Vintage Fender Stratocaster Guitars

The Stratocaster was not the first Fender solid-body electric guitar—that honor belongs to the 1950, one-pickup Esquire, which went through several name changes (including a period when the guitar had no name at all) before being labeled the Telecaster in 1951.

But the Strat, as it is known, was the guitar that made the word "Fender" synonymous with "rock 'n' roll." Introduced in 1954, its ash body (alder was used after 1956) was sculpted to fit players like a glove. Three pickups gave the instrument unprecedented tonal range, as did a tremolo bar that bent the guitar’s strings when pressed. And instead of the Telecaster’s blond, natural-looking finish, the Strat was offered in a number of colors, including the iconic sunburst (golden-yellow in the middle fading to black on the outside).

For the most part, collectors are only interested in the Stratocasters manufactured before CBS bought the company in 1965. These pre-CBS Strats are relatively easy to identify by looking at the serial number on the metal plate on the guitar’s back, where the neck is attached. Strats from 1954-1965 have four screws in the plate, and the serial number is at the top. Serial numbers and their corresponding years are as follows:

0 to 6,000 = 1950–1954; 0 to 10,000 = 1954–1956; 10,000s = 1955–1956; 10,000s to 20,000s = 1957; 20,000s to 30,000s = 1958; 30,000s to 40,000s = 1959; 40,000s to 50,000s = 1960; 50,000s to 70,000s = 1961; 60,000s to 90,000s = 1962; 90,000s to L10,000s = 1963; L10,000s to L20,000s = 1963; L20,000s to L50,000s = 1964; L50,000s to L90,000s = 1965

You can also date a vintage Fender Stratocaster (or any early Fender, for that matter) by unscrewing the neck from the body and looking to see if there is a penciled or stamped date on the end of the neck. There may not always be a date there, and if the date on the neck does not correspond to the date calculated based on the serial number, that may simply mean that a neck dated, say, 1961 was used to make a 1962 guitar. But if the date and serial number do correspond, that should give a collector some serious peace of mind.

For the very earliest Stratocasters, another clue to the guitar’s age can be found by looking for a serial number on the back of the tremolo plate. A serial number here means the guitar is from 1954, but not all 1954 Stratocasters had dates in this spot, so the lack of a number does not mean that the Strat is post-’54.

The tuners on a guitar’s head can also help identify a guitar’s age. Strats from 1954 to 1957 have no markings on their tuners, but the ones used from 1957 to 1964 are stamped wi...

Finally, look for these differentiators from 1959. Vintage Stratocaster necks from 1954 to 1959 were made out of a single piece of maple, with no fingerboard attached. Necks from 1959 to 1962 had rosewood fingerboards with flat undersides. Strat necks after 1962 also had rosewood fingerboards, but those were curved on both their tops and undersides to follow the curve of the maple neck. Another change concerns the pickguard, which was attached to the guitar’s body with eight screws prior to 1959 and eleven screws thereafter.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vintage Guitars Info

