Vintage Fender guitar serial number and vintage Fender guitar information at Greg's Vintage Guitars.

Fender guitar and bass Serial numbers compiled from many sources including websites,databases, Gruhn, and Duchossoir. It should be clearly stated that Fender serial numbers ARE NOT definitively chronological. That is, there's lots of overlap between years. Basically there was a big bin of serial number plates, and the installers grabbed one, and screwed it to the guitar. They weren't managing the numbers in any way. The point is, don't read too much into Fender serial numbers.

Pre-1977 Fender guitars have a serial number on the bridgeplate or neckplate. Serial numbers are basically chronological, but there is some overlap amoung years. Fender serial numbers were assigned like this: bin with serialized plates/bridges. Assembler reached in and grabbed one (or many). Put them on the instrument(s). As you can see from this over-simplified example, serial number assignment was fairly random. Just keep this in mind. The only truely definitive way to date a pre-CBS fender is to look at all the dates on the instrument (body date, neck date, pot dates). The serial number can only generalized the age of the instrument within a few years.

Fender Serial Numbers, 1950 to Present (Identifying the Year).

Serial numbers compiled from several sources including myself, Gruhn, and Duchossoir. It should be clearly stated that Fender serial numbers ARE NOT definitively chronological. That is, there's lots of overlap between years. Basically there was a big bin of serial number plates, and the installers grabbed one, and screwed it to the guitar. They weren't managing the numbers in any way. The point is, don't read too much into Fender serial numbers.

Pre-1977 Fender guitars have a serial number on the bridgeplate or neckplate. Serial numbers are basically chronological, but there is some overlap amoung years. Fender serial numbers were assigned like this: bin with serialized plates/bridges. Assembler reached in and grabbed one (or many). Put them on the instrument(s). As you can see from this over-simplified example, serial number assignment was fairly random. Just keep this in mind. The only truely definitive way to date a pre-CBS fender is to look at all the dates on the instrument (body date, neck date, pot dates). The serial number can only generalized the age of the instrument within a few years.

Esquires, Broadcasters, Telecasters 1950 to 1954 (number on bridgeplate). This system of serial numbers is unique to these three models until about the early summer of 1954 (when Fender switched to a universal neck plate serial number system for all models):Telecaster, Numbers On Bridge Plate 0001 to 0999 = 1950 to 1952 1000 to 5300 = 1952 to 1954
Precision Basses 1951 to 1955 (number on bridgeplate). Note there is some overlap. This system of serial numbers is unique to this model until about 1955 (even though Fender went to a universal neckplate serial number system on all instruments in 1954, some old style Precision Bass serialized bridges were still left over and used until 1955.)Pbass, Numbers on Bridge Plate 100 to 400 = 1951 to 1952 0001 to 0999 = 1952 to 1954 1000 to 2000 = 1953 to 1955  

All Models, summer 1954 to mid 1976
Serial number on neckplate. In 1957/1958 some serial numbers started with a minus sign ("-"), or had a "0" prefix before the number. Also in 1959/1960 some serial numbers were at the bottom of the neck plate instead of the usual top. Double stamped serial number plates were also produced (number on both front and back of the neck plate) in late 1957 to early 1959. This shows a "double stamped" neck plate, one number with a "-" prefix and stamped on the bottom of the plate, and the other number with a "0" prefix! And yes there is some overlap in serial numbers between years.

4 to 6 digit Neck Plate Serial Numbers
This style of neck plate started in 1954. No other letters or markings on the neck plate, except for the rare "-" or "0" prefix, as noted. Used on Telecaster, Stratocaster, Jazzmaster, Jaguar, Jazz Bass, Precision bass, Duosonics, Musicmasters, etc. from 1954 and later. Lots of overlap in numbers in adjacent years. Don't read too much into these serial numbers, it's not the best way to date a Fender guitar.

