To say that Fender is the best known and most successful of all the guitar companies would probably be correct. From its beginnings in Leo's radio and record store in Fullerton, California, to the Fender Musical Instrument Corporation of the 1990's, Fender instruments seem to be rated in terms of their historical value or relationship to the past as seen in their reissue models.
With the tremendous variation in the guitars produced by Fender, we must remember that to give a guitar a date many things need to to be taken into consideration including the following:
The 5 - digit serial numbers were preceded by a dash from late 1956 to early 1958 and between late 1957 and late 1958 some neck plates were double stamped, 6 digits outside and 5 digits with dash (different number) on the underside.
First pickguards were anodized aluminum, replaced by bakelite and then white plastic. We the see laminated pickguards from 1959 on.
Early Fenders have a "Spaghetti" logo . From July 1964 it changed to a more modern looking gold "transition" logo and mid 1968 until 1977 they had the black "CBS" logo. The gold outline then appeared, and in mid-1983 the smaller silver logo appeared.
The standard method of attaching the neck to the body is by way of Four screws and a neck plate that reinforces the joint. From 1954 to 1976 the neckplate carried a stamped serial number that prior to this time was located on the bridge. Beginning with the CBS-takeover in Jan. 1965, until late 1976 the neck plate consisted of a large "F" on the plate that covered the 3 bolt Micro Tilt adjustment installed in the guitars from the fall of 1971 to 1979.
Wider headstock generally appears from December 1965. The new small headstock appeared in fall 1981. In addition to these, a medium size headstock was used on special models (The Strat, Walnut Strat and Gold Stratocaster) in early 80's.
Staggered Pickups appeared in 1954 and vanished in late 1974. Reappeared in late 1981 along with the smaller headstock.