Fender Mustang Serial Number Decoder
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Here is a nearly comprehensive list of Fender serial numbers for Stratocasters, Telecasters, Jazzmasters, and Jaguars made from 1950 until the 1980s. Keep in mind that Fender serial numbers are not necessarily consecutive and the plates are easily swapped out using only a screwdriver. You can begin to date your Fender guitar by checking the serial number, then move on to the model specific pages for a more thorough view on the year your guitar was made.
How to read Fender serial numbers: The most common place to find them is on the back of the guitar where the neck joins the body. The square metal plate is called the neck plate. The second most common place will be at the top of the neck called the head stock, or in the middle of the body where the strings attach called the bridge plate. Preceding V serial numbers are modern reissues beginning in 1982, not vintage guitars. "L" serial numbers were likely made between 1963 and 1965. Numbers with a preceding "-" or "0" were likely made during 1957 or 1958.
Fender serial numbers from 1950 until 1955 are different than later numbers in that they are model or style specific. The Broadcaster, Esquire, and Telecaster have one set, the Precision Bass its own set, and the Stratocaster an entirely different set. I am looking for nice examples of each model of Fender guitars made in the 1950s. Let me know if you're considering selling one a Stratocaster, Telecaster, or Precision Bass from this time period: Sell a Fender.
Fender began stamping serial numbers on the metal plate on the back of the body in 1954. This serial number range is appropriate for dating Stratocasters, Telecasters, Jazzmasters from 1958 onward, and Jaguars from 1962 on. Remember that the plates are easily swapped for another plate using only a screwdriver, so it's only the first step in dating a vintage Fender guitar. If your neck plate has a serial number with more than six digits then it was not made in the 1950s or 1960s. Some of the earliest Stratocasters have a four digit serial number on the white plastic tremolo plate cover on the back of the body. I am looking for Fender guitars in the following serial number range so you can contact me here to sell a Fender guitar.
Fender serial numbers preceded by an "L": Fender guitars made between 1963 and 1965 have a letter "L" preceding the serial number. The actual year of manufacture can range wildly during this time period, so it's important to check the model specific pages to accurately date Fender guitars with L serials.
Fender serial numbers with large "F" underneath: Leo Fender sold his company to CBS in 1965. The new owners instituted a mostly consecutive serialization system comprised of 6 digits and a large stylized "F" underneath. The F neck plate style was the location of Fender serial numbers from 1965 until 1976.
Fender began applying the serial numbers to the headstock instead of the neck plate in 1976. The serial number scheme usually began with a letter prefix to indicate the decade then a series of numbers. An "S" indicates 1970s, "E" indicates 1980s, and "N" = 1990s. The first digit after the prefix usually indicates the year but there is plenty of overlap. While the first two digits following the letter prefix is supposed to be the year it was made, some were made the following year or even 2 years after. I recommend dating these guitars with the neck date and potentiometer codes.
"E" Prefix to indicate EightiesE.g. E2xxxxx = 1982. There is much overlap during this period, so the serial number is only a ballpark estimate. It's best to use potentiometer codes for a more accurate date.
Fender introduced a new US Vintage series in 1982 using a serial number system consisting of a letter V prefix and four or five following digits. We recommend dating these guitars using the neck heel and potentiometer codes instead of the serial numbers. Some of the earliest US Vintage series Stratocasters can be considered by many players to be vintage collectible guitars at this point.
Records on early Japanese-made Fender instruments are not complete and are therefore not completely definitive for dating purposes. As always, serial numbers should only be used as a guide for dating and should be used in combination with known age-related specifications to help identify the production year of an instrument.
Instead, the best approach to dating a Fender is to combine indicators from the design of the instrument, the dates found on the neck and body, along with the serial number. Once you have the information you need, if you're interested in selling your Fender, you can use Reverb to get it in front of the largest audience of musicians in the world by clicking on this link.