0001 to 8000 = 1954 6000 to 10000 = 1955 9000 to 16000 = 1956 16000 to 25000 = 1957 (some numbers with a "0" or "-" prefix) 25000 to 30000 = 1958 (some numbers with a "0" or "-" prefix) 30000 to 40000 = 1959 40000 to 58000 = 1960 55000 to 72000 = 1961 72000 to 93000 = 1962 93000 to 99999 = 1963

L-Series (1963 to late 1965)
Serial number on neckplate preceded with an "L". Considered Pre-CBS (even though CBS bought Fender in January 1965). Sometimes an "L" serial number can be seen on a late 1962 model. Used on Telecaster, Stratocaster, Jazzmaster, Jaguar, Jazz Bass, Precision bass and other models. Lots of overlap in numbers from adjacent years. Don't read too much into these serial numbers, it's not the best way to date a Fender guitar.
L00001 to L20000 = 1963 L20000 to L55000 = 1964 L55000 to L99999 = 1965
F-Series (late 1965 to mid-1976)
Big script "F" on neckplate below serial number. Known as the CBS era.
100000 to 110000 = late 1965 110000 to 200000 = 1966 180000 to 210000 = 1967 210000 to 250000 = 1968 250000 to 280000 = 1969 280000 to 300000 = 1970 300000 to 330000 = 1971 330000 to 370000 = 1972 370000 to 520000 = 1973 500000 to 580000 = 1974 580000 to 690000 = 1975 690000 to 750000 = 1976
Serial Number on Fender Guitar Peghead Decal.
U.S. made Fenders, starting in mid-1976 has the serial number on the peghead. Note the following number could be off as much as two years. Generally speaking, a "S" prefix equals the 1970's, "E" prefix equals the 1980's, and "N" prefix equals the 1990's. Note "E" and "N" prefix models are sometimes also Japanese-made (see below).
7600000 ("76" in bold) = 1976-1977 800000s = 1979-1981 1000000 to 8000000 = 1976-1981 (7 digits) S1 to S5 + 5 Digits = 1979-1982 S6 + 5 digits = 1976 S7 + 5 digits = 1977-1978 S8 + 5 digits = 1977-1978 S9 + 5 digits = 1978-1981 E0 + 5 digits = 1979-1981 E1 + 5 digits = 1980-1981 E1 + 5 digits = 1982 E2 + 5 digits = 1982-1983 E3 + 5 digits = 1982-1984 E4 + 5 digits = 1984-1985, 1987-1988 E8 + 5 digits = 1988-1989 E9 + 5 digits = 1988-1990
In March 1985, CBS sold Fender to a group of private investors.
The serial numbers do not reflect this change - Fender continued to make instruments using existing serial number schemes. The new Fender did not acquire any physical assets of the old company, just the name "Fender". Hence during 1985 to 1987, production of Fender guitars was only done in Japan, while USA Fender created a new factory in California. The Japanese-made Fenders do have some slight serial number differences (typically a "J" serial number prefix).
N9 + 5 digits = 1990 N0 + 5 digits = 1990-1991 N1 + 5 or 6 digits = 1991-1992 N2 + 5 or 6 digits = 1992-1993 N3 + 5 or 6 digits = 1993-1994 N4 + 5 or 6 digits = 1994-1995 N5 + 5 or 6 digits = 1995-1996 N6 + 5 or 6 digits = 1996-1997 N7 + 5 or 6 digits = 1997-1998 N8 + 5 or 6 digits = 1998-1999 N9 + 5 or 6 digits = 1999-2000 DZ0 or Z0 + 5/6 digits = 2000 DZ1 or Z1 + 5/6 digits = 2001 DZ2 or Z2 + 5/6 digits = 2002 DZ3 or Z3 + 5/6 digits = 2003 DZ4 or Z4 + 5/6 digits = 2004 DZ5 or Z5 + 5/6 digits = 2005
Japanese made Fender Guitar Serial Numbers on Peghead Decal
Note the lack of S, E, N series. These are reserved for U.S. made Fenders in their corresponding decade. BUT note that the "E" and "N" series does sometimes appear on "made in Japan" models. I believe this was a mistake on Fender's part using the same prefix for both U.S. and Jap-made guitars. In any case, if it says "made in Japan", then it is...
JV + 5 Digits = 1982 to 1984 SQ + 5 Digits = 1983 to 1984 E + 6 Digits = 1984 to 1987 A + 6 Digits = 1985 to 1986 B + 6 Digits = 1985 to 1986 C + 6 Digits = 1985 to 1986 F + 6 Digits = 1986 to 1987 G + 6 Digits = 1987 to 1988 H + 6 Digits = 1988 to 1989 I + 6 Digits = 1989 to 1990 J + 6 Digits = 1989 to 1990 K + 6 Digits = 1990 to 1991 L + 6 Digits = 1991 to 1992 M + 6 Digits = 1992 to 1993 N + 6 Digits = 1993 to 1994 O + 6 Digits = 1994 to 1995 P + 6 Digits = 1995 to 1996
Other Fender Guitar Serial Number Schemes.
Fender has recently (in the last 20 years) introduced LOTS of different serial numbers schemes, depending on the country the Fender was made (USA, Mexico, Japan, Korea, etc). Not all schemes are covered here! Sorry, since I do not collect new Fenders, I don't really keep track of these things. Below are some examples of letter prefixes used in recent serial number schemes.
V + 4 to 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series) = 1982-1988 (neck date=exact year) V + 5 to 6 digits (U.S. Vintage Series) = 1989-present (model dependant) AMXN + 6 DIGITS = California Series electric guitars and basses, '97 and '98 DN + 6 DIGITS = American Deluxe series instruments, '98 and '99 NC(XXXXXX) = Squier Strat Bullets (dating unclear) FN(XXXXXX) = US made guitars and basses destined for the export market. Some may have stayed in the U.S or found their way back (dating unclear) I(XXXXXXX) = Limited number of these "I" series guitars were made in '89/'90. They were made for the export market and have Made in USA stamped on neck heel. LE(XXXXXX) = Blonde Jazzmasters and Jaguars with Gold hardware made in 1994. Sold as a promotional 3 piece set with a Blonde Deluxe Reverb Amp CN(XXXXXX) = Korean made Fender/Squier guitars (dating unclear) VN(XXXXXX) = Korean made Fender/Squier guitars (dating unclear) CA(XXXXX) = Gold Strat 1981, 82 and 83 CB(XXXXX) = Precision Bass Special from 1981, CB(XXXXX) Gold Jazz Bass from 1982 CC(XXXXX) = Walnut Strat 1981-82-83 CE(XXXXX) = Precision Bass Special from 1981, Black and Gold Tele from 1981-82 CD(XXXXX) = Precision Bass Special (Walnut) from 1982 CO(XXXXX) = Precision Bass Special (Walnut) from 1982 GO(XXXXX) = Precision Bass Special (Walnut) from 1982, Gold Strat 1982-83 D(XXXXXX) = Jazz Bass from 1982 SE8(XXXXX) = Signature Edition Strats (dating unclear, check neck date) SE9(XXXXX) = Signature Edition Strats (dating unclear, check neck date) SN0(XXXXX) = Signature Edition Strats 1990 SN1(XXXXX) = Signature Edition Strats 1990 SN2(XXXXX) = Signature Edition Strats 1992 SN3(XXXXX) = Signature Edition Strats 1993 3 digits of 500 = 35th Anniversary Strat from 1989-1990 G(XXXXXX) = "STRAT" from about 1980, (Gold hardware, 2 pos. rotary tone switch) 4 digits stamped on bridge plate = 1952 reissue Telecaster 1982-1988 (Check neck date for exact year) 5 digits stamped on bridge plate = 1952 reissue Telecaster 1988-present

