guitars through the years.

  • 1950 – 1954
  • 1954 – 1963
  • Late 1962 – Early 1965
  • 1965 – 1976
  • 1976 – Present USA
  • Fender Anniversary, Reissue, Special Edition, and Signature Guitar
  • Made in Japan
  • Made in Mexico
  • Made in Korea
  • Made in China

1950-1954 Fender Guitar Serial Numbers

When Leo first started putting identification numbers on his guitars, he segregated them by model. Each models unique numbers started at 1 or a number close to it. That means that there could be a Tele, Strat, and Precision bass with the exact same serial number. He didn’t stop doing this until after 1954.

Telecaster – Esquire – Broadcaster – No-caster

Numbers Years
33-860 1950-1952
0005-0746 1950-1952
0748-1331 1951-1952
0161-0470 1951-1952
2911-5368 1951-1954

Stratocaster

Numbers Years
0-6000 1954

P Bass

Numbers Years
161-357 1951
299-619 1952
0001-0160 1952
0161-0470 1951-1952
0475-0840 1952-1953
0848-1897 1953-1954

1954-1963 Fender Guitar Serial Numbers

1962 Pre-CBS Fender P Bass LookupAt some point in 1954, Fender decided to stop grouping the guitar ID number by model. He started using one sequence of serial numbers for all the guitars coming off of the Fender production lines including Teles, Esquires, Strats, and P-basses. Some of these identification numbers are still out of sequence, jumbled up, or missing. You may notice that there is a great deal of over lapping numbers in these nine years. The only way to verify an over lapping date is to check the corresponding neck date and body date. This list is a little convoluted because there are so many over lapping serial numbers. The number column represents the general number grouping that Fender and most experts agree on. The low and high columns show the range of identification numbers that have been positively matched to specific years. As you can see, there is quite a bit of overlap. For some reason during 1955, 1957, and 1958 Fender decided to place zero or a dash in front of ID numbers periodically. Some guitars in these years have them and some don’t.

1954-1963 Fender Guitars

Numbers Low High Years
0001-6999 0001 10146 1954
7000-8999 3152 10798 1955
09000-16999 7895 16957 1956
17000-24999 10604 28522 1957
25000-33999 022878 51593 1958
34000-43999 022878 51593 1959
44000-58999 39993 66626 1960
59000-70999 55531 77754 1961
71000-93999 69520 96203 1962
94000-99999 81977 99924 1963

Late 1962 – Early 1965 Fender Guitar Serial Numbers

1964 Pre-CBS Fender Strat Check

Toward the end of 1962 Fender’s success kept on building. He was nearing his 100,000th guitar. Instead of adding another digit on to his 5-digit ID numbers, Leo decided to add an “L”, presumably for his first initial, in front of the serial numbers and start the sequence all over again. This time all the identification numbers under 10,000 fill the empty digits with zeros.

For example, the 989th guitar’s ID number would not be L989. It was L00989. Since this change wasn’t until the end of 1962, only a few true 1962 Fenders have an “L” serial number.

Late 1962 – Early 1965 Fender Guitars

Numbers Low High Years
L00001-L19999 L0001 L60330 1963
L20000-L59999 L08825 L92560 1964
L60000-L99999 L23537 L99944 1965

1965-1976 Fender Guitar Serial Numbers

1972 Fender Tele SearchIn early 1965, Leo Fender sold Fender Musical Instruments, Inc. to CBS for $13 million. A lot of changes happened to the company as well as the guitars themselves under the new ownership. The identification number sequences were no exception.

CBS came up with a new numbering system to take advantage of the fact that Leo did not use 6-digit ID numbers. CBS continued the sequence Fender started in 1954. These 1965-1976 era guitars are commonly referred to as the F series because of the neck plate design change. The new neck plate only had the Fender F logo stamped in place.

Late 1965 – 1976 Digits

Numbers Low High Years
100000-119999 100173 158977 1965
120000-179999 100173 158977 1966
180000-219999 112172 261343 1967
220000-251999 156657 263115 1968
252000-291999 204352 262774 1969
292000-298999 224160 290835 1970
290000-344999 278916 304089 1971
345000-379999 261863 331031 1972
380000-539999 258495 654030 1973
540000-599999 316987 602615 1974
600000-656999 417024 677199 1975
657000-669999 595121 717257 1976
670000-799999 1971-1976

1976-Present USA Fender Guitar Serial Numbers

In 1976, Fender decided to stop stamping ID numbers in guitar parts and started making decals for the guitar peghead or headstock. Along with the new location a new series of serial numbers were instituted. Fender apparently was thinking long term because they developed a serial numbering system with one-letter codes preceding the indentification numbers. The letters referred to the decade that the guitars were produced. Most guitars then had a number following the one-letter code that designated the specific year. For instance, ID number S76823 would be a guitar produced in 1977. In about 1982 Fender started making import guitars from Japan and around 1990 Fender started importing from Mexico. These guitars have a completely different set of serial numbers that I will talk about later in the article. This section only deals with USA made Fender guitars. Here are the decade numbers:

1976-Present USA Fender
serial number One-letter Codes

Letters Decades
S 1970’s
E 1980’s
N 1990’s
Z 2000’s

Fender Stratocaster USA Headstock Serial NumberThe new serial number system was a little complicated, but it does make it relatively easy to tell the date of the guitar. Like all Fender’s previous systems, they are problems with this one. Fender mass-produced the headstock decal without matching them with the annual production schedules of the guitars–meaning they made more decals for a given year than guitars. See the problem?

