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    

2007 Fender 50th Anniversary Mary Kay Blonde Stratocaster W/fender Hard ShellFender Stratocaster '62 Reissue "jv" Serial Number Made In Japan! No Reserve!!!!1964 Fender Stratocaster Neck Strat Vintage Rare 64 No IssuesVintage, Factory Left-handed 1977 Blonde Fender Stratocaster In Original CaseFender Stratocaster, American Standard Usa, 1998, Inca Silver, Mint ConditionFender 2013 Usa Nitro Satin Stratocaster BodyFender 57 Relic Total Tone Strat Ex Custom Shop Limited EditionFender Stratocaster Mim Custom Shop Usa Fat 50s Heavily Upgraded Special Edition1962 Fender Stratocaster Neck Only. Way Cool!!!!!Fender Hrr Stratocaster Translucent Blue2005-2006 Usa Fender Stratocaster American Standard 60th AnniversaryFender Stratocaster Noiseless Pickup Set (3) Strat P/up Humbucker White1988 Vintage Squier Fender Mik Stratocaster Electric Guitar Korean Plays Great!Fender Deluxe Players Stratocaster Sapphire Blue Electric Guitar With Case NrFender Squier Stratocaster Classic Vibe Flame Maple Neck Tonerider VintagepickupStratocaster Body - Warmoth, Lightweight, Finished In Light NitroFender Stratocaster 57 ReissueFender 1976 Natural American Stratocaster Ash Body 2007 Fender Usa American Stratocaster Strat. Candy Cola. Excellect – No ResFender American Deluxe Stratocaster Guitar, Ash, Cherry Burst, Maple & Mint.Used Fender Stratocaster Mexico 2000-2001 - Mz0239515Lefty Reverse Righty Strat Neck Beautiful Birdseye Flame Dark Roasted Maple 22f1980's Vintage Schecter Strat, Stratocaster Pickup SetFender 2012 Usa Maple American Stratocaster Special Neck2003 Usa Fender American Standard Stratocaster Strat Guitar & Ohsc L@@kVintage Fender Stratocaster Electric Guitar 1980's Made In Japan1991 Fender Japan Vintage 62 Reissue Strat Stratocaster Neck Near Mint2010 Fender Standard Stratocaster Strat - Alpine White - Near Mint W/ Soft CaseVintage 1990's Fender Custom Shop Texas Special Stratocaster Pickup Set StratRare! Modulus Graphite Strat With 3 Paf Type HumbuckersFender Deluxe Players Stratocaster 6 String Electric Guitar Red Mexican W/ Case1983 Fender Stratocaster Made In UsaRare 1985 Yamaha Japan Sth500m Maple Neck Hh Super Strat Guitar - Near Mint!1988 Fender Stratocaster Plus Usa Lake Placid Blue Strat Gold Lace Sensor Pickup12-string Hondo Electric Guitar Strat Style W Fender Strings - ProjectVintage 1985 Mij Fender Contemporary Stratocaster Neck Japan With Tuners & PlateFender American Standard Stratocaster - 2014 Mint!Fender Road Worn Strat,mim,sunburst,2009,plays And Sounds Great,no ReserveNew Thinline Strat Electric Guitar Luthier Builder Kit-awesome BuildFender The Strat American Stratocaster Early Eighties With Hard Case & ExtrasFender Aerodyne Strat Electric Guitar W/case Free Ship !Made In America Usa Fender Stratocaster ProjectFender Usa Stratocaster Relic BlackFender Stratocaster Electric Guitar Mexican W/ Soft Case -- Played Great!1980 Fender Stratocaster "hardtail" Solid Body Electric Guitar1986 Fender StratocasterFender 2012 Usa American Nitro Satin Stratocaster BodyFender Made In Mexico Stratocaster NeckSwamp Ash Vint Style Strat Body Rare Light Weight 3 Lbs 10 Oz 1pc Solid Ash!!2012 Fender American Standard Stratocaster, Sienna SunburstFender Stratocaster Standard Strat Made In Mexico 2001 Model! No Reserve!!!!!!!!American Fender Deluxe Strat Tele Abs Hardshell Case Usa Stratocaster TelecasterFender Lace Sensor Pickup Electric Guitar Black Red Strat Stratocaster P/up1998 Fender American Deluxe Fat Stratocaster Ohsc Made In The UsaAmerican Standard Fender StratocasterFender Japan Stratocaster St72-86dsc Yngwie Malmsteen !!Fender Stratocaster Mim 1994Fender Stratocaster Noiseless Pickups And American Special NeckLoaded Relic 1993 Fender Japan Vintage 62 Ri Stratocaster Nitrocellulose BodyFender G&g Usa Blonde Tolex Eric Johnson Stratocaster Hardshell Case