Like the body and neck dates, using serial numbers to date a Fender is not a sure bet. At many points in Fender's history, serial number usage overlapped again owing to the modular manner of production. Below we'll go into detail about the various serial number schemes employed by Fender as far back as 1950. There are certainly plenty of exceptions, so again, using serial numbers in conjunction with other dating methods is always the best bet.
In the early years, Fender serial numbers schemes were specific to the model. Esquires, Broadcasters and Telecasters shared a serial number sequence, while the landmark Precision Bass had its own system. In this early period, the serial number can be found on the bridge of the instrument (see image).
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).
At the very end of 1962 and into 1963, Fender changed to a system where serial numbers began with an "L." According to some accounts, the L was supposed to just be a 1 to mark the cross over into the 100,000 range from the previous scheme, but an L was used by mistake.
After the CBS purchase of Fender in 1965, the factory switched to a new serial sequence with numbers that continued the same general format used prior to the takeover. These are generally referred to as F series due the large Fender branded F on the neckplates of the era. This period also saw a switch from the orginal four-bolt neckplate of the '60s to a three-bolt neckplate in just one example of cost-saving costs introduced under CBS.
Starting in 1976, Fender transitioned to a new serial number scheme and moved the placement of most serial numbers to the headstock of the instrument. Depending on the era and model, the number can be found on either the front or back of the headstock.
After a short period of overlap with the old system, the post-76 numbers will start with a letter that indicates the decade, followed by a number that indicates the year of that decade. The decade letter codes break down like this: S = 1970s, E = 1980s, N = 1990s, Z = 2000s. In the 2000s, you'll also see serials starting with a DZ which indicates the Deluxe series, but the format is otherwise the same.
This scheme is not 100% consistent due to a number of production factors, such as Fender producing more serialized decals than needed in a given year. This is particularly pronounced in the transitional period of the mid-'80s, though the system has been pretty much on point since about 1990.
The major exception to all of this is the American Vintage Reissue (AVRI) series. These have serial numbers starting with V and do not strictly correlate to years. The neck dates on these guitars, however, are usually reliable.
Fender Japan serial numbers can usually be found on the back of the neck near the neck joint. Though examples also exist with the number on the headstock or the neck-plate in the case of certain early reissue models. Up until 1997, the serial was paired with the words "Made in Japan."
In 1982, Fender expanded operations with a series of instruments produced in Japan by the Fuji Gen Gakki company. Like the US serial numbers, MIJ (made in Japan) serials start with a letter or pair of letters that indicate the rough year of production. This system, however, is notoriously inconsistent and incomplete, which makes dating by serial number even less reliable for MIJ Fenders.
Fender opened a factory in Ensenada, Mexico in the late '80s and instruments started coming off the line in 1990. Mexican-made (MIM) Fenders carry a serial number on the headstock starting with an M. Some exceptions include a handful of special editions and signature models as well as the split US/Mexican-made California series which all have a "AMXN" at the beginning of their serials.
The MIM serial number scheme is actually very straight-forward. For Mexican Fenders made in the 1990s, the serial will start with an MN followed by a number that indicates the year of the decade. Instruments made in the 2000s follow the same form but start with MZ. For the 2010s, the prefix is MX1. For example, a serial number starting with MN2 would be 1992.
There are a number of exceptions to all these serial number schemes. As mentioned above, many reissue models use serial numbers that don't really correlate to their age. Additionally, there have been plenty of artist models, limited editions and other rare models that use a unique serial number. Examples include the 35th anniversary series, many of the uniquely finished Strats from the early '80s, as well as various export-specific models which carry a serial number starting with FN.
Again, the serial number alone in any of these cases is not definitive and the best approach is to combine that with other methods like the neck and body dates, as well as just the features of the specific instrument. If you have any questions as to what Fender you're dealing with, I encourage you to seek out a local guitar shop or luthier to help figure it out.
Records on early Japanese-made Fender instruments are not complete and are therefore not completely definitive for dating purposes. As always, serial numbers should only be used as a guide for dating and should be used in combination with known age-related specifications to help identify the production year of an instrument. 2b1af7f3a8