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    

80's Fender Hm Strat Heavy Metal UsaFender 2011 Usa Natural American Vintage 70's Stratocaster Reissue Ash Body RiNo Reserve! Warmoth Heavy Flamed Maple Replacement Strat Guitar Neck-no Reserve!1974 Olympic White Fender StratocasterFender 2005 Usa Rosewood American Vintage 70's Stratocaster Reissue Neck RiCallaham American Vintage Strat Bridge / Delrin InsertFender Usa Custom Shop Stratocaster Neck American Classic Signed Bb King StratFender Stratocaster Usa Neck, Mim Body, Usa Bridge PickupFender Road Worn '50s Stratocaster Electric Guitar W Hsc Strat '60s Case RelicG&l S-500 Stratocaster W / Ohsc By Leo Fender Usa Model Vintage 1994! No ReserveFender Stratocaster Electric Guitar - Made In Usa - 1979Fender Stratocaster Electric Guitar With Humbuckers Cherry RedFender 2005 Usa Maple American Stratocaster Deluxe NeckWarmoth Pau Ferro Strat NeckFender Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature Series Stratocaster (stand Not Included)Fender American Standard Satin Nitro Stratocaster Electric GuitarGmw Kramer Fender Custom Frankenstein Frankenstrat Stratocaster Strat BodyAmerican Fender Stratocaster 2013 Honeyburst Nitro Satin Finish W/ Gig BagUsa Left Handed Fender Stratocaster Guitar Neck 1994Vintage 1977 Greco Early Sixties Se 700 Strat, Mij, Lawsuit, White Relic!!! Fender 2014 Usa Honey Burst American Special Hand Stained Stratocaster Body2012 Fender Stratocaster Left Hand Electirc Guitar! Olympic White!Warmoth Goncalo Alves Srv Strat Neck1997 Usa Fender American Standard Stratocaster Strat Maple Neck W Tuners2008 Fender American Standard StratocasterFender Stratocaster Original Contour Body 2011 Electric Guitar Made In The UsaFender Stratocaster W/gold Lace Sensor PickupsFender 1994 Mij Cherry Foto Flamed Floyd Rose Stratocaster Body American Fender Deluxe Strat Tele Abs Hardshell Case Usa Stratocaster Guitar1989 Fender American Standard Stratocaster White Usa Strat With Case1987 Fender Stratocaster Plus, All Original Vintage Electric Guitar!90's Vintage Squier Stratocaster Mik Korean Neck Maple W/tuners 25.5 Fender NiceFender American Deluxe Stratocaster Electric GuitarFender Stratocaster Electric Guitar Mim 2007 Midnight BlueFender 1995 Usa Sunburst American Stratocaster BodySquier By Fender - Affinity Series - Strat - Electric GuitarWarmoth Macassar Ebony Strat Neck2001 Fender Stratocaster Neck Usa With Fender TunersSquier Fender 1980's Floyd Rose George Lynch Conterporary Stratocaster Hm StratAmerican Fender Deluxe Strat Tele Abs Hardshell Case Usa Stratocaster GuitarStrat Stratocaster Guitar Neck Musikraft Fender Licensed Highly Qs Flame / RwdFender American Stratocaster Special Body Strat Usa Very LightKaces Vintage Style Tweed Hard Case Guitar Fits Fender Stratocaster TelecasterFender Road Worn '60s Stratocaster No ReserveFender Squier Stratocaster Hello Kitty Electric Guitar - Pink1982-1984 Usa G&g Strat Stratocaster Telecaster Tolex Hardshell Case G&l Fender2004 Fender Koa Series Stratocaster Strat Body - Damaged, No ReserveFender Strat-o-sonic Electric Guitar 2003Fender 1994 Mij Rosewood Stratocaster Floyd Rose NeckFender 2005 Usa Trans Amber American Deluxe Stratocaster Body Fender Mim Strat Stratocaster Maple Neck Fender Squier Strat 6-string Electric Guitar Red/white W/ Gig Bag Vintage 1979 Fender Stratocaster-natural Finish-35yr Old Beauty-no Reserve2004 Fender American Deluxe 50th Anniversary Stratocaster With Case (brand New)Fender 1950s Reissue Surf Green Stratocaster Texas Special Pickups, Skb Case, NrFender Hello Kitty Squier Strat Stratocaster Pink With Case & Hello Kitty PicksVintage 1973 Fender Stratocaster Pickup Old Grey Bottom Part 5.92 K NrFender Usa Black Tolex 70's Reissue Stratocaster Or Telecaster Hardshell CaseFender Artist Series Eric Johnson Stratocaster - Candy Apple RedFender American Deluxe Stratocaster Electric Guitar With Case Candy