Serial numbers and information for vintage Fender guitars at Greg's Guitars

Vintage Fender guitar Information:


The following excerpts of information is from website www.HQ.com:

When Fender switched to Alder (from Ash) as it's primary body wood in mid 1956, many books and authorities state Femder started using a product called "Fullerplast" This is a very misunderstood product. For example, there is a picture in Tom Wheeler's American Guitars, page 54 (upper left corner), of a man with long rubber gloves dipping bodies into a tank at Fender in the late 1950's. The description incorrectly denotes the man is applying "Fullerplast" to the bodies. Most likely, this man is staining the Alder bodies yellow, a process used on Alder from 1956 and later before spraying the sunburst finish.
Fullerplast is a clear, sprayed chemically curing sealer, unaffected by solvents after it dries. It is made by Fuller O'Brien , hence the name "Fullerplast" (and all this time you though it was named after the city of Fullerton, the home of Fender). Fullerplast soaks into the wood and creates a seal that prevents following coats from soaking into the wood like a sponge. This means spraying the color coats is easier and the coats can be applied thinner (saving material, money and dry time). Even though alder is a "closed pore" wood, the first few coats of lacquer will soak in like a sponge without some type of sealer coat. Fullerplast dries in 15 minutes, and is paintable in one hour. It is also applied very thin.

