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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.But due to the modular nature of Fender's production methods, and the fact that most serial numbers schemes are not sequential and usually overlap from between 2 to 4 years, (from the early days of Fender, through to the mid 1980s), dating by the serial number is not an exact science.
There is quite a bit of overlap of both numbers and years.
The following charts detail the most common Fender serial number schemes used from 1976 to the present.
instrument production history, production dates have been applied to various components.
Production dates have been penciled or stamped on the butt end of the heel of the neck of most guitars and basses.
The Japanese-made Fender guitars sold by Fender Music Corporation (Japan) have since been categorized as the "Japan Exclusive" series.