While there have been periods of dramatic change—such as the transition periods between the Leo Fender years and the CBS years or the transition between the CBS years and the current ownership—most models are generally feature-specific and do not change from year to year.
Serial numbers are also helpful in determining an instrument’s production year.
But once again, due to Fender’s modular production methods and often non-sequential serial numbering (usually overlapping two to four years from the early days of Fender to the mid-1980s), dating by serial number is not always precisely definitive.
The chart below details Fender serial number schemes used from 1950 to 1964.
Notice that there is quite a bit of overlap in numbers and years.
Information on Japanese and Mexican-made instruments is included towards the bottom.
If you have a Fender in your hands, you can use this guide to precisely date your Fender instrument all the way back to 1950.
This information is courtesy Fender.com, republished here for your convenience. instrument production history, production dates have been applied to various components.Hit the jump to see just how old that guitar or bass really is. Most notably, production dates have been penciled or stamped on the butt end of the heel of the neck of most guitars and basses, although there were periods when this was not consistently done (1973 to 1981, for example) or simply omitted.Neck-dating can be useful in determining the was produced, rather than the complete instrument.Given the modular nature of Fender production techniques, an individual neck may have been produced in a given year, then stored for a period of time before being paired with a body to create a complete guitar, perhaps, for example, in the following year.Therefore, while helpful in determining a of production dates, a neck date is obviously not a precisely definitive reference.Most specifications for a given Fender instrument model change little (if at all) throughout the lifetime of the model.