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 for 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    

Nice Vintage Original 1973 1974 Road Worn Olympic White Fender Stratocaster Nors1993 Fender Usa Stratocaster Plus - David Gilmour Black Strat Style1982 Fender Stratocaster 1962 62' Reissue Fullerton Red Bobbin Pickups-near MintStevie Ray Vaughan Fender Stratocaster 1993 Clean Srv Strat Usa 2nd Year!1993 1994 Fender Stratocaster Electric Guitar Made In JapanLeft Handed Stratocaster E Series Japan 1980's1975 Fender Stratocaster Hardtail With G&g Fender Hardshell CaseFender Custom Shop Relic Stratocaster Body With Tremolo And JackFender Japan 40th Anniversary Stratocaster 1994 Made In Japan$1 Nr 1979 Usa Fender Stratocaster Electric Guitar Sunburst Ash StratFender 1957 Reissue Stratocaster Vintage Surf Green Mij 50th Anniversary 1996Job Lot Of Guitar Parts For Project Build Luthier Stratocaster J Bass Telecaster1993 Fender Strat Plus Neck Rosewood Barely Played Needs Refinish Lsr1991 Fender Stratocaster Strat Ultra Electric GuitarFender Hss Stratocaster Fsr Sunset Sparkle OrangeFender 2010 Fsr Thin Skin Nitro American Standard Stratocaster (only 150 Made)Fender Custom Shop 1960 Stratocaster Neck, Flamed!Fender 2002 Usa Maple American Stratocaster Neck1980's Japan Made Fender Stratocaster Strat Electric Guitar White W/ Padded CaseFender American Deluxe Stratocaster Sunburst Electric Guitar1989 Fender Stratocaster Mij Black Maple Neck Japan No ReserveWarmoth Strat Tele Gibson Conversion Maple Guitar Neck Fender Custom Shop 59 Stratocaster Heavy Relic Candy Tangerine Orange Over GoldFender Stratocaster Deluxe American W / Hsc! 2000 Model! Int'l Bids Ok! No Resv!Fender Aerodyne Stratocaster Crimson RedVintage 1988 Fender Stratocaster 1 Owner Hard Case Players Guitar H-series Strat1997 Fender Crafted In Japan 50s Reissue Stratocaster Strat Body Vintage Mij CijFender 1991 Usa Black American Eric Clapton Signature Blackie Stratocaster Body 2006 Fender Custom Shop Strat Neck2007 2008 Fender Stratocaster Black Electric Guitar Made In The Usa!Fender Lefty Stratocaster Electric Guitar Mim Mexican Made In Mexico Strat LhUsa Fender Stratocaster RoughJob Lot Of Guitar Parts For Project Build Luthier Stratocaster J Bass TelecasterFender Custom Shop 1960 Stratocaster Pickups And Pickguard, Reliced.Fender American Vintage Hot Rod '62 Stratocaster Electric Guitar2000 Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster Special Edition! Original Condition!Custom Jamerson Jamco Strat Neck Body Combo Guitar Birdsey Nitro Fin Floyd Rose2013 American Standard Special Series Stratocaster Strat Usa Mia Surf Green MintFender Stratocaster Deluxe American V Maple Neck W/ohsc 50th Anniversary ReissueFender Highway One 1 Stratocaster 2006 | Usa | Relic | 69 Custom Shop Pu'sFender Custom Shop Fat '50s Stratocaster Pickup Set For Strat New1987 Fender American Standard Stratocaster W/ Kahler Bridge & Locking NutVintage '80 Fender The Strat Fullerton Ca Usa Made Stratocaster Rosewood Board !1983 Squire Stratocaster Sq Serial Number 70's Style Japan No ReserveFender American Standard Stratocaster Electric Guitar - 60th Anniversary W/caseFender American Deluxe Stratocaster W/ Sonic Blue Std. Body OhscFender Stratocaster Deluxe - Pawn Shop Model WhiteFender 2002 Usa Inca Silver American Stratocaster Body Warmoth Stratocaster Licensed Maple Ebony 22 Fret Neck With Tuners1992 Fender Stratocaster 6 String Right Handed Electric Guitar, Usa MadeFender Deluxe Stratocaster Usa Sunset Metallic Like New MintFender American Stratocaster Electric Guitar - 1983 Dan Smith Era1993 Usa Fender Stratocaster Plus Blue Pearl Dust W/ Case Clapton Lace American1996 Fender Stratocaster Left Handed Anniversary Model Fender Stratocaster Hss "fat Strat" BlackSquier By Fender Japan Stratocaster Jv Serial Japanese Old Used Electric Guitar Crazy Birdseye! Strat Neck Maple Stratocaster, No Reserve! Bin!Fender Stratocaster Guitar Near Mint Condition -- Mij Japan E SeriesFender American Deluxe Stratocaster V Neck With Locking TunersWarmoth Cbs Head Strat Neck Wenge