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    

1966 Fender Stratocaster! Vintage Strat With Case Candy! Rare Find!1982 Fender Jv Stratocaster Mij St62 Japan Sunburst '62 Ri Mint Collectors ItemJohn Mayer The Black One Tribute Body From American Deluxe Ash Strat 3lb 12oz1983 Fender Jv Stratocaster Mij Japan St62 62 Ri Reissue Vintage White 1.17.83Fender Stratocaster Body 1962ri Vintage White Japan Jv Early 1980sFender Stratocaster Vintage 1978-1981 Guitar2005 Fender Telecaster Tele Deluxe Nashville Vintage Stratocaster Pickup Guitar1989 Fender Japan Stratocaster St57-77ls Lace Sensor Black !!Used Fender Stratocaster Standard 2001 Mystic BlueFender Japan Stratocaster St72-70sc Ritchie Blackmore !!Fender American Stratocaster Electric Guitar Usa Fat Strat Big Apple Humbucker Fender Classic Player 60s Stratocaster Electric Guitar Upgraded Auction Fender Deluxe Player's Strat Body2006 Namm Show Guitar!!! Fender Custom Shop '59 Relic Stratocaster In Shell PinkLuthiers Lot 1 Ash & 1 Alder Strat Body S Cut To Vintage Spec - Great Projects!Warmoth Custom Strat Neck FatFender Artist Signature Eric Johnson Stratocaster Electric GuitarFender Japan Jv Squier Stratocaster Mij Early 80's Car Candy Apple Red GuitarCharvel Style Strat Neck Quartersawn Maple Fender Lic Hefner Musikraft WarmothFender 2006 Usa Maple American Stratocaster Special NeckSemi-hollow Strat Electric Guitar Luthier Builder KitOlder Fender Tweed G&g Hardshell 50s Reissue Case Strat Tele American Usa RelicCmdaugherty Hendrix Hand Wound Custom Shop 1966 Haze Pickup Set Fit Fender Strat1977 Ibanez Lawsuit Era Strat Style Replacement Neck Maple 21 Frets Brass Nut1980 Fender International Color Stratocaster Maui Blue Strat Electric GuitarFender American Stratocaster Vintage Hot Rod '60sVintage 1979 Fender Stratocaster W/ Original Case Electric GuitarCmd Boutique Hand Wound Custom Shop 59 Ri Pickup Set Fits Fender Strat Srv Tone!Fender American Standard Stratocaster Strat Guitar Plus Gold Lace Sensor AshFender 2006 Usa Blonde American Stratocaster Highway 1 Body OneFender Standard Stratocaster Left Handed Electric GuitarLuthiers Lot 2 Ash Strat Body S Cut To Vintage Spec - Great Project!Cmd 1969 Boutique Hand Wound Custom Shop 69 Spec Ri Pickup Set Fits Fender StratVintage 1979 Greco Jeff Beck Stratocaster Body JapanFender 1996 Usa Maple American Stratocaster NeckSeymour Duncan Sl59, Ssl-1,tb-59 Custom Loaded Stratocaster Pickguard Project Fender Strat Usa California Series 1997 American Stratocaster 6 String Guitar2008 Fender American Standard Stratocaster, Usa, Charcoal, Rare Flame Maple NeckFender Avri '62 Reissue Stratocaster W / Ohsc Vintage 1996! Int' Bid Ok! No Resv1994 Fender Stratocaster Jimi Hendrix Lefty Strung Right! Sweet! Fender Texas Special Pickups Strat Loaded Pickguard TortoiseRelic 1999 Fender 62 Reissue Strat Stratocaster NeckNew Fender 1957 Ri Style Stratocaster,strat Relic Replacement Guitar Neck,aged1990 Fender American Vintage 57 Ri Stratocaster Ocean Turquoise Body Usa StratFender Japan Stratocaster Vintage 1989 Electric Guitar Fender Japan Stratocaster J Serial Old Used Japanese Electric Guitar J012Emg Dg20 David Gilmour Loaded Stratocaster Pickguard Active Pickups Dg Strat Fender Stratocaster Electric Guitar Mexico-nice! No Reserve!Yjm Yngwie Malmsteen Inspired Yellow Fender Stratocaster Scalloped1998 Fender Stratocaster Deluxe Hss, Comes With Hardshell Case!Embossed Fender Road Worn Guitar Sign Stratocaster Case Sunburst Strings Mobil1955 Fender StratocasterFender American Stratocaster Electric Guitar Usa Fat Strat Big Apple Humbucker Fender American Standard Natural Ash Stratocaster HhAllparts Large Headstock Bullet Trussrod 1 Piece Maple Stratocaster Neck ProjectFender Stratocaster 2007 2008 Right Handed Electric Guitar Mz7 Hard Case BlackEmbossed Fender Custom Shop Guitar Sign Electric Strat Usa Case Sunburst StringVintage 1974 Fender Stratocaster 3-bolt Body Sunburst Original Old Part Alder NrFender Stratocaster Mod No ReserveFender Stratocaster Telecaster Esquire Case 1964 1965 1970 1973 #2