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Unveiling the Secrets: Dating Fender Guitars by Serial Number, Necks and Pots

Unveiling the Secrets: Dating Fender Guitars by Serial Number, Necks and Pots post thumbnail image

There are several ways to date a Fender guitar. Sometimes a combination of these methods is the only way to be sure of how old your guitar is.

The three ways to help you date your Fender are: 1.) Serial Number; 2.) Neck Stamps; 3.) Pots.

Serial Number Approach

The most obvious way to lookup the age of your guitar is the serial number, but it’s not always a fool-proof method.

Serial numbers are mostly located on the front of the headstock near the Fender logo. There are plenty of online tools you can use to research your guitar by serial number. I’ll share those below.

Challenges With Serial Numbers

Occasionally, there are challenges with dating your guitar by serial numbers:

  1. If the neck has been swapped with another neck, dating your guitar by serial number may be misleading, so you’ll need to look at other aspects of the guitar’s body to get you closer to the right age.
  2. If the serial number is rubbed off, or missing, then it will not be possible to date the guitar using this method. Once again, you’ll need to look at other parts of the guitar to figure out it’s age. (Check out the 1966 Fender Jaguar below to see an example of this).
  3. Fender changed serial number formats from time to time, and depending on the country of origin, there may be letters or dashes in the number scheme. When using an online tool (links to these below) it is important to try several combinations of including or excluding dashes and spaces.


1966 Fender Jaguar

My 1966 Fender Jaguar never had a serial number on the headstock, and even if it did, it would be rubbed off. So how do I know it’s a 1966 Jaguar? I used the neck stamp and pot dates to figure it out. Also, the size of the headstock is indicative of the CBS Transition Period as described below.

Eras of Fender
  1. Pre-CBS Era (1950s-1965): Fender’s pre-CBS era represents a golden age for collectors. During this period, Fender used a relatively simple serial number system, providing valuable clues about the guitar’s year of production. The early years saw the use of a “no-caster” or “broadcaster” designator, later replaced by the iconic “Telecaster.” This era is highly sought after by vintage guitar enthusiasts due to its historical significance.
  2. Transition Period (1965-1967): The mid-1960s marked a significant transition for Fender, both in terms of ownership and production techniques. During this period, Fender instruments underwent several changes, and the serial number system evolved accordingly. This transitional phase can be challenging to decipher, as some guitars exhibit features from both the pre-CBS and post-CBS eras.
  3. CBS Era (1965-1984): Following the acquisition of Fender by CBS in 1965, the company’s manufacturing processes and serial number system underwent further modifications. This era is known for introducing the “F” prefix to the serial numbers, as well as the infamous “four-bolt” neck plate design. While some players hold reservations about CBS-era Fenders, many excellent instruments were produced during this time.
  4. Post-CBS Era (1984-Present): In 1984, Fender underwent a change in ownership, leading to the introduction of the post-CBS era. This period witnessed a renaissance for the brand, marked by improved quality control and a return to vintage-inspired designs. The serial number system during this era generally follows a more straightforward format, making it relatively easier to date modern Fender guitars.
Neck Stamps (Dates)
In the case of an uncertain serial number, or if you’re just curious, Fender also dated most necks where the neck joins the body. In order to find this date, you would need to remove the neck from the body. Telecasters, Stratocasters, Jaguars, and other Fender guitars don’t always use the same date format. Depending on the year, dates can be written differently. Sometimes, the date is accompanied by a letter which could tell you who built the neck, who inspected the neck or even place of manufacturing.
1966 Fender Jaguar

In this example, the 1966 Fender Jaguar has a neck stamp of “15SEP66B”, which means it was mad on September 15, 1966. “B” refers to standard nut width or 1 5/8″.

A = Narrow
B = Standard
C = Wide
D = Extra Wide

Pot Dates
What is a pot? It’s the piece of hardware under the pickguard that attaches to the volume and tone knobs. They control the electrical input for volume and tone and are on all Fender electric guitar models. Each pot has a date stamp or serial number, which can be used to date it. This method is not 100% foolproof, because pots can be replaced easily. Older pots could be put into newer guitars and vice versa.
1966 Fender Jaguar

My 1966 Fender Jaguar has there pots stamped “304 6612”, which indicates that they were made on the 12th week of 1966. “66” year and “12” week of the year. The 304 is the 304th one produced that week.

You can check out the 1966 Fender Jaguar that I’ve been referencing in this article right here: 1966 Fender Jaguar.

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