Fender Serial Numbers from 1976
(For Japanese Serial Numbers, scroll down)
In late 1976, Fender decided to move to a new numbering scheme for their serialization. The numbers appeared on the pegheads and for the remainder of 1976 they had a prefix of 76 or S6 preceding a 5 digit sequence. In 1977, the serialization went to a letter for the decade, followed by a single digit for the year and then 5 to 6 digits.
Examples of the letter/digit code follow like this: S for the ’70s, E for the ’80s, N for the ’90s, Z for 2000+. (I Do not know if you see what is happening here! Catch this: S = Seventies!, E = Eighties; N = Nineties; and then Z = zed? (Or 2000s+). Interesting!)
1970s S (seen as) S8 - 1978
1980s E (seen as) E1 - 1981
1990s N (seen as) N2 - 1992
2000s Z (seen as) Z2 - 2002
While the idea seems rather simple, the reality often differed. Sometimes instrument production did not meet the levels for which decals were produced—thus there are some overlapping years. Sometimes there are several prefixes found within a single year’s production, but generally, the system still gives a good guideline. And then you take off ther neck and find out it is 8 months or even a year off from the serial number! At least we have some reference to go by! Also note the N9 serial numbers. It was used for 1990 and 1999! Here is why: "N"-prefix serial numbers denoting the 1990s were introduced in 1990. The numbers and decals were produced far in advance, and some N9 decals (denoting 1999), were inadvertantly affixed to some instruments in 1990. Consequently, some 1990 guitars bear 1999 "N9" serial numbers.
Another bit of confusion was the E4 serial numbers. The serial numbers on the 87- early 88 Strat Plus and newly introduced American Standard Strat models have caused some confusion due to the CBS buyout and the start up of the new plant in Corona, California. Many of the 1987 and later models will have a serial number that says one thing and the date in the neck pocket in the body or on the butt end of neck that says something different. Some have said this was due to the use of parts left over from the CBS buyout, or even serial number decals left over from CBS. The very first Plus' will have an E4XXXXX serial number indicating they are from 1984. Truth is, it is a 1987-88, as production for the Plus Series started in mid-1987, while the parts might have been from—who knows???
Here is the list of letter/digit year codes:
7600000 1976, 1977
800000S 1979, 1980, 1981
E400000S 1984, 1985, 1987 (For the Plus Series and many of the new American Standard Strats)
E800000S 1988, 1989 (and even some 1990s)
E900000S 1989, 1990
N000000S 1990 (1989-90 were confusing years!)
N100000S 1991, 1992
N200000S 1992, 1993
N300000S 1993, 1994
N400000S 1994, 1995
N500000S 1995, 1996
N600000S 1996, 1997
N700000S 1997, 1998
N800000S 1998, 1999
N900000S 1999, 2000 (Also 1990!!!)
Z000000S 2000, 2001
Z100000S 2001, 2002
Z200000S 2002, 2003
Z300000S 2003, 2004
Z400000S 2004, 2005
"R" prefixs designate Relic Series instruments. "V" Prefixes (introduced circa 1982) designate Vintage Reissue Series. The "D" prefix indicates Deluxe (but note, this was not used till late 98-early 99. So "D" Strats in the 1980-98 did not use this letter. You would see in 1999 onward you would see the D in connection with the leter for year of manufacture, something like DN9xxxxx or DZ0xxxxx.) The "M" prefix designates Mexican Mfg. The "S" prefix designates Signature model. Here is an example: a new Fender Deluxe Stratocaster with serial number: DZ0363437 indicates a deluxe instrument manufactured in 2000. Or a Fender Clapton Signature Model made in 1992 would be SN20435746.
ODD SERIAL NUMBERS
|AMXN + 6 DIGITS
||California Series electric guitars and basses, '97 and '98
|DN + 6 DIGITS
||American Deluxe series instruments, '98 and '99
||Squier Strat Bullets (dating unclear)
||US made guitars and basses destined for the export market. Some may have stayed in the U.S or found their way back (Made to Standard Strat specs, dating unclear)
||A limited number of these "I" series guitars were made in '89 and '90. They were made for the export market and have Made in USA stamped on the heel of the neck.
||Blonde Jazzmasters and Jaguars with Gold hardware made in 1994. Sold as a promotional 3 piece set with a Blonde Deluxe Reverb Amp
|Korean made Fender/Squier guitars (dating unclear)
||Gold Strat 1981, 82 and 83
||Precision Bass Special from 1981, CB(XXXXX) Gold Jazz Bass from 1982
||Walnut Strat 1981-82-83
||Precision Bass Special from 1981, Black and Gold Tele from 1981-82
|Precision Bass Special (Walnut) from 1982
||Precision Bass Special (Walnut) from 1982, Gold Strat 1982-83
||Jazz Bass from 1982
|Signature Series Instruments
SN0(XXXXX)-'90, SN1(XXXXX)-'90, SN2(XXXXX)-'92, etc.
