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So, obviously a neck date, while being helpful in providing a date range of production, cannot be a definitive reference.
While there have been periods where dramatic changes have occurred, for example: the transition periods between Leo's Fender and the CBS years, as well as the transition between CBS' Fender and the current ownership, generally speaking, most models are feature specific and do not change from year to year..
The serial numbers do not immediately reflect the change, as CBS continued to make instruments using existing, tooling, parts, and serial number schemes.
The following chart details the Fender serial number schemes used from 1965 to 1976.
This chart contains If you are unable to place the approximate year of manufacture of your instrument using the above charts, there are a few great books available, which have invaluable information on the history of Fender instruments.
If you have serious interest in learning about the history of Fender instruments, or if you just want to try to establish the year of production of your own axe, we would highly recommend that you pick up one or more of the following books.
There is quite a bit of overlap of both numbers and years.
As you can see by the overlaps of numbers and years, the reference to the actual production date is rather loose. The numbers and decals are produced far in advance, and apparently, some N9 decals, (which were supposed to be used in 1999), were affixed to some instruments in 1990.Also, labeling techniques have changed with Fender owners, slightly adding to the confusion. S.-made Fender guitars and basses from 1950 until today, since they are some of the predominant vintage guitars for sale on Vintageand Typically the serial number is penciled or stamped on the butt end of the heel of the neck of most guitars and basses.There were periods of time when this was not consistently done, (between 19), and there are certainly other examples of short periods of time, and individual pieces, where the dating was simply omitted.Neck dating is useful in determining the age of a guitar, but is not definite.
The American Deluxe Series use the same dating code but add a "D" in front of the "Z", i.e. The following serial numbers are somewhat outside the more, well known Fender serial number schemes.