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    

Fender American Standard Stratocaster Electric Guitar Usa 2012 Fender Usa American Stratocaster Deluxe *2006* Cherry SunburstFender Stratocaster '54 Reissue Made In Japan Vintage 1988! Rare! No Reserve!!!!Fender Stratocaster 6-string Electric Guitar, Made In MexicoFender Mexican Stratocaster Guitar Red Near Mint Condition 6 String And ElectricFender 1998 Usa Trans Green American Deluxe Stratocaster BodyFender Stratocaster (mexico) Mim Electric Guitar Black 6 String (gce011673)Fender Contemporary Stratocaster Vintage 1988 Strat Made In Japan! No Reserve!!!1969 1970 Fender Stratocaster BodyFender Stratocaster American Standard Strat W / Ohsc! 2002 Year Model! No ReservVery Rare 1995 Guild Brian May Standard- Strat Style- Bm01 StFender 1999 Usa White American Stratocaster BodyUsed Fender American Standard Stratocaster In Black With Maple FretboardFender Road Worn 50's Stratocaster Electric Guitar Refinished No Reserve!!!2004 Fender Stratocaster Custom Artist Jeff Beck Signature Electric GuitarCustom Fender Usa Roland Ready Stratocaster With Hard Case - Excellent Condition1982 Fender 62' Vintage Reissue Stratocaster! Super Low Sn 00053x June 82, 57 Ri1987 Fender Japan Stratocaster St-57 E-serial Red !!2012 Fender American StratocasterFender Custom Shop Stratocaster Electric Guitar, 1999, Made In U.s.a.Fender Stratocaster UsaFender Stratocaster Usa 1981 Sunburst W/tremFender 1998 Usa Maple American Deluxe Stratocaster NeckStrat Neck Insane Birdseye Flame Roasted Maple Luthiers Project Needs Work2013 Fender Mexican Standard Stratocaster 6 String Electric Guitar Red Fender Tom Delonge Stratocaster 2001 Model Strat Daphne Blue! Rare! No Reserve!!1989 Fender Strat Plus Deluxe American Standard Stratocaster Usa BodyFender 2014 Usa American Nitro Satin Stratocaster BodyFender Stratocaster Standard Strat Made In Mexico 2001 Model! Clean! No Reserve!2013 Usa Fender Jeff Beck Stratocaster Strat Neck Guitar Parts LsrFender Stratocaster Arctic White (maple Neck, Made In Mexico)2011 American Fender Clapton Strat Body Usa Stratocaster PewterFender Stratocaster - Standard Hss W/ Deluxe Hardshell Case. Brand New - Mint Fender American Vintage '65 Reissue Stratocaster, Shoreline GoldFender 2014 Usa Maple Eric Clapton Signature Blackie American Stratocaster NeckBeautiful Red Fender American Stratocaster Guitar California Series Fender Hot Rod '57 Reissue Stratocaster Electric Guitar 1987Lollar Hand Wound Tweed Strat Pickups For StratocasterFender 1999 Usa Rosewood American Stratocaster NeckFender Strat Stratocaster Warmoth Body Aaa Flame Maple On Alder NrFender Stratocaster Usa Standard Mystic Red Original Case Awesome!!! (vp1001562)Fender Japan Stratocaster St72tx St72 Tx Nice Strat(1461Amazing Flame Maple Strat Neck 21f Aged Oil Finish Huge Super Tiger Flamed QuiltVintage Lawsuit Strat Guitar Solid Mahogany Body W/ Bridge Luthier Project JapanFender American Deluxe Stratocaster Guitar Fender Lonestar Stratocaster 1997 Olympic White UsaWarmoth Hardtail Strat Body / Olympic White / Swamp Ash2009 Fender American Deluxe Hss Stratocaster & Case2006 Fender 60th Diamond Anniversary Commemorative Stratocaster - Mint ConditionFender Strat Stratocaster Masterbuilt By Yuriy ShishkovFender Strat Stratocaster Warmoth Pro Aaa Flame Maple Neck Rh NrNew Beautiful Nitro Vintage White 6 String Strat Style Electric GuitarFender Usa American Standard Roland Ready Synth Ready Stratocaster2003 Mim Fender StratocasterFender Squier Strat 6-string Electric GuitarFender Custom Shop Custom Classic Stratocaster Electric Guitar1982 Fender Stratocaster 57 ReissueFender Usa Trans Red American Deluxe Stratocaster Body- Loaded - Emgs Mini FloydFender Japan Stratocaster1996 Usa Fender 50th Anniversary Lonestar Stratocaster *hot*