SZ0(XXXXX)-'00, SZ1(XXXXX)-'01, SZ2(XXXXX)-'02, etc.
|3 DIGITS OF 500
||35TH Anniversary Strat from 1989-1990
||"STRAT" from about 1980, (Gold hardware, 2 position rotary tone switch)
|4 DIGITS STAMPED ON BRIDGE PLATE
||U.S. '52 Vintage Telecaster 1982-1988 (Check neck date for specific year)
|5 DIGITS STAMPED ON BRIDGE PLATE
||U.S. '52 Vintage Telecaster 1988-present (Check neck date for specific year)
||Tribute series instruments
||FSRs and '52 Teles
Serial Number and Approximate Date of Manufacture of Fender Guitars Made in Japan and Crafted in Japan. Also Some History!
Among the Fender Japanese guitars, there were two different logos used: Crafted in Japan and Made in Japan, and both were being made at the same time from 1994 till 1997. This means that the the serial numbers starting in 1994 ran consecutively on both the MIJ and the CIJ models while the MIJ logo was being phased out. Mid–1997 the CIJ logo was the only one used on Fender guitars coming out of Japan (with exception the Squire series). I have more info on the MIJ Reissues page.
There are several theories about why some Japanese Fenders have MIJ and others CIJ. One is that there was a reorganizing of where the parts were being make in the large, expansive Fugi Gen Gakki company. The island of Matsumoto is where the Fugi plant is located. It houses 15-20 different smaller companies, Like Kawi, Gen Gakki Ten, Yamara, Gotoh, Yamoto, etc. I was told by a former Fender Rep that the necks were made one place and the bodies another, while the electronics were made in yet another. I was told that the contract with Yamoto stated if any major subcontractor was to be changed the weaning process would have to take place (MIJ to CIJ). They call it the “Squire countdown.” Since Fuji was pressing hard to get the Epiphone contract, a change was made. Kawi was moving the bulk of their piano building to a new facility in China, and would also be making their own “harp” frames there. This freed up a lot of space in the plant. Yamara and Gotoh retooled to handle the woodwork and finish aspects of the guitars—thus the Crafted in Japan line was created.
The other story is, and maybe both are true and run consecutively, I really don’t know, but the MIJ logo Fenders were for the USA market. USA Fender wanted to stop the import of these guitars to the USA due to firing up their Mexican plant and due to the “too good” quality Japan was creating which competed with the USA models.
Regarding quailty, I have owned many of both these Japanese guitars and it is a fallacy that the Made in Japan models are better than the Crafted in Japan or vice versa. As far as I am concerned, the quality of either is much better than the Mexican made guitars and rival many of the USA models. The JV and SQ guitars, as well as some of the E series, had USA parts (mostly pickups, switches, and potentiometers) that were shipped over to Japan to help speed up production while the new USA plant was being set up in Corona, California. The early series are the most popular for collectors. Also, some Crafted in Japan models came with Custom Shop parts, like special Limited Edition guitars and Signature guitars. The Japanese serial number can be confusing too. For instance, many of the MIJ/CIJ Telecasters have the serial number on the bridge and they start with an "A". Yet if you take the neck off they can be 1994-1997!
As you look at these serial numbers, please note that the same “letter-prefix” on the serial numbers are used for two different sets of dates. The first being the “Made in Japan” date and the second is the “Crafted in Japan” date. Most of the “Made in Japan” and the “Crafted in Japan” guitars us a 6 digit number (But not all and excluding the A prefix!) Confused? LOL! And then there are exceptions to the rule! AND now Japan as started making the MADE IN JAPAN guitars again and using old serial numbers. In another 5 years there is going to be sooo much confusion, it will not ne funny!
A + 6 DIGITS 1985-1987, 1997-1998 (Made in Japan) and (Crafted in Japan) This was one of the most confusing serial uber used by Japan. They placed the "A" on the bridge on the Telecasters and some of them could be as late as 1996 (as in the case with many JD Teles. Maybe the transitional guitars from MIJ to the CIJ??)
JV+ 5 digits 1982-1984
SQ + 5 digits 1983-1984
E + 6 digits 1984-1987
A + 6 digits 1985-1986
B + 6 digits 1985-1986
C + 6 digits 1985-1986
F + 6 digits 1986-1987
G + 6 digits 1987-1988
H + 6 digits 1988-1989
I + 6 digits 1989-1990
J + 6 digits 1989-1990
K + 6 digits 1990-1991
L + 6 digits 1991-1992
M + 6 digits 1992-1993
N + 6 digits 1993-1994
O + 6 digits 1993-1994
P + 6 digits 1993-1994
Q + 6 digits 1993-1994
S + 6 digits 1994-1995
T + 6 digits 1994-1995
U + 6 digits 1995-1996
N + 5 digits 1995-1996
V + 6 digits 1996-1997
In 1997, Fender transitioned to a serial number decal that included the words “Crafted in Japan” above the serial number.
Crafted in Japan A + 6 digits 1997-1998
Crafted in Japan O + 6 digits 1997-2000
Crafted in Japan P + 6 digits 1999-2002
Crafted in Japan Q + 6 digits 2002-2004
Crafted in Japan R + 6 digits 2004-2005
Crafted in Japan S + 6 digits 2006-2008
Crafted in Japan T + 6 digits 2007-2008