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Click on the links here to jump directly to the serial number style that matches your instrument: In the early years, Fender serial numbers schemes were specific to the model.
Esquires, Broadcasters and Telecasters shared a serial number sequence, while the landmark Precision Bass had its own system.
These can definitely be useful in cases where no other numbers exist, but just tell when the pot itself was made.
Who knows how long it was waiting in the Fender factory before finding its way into a Tele?
Similarly, take a look at Behold the Jazzmaster for general timeline of the history of everyone's favorite offset guitar.
There's A Brief History of the Stratocaster Part I and Part II that follows the evolution of the most popular Fender guitar of all.
In this early period, the serial number can be found on the bridge of the instrument (see image).
Here are the rough serial number ranges for the early Esquires and Telecasters: By mid-1954, Fender began using a universal serial number sequence for all its instruments.
Below we'll go into detail about the various serial number schemes employed by Fender as far back as 1950.
There are certainly plenty of exceptions, so again, using serial numbers in conjunction with other dating methods is always the best bet.