The Fender Precision bass came out in 1951, and the Fender Jazz bass was first produced in 1960. The Jazz bass produced brighter and slightly higher tones. Fender made slight changes in the basses during the different years of production, and certain years are more desirable than others. Motown and Stax recordings heavily relied on the 1962 Precision bass. The vintage guitar and bass guitar markets have become increasingly valuable in the last 10 years. This value makes it all the more necessary to know how to verify a Fender bass guitar's authenticity.
Check the production date stamped on the butt end of the neck. This is not a full-proof method, but it will indicate the validity and date of the neck. The production date was stamped or pencilled on the butt end of the neck. This requires removing the neck of the guitar.
Find the serial number. The serial number is a more reliable method for identifying authenticity of a vintage Fender bass. The correlation between serial numbers and production dates can be found at the Fender website (see Resources). For example, serial numbers 100 to 400 on a Precision bass indicates that it was produced between 1951 and 1952. The location of the serial number also provides useful information about the authenticity of the bass. The serial numbers of early 1950s Precision basses were on the neck plate on the back of the neck. In 1976 Fender began placing the serial number on the peghead.
Pay attention to all the specific details. The best way to identify the authenticity of a vintage Fender bass is to carefully scrutinise all the specific details about the bass. The essential details include the type of wood, the shape and colour, all the electronics, the tuners, volume and tone knobs and the scale of the neck. Vintage guitar collectors develop expertise in all these areas. A helpful resource is the Vintage Guitars Info website (see Resources). The site provides a thorough and well researched history of vintage Fender guitars and basses. Specific details about Fender Precision and Jazz basses are presented along with photographs. Notice how the specifics changed during different years of production.
Get an expert opinion. The last step to ensure that the bass is authentic is to get an expert's opinion. Make arrangements for the expert to see and investigate the bass in person. If this is not possible, take a series of photos from every angle that will allow the expert to see all the different parts of the bass.