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 Aerodyne Stratocaster Rare No Pickguard Japanese Strat Model! No Reserve!Fender Stratocaster Lite Ash Guitar Project/parts W/hard Case, Strat Neck BodyWarmoth Swamp Ash Chambered Hardtail Strat Stratocaster Body1991 Fender Stratocaster Electric Guitar - Usa1989 Fender Stratocaster Made In The U.s.a -black And White Fender Stratocaster With Floyd Rose Tremolo - SunburstFender 1999 American Standard Stratocaster Electric Guitar W/ Ohsc (s07020447)New Thinline Strat Electric Guitar Luthier Builder Kit-awesome Build Fender Jimmie Vaughan Deluxe Strat Body Stratocaster Candy Apple Red - UpgradesFender Stratocaster Black And WhiteFender 1988 Hm Strat Usa Raspberry Maple Kahler Pink Heavy Metal 80s Fender 2001 Usa Graffiti Yellow American Stratocaster BodyFender American Standard Stratocaster Strat Mia 1991Warmoth Strat-style Neck - Birdseye Maple, Floyd Nut, Ss Frets, Locking TunersFender Custom Shop Stratocaster 1957 Heavy RelicFender Stratocaster American Standard Electric Guitar Black 2010 NiceBrand New Fender 2014 Usa Stratocaster Loaded Body W/case Candy Strat 60th AnnivCustom Fender Stratocaster Neck Musikraft 1971 1972 Cbs Style Nitro Finish!Fender 1997 Usa Maple American California Series Stratocaster NeckOriginal Vintage 1976 (early '76) Fender Stratocaster Usa - Left Handed2014 60th Anniversary Fender American Standard Stratocaster...!Fender Stratocaster *no Reserve*Fender Stratocaster Neck By WarmothStrat Stratocaster Guitar Neck Musikraft Fender Licensed Birdseye / RosewoodFender 60th Anniversary American Standard Stratocaster 2014 Olympic WhiteFender Classic 70s Stratocaster Mim Ash Body W Ohsc (s03015030)Squier By Fender Affinity Series Stratocaster Electric Guitar Black/blackFender Standard Hss Plus Top Stratocaster Mim W/ Hsc (s08010158) Fender Alder Stratocaster Strat Body Seafoam GreenElectric Guitar Classic Matsumoku Fender Strat Style Vintage Serial B760237Franky Style Strat Stratocaster Guitar Neck Musikraft Fender Licensed BirdseyeFender Stratocaster Eric Johnson Lucerne Aqua Firemist Electric Guitar HardshellCustom Fender Eric Johnson Stratocaster With Kinman Pickups2008 Fender Stratocaster American Made U.s.a Black Electric Guitar W/case!!!!1994-5 Fender Stratocaster Japan Hss Floyd Rose Squier Series Foto Flame MijFender U.s.a Stratocaster Body ..sunburst..mint !Strat Stratocaster Guitar Neck Musikraft Fender Licensed Birdseye Maple Fender Stratocaster 1957 Strat Reissue Fullerton Usa 1983 Tweed Case! No ReserveFender Relic Replacement Stratocaster Maple Neck For Fender Strat NrNice! 2007 Fender G&g Black Deluxe Hardshell Case Strat Tele American Usa GuitarFender Stratocaster Strat Electric Guitar Black Japan Mij 1995/96 Lace Sensor1990/91 Charvel Jackson Stx Custom Super Strat Electric GuitarVintage Fender Strat Tele G&g Tweed Hardshell Case Stratocaster Telecaster GuitFender American Standard Fsr (fender Special Run) Stratocaster2014 Fender Stratocaster Hss Floyd Rose W/ Upgrade Custom Shop & Duncan Pickups2007-2008 Fender American Stratocaster Usa Made Electric GuitarMim Fender StratocasterOriginal Pre Cbs L Series Fender Neck Plate. 1964 Vintage Strat Tele JazzmasterMij Japanese Vintage Guitar Fender Strat Stratocaster Copy Jv - Body And Neck1974 Vintage Fender Stratocaster Neck, Rosewood,original Neck Plate And Screws!!Fender Strat-tele Guitar Nitro BlueFender Stratocaster 2006 American Deluxe Series Guitar-corona CaliforniaFender Stratocaster Squier DeluxeFender John Mayer Signature Stratocaster Big Dipper Pickups Loaded PickguardFender Stratocaster 1978-81 Made In Usa **as Is** Needs Work** & Hard Case Wow!1988 Fender Stratocaster Xii 12 String Electric Mij Hard CaseStrat Style Stratocaster Guitar Neck Musikraft Fender Licensed 1-11/16 R-3 New Solid 12 String Strat Style Natural Electric Guitar Original 1965-'66 'f' Style Fender Neck Plate. Vintage Strat Tele JazzmasterFender 2001 Usa Sunburst American Stratocaster Body