Vintage Guitars Info

This great reference site features detailed sections on vintage guitar makers, including Gibson, Fender, Martin, Gr… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Want to see all the old brochures and ads for your favorite vintage axe? Check out this great site, which showcases… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Warmoth Fender Stratocaster Body Vintage Hardtail Olympic White Nitro Nr Fender Classic Series '50s Stratocaster Electric GuitarFender 2011 Usa Sunburst John Mayer Signature Stratocaster Body Fender 80's Hm Strat Project Electric Guitar With Hardshell Case 2011 Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster Hss Olympic Pearl Immaculate! Free ShipFender 2013 Faded Sonic Blue American Vintage 59 Stratocaster Body 1959Fender American Standard Stratocaster In Sienna SunburstFender Standard Plus Top Floyd Rose Stratocaster - Flamed Maple W/fender CaseMjt Vts Alder Stratocaster Body Strat Compare With Warmoth Fender Sunburst Nitro1986 Fender Stratocaster Made In Japan Strat Stratocaster Guitar Neck Musikraft Fender Licensed Roasted Quartersawn2009 Fender Mim Standard Stratocaster Guitar Lake Placid Blue Upgrades Hard CaseFender Stratocaster 6-string Electric Guitar, Made In Usa98 Fender American Standard Stratocaster1999 Fender Strat Stratocaster Rosewood Neck 21 Vintage Frets 7.25" RadiusSuper Figured Franky Strat Neck Birdseye Flame Maple 22f Floyd Rose Van HalenFender 2005 Usa Sunburst American Stratocaster Body1997 Usa Fender American Standard Stratocaster Custom Color Daphne Blue BodyFender 1992 Usa Metallic Red American Stratocaster BodyFender Squire Stratocaster Electric Guitar Black For Parts Or Repair Bag IncludeFender Black1 John Mayer Limited 1/500 Stratocaster1989 Fender American Squier Stratocaster With Case- Made In U.s.a. - No Reserve!Relic 2008 Usa Fender American Vintage 70s Reissue Alder Strat Stratocaster BodyFender Lonestar StratocasterFender Stratocaster 1962 Pre Cbs Original Finish1959 Fender Stratocaster Maple Neck ProjectFender Japan Stratocaster St-68jh Jimi Hendrix Rare !!Fender 1992 Usa Rosewood American Stratocaster NeckFender American Deluxe Stratocaster Guitar 2000 Ash Fralin Pickups Super CleanFender Mim Blacktop Stratocaster Guitar With Humbuckers Maple Neck Very Nice2003 Fender Mij Stratocaster Antigua Burst With Upgraded Pickups1992 American Fender Stratocaster Usa Made Solid Body Burgundy Electric Guitar Fender Usa American Strat Stratocaster Neck **read** Needs TlcFender Relic Road Worn 60s 62 Ri Strat Stratocaster Neck Looks Like Vintage Usa1982 Usa Fullerton Fender Vintage 57 62 Reissue Strat Stratocaster Cts PotsFender 2014 Namm '60 Stratocaster Heavy Relic Ice Blue Over 3 ToneFender American Stratocaster - No ReserveSquier 60s Classic Vibe Stratocaster Candy Apple Red Strat Electric Guitar Fender American Deluxe Strat Tele Chrome Locking Tuners Usa StratocasterFine Fender Stratocaster American Usa - 'blackie' Color 50th Anniv. Year OhscFender Stratocaster American Deluxe Usa W / Ohsc S-1 Switch 2005 Year! No ReservFender Stratocaster Made In Mexico Upgraded With Fender '54 Pickups!!New Fender Stratocaster American Neck Maple 22 Fret Usa StratFender 2011 Usa Maple American Stratocaster NeckFender Relic Replacement Stratocaster Neck For Fender Strat Nr1996 American Stratocaster Guitar BodyFender Strat Tele Skb Hardshell Case Stratocaster Telecaster Guitar Usa AmericanFender American Standard Stratocaster Electric GuitarStrat Stratocaster Guitar Neck Musikraft Fender Licensed Birdseye / RosewoodWarmoth Stratocaster Strat Guitar Neck Nr!Nice!!! Bare Knuckle Vinage Pickups Set For Fender Strat Stratocaster GuitarsStrat Stratocaster Guitar Neck Musikraft Fender Licensed Roasted Curly FlameVintage 70's Memphis Electric Guitar Fender Strat Bill Lawrence L500 Pick UpsFender Squire Bullet Stratocaster Electric Guitar 6 String Right Handed BlackFender 80's Stratocaster Red Made In Japan Squire MijFender 2011 Usa Pearl White American Stratocaster BodyVintage Stratocaster - Swamp Ash - Mid 70's Vintage1989-90 Fender Mij Stratocaster Loaded Guitar Body W/ Ding - Neck Not Included1980's Mij Japan Fender Stratocaster Body*no Reserve* 1979 Fender Stratocaster, W/tremelo, Gray Bottom P/u's, Perfect!