MADE FENDER STRINGED INSTRUMENT For the majority of Fender's U. instrument production history, production dates have been applied to various components.
While there have been periods where dramatic changes have occurred, for example: the transition periods between Leo's Fender and the CBS years, as well as the transition between CBS' Fender and the current ownership, generally speaking, most models are feature specific and do not change from year to year.
They have been placed at the top of the neck plate, on the front of the headstock, on the back of the headstock, and on the back of the neck near where the neck bolts onto the body.
They were stamped on the back vibrato cover plate (early '50s Strats), and on the bridge plate between the pickup and the saddles on some Telecasters.
The "S", stood for decade of the 1970s, and began CBS' attempt to use serial numbers to identify the year of production for the piece. "V" prefix serial numbered instruments, is to remove the neck, and check the butt end of the heel of the neck for a production date, which may be stamped or written there.
The "E", stood for the decade of the 1980s and was, as shown below, introduced in 1979. Vintage Series instruments and the use of the "V" prefix serial numbers. In March of 1985, the CBS Corporation sold Fender to a group of private investors.
As you can see by the overlaps of numbers and years, the reference to the actual production date is rather loose. The serial numbers do not reflect the change, as Fender continued to make instruments using existing tooling, parts, and serial number schemes.
With 1990 came the introduction of the "N" prefix serial numbers, which stood for the 1990s.The neck date simply refers to the date that the individual component was produced.Given the modular nature of Fender's production techniques, an individual neck may have been produced in a given year, placed in the manufacturing warehouse and remained in stock for a period of time, and then subsequently paired with a body to create a complete guitar in the following year.The following chart details the Fender serial number schemes used from 1965 to 1976.You will notice that there is quite a bit of overlap of both numbers and years.Serial numbers are also helpful in determining the year of production of a given instrument.