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There's A Brief History of the Stratocaster Part I and Part II that follows the evolution of the most popular Fender guitar of all.Similarly, take a look at Behold the Jazzmaster for general timeline of the history of everyone's favorite offset guitar.I will also mention briefly pot-codes as a resource (numbers on the internal potentiometers of the guitar).
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Who knows how long it was waiting in the Fender factory before finding its way into a Tele?
Like the body and neck dates, using serial numbers to date a Fender is not a sure bet.
Here are the rough serial number ranges for the early Esquires and Telecasters: By mid-1954, Fender began using a universal serial number sequence for all its instruments.
At this time, the location of the serial number also shifted from the bridge to the neckplate (the metal plate located on back of where the neck meets the body).
These dates will tell when the original part was manufactured, but are not exact indicators of when the guitar was actually put together and finished.
Here is what the neck date and body date look like from a 1952 Telecaster: If you're not comfortable removing the neck of a guitar to peek at the date marker, I encourage you to take it to a local tech or luthier.
Features like bolt-on necks and pickups wired into the pickguard all helped the Fender factory churn out guitar after guitar, day after day.
This also means that various parts used on a particular guitar may have come from different points in time, so no single number can absolutely define when the instrument was built.
There are certainly plenty of exceptions, so again, using serial numbers in conjunction with other dating methods is always the best bet.
Click on the links here to jump directly to the serial number style that matches your instrument: In the early years, Fender serial numbers schemes were specific to the model.
Like Henry Ford, part of Leo Fender's genius was in optimizing the company's production efficiency.