Most experts agree the actual product "Fullerplast" (as made by Fuller O'Brien) actually started to be used around 1963 at Fender. Prior to that, Fender used other products as their sealer coat, but they did the same thing. The sealer allowed any color coat (be it sunburst or a custom color) to not soak into the wood. Since the sealer is essentially a clear inexpensive primer, less color would be needed (and color costs a lot more money than a cheap sealer).

Another misconception about Fullerplast is it's color. The sealers Fender used including Fullerplast was clear, not yellow. The yellow seen in the unpainted portions of a 1956 and later Alder body is actually a stain or dye applied under the sealer coat. This was used to simplify the sunbursting process. The Alder bodies are dipped in a vat of yellow stain/dye. Next the Alder body is sealed with a very thin coat of clear sealer (i.e. "Fullerplast"). After drying, the sunburst procedure is continued by spraying the translucent red (starting in 1958) and dark blackish-brown on the edges of the body, which completes the sunburst look. Finally a clear coat is sprayed over the entire body to seal the colors. By dipping the alder bodies in a yellow stain first, instead of spraying yellow lacquer, there is one less step of lacquer to mix, spray, and dry. *

By fall 1964, Fender changed the yellow making it more whitish and opaque to better hide flaws in the wood. This allowed Fender to use cheaper Alder with more cosmetic flaws. The more whitish yellow was then sprayed over the sealer coat, as were the red and brown of the Sunburst. That is why the red and yellow now looks much different on late 1964 and later Fenders. This new whitish-yellow bleeds through the translucent red making it more orangish. Note that even though Fender was now spraying the yellow after the Fullerplast, they still continued to stain or dye the bodies yellow before the sealer coat.

Early (1954 to mid-1956) Ash bodies in Sunburst were done differently. In this case, the yellow is not stained, but is sprayed like a Gibson-type Sunburst finish. That's why 1954 to mid-1956 Fender Ash body Strat sunburst's yellow looks "brighter" than later Alder yellow stained Sunburst finishes. This process created a lot more production work. Not only was the yellow sprayed, but the Ash body also had to be "pore filled" (sealed) before spraying the Sunburst. Since Ash is an "open-pore" wood (unlike Alder), not using a pore-filler sealer leaves a final finish with considerable "sink". This occurs when the finish dries and sinks into the open pores of the wood, leaving a finish with many dimples. To stop this, a pore filler consisting of fine sand mixed in a thick solution is brushed (or sprayed) on the bare wood. After some dry time, the excess pore filler can be scraped or wiped off leaving material in the pores of the wood, thus filling them. After some more dry time, the body can be sealed with lacquer and the color finish can be applied. This process was always used by Fender on Ash bodies from 1950 to the present.

Note there is an exception to the sprayed yellow sunburst rule in 1954. The first two months of Strat production (March-April 1954), there was NO yellow in the sunburst! The two-tone sunburst's center area was actually just a natural Ash wood color, making a "one-color" sunburst. The amber brown of the sunburst was sprayed around the edge of the body, leaving the natural Ash center as the "yellow" part of the two-tone sunburst. This changed by May 1954 to having the yellow center of the sunburst sprayed, giving a more vibrant sunburst finish.

Back to the yellow stain in 1956 and later. Since it was used for Alder Sunburst bodies, sometimes you don't see it on custom color finishes. But again, most times you do. Fender was a production shop that produced mostly Alder Sunburst finished bodies. Hence they just stained all Alder bodies with the yellow, allowing them greater production flexibility. Therefore most custom color bodies have a yellow stained body too. After all, you're not gonna see the yellow on a custom color body, so what's the difference? Fender just stained all Alder bodies yellow and figured out later which ones would be custom colors. Again, in most cases Fender also still used a sealer ("Fullerplast") in custom color finishes too. The custom color spraying process wasn't different from sunbursting till after the sealer step. This simplified the production process, and made Fender quick to react to market demands for Sunburst or custom colored bodies.

