Unraveling Fender Body Dates:
In the early days of Fender’s iconic models like the Broadcaster and Telecaster, body dates were discreetly tucked under the neck in the neck pocket. However, around 1954-1955, a migration occurred, relocating this date beneath the lead pickup, gaining consistency by 1956. Stratocasters, ever unpredictable, showcased body dates in diverse positions like the rear tremolo cavity or under the middle pickup. Yet, the mid-’60s marked a decline in the use of body dates across all models.
Navigating Fender Neck Chronicles:
From the genesis of solidbody guitars up to 1976, Fender marked their instruments’ temporal journey at the “butt” of the detachable neck. This timeline unfolds as follows:
- 1950-1954: Handwritten delicately in pencil beneath the truss rod adjustment at the butt, adopting an M-D-YY format and occasionally featuring woodworker initials like “TAD” or “TG.”
- 1954-1959: Penciled by skilled hands beneath the truss rod adjustment at the butt in an M-YY format.
- Early 1959: A brief hiatus spurred by a customer complaint, resolved by mid-year and marked by the re-emergence of dates like 6-59.
- Mid-1959 to March 1962: Handwritten finesse continued beneath the truss rod adjustment at the butt, maintaining the M-YY format.
- March 1962 to 1965: A new era dawned with an ink stamp, donned in dark blue or red below the truss rod adjustment. The format, “XX MMM-YY W,” decoded with “XX” representing the neck type code.
- 1966: The introduction of a revamped model number stamping system.
- 1969: Witnessed the adoption of a fresh neck stamp featuring 6, 7, or 8 digits, expressed in vibrant green ink, concurrently running with the prior format.
- 1972: Welcomed another transformative phase with an 8-digit neck stamp in green or red ink, harmonizing with the existing format until March 1973.
- April 1973 to 1980: A decisive shift to the exclusive embrace of the new-style 8-digit code.
- 1976 to Present: Witnessed a pivot with serial numbers now residing in the peghead decal, occasionally accompanied by a date stamp or pencil mark on the neck butt.
- 1980: A novel chapter unfurled with the introduction of small adhesive labels featuring Month-Day-Year date stamps in various locations.
Fender’s Enigmatic 1962-1968 Neck Stamp Era:
From April 1962, Fender transitioned from the poetic handwriting of neck butt dates to a stamped chronicle, often adorned with a model code preceding the date. This cryptic code system comprised an array of numerical identifiers attributed to different models, making it a unique historical narrative.
Embarking on the 1969-1980 Odyssey:
A thorough investigation of about 150 Fenders created between 1967 and 1980 revealed an intriguing voyage. With less than half offering legible information, a mosaic of stamped codes, and in some cases, a mere proclamation of the model name like “MUSTANG” in green or red ink on the neck butt. The ambiguity surrounding this era urges caution for owners, as the dataset is relatively small and subject to evolution with the emergence of new information.
Cracking the Code: 1969-1971 Neck Stamps Unveiled:
During this period, decoding the neck stamp required an outward-inward approach. For example, a Telecaster Thinline with the code 3320119B unfolded as follows:
- B = Neck width code
- 9 = Year (1969)
- 11 = Month (November)
- 3 = Model code for Telecaster
Unveiling the 1972-1980 Neck Stamp Riddles:
The 1972-1980 eight-digit code adopted a semblance of its predecessor, unraveling as a meticulous formula. For instance, a Music Master with the code 49002153 decoded into:
- 49 = Model code (Musicmaster, Mustang, Bronco)
- 00 = Neck code (rosewood fingerboard)
- 21 = Week code (week 21)
- 5 = Year code (1975)
- 3 = Day of the week code (Wednesday)
In essence, Fender’s serial codes narrate a captivating story, etching the chronicles of guitar craftsmanship across decades.