How to Decode a Fender Stratocaster

Written by brett thorne
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How to Decode a Fender Stratocaster
Decoding the serial number on a Fender guitar can be accomplished through Fender's support site. (stratocaster image by diego cervo from Fotolia.com)

The main purpose for finding a serial number on your Fender Stratocaster is to discover its production details. A serial number allows only an approximation of the production year because it corresponds only to the date that the piece was constructed, not to when the entire guitar was put together. Note that there is a serious amount of overlap on many serial numbers. Typically there is a one-year overlap between serial codes because of the changeover to new numbers in the factories each year.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Stratocaster serial number

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Look on the headstock of the guitar to find the serial number for a Fender Stratocaster. It may be located on the front or the back. The serial number is typically a numeral preceded by one or two letters. During the first 14 years of Stratocaster production, the serial numbers were only numerals; from 1963 on, the numerals were preceded by a combination of one or two letters.

  2. 2

    Look at the letter prefix on your guitar. For Strats dating from 1963 on, the prefixes mean:

    S=Seventies

    E=Eighties

    V=Vintage Series

    N=Nineties

    Z=New millennium

    DZ=American Deluxe Series

  3. 3

    Look at the numbers in the serial number. Fender gives the date ranges as follows:

    Serial numbers corresponding to 1-6,000 mean the guitar was created during the first five production years of Fender Stratocasters: 1950 through 1954.

    6,000-10,000 corresponds to 1954-1956.

    10,000s correspond to 1955-1956.

    10,000-20,000 corresponds to 1957.

    20,000-30,000 corresponds to 1958.

    30,000-40,000 corresponds to 1959.

    40,000-50,000 corresponds to 1960.

    50,000-70,000 corresponds to 1961.

    60,000-90,000 corresponds to 1962.

    80,000-90,000 corresponds to 1963.

    90,000-L10,000 corresponds to 1963.

    L10,000-L20,000 corresponds to 1963.

    L20,000-L50,000 corresponds to 1964.

    L50,000-L90,000 corresponds to 1965.

    100,000s corresponds to 1965.

    100,000-200,000 corresponds to 1966-1967.

    200,000s correspond to 1968.

    200,000-300,000 corresponds to 1969-1970.

    300,000s correspond to 1971-1972.

    300,000s-500,000s1973.

    400,000s-500,000s corresponds to 1974-1975.

    500,000s to 700,000s corresponds to 1976.

    76+5 digits corresponds to 1976.

    S6+5 digits corresponds to 1976.

    S7+5 digits corresponds to 1977.

    S8+5 digits corresponds to 1977.

    S7+5 digits corresponds to 1978.

    S8+5 digits corresponds to 1978.

    S9+5 digits corresponds to 1978-1981.

    E0+5 digits corresponds to 1979-1981.

    E1+5 digits corresponds to 1980-1982.

    E2+5 digits corresponds to 1982-1983.

    E3+5 digits corresponds to 1982-1984.

    V + 4, 5 or 6 digits corresponds to 1982-present.

    E4+5 digits corresponds to 1984.

    E35+5 digits corresponds to 1985.

    E45+5 digits corresponds to 1985, 1987-1988.

    E85+5 digits corresponds to 1988-1989.

    E95+5 digits corresponds to 1989-1990.

    N9+5 digits corresponds to 1990.

    N0+5 digits corresponds to 1990-1991.

    N1+5 or 6 digits corresponds to 1991-1992.

    N2+5 or 6 digits corresponds to 1992-1993.

    N3+5 or 6 digits corresponds to 1993-1994.

    N4+5 or 6 digits corresponds to 1994-1995.

    N5+5 or 6 digits corresponds to 1995-1996.

    N6+5 or 6 digits corresponds to 1996-1997.

    N7+5 or 6 digits corresponds to 1997-1998.

    N8+5 or 6 digits corresponds to 1998-1999.

    N9+5 or 6 digits corresponds to 1999-2000.

    Z0+5 or 6 digits corresponds to 2000-2001.

    DZ0+5 or 6 digits corresponds to 2000.

    Z1+5 or 6 digits corresponds to 2001-2002.

    DZ1+5 or 6 digits corresponds to 2001.

    Z2+5 or 6 digits corresponds to 2002-2003.

    DZ2+5 or 6 digits corresponds to 2002.

    Z3+5 or 6 digits corresponds to 2003-2004.

    DZ3+5 or 6 digits corresponds to 2003.

    Z4+5 or 6 digits corresponds to 2004-2005.

    DZ4+5 or 6 digits corresponds to 2004.