During 1963 and 1964, when guitar production was really high, bodies destine to be a custom color often didn't get the yellow stain, Fullerplast, primer, and clear coat procedure. After all, if the shop was really in a hurry it can just spray the color coat right over the Alder without any preparation paint (if need be). All they did was spray more color coats (especially if a clear coat wasn't used). This would cost more in materials (custom color paint was the most expensive paint Fender used), but it sure was quick. And often, they didn't even clear coat the color. This was truly a "rush" paint job.

Some colors were really prone to "short cutting" by the Fender factory. For example, Sonic Blue (and to a lesser extent, Olympic White) often do not have the yellow stain. In the case of Sonic Blue, this might have happened because the yellow stain was bleeding through to the blue. Other pastel colors were also shorted cutted, having no yellow stain, no Fullerplast, and/or no clear coat.

Metallic finishes didn't come out well using this "short cut" technique. Without a clear coat, metallic colors can oxidize due to the metal particles in the finish. And it's difficult to apply metallic coats very heavily. Hence most metallic finished bodies went through the whole production process, and got the yellow stain, Fullerblast, undercoated, and a clear coat.

Fender was inconsistent in using undercoats on their custom color finishes. During the 1960's, if there is an undercoat it is usually a white primer undercoat. And most often you see this white primer undercoat on metallic finishes such as Lake Placid Blue or Burgundy Mist. The pastel colors like Dakota Red, Daphne Blue, Foam Green and the like don't often use an undercoat coat either. But then again, sometimes they do. In the Fender production shop, it all depends on where the custom color order fell in the production schedule. If Fender had the time to use undercoat, they did. If they didn't have the time or were backordered, they didn't bother with an undercoat (depending on the color).

Undercoats were used on guitars for different reason than on automobiles. On cars, a primer undercoat is used to increase the adhesion of the color coat to the metal. It is also used to fill imperfections in the metal. And finally, special primer undercoats are used on metal for rust prevention. But on wood, none of the above undercoat properties are needed. Imperfections can easily be sanded out with sandpaper. Lacquer already adheres well to wood. And there is certainly no problem with rust.

So why bother with an undercoat on guitars? The reason is purely financial. In today's prices, white nitrocellulose primer undercoat costs about $15 per gallon. Any of the Fender custom colors cost about $15 per pint, with reds costing $20 per pint. So if you use the white primer to cover the wood and make the body a consistent white color, you can use about half as much color paint for a uniform top color. This could save a considerable amount of money when painting thousands of guitars. Of course the financial disadvantage to using an undercoat is it takes more time. You have another step where you have to let the body dry. So when the production schedule allowed, Fender used an undercoat. When things were rushed, Fender didn't.

Fender also used Sunburst (or other colors) as an undercoat to custom colors. Fender probably had an ample supply of reject Sunburst (and custom color) finished bodies that had some flaw (remember, all these guitars were painted by humans, not machines). It can be assumed that the majority of custom color finishes over other finishes are probably rejected bodies. Stripping an existing bad finish to apply another is just too much work. So shooting a new custom color over a bad finish would be killing two birds with one stone. You use up those bad Sunburst bodies without stripping, and charge 5% more for the new custom color to cover the cost of painting the same body twice (or more).

Undercoats in the 1950's were even more inconsistent. Again, sometimes they used them and sometimes they didn't. And the color of undercoat was inconsistent too. It ranged from off-white to Desert Sand (the DuoSonic/MusicMaster color) to even silver. Again, usually the pastel colors like Dakota Red and Black often didn't use any undercoat. And Sunburst is also seen under some 1950's custom colors. Probably just an easy way to use up those bad Sunburst bodies without stripping them.

Some general rules can be said about undercoats used with custom colors during the 1950s. During 1954 and some of 1955, Fender used a silver metallic undercoat beneath their custom colors. Then during 1955, that undercoat changed to a white (seemingly the same finish used on native blond Telecasters). Also Desert Sand was also sometimes used as an undercoat. It doesn't take much to imagine why Fender used white and Desert Sand for undercoat colors - heck the spray gun was already loaded with those colors (for Telecasters and Musicmasters/Duosonics), so just use those colors as the undercoat. Less production time in changing gun colors, less cost in stocking a unique primer.

