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While there have been periods of dramatic change—such as the transition periods between the Leo Fender years and the CBS years or the transition between the CBS years and the current ownership—most models are generally feature-specific and do not change from year to year.Serial numbers are also helpful in determining an instrument’s production year.Neck-dating can be useful in determining the was produced, rather than the complete instrument.
For years, serial numbers have been used in various locations on Fender instruments, such as the top of the neck plate, the front or back of the headstock and the back of the neck near the junction with the body.
Serial numbers were stamped on the back vibrato cover plate on early ’50s Stratocaster® guitars, and on the bridge plate between the pickup and the saddles on some Telecaster® guitars.
This information is courtesy Fender.com, republished here for your convenience. instrument production history, production dates have been applied to various components.
Hit the jump to see just how old that guitar or bass really is. Most notably, production dates have been penciled or stamped on the butt end of the heel of the neck of most guitars and basses, although there were periods when this was not consistently done (1973 to 1981, for example) or simply omitted.
Information on Japanese and Mexican-made instruments is included towards the bottom.
If you have a Fender in your hands, you can use this guide to precisely date your Fender instrument all the way back to 1950.