    XN4+4 digits corresponds to 2004.

    Z5+5 or 6 digits corresponds to 2005.

    DZ5+5 or 6 digits corresponds to 2005.

    XN5+4 digits corresponds to 2005.

    Nontraditional Fender Series:

    AMXN+6 digits corresponds to 1997-1998 and includes Fender's short-lived California Series of instruments.

    DN+6 digits corresponds to Fender's American Deluxe Series dating to 1998-1999.

    NC+6 digits corresponds to Squier Strat Bullets and the time frame is difficult to establish.

    FN+6 digits corresponds to American made instruments that were exported all over the world. These have the specifications of Standard Stratocasters and the time frame is difficult to establish.

    I+6 digits corresponds to to 1989-1990.

    CN+6 digits or VN+6 digits corresponds to Korean-made Fender and Squier instruments and the time frame is difficult to establish.

    CA+6 digits corresponds to Gold Stratocaster 1981-1983.

    CC+6 digits corresponds to Walnut Stratocaster 1981-1983.

    SE+6 digits or SN+6 digits or SZ+6 digits corresponds to Signature Series Instrument.

    3 digits of 500 corresponds to 35th Anniversary Strat from 1989-1990.

    G+6 digits corresponds to "Start," dating to 1980.

    T+6 digits corresponds to the Tribute Series.

    C+6 digits corresponds to the Collector's Series.

    XN+6 digits corresponds to FSR.

  4. 4

    For Mexican-made Stratocasters, according to Fender, the numbers are as follows:

    MN0+ 5 digits corresponds to 1990-1991.

    MN1+ 5 digits corresponds to 1991-1992.

    MN2+ 5 digits corresponds to 1992-1993.

    MN3+ 5 digits corresponds to 1993-1994.

    MN4+ 5 digits corresponds to 1994-1995.

    MN5+ 5 digits corresponds to 1995-1996.

    MN6+ 5 digits corresponds to 1996-1997.

    MN7+ 5 digits corresponds to 1997-1998.

    MN8+ 5 digits corresponds to 1998-1999.

    MN9+ 5 digits corresponds to 1999-2000.

    MZ0+ 5 digits corresponds to 2000-2001.

    MZ1+ 5 digits corresponds to 2001-2002.

    MZ2+ 5 digits corresponds to 2002-2003.

    MZ3+ 5 digits corresponds to 2003-2004.

    MZ4+ 5 digits corresponds to 2004-2005.

    MZ5+ 5 digits corresponds to 2005-2006.

  5. 5

    For Japanese made guitars, according to Fender:

    JV+ 5 digits corresponds to 1982-1984.

    SQ + 5 digits corresponds to 1983-1984.

    E + 6 digits corresponds to 1984-1987.

    A + 6 digits corresponds to 1985-1986.

    B + 6 digits corresponds to 1985-1986.

    C + 6 digits corresponds to 1985-1986.

    F + 6 digits corresponds to 1986-1987.

    G + 6 digits corresponds to 1987-1988.

    H + 6 digits corresponds to 1988-1989.

    I + 6 digits corresponds to 1989-1990.

    J + 6 digits corresponds to 1989-1990.

    K + 6 digits corresponds to 1990-1991.

    L + 6 digits corresponds to 1991-1992.

    M + 6 digits corresponds to 1992-1993.

    N + 6 digits corresponds to 1993-1994.

    O + 6 digits corresponds to 1993-1994.

    P + 6 digits corresponds to 1993-1994.

    Q + 6 digits corresponds to 1993-1994.

    S + 6 digits corresponds to 1994-1995.

    T + 6 digits corresponds to 1994-1995.

    U + 6 digits corresponds to 1995-1996.

    N + 5 digits corresponds to 1995-1996.

    V + 6 digits corresponds to 1996-1997.

    Crafted in Japan, A + 6 digits corresponds to 1997-1998.

    Crafted in Japan, O + 5 digits corresponds to 1997-2000.

    Crafted in Japan, P + 5 digits corresponds to 1999-2002.

    Crafted in Japan, Q + 5 digits corresponds to 2002-2004.

    Crafted in Japan, R + 5 digits corresponds to 2004-2005.

Tips and warnings

  • Fender introduced its Vintage Series guitars in 1982. To find the exact production date of Fender Vintage series instruments, remove the neck and examine the joint of the neck and body. The production date will be stamped or written in this area.
  • Removing the neck of the guitar can be very challenging and can cause damage to the guitar when reattached so unless you are experienced in this field, have a professional perform this step.

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