The Nail Holes and the Paint Stick.

To the end of 1962, Fender would spray the front of a guitar body first as it laid on top of a turntable. The turntable was a "lazy susan" that allowed the body to be rotated without touching it. After spraying the front, they would flip the body over onto these nail legs, and spray the back and sides. When done, the body was moved to a drying area and left on its nail legs to dry. When the finish was dry, the nails were removed and the body was rubbed out and polished.
Starting at the end of 1962, Fender changed how they held the body when spraying it. Now they used a "stick" that was screwed in the neck pocket in the two bass-side neck pocket screw holes. The stick was a jig that suspended the body and allowed it to be rotated in the spray booth for easy spraying. Because the stick was now used, the area under the stick in the neck pocket does not have any paint. Hence you only see the yellow stain used for the first step in the Sunbursting process under the stick. But note, the nails were still used even after the stick. Now the nails' sole purpose was to suspend the body while drying. Note prior to the "stick", Fender neck pockets on Sunburst and custom colored bodies are entirely painted.

The "stick" in reality was not really a stick at all. Fender actually used inexpensive electrical pipe conduit as the "stick". One end of the pipe was beaten flat with a hammer, and attached to the body. The other end of the conduit was slide onto a small metal rack (also made of conduit) sitting on a table in the paint booth. This way the body could be painted "hands free", and rotated on the metal holding rod, or the whole rack could be turned, allowing easy painting of the face, back, and body sides. A picture of this can be seen in Tom Wheeler's American Guitars, page 54 (lower left corner), or in Tom Wheeler's 2004 book, Stratocaster Chronicles.

Because the "lazy susan" paint method was used till the end of 1962, the neck pocket should be fully painted (because the nail legs where utilized during painting). Starting at the end of 1962, the neck pocket should have an area on the bass side void of any paint (but still stained yellow before painting) where the "stick" was attached during painting.

It is very important to note that the nails were still used on Fender bodies, even after the implementation of the "stick". But the nail's sole job now was to provide a way to set the body down to dry, without anything touching the paint. Fender maintained this technique of using the nails until the end of 1964. At this point Fender implemented a "drying tree" to hold bodies as they dried. This approximately six foot high device could hold about 40 bodies while they dried, while using very little physical space. With the implementation of the drying tree, there was no longer a need for nails. There is a picture of the drying tree in A.R. Duchossoir's The Fender Telecaster, page 57 (upper right corner) and in Tom Wheeler's Stratocaster Chronicles book.

Another Fender misconception is the "big number stamp" seen on many custom color instruments. These large, 1/2" letters/numbers are under the pickguard (on a body), and also usually on the heel of a neck (between the 4 bolt holes), stamped deeply in the wood. I've seen this on instruments as early as 1959, and as late as 1966. These large, stamped numbers sometimes denote a guitar as having some factory repair work, usually refinishing. The reason Fender used this stamp was very simple. Due to the large number of bodies and necks being painted at any one time, they had no way of keeping track of a particular guitar unless they marked it. If it was back for a refinish (a service Fender offered till the late 1960's), they would serialize the body and/or neck with this large, deep stamp. This allowed the guitar to be stripped and sanded without losing it's ownership. Then it could be put into the paint production system to be painted as if it was a new guitar. After the paint process was done, the large deeply stamped numbers would allow Fender to "find" the refinished parts and re-assemble them, and ultimately return them to their owners.



1966 and the "ES" Stamp.
In 1966, Fender used the "ES" code a lot on their custom color instruments. At least for 1966, the ES code was used as some sort of default for custom colored instruments (be it Teles, or Strats or Jazz Basses). This two letters ("ES" for "Enter Special") seems to denote a special order, at least for 1966. Again this is has been seen lots of times on 1966 documented original custom color instruments. I have also seen the "ES" stamp on some 1966 sunburst instruments! (Perhaps these guitars were special show models, so extra care was taken in their finish.) The 1/2" tall 2-letter code were a factory color code, and are completely different than the 1/2" tall three-digit codes. The two-letter code appears to be CBS/Fender's way of specifying bodies to be painted a custom color for a special order once the body was in the spray booth. If a guitar has a two letter code on the body *only* (and not the neck), again this confirms the 2-letter code was an original factory color code (and does not indicate a factory refinish order). But then there is this question: why do only some 1965-1968 custom color Fenders have this two letter code and others do not? It may have to do with how many custom colored guitars were being painted at any point in time, and the 2-letter code was applied to avoid confusion. Or it was applied just for particular special orders (like a Fender NAMM show guitar or a special dealer/artist order).

