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    

1969 Fender Stratocaster Electric Guitar Vintage Player Soft Case As Is E471958 Fender Stratocaster Body 58 Vintage Strat Sunburst No Reserve1983 Fender Stratocaster 1962 Reissue Electric Guitar W Hardshell Case Fender Deluxe Player Swamp Ash Strat Body Usa Spec 2 7/32" Bridge Srv VibeFender 2013 Usa Surf Green American Special Stratocaster BodyWarmoth Pro Strat Stratocaster Guitar Neck - Stainless, Tuners, Padouk, EbonyPaul Reed Smith Prs Eg-3, Stratocaster Killer, Lindy Fralin Pickups,Fender Stratocaster Body 1962ri Vintage White Japan Jv Early 1980sG&l Legacy Special Strat Style Electric Guitar - Made In Usa2005 American Highway One Strat Body Sunburst Nitro Finish Usa StratocasterFender Custom Shop '60 Stratocaster Relic American / Usa Guitar Surf Green Strat2002/03 Mim Fender Stratocaster - Sage Green  strat Made In Mexico - PeaceFender Stratocaster Jv Scratchplate Fullerton Black Bobbins Pickups UsaFender 2013 Usa Maple American Stratocaster Special NeckCustom Stratocaster Shaped Guitar, Warmoth Neck?, Dimarzio Pickup, Kluson TunersFender Usa Srv Stevie Ray Vaughn Strat Neck Stratocaster W/ Gold Tuners Sig2006 Namm Show Guitar!!! Fender Custom Shop '59 Relic Stratocaster In Shell PinkStrat Stratocaster Guitar Neck Musikraft Fender Licensed Highly Flame / Rwd '91 Usa Fender Jeff Beck Stratocaster 1st Yr Jeff Beck Signature Artist Series 1999 Fender Deluxe Powerhouse Stratocaster Strat Customized Scalloped Neck Etc..Aged Relic Vintage Alder Stratocaster Body Finished In 100% Nitro - No Reserve!Vintage 1977-1978 Black Fender Stratocaster Electric Guitar Left Handed Usa1997 Usa Fender American Standard Stratocaster Strat Maple Neck W TunersFender Highway 1 Stratocaster Teal/green -2003 Made Usa Like New Fender Road Worn Guitars & Basses Embossed Tin Sign Stratocaster Man Cave GarageFender American Standard Am Stan Stratocaster Electric GuitarCustom Build Stratocaster Style Electric GuitarFender Standard Stratocaster Neck Maple W/'70's Vint. Decal, Nitro Finish Sq.'02Slightly Used Lindy Fralin Vintage Hot Strat Pickup Set Of 3 Bassplate1993 Fender 40th Anniversary Stratocaster W/ Original Case Fender 1987 Usa Maple American Stratocaster NeckStrat Stratocaster Guitar Neck Musikraft Fender Licensed 2 Tone Birdseye / RwdFender 1987 Usa Gun Metal Blue American Stratocaster Body2008 Usa Artist Series Fender Eric Clapton Blackie Stratocaster Guitar & Ohsc1995 Usa Fender Srv Strat Stratocaster Neck 59 62 Ri 12" Rad 60s Oval Pau FerroFender Squier Stratocaster Squire Strat Body Loaded Sss RedFender California Series Strat Stratocaster. Way Cool Blue.Vintage Fender Strat Body With Lead Ii Neck And Custom Wound Pickups,fender Case2000 Fender Stratocaster Japan With Kahler Locking TremeloSemi-hollow Strat Electric Guitar Luthier Builder Kit Fender American Stratocaster & Hard Shell Case With Case Candy2001 - 2002 Fender Standard 6 String Stratocaster Black Electric GuitarFender Stratocaster Pickup Set Fullerton Usa Black Bobbins From Jv StratCmd Boutique Hand Wound Custom Shop 59 Ri Pickup Set Fits Fender Strat Srv Tone!Greco Stratocaster Se600 Supersounds Vintage 1976 Made In Japan Se-600 Usa 2006 Fender American Standard Stratocaster Neck1983 Fender Japan Stratocaster St62-65 Jv-serial Lpb Rare !! Warmoth Pro Conversion Neck 24 3/4 Gibson Les Paul Scale For Fender StratocasterHondo Flame 761 Strat Two Tone Metalflake Factory Finish 1980's Rocks Vintage2007 Fender Stratocaster Strat Roadhouse Electric Guitsar Made In Mexico *usedFender Strat Stratocaster Usa Body With Tremolo Bridge2006 Fender Stratocaster Rosewood Neck & Tuners Highway One Usa Strat Hwy 1Fender Strat Tele Vintage Tolex Hardshell Case Stratocaster Telecaster GuitarCmd Boutique Hand Wound Custom Shop 62 Ri Hot Rod Pickup Set Fits Fender Strat!!1978 Fender Stratocaster Olympic White All Original With Original Case Stand .Fender Stratocaster Mim Electric Guitar W/ Hardcase All Original! 2006 Mint!!2014 Fender Usa American Deluxe Compound Radius Stratocaster Neck Strat Mint 1989 American Standard Fender Stratocaster NeckFender American Special Stratocaster Electric GuitarFender Stratocaster Custom Shop '59 Reissue - Sea Foam Green