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Through much of Fender's production history, Fender workers would print or write a production date on both bodies and necks where the two pieces meet.
These dates will tell when the original part was manufactured, but are not exact indicators of when the guitar was actually put together and finished.
In this early period, the serial number can be found on the bridge of the instrument (see image).
Here's how the serial numbers break down from 1954 to the beginning of 1963, though there are some areas of inconsistency in this era: At the very end of 1962 and into 1963, Fender changed to a system where serial numbers began with an "L." According to some accounts, the L was supposed to just be a 1 to mark the cross over into the 100,000 range from the previous scheme, but an L was used by mistake.
Starting in 1976, Fender transitioned to a new serial number scheme and moved the placement of most serial numbers to the headstock of the instrument.
Depending on the era and model, the number can be found on either the front or back of the headstock.
Here the range of the L-series serial used each year.
Some of the earliest ones actually popped up in late 1962 as well: After the CBS purchase of Fender in 1965, the factory switched to a new serial sequence with numbers that continued the same general format used prior to the takeover.
After a short period of overlap with the old system, the post-76 numbers will start with a letter that indicates the decade, followed by a number that indicates the year of that decade.