According to interviews with George Fullerton, the idea of standardizing custom colors came about in 1958 (even though the first color chart wasn't available till 1960). Because of this, 1958 and 1959 colored Fenders are sometimes found in recognizable colors (such as Fiesta Red). But since nothing was "standard" till 1960, you really can only guess as to what color your 1950's custom color Fender really is. And if it's a 1957 or earlier Fender, there's really no telling what color your guitar really is.

Also note that Fender did not always use Dupont paints for their guitars! The did always use Dupont's color codes and paint chips, but the paint itself came from a variety of sources, and was not always the Dupont brand. This could be another reason why the same color can look different on two different Fender guitars.

What Did Fender Use after Lacquer in 1968?

Bob Gowan ran the Fender finish shop for Leo Fender and for CBS until he got sick of CBS and quit in the early 1970s. It was the decision of Bob and another gentlemen at Fender in 1968 to change to Aliphatic Urethane Coatings (aka "Poly") on the guitars. Fender immediately went from numerous coat application of clearcoat lacquer to *two* coats of Aliphatic Urethane. The decision was strictly a labor thing, but in the process, the decision essentially ruined Fender instruments!

Also it should be noted that 1968 and later Fenders are not entirely AUC (Aliphatic Urethane Coating). What Fender did was seal the body (as always), and then spray the sunburst colors with lacquer. Now instead of using lacquer as the clear coat over the sunburst, they just sprayed two coats of AUC. Also the face of the peghead stayed entirely lacquer, even though the rest of the neck was spray with AUC. This happened because the peghead "Fender" decal reacted with AUC. The problem occured because in 1968 Fender now clearcoated *over* the peghead decal for the first time.

In Conclusion...

If you are trying to determine if a pre-CBS Fender custom color guitar is original, you should keep the following points in mind. But be aware; all pre-CBS Fenders were made by humans, not machines. Therefore some guitars will still be original, even if they don't pass all the following specs. But if you're paying top dollar for a non-conformant example, I would think twice (especially if you are ever going to sell it again):

Check the nail holes. Are they visible and free of paint? Are there at least three nail holes? Be aware these nails were inserted by humans with a hammer. So the location of these holes can vary. And remember, 99.999% of all pre-CBS Fender solidbody guitars originally had nail holes! So if the nail holes can't be found, immediately suspect the originality of that instrument!
Check the neck pocket. If before 1963, it should be fully painted. If late 1962 or later, look for the "paint stick" shadow.
Check the solder joints. Are they original looking and not re-soldered? There is no other single thing that is more important than this! Only Jazzmasters and Jaguars can be taken apart without unsoldering them. Teles and Strat must be unsoldered to be re-painted. So if the solder joints are original on a Strat or Tele, its finish is probably original too!
Are there large 1/2" tall numbers stamped into the body and/or neck? If so, the guitar is a factory refinish, or had some other kind of factory work done.
Check for undercoats (primer and/or yellow stain). They may or may not be there, but they should be of the types previously mentioned for the era in question.
Don't be scared of a custom color over sunburst, or a custom color over another custom color, or both. It happened a lot!
Check the body wood. Unless the guitar is blond, or made in early 1956 or before, the body wood should be Alder.
Try and identify the original color. Does the color make sense for the period? For example, Shell pink would be very unlikely (but not impossible) on a 1965 Fender.
Check for a clear coat over the color. How has it effected the original color? Generally speaking, the more yellowed the clear coat, the less desirable the guitar. This is because most people want the original color, and not some greened-out version.
What is the film thickness of the finish? Fender used as little paint as possible, and hence as few coats as possible. Also with time nitrocellulose paint shrinks. This will give an extremely thin film thickness. If the paint is thick, then the finish is not original (even on original Fenders with multiple finishes, the film thickness is still very thin).

770-337-9679...Greg's Vintage Guitars ............................................"I Sell Keepers.".