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The "S", stood for decade of the 1970s, and began CBS' attempt to use serial numbers to identify the year of production for the piece.The "E", stood for the decade of the 1980s and was, as shown below, introduced in 1979. "V" prefix serial numbered instruments, is to remove the neck, and check the butt end of the heel of the neck for a production date, which may be stamped or written there.(If you are not comfortable performing this operation, please use an experienced professional guitar tech in your area).The serial numbers do not immediately reflect the change, as CBS continued to make instruments using existing, tooling, parts, and serial number schemes.You will find the MADE IN JAPAN stamp on the heel of every guitar's neck, without variation.On Stratocasters and bass guitars, you will find the serial number just below this stamp, also on the heel of the neck.The following chart details the Fender serial number schemes used from 1965 to 1976.You will notice that there is quite a bit of overlap of both numbers and years.
The serial numbers will start with a letter that corresponds to specific years of production. You will not find the MADE IN JAPAN stamp on the headstocks of Fender MIJ guitars. acronym for "CRAFTED IN JAPAN" These guitars were made from 1997 and are still being manufactured today.You will notice that there is quite a bit of overlap of numbers and years.The only way to try to narrow the date range of your specific instrument would be to remove the neck and check the butt end of the heel of the neck for a production date, which may be stamped or written there.So, obviously a neck date, while being helpful in providing a date range of production, it cannot be a definitive reference.Unlike the auto industry which has specific model years for their products, most specifications for a given Fender instrument model, change little if any, through the lifetime of the model.