There were a few years where excess headstock ID number decals were produced and held over to the next year, the some guitars are actually dated with a previous year decal. It wasn’t until 1991 that Fender actually got this system straighten out. To get the exact date on guitars made between 1976 and 1991, it is important to cross-reference the dates on the neck written on the heel. Here are a list of dates and codes that overlap years.

1976-Present USA Fender
Overlapping One-letter Codes

Letters Decades
S7 January 1977 – April 1978
S8 December 1977 – December 1978
S9 November 1978 – August 1981
E0 June 1979 – December 1981
E1 December 1980 – January 1982
E2 December 1981 – January 1983
E3 December 1982 – January 1985
E4 December 1983 – Early 1988
E8 1988 – 1989
E9 1989 – 1990
N9 1990
N0 1990 – 1991

Aside from all of the errors and overlapping serial numbers, this system was quite improved from the previous ID number systems. If Fender would have executed the indentification numbers as planned, USA Fender guitars would be numbered as the following without any exceptions. You can use this table to lookup your Fender serial number after 1976.

1976-Present USA Fender Guitars

Numbers Years
760000-799999 1976-1977
800000-899999 1979-1981
1000000-8999999 1976-1981
S100000-S699999 1979-1982
S700000-S779999 1977
S740000-S899999 1978
S810000-S879999 1979
S880000-S989999 1980
S950000-S999999 1981
E000000-E199999 1979-1982
E110000-E129999 1980-1983
E200000-E299999 1982
E300000-E319999 1983
E320000-E399999 1984-1985
E400000-E499999 1984-1985, 1987
E800000-E899999 1988-1989
E900000-E999999 1989-1990
N900000-N999999 1990
N000000-N099999 1990
N100000-N199999 1991-1992
N200000-N299999 1992-1993
N300000-N399999 1993-1994
N400000-N499999 1994-1995
N500000-N599999 1995-1996
N600000-N699999 1996-1997
N700000-N799999 1997-1998
N800000-N899999 1998-1999
N900000-N999999 1999-2000
Z000000-Z099999 2000-2001
Z100000-Z199999 2001-2002
Z200000-Z299999 2002-2003
Z300000-Z399999 2003-2004
Z400000-Z499999 2004-2005
Z500000-Z599999 2005-2006
Z600000-Z699999 2006-2007
Z700000-Z799999 2007-2008
Z800000-Z899999 2008-2009
Z900000-Z999999 2009-2010
1000000-1099999 Early 2010
US1000000-US1099999 Late 2010
US1100000-US1199999 2011

Fender Anniversary, Reissue, Special Edition, and Signature Series

Throughout the years, Fender has run many limited edition, reissue, and custom guitars. All of these guitars’ ID numbers do not follow the unique number sequence of the regular production guitars. These guitars usually have a special two to four letter prefix before the serial number. Each prefix is unique to that model guitar. Here is a guide to lookup all of the different types of special Fender guitars with their own serial number pattern.

Fender Anniversary, Reissue, Special Edition, and Signature Guitars

Prefix Number of Digits Example Serial Number Guitar Model Years
25 5 2500001 25th Anniversary Stratocaster 1979-1980
AMXN 6 AMXN000001 California Series 1997-1998
C 6 C000001 Collector’s Series Up until 1965
CA 5 CA00001 Stratocaster Gold 1981-1983
CB 5 CB00001 Precision Bass Special and Jazz Bass Gold 1981, 1982
CC 5 CC00001 Stratocaster Walnut 1981-1983
CD 5 CD00001 Precision Bass Special 1982
CE 5 CE00001 Precision Bass Special, Black and Gold Telecaster 1981-1983
CN See Korean Guitars
CO 5 CO00001 Precision Bass Special 1982
D 6 D000001 Jazz Bass 1981-1982
DN 6 DN000001 American Deluxe Series 1998-1999
DZ 1 year digit + 5 or 6 DZ100001 American Deluxe Series 2000-present
FN 6 FN000001 USA Guitars made for export Can’t be determined from SN
G 6 G000001 The Strat 1980-1983
GO 5 GO00001 Precision Bass Special and Stratocaster Gold 1982, 1982-1983
I 6 I00001 USA guitars for export stamped USA on heel 1989-1990
LE 6 LE000001 Blonde Jaguar and Jassmaster sold as set with Blonde Deluxe Reverb Amp 1994
MN Mexican Fender Serial Numbers
NC See Squire Guitars
SE 6 SE000001 Signature Models 1980’s – 1st digit designates specific year
SN 6 SN000001 Signature Models 1990’s – 1st digit designates specific year
SZ 6 SZ000001 Signature Models 2000’s – 1st digit designates specific year
T 6 T000001 Fender Tribute Series Check Heel of Neck
V 4, 5, or 6 V000001 Vintage Reissue Guitars Except Tele ’52 Introduced in 1982 Check Neck for Year
VN Korean Fender Serial Numbers
XN 5 XN00001 FRS and Telecaster ’52 More variations of serials may exist
XXX of 500 3 001 of 500 35th Anniversary Stratocaster 1989-1990
XXXX on Bridgeplate 4 0001 U.S. ’52 Vintage Telecaster Reissue 1982-1988 Check Neck for Year
XXXXX on Bridgeplate 5 00001 U.S. ’52 Vintage Telecaster Reissue 1988-present Check Neck for Year
XXXX on Back of Headstock 4 0001 Custom Order 1987-present Check Neck for Year

Related Guides

Japanese Fender Serial Numbers

Mexican Fender Serial Numbers

Korean Fender Serial Numbers

Fender Squire and Chinese numbering and dating guides are coming soon.

You can also find